Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Acts 2 and Today

by Bubba Garner

A hub is the center of something, the heart of a matter, the focal and pivotal point. The second chapter of Acts is aptly described as “The Hub of the Bible.” The Old Testament lays the foundation for it; the rest of the New Testament launches from it. One looks forward, the other looks backward. And all gospel preaching revolves around what was said and done on the day of Pentecost following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The History

Under the Law of Moses, every male was required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year—for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths (Deut. 16:16). The apostles celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called Passover, with Jesus on the night He was betrayed. The following day, Jesus became the perfect Paschal Lamb of sacrifice whose blood was applied, not to the door posts or the lintel, but to the sins of the world.

The Feast of Weeks, referred to elsewhere as the Day of First Fruits or the Feast of Harvest, was celebrated fifty days after Passover. The Greek name given to this festival was Pentecost. It was a day of thanksgiving in which the Israelites, with hearts full of gratitude and joy, gave back the first fruits of their harvest to the Lord. How appropriate that on the same day the first fruits of the gospel were harvested at the conclusion of Peter’s sermon.

It is no coincidence that the day of Pentecost finds its place in the hub of history. Isaiah predicted that “the law of the Lord will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3). God chose the city of David as the place to announce that the Son of David, Jesus Christ, was reigning on His throne. In addition to the “Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), there was a surge of people who had come to the city to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. Though many traveled through great hardship and sacrifice, they would soon learn what Jesus had suffered for their sakes.

The Sermon

The apostles were all in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost just as Jesus had instructed them before His ascension (Acts 1:4-5). When the sound from heaven filled the house where they were gathered and the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in tongues, a crowd gathered to investigate. While everyone was amazed at what they saw and heard, some quickly dismissed it as drunkenness of the twelve. But others were able to deduce that it was a sign from heaven and wondered aloud, “What does this mean” (Acts 2:12)?

Peter explained that what they were witnessing was a direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. The time had come when God would pour out His Spirit not just on the Jews but “on all mankind” (Acts 2:17). His King would not be ruler over one race of people but would offer salvation to “whoever” recognized His authority (Acts 2:21). Jesus Himself said that His kingdom would come with power (Mark 9:1 LBX), power that would be given through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). And since John tells us that the Spirit would not be given until Jesus was glorified (John 7:39), what else can we deduce but that Christ has been exalted and is reigning as King of all kings and Lord of all men?

For a moment, all seemed lost. When the hands of those godless men drove nails through the hands and feet of the Son of God, the whole cause appeared as dead as its Leader. But everything had transpired according to the “predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The cross was not some unforeseen defeat that Jesus suffered because of the power of His enemies, it was the eternal purpose of God by which His Son was sacrificed for every soul (Isa. 53:10). The night of weeping became the morning of joy when Jesus was raised from the dead, canceling the curse of sin and ending the grasp of the grave.

The Response

Having heard this, the people were “pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37). That’s the King’s domain, His territory. The difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men is that the Lord is interested in ruling the heart. Peter’s message was able to cut through the hardened tissues and find its intended target, provoking them to ask, “what shall we do?”
Since Jesus is Lord and Christ, the answer Peter gave involved submitting to Him as King. Repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38) means it is done according to His authority. He who has been given all power in heaven and on earth certainly has the right to determine how a man’s sins are forgiven. To reject repentance and baptism is to reject the command of the King. But by submitting to His terms of pardon, salvation is granted to “as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself” (Acts 2:39). God promised Abraham that through his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed. What greater blessing than for all men to have forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the Son of God?

The Significance

When Peter later looked back on the day of Pentecost, he referred to it as “the beginning” (Acts 11:15). It was the first time Jesus was preached as Lord and Christ. It was the first time people were baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins. The prophets predicted it. The apostles fulfilled it. But it was just the beginning. From Jerusalem, that same gospel was taken throughout all Judea and Samaria and unto the remotest part of the earth. Every creature had the opportunity to become a subject in the kingdom of God and place their citizenship in heaven.

Acts Two is the hub of the Bible. To reject the terms of salvation as they were offered “in the beginning” is to reject the authority of the King. But to submit to Him as sovereign is to receive all the blessings that come with faithful service. After all, everything revolves around Him.

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