Bible Passage: Acts 2:22-41
In this passage we have the sermon that Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. The context is that the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the gathered disciples in the upper room and they praised God and spoke in languages that they had never learned. The reaction of the onlookers was mixed. Some were perplexed and wondered what it all meant. Others scoffed and suggested they were drunk. After Peter had explained that what was happening was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Joel, he then preached the sermon we see in these verses. The passage includes both what Peter said and how people responded to it.
Cross and Resurrection: Peter starts his sermon (v22-32) by explaining about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and he doesn’t pull his punches. It is only a few weeks on from those events and they will doubtless be fresh in the minds of his hearers. Jesus had been attested by God by the signs and wonders that he did, and those listening had seen it for themselves. Yet despite this, he had been delivered to death and Peter attributes this to both God’s plan and human evil. This is an important balance to strike. We must never so emphasise the human evil that it makes it seem as though God’s plan has been thwarted, but nor should we emphasise God’s plan so much that it minimises the human culpability for sin of those at the time (or ourselves) that caused Christ to go to the cross. The cross was not the end of the story. God raised him up because death could not have power over him, as was prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures.
Enthronement and Pouring Out Spirit: In v33-36 Peter develops the narrative to show how it explains the events of Pentecost. Jesus ascended to heaven and was enthroned at the right hand of God. These are truths that do not get spoken of enough. The victory and exaltation of Christ is absolute and he rules with all authority now. As part of this he received the promised Holy Spirt from the Father and poured him out on his people. Again this was prophesied in the Old Testament. The pouring out of the Spirit is a demonstration that Jesus is both Lord and Christ and that the one we worship rules in the heavens.
Repent and Be Baptised: Verses 37-41 speak of the response to Peter’s sermon. People were cut to the heart. It wasn’t simply life advice that Peter was dishing out. He was proclaiming gospel truth and the gospel affects people deeply. Peter never made any direct application during the sermon, but now the people ask what to do and he explains that they need to repent and be baptised. In different verses in the New Testament, different aspects of becoming a Christian (repentance, faith, baptism, being added to the church, etc) are stated, but whichever are mentioned seem to be shorthand for them all. As people respond in this way they will find forgiveness for their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (a helpful corrective to the misunderstanding that would say some Christians have the Spirit and others don’t). The response was incredible as around three thousand were added on that day.
- This is an obvious moment to invite people to respond in the same way the hearers of Peter’s sermon did. Share the gospel message and invite people to turn to him in repentance.
- It is also a good moment to speak about baptism as a response to Jesus. There will be some who are new believers (and perhaps those who have been believers for a while) who have not been baptised, and this would be a moment to encourage them to do so.
- Invite people to think about how Peter went about sharing the message of Jesus. Are we confident to share these truths with those around us? If not, how can we become so?