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Acts #8 (chapter 2:37-41)
The Book of Acts
Preaching Jesus of Nazareth, Part 3
Acts 2:37-41
 
Tonight we return for another look at what we find recorded in Acts.  As you may know, it is the first Day of Pentecost after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  We are literally only 50 days past, less than two months away, from the crucifixion of Jesus. 
 
The crucifixion took place at Passover and Pentecost was always fifty days after Passover.  It was one of three annual feasts for which the nation was to come to Jerusalem.  On that day, an offering of the first fruits of the harvest was made to God.
 
And as we've already seen, it was on this day that God sent the Holy Spirit as the first fruits of the believer's inheritance. He comes with the sound of a rushing, mighty wind, and giving the disciples the ability to speak in unknown languages. 
 
What happens draws so much attention that a tremendous crowd gathers to see what is going on.  They are confused; they've never seen anything like what they witness on that day.  In fact, some of them think the only explanation is that these men are drunk. 
 
But Peter, steps up to set the record straight.  He begins by explaining what has happened.  it is nothing less than the fulfillment of ancient prophecy given by the Jewish prophet Joel regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit of God.  This is the initiation of the last days. 
This is the time when God's Spirit will be poured out on all men allowing them to prophecy.  This is that time when whoever calls upon the name of the Lord wil be saved.  This is the day of the Messiah. 
 
Well, that raised the question of who is the Messiah.  So Peter explains that also.  The Messiah is the Jesus that was just crucified a few days ago.  And God proved He was the Messiah through His life and ministry and miracles, as well as His death, resurrection and ascension. 
 
And he forces those who are there to think about their part in the crucifixion.  It is the pre-determined plan of God that Messiah should die, but it was your hands that put Him on the cross.
 
And you should have seen Him coming!  You should have recognized Him when He showed up because your favorite son, King David himself, told you about Him in the Psalms.
 
But just know this: God Himself has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
 
Well, how will they respond?  This is an indicting accusation!  After all, the claims Jesus made to be the Messiah were not too well received!  In fact, that's what ultimately put Him on the cross.  So how will the same people accept and deal with the same claims from Peter? 
 
verse 37-41  
 
There question is "What shall we do?"  And they are not asking one another what they should do about Peter as they had done with Jesus.
This time they are asking Peter and the rest of the apostles what they should do about what they've done to the Lord.
 
They were pierced to the heart.  And the word "pierced" means to "penetrate with a sharp instrument".  They weren't literally stabbed in the heart, but it sure did feel like it! They are deeply affected with anguish and alarm as they deal with the fact that they’ve killed the Messiah. 
 
It's hard for us to imagine what they are feeling.  For centuries the Jews have anticipated the coming of Messiah!  Every time the nation suffered, in every captivity, in every battle where the security of the nation was at stake, in every one of those circumstances, there hope was the coming of the Messiah! 
 
He will deliver!  He will fight for us!   He will set us free!  If only the Messiah would show up!  And to now be told by Peter, and they are convinced he is right, that the long-awaited One, came in our generation, He showed up when we were in charge, and we killed Him.
 
Can you imagine the horror of that thought?  And as they process that thought, the guilt begins to weigh on their soul!  Here they stand, guilty before God of the most monstrous crime in history, and in desperation, they appeal to Peter and the apostles for some relief.  What do we do about what we've done? 
 
It is this fear of divine wrath that leads them to ask that question.  And that is a proper response to what they've heard.
After all, look at how Peter concluded his message. 
 
verses 34-36
 
That's graphic language.  In ancient times, kings were elevated, and everyone was below their feet.  And enemies would be thrown at the feet of a monarch and that ruler would have the freedom to dispose of them at will. 
 
And the word picture Peter paints in their mind is that they are now at the feet of the One whom they had killed.  In this strange turn of events, the One they had hated and judged and killed is now their ruler and their judge. 
 
And no doubt, He is filled with vengeance. This is the moment for which He has been waiting.  And that is a terrifying realization.  He wasn’t dead.  He arose.  He was at the right hand of God.  He is now on the throne.  And He is crushing His enemies under His feet.  We are His enemy.  And isn't their anything we can do?  
 
That’s what that stabbing was in their heart. It was a deep sense of the evil of their deeds along with a profound fear of judgment, and wrath, and vengeance.  What do we do? 
 
By the way, you do realize that is a picture of everyone who rejects the Lord Jesus Christ.  Every sinner is in that same position.  The judgment on those who killed Jesus and never repented is no greater than the judgment on anyone who rejected Jesus and never repented. 
 
Nothing will happen to those who are in hell that were there and didn't believe that won’t happen to people who weren’t there, but rejected Him.
 
Every lost sinner, if they will be saved, must realize they are in the same position before God as this crowd on the day of Pentecost.  It is a state of hopelessness.  Jesus is the only solution and without His grace, there is no hope. 
 
And yet, modern strategy says that I'm not supposed to make people uncomfortable.  I'm supposed to preach to make people feel good about themselves.  Guilt is a bad thing
 
But to coddle sinners and try to make them feel good about themselves is to be void of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and a judgment to come.  And effective gospel preaching must not only tell the sinner of his sin; it must prove to the sinner his sin.  It must prove it.
 
The design and purpose of gospel preaching is to bring profound, painful, agonizing conviction and fear to the hearer about what they've done.  It is to stab them in the heart so that in desperation, they cry out in search of some solution to the desperate condition in which they find themselves.  
 
And to be honest, we don't see too much of that in modern times.  I get concerned when I see the casualness with which some respond to the gospel invitation.  Coming to Christ involves more than a leisurely walk down the aisle or the nonchalant raising of a hand to a question from a preacher. 
 
On this day, in this text, we find a group of people who did what Zechariah said all Israel one day would do.  They looked on the One they had pierced, and they mourned.  They cry out in pain, "What shall we do?"
 
Conviction is the first work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.  And sometimes conviction can result in what it does here at Pentecost, but it doesn’t always turn out good.  We see that in chapter 5 at verse 30 and following where Peter and the apostles preach the same message, and this time, instead of repenting, they were furious and plotted to kill them.
 
In the seventh chapter, Stephen preaches that great sermon to the Jews in Jerusalem, and this time, they don't just put together a plan, they put the plan into action and kill Stephen. 
 
So what do you do?  Change the message?  No!  You just keep preaching, knowing that conviction is the first and primary work of gospel preaching. 
 
So, here they are, asking of Peter and the others what they should do about their sin.  And it is at this point we see the amazing grace of God make its first appearance in the preaching of the apostles. 
 
Verse 38. 
 
Is that not a shocking statement? How fast did they go from the massive, overwhelming trauma of sin and guilt to this compassionate, amazing, merciful word of grace?
 
verses 39-41
 
Wow! Three thousand individuals who had been stabbed in the heart for having murdered the very Son of God, who've felt the burden of that crime so profoundly that they were fearing the vengeance of God would fall on them instantaneously, knowing they can’t undo what they did, so much so that they’d publicly cry out in desperation, “What shall we do?”, hear this instruction from Peter, "Repent, be baptized, receive forgiveness, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit from the one that you executed, who rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand and He will give you the same Spirit He has given us."
 
That is the invitation. Repent. Turn and go the opposite way in what you think about Christ, and turn from your sin, the horrible sin of your life which culminated in you killing the Messiah.  Turn, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Make a public profession of Christ, and symbolize it by open, public demonstrative baptism that testifies to your faith in Christ.
 
And that was some kind of testimony!  On that day, in the city of Jerusalem, 3,000 people were baptized.  Somebody wrote a doctoral dissertation on, "Was there enough water in enough pools in Jerusalem to baptize 3,000 people in one part of a day? 
 
There was.  I’m not sure how that all works out, but that’s what they did.  They must’ve used every available pond, pool and stream around!  You say, well, why would they need that?  Because there weren’t any Methodists yet, so they had to do it right and put them under!   
 
Can you imagine the impact it must have had on Jerusalem when, all of a sudden, 3,000 people in every available part of that city, wherever there was water, were being baptized? 
 
Everywhere you looked, people were being baptized!  And they’re all confessing Jesus as Lord, and Savior, and Messiah, and repenting.  Shocking.  And all 3,000 of them were saying to the entire population of Jerusalem, “We committed a massive crime against the Messiah, and we are now confessing Him as Messiah, Savior, and Lord, and being baptized in His name.” 
 
We are being united with Him in His death, burial and resurrection and we are publicly attaching ourselves to His people and detaching ourselves from Judaism.  That's a  big deal!   That meant alienation, being thrown out of the synagogue, disowned by their family and even persecution which is exactly what happened.  
 
And the grace of God that is seen here is absolutely shocking.  Talking to people about the Lord takes on a lot of different forms.  Most of the people I talk to believe they are too good to go to hell.  And convincing some they are a sinner can be a challenge.  But every so often I talk with someone who thinks they're too bad to go to Heaven.  They talk about what a terrible person they are and what kind of bad choices and decisions they've made and they just don't believe God could ever forgive them. 
 
If I'm talking to someone like that, I always like to point their attention to this passage of Scripture and this group of people. 
Because I can tell you this:  I don’t know what you’ve done to other people, but you didn’t kill the Son of God.  You didn’t murder the Messiah like they did.  So I don’t think you’re any worse than this group and yet, grace was extended to them instantaneously.  They found complete forgiveness when they repented of their crimes against God
 
And the same is true for any sinner, regardless of what they've done.  If they will repent of their sin, confess Jesus as Lord, be identified with Him in His death and resurrection through baptism, then complete forgiveness will be theirs also, along with all that relationship with God brings, including the Holy Spirit. 
 
Well, that's the account of the first gospel message ever preached.  A simple introduction, theme and invitation.  And it was a short sermon! You can read the whole thing in just a couple of minutes. It took me several weeks to cover it, but it's not a long sermon. 
 
And yet, the final results are amazing as 3,000 people are added to the church.  It was just Jesus, and then it was Jesus and the twelve, and then it went to eleven who became 120 and now, 3,120  and they just kept going from there as thousands upon thousands of others are added until finally, the gospel found you and added you to the church. 
 
So what was that fresh, exciting, church-like? We’ll find out next time as we look at verses 42 to 47, one of the richest portions of the Book of Acts. 
 
Let's pray.
 
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