Harbor Lights Sermon May 16th, 2010

Pentecost Sermon

Between Easter and now is just about the time between Christ's resurrection from the dead and when the first Christian sermon was preached on the day of Pentecost.

Luke writes in Acts 3:3 "After his suffering, he showed himself to these men (the apostles) and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."

Paul writes in 1Cor 15:3-8 "what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

Christ died, Christ rose. 40 days afterwards he ascended to heaven. Then about 10 days later came to feast of Pentecost. The Jews celebrated Pentecost in accordance with the law of Moses as God as proscribed. In the Law it's referred to as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of the Firstfruits. It's one of the three festivals that all Jewish men were required to attended. Deut 16:16, which is part of the Law says, "Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed" And it says in Acts 2:5 concerning the day of Pentecost then., "Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven." That is to say every nation under heaven that had Jews living in it.

I won't go into all that happened on that Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. But I will share with you starting from Acts 2:22 the sermon that Peter preached to the crowds that day. This is the sermon that established the first Christian church. There he starts: "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." This first statement shows in one way how Christian faith is different than that of any other religion. The faith of other religions is blind faith. But for us we have forensic evidence validating our faith in Christ. For Jesus Christ was accedited by God by miracles which were a matter of public record. This was an international event in which Peter said to the crowd that Jesus had done miracles among them, and that they thenselves knew it. For even Jews from other nations would have come to Jerusalem during Jesus 3 years of ministry and have seen him do miracles. This was the foundation of Peter's argument. If it was a lie, then everyone would have known it and the Christian church would have never been established. But there were no objections to his statement that Jesus' miracles were a matter of public record and noone disputed the point.

He goes on to say in verse 23 "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." As you had heard previously, God had set the stage for the events to occur, but wicked people put him to death. Christ died as an innocent victim. But notice here again Peter is going out on a limb. For he says, "You with the help of wicked men, put him to death." For just about 50 days before this, on the day of Christ's death during the feast of the Passover, which again was an international event, Pilate brought him out to the crowd so they could decide his fate. And they shouted, "Crucify him." Among them were these very people to whom Peter was speaking.

He goes on to say in the next verse Acts 2:24  "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." He goes on to speak of a prophecy given by King David concerning the resurrection of the Christ, and then says, "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." "witnesses of the fact". That's what makes the Christian message unique. It's based on eyewitness testimony to the miracles of Christ and to his resurrection from the dead. While other religions are based upon speculation and mere propositions, Christianity is based on fact.

But given the facts, this is what Peter then proposes, "Exalted to the right hand of God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.... Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Acts 2:33,36 Now I ask you, how would you think these people would have responded if the facts of which Peter spoke were false considering also the fact that these very people just about 50 days before had publically demanded Jesus be crucified?

This is how they responded, When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Acts 2:37 And not only so but "about three thousand were added to their number that day." Acts 2:41b This was the establishment of the Christian church. If the facts of which Peter based his argument on were false, then Christianity would have died on that day. The fact that his argument was convincing and considering the number of Jews who came to believe that day, this itself is evidence validating the claims of the gospel.

Now I want to consider in more detail the response of the people to the gospel message and Peter's answer to the question, "Brothers, what shall we do?" First note that they were cut to the heart. What does it feel to be cut to the heart? It's painful. Why was it painful? These people recognized that they had crucified their Messiah. And while that may be particular to that group, the gospel teaches us that Christ died for our sins. So to receive the gospel in our heart firstly means to recognize that we have sinned against God and because of sinning against God Christ had to die on our behalf to satisfy God's judicial nature. To receive the gospel in our heart means first to be cut in heart due to the guilt of sin.

Secondly notice they didn't just take this to heart, but they responded by asking, "What shall we do?" The heart and the mouth are both involved in receiving the gospel. Paul writes, "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Rom 10:9,10

So how did Peter respond to the question "Brothers, what shall we do?"  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 2:38a

Now I want to first contrast this with what Paul later said to the Philippian Jailor who asked him in Acts 16:30, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" In that case Paul answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." Yet here when then they asked, "what shall we do?", Peter said, "Repent and be baptized." Why the difference? Well here the Jews had already heard the gospel and believed. It was after they believed that they asked, "What shall we do?" And indeed if a person believes the gospel they should ask such a question. But the Philippian Jailor in Acts 16 only heard about the gospel and by a miracle Paul won a hearing. What happened next in that case is recorded in Acts 16:32 "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house." That's when he heard the gospel. And then it says, "At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God— he and his whole family." Acts 16: 33,34

So they believed, then they were baptized. And what about repentance. Just as Peter preached that believers should repent, so did Paul. For in describing his ministry Paul said, "First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." Acts 26:20 

If a person comes to believe in Christ, they are to be baptized and repent from sin, proving their repentance by their deeds. Now with regards to baptism, I was baptized as a baby into the Catholic church. But when I read these things in the Bible that indicates that baptism is to be a response of faith in Christ, I got baptized as a believer at  then age of 18. As for repentance, it is also a response of faith, it is a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior. A tax collector Zacchaeus said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."  Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house." Luke 19:8,9

Now after Peter said repent and be baptized he promised those who did such, "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off— for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:38,39 The Holy Spirit is given to all genuine believers. In fact it's written in Romans 8:9 "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." because you see if a person comes to faith they are given the Holy Spirit. To the Ephesian Christians Paul wrote, "You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory." Eph 1:13,14

Going back to Peter's sermon, finally it says, "With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Be saved from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." Acts 2:40,41

People need to be saved, and there's something they must do to be saved. People need to accept the message and act on it. Finally the apostle Paul writes, "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 1Cor 15:1,2

Jul 29,2015