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Call Upon the Lord

Date: Sep. 29, 2013

Author: Bob Henkins

Acts 2:13-41

Key Verse: Acts 2:21

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. ”

Just to catch us up to speed, in the last passage we saw that during the Pentecost celebration, suddenly there was a loud noise and the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples and they begin to speak in many different languages. Of course all kinds of people gather around to see what’s going on. It must have been a pretty crazy scene because some of the people there start to mock the disciples saying that they were drunk on cheap wine. Their confusion, and drawing the wrong conclusion, was just the kick start that Peter needed to get going. Here’s something that we should take note of: there will always be people who misunderstand the work of God. If that isn’t bad enough, there will be some that mock it and question its integrity. And as Christians, we can either worry about it or, like Peter, seize the opportunity to proclaim the good news. And that’s exactly what Peter did. He stood up and the other eleven men backed him up. Here we see a dramatic change is the disciple’s behavior. In the past, it was every man for himself. When Jesus was arrested they scattered and ran like scared chickens. But now they stood together, as one man, united. I believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are seeing them transformed right in front of our very eyes. Now Peter has the courage to shout to the crowd. It’s not always easy to shout to a crowd. The Holy Spirit enabled Peter to boldly address the crowd and get their attention.

After Peter got their attention he addressed their statement. Take a look at verses 14-16. “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:” As Jews, they would have been familiar with the prophet Joel. And what we see here is that Peter is connecting what’s currently going on to their history and more importantly to God’s word. Peter is taking what appears to be a strange random event and making it relevant by putting it in context with God’s word. He’s using the Bible to interpret their experience. That’s important to know because we shouldn’t interpret the Bible based on our own experience, but instead, we allow the Bible to interpret our experience. The reason we do this is because we live in a confusing world. The Bible teaches that everyone who was born after Adam and Eve is contaminated with sin, rebellion, and treason toward God and the result of our sin is that we have a distorted reality. Not only is our reality distorted, there are demonic spirits who can take our experiences and then use them to confuse us. And what we ultimately need is God to speak from his perspective on what’s reality and what’s important. And so what Peter is saying is, “This is what the Bible said would happen. The prophet Joel, prophesied almost 900 years earlier that this would happen. All that God has promised his people is coming to fulfillment as the Holy Spirit is being poured out.”

What exactly did the prophet Joel say would happen? Take a look at verses 17-21. “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” People often get spooked by, or misinterpret, the phrase, “The last days.” But “the last days” simply refers to the time between Christ’s first and second comings; it is another way of saying “from now on.” Peter was reminding them that they should recognize the event they had just witnessed as the work of the Holy Spirit. It would be to all kinds of people—Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor—not just to kings and priests. The “prophesying” mentioned by Peter is likely not only prediction of the future but also declaration of the nature and will of God. The visions and the dreams were common means that God used to reveal himself to all people. Peter’s point was that everything that was going on was the Holy Spirit’s work.

In the next set of verse is where I believe that Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Peter had caught Joel’s main point from verse 21 where he says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” this was Peter’s punch line. Now, salvation is available to everyone. Any person who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. God’s special relationship with Israel will continue, but it has been broadened to include everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. God’s plans for Israel had their climax in Christ. Access to God—for all people—now comes through Jesus Christ. What Peter is saying is that Jesus is the one that Joel was talking about. Take a look at verse 22. “Fellow Israelites, 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.” The Bible records over 300 prophecies specifically about Jesus. All of them were fulfilled. Not only were all these prophecies fulfilled, God confirmed Jesus’ identity through miracles. The miracles, wonders and signs he performed showed that he was confirmed by God. For example, Jesus once saw a man born blind. Out of his divine compassion, Jesus healed him using only mud and spit. It was a miracle that revealed Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Only God could open the eyes of a blind man. Listen to what Nicodemus, one of Israel’s spiritual leaders said, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (Jn 3:2) This is proof that the miracles that Jesus performed revealed to the Jewish leaders, that Jesus was sent by God.

Since Jesus came from God, they should have welcomed him, honored him, and treated him with respect. But they didn’t. Take a look at 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.” They crucified God’s only son killing him on the cross. The Jewish religious leaders hated Jesus because they were threatened by him. Although they knew Jesus was innocent, still they pressured Pilate to pervert justice. They riled up the mob to shout, “Crucify him!” It was the greatest crime in human history. They acted as enemies of God. Then suddenly, without any warning, Peter accused the audience of participating in the Messiah’s death. In this we see a perfect presentation of God’s sovereignty and people’s responsibility. God’s prearranged plan was his sovereign will to bring salvation to people through the death and resurrection of Christ. Although God’s will is sovereign, he works through people and events of history. Even putting Jesus to death fulfilled God’s plan. God’s prearranged plan led to Christ’s death, but people were responsible. However, in all fairness, it was not only them, in fact all people, including myself, are guilty of crucifying Jesus on the cross. It was our sins that put Jesus on the cross. If we hadn’t been so sinful, Jesus would not have had to die. When Mel Gibson was making the film, “The Passion of the Christ,” he felt that he was responsible for Jesus’ death, when it came time to crucify Jesus, it was his hands they filmed to hammer the nails into Jesus. Society is a reflection of our hearts. And we are so wicked that we have to lock our doors at night out of fear. And yet God had mercy on us and sent his son as a peace offering to us. And what did we do when he came? We killed him. If I were God and had lost my precious son I would have carried out justice and wiped out those who were responsible.

As I mentioned, all this happened according to God’s plan. We see it in verse 23, Jesus was handed over by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge. Jesus was crucified on the cross according to God’s will and God’s plan to save the world. The prophet Isaiah said 700 years earlier, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” (Isa 53:10) Sometimes we wonder, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” however God can use all things, even the bad ones, for his good purpose. In this case, God used evil men to fulfill his own good purpose and offered Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for the sin of the world. God loves the world. God sacrificed his own Son Jesus for sinners. Jesus willingly obeyed God’s purpose and offered himself as the Lamb of God.

As a side note, here we see Peter’s continued transformation. In the past when he was confronted by a young servant girl, he practically ran away. But now, with the help of the Holy Spirit, he was now confronting the Jews and challenging them to deal with their sin. This is a difficult thing to do. These days, if you say even the slighted thing about the gay lifestyle being wrong, you are ruthlessly attacked. When the CEO’s of Chik-fil-A and recently Barilla pasta expressed their belief in Godly marriage they were heavily attacked. Several people like Craig James, a sports reporter, have even lost their jobs simply because they mentioned it. To challenge others about their sin is a dangerous thing to do. It may cost us our job, business, and in the disciples case their lives. Even still, Peter, through the help of the Holy Spirit could do it.

If the story ended there it would be a tragedy but thankfully it doesn’t. Take a look at verse 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.” Like all other men in history, Jesus died. But the murdered Messiah had not stayed dead. God raised him back to life, and many people could testify to having seen the risen Christ. This was a powerful statement because many of the people listening to Peter’s words had been in Jerusalem fifty days earlier at Passover and may have seen or heard about the crucifixion of this “great teacher.” Jesus’ resurrection was the ultimate sign that what he said about himself was true. Without the Resurrection, no one would have any reason to believe in Jesus. (1 Cor 15:14) Peter phrased it appropriately: death could not keep him in its grip, for Jesus is the Son of God and the author of life. The almighty power of God raised Jesus to life. When God raised Jesus from the dead, God revealed that he is the Sovereign Ruler and the Living God. God revealed that his good purpose will triumph in the end and that ultimate victory comes with the kingdom of God. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can have a living hope to one day enter into the kingdom of God. 1 Peter 1:3,4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you....”

In verses 25-28, Peter continued his witness to Jesus’ Messiahship by quoting from Psalm 16:8-11, written by King David. Peter’s point here is that not only did the prophet Joel point to Jesus, but King David did as well. He explained that David was not writing about himself because David had died and was buried (v29) his audience would have walked right past his tomb many times in their pilgrimages to Jerusalem. This quote from Ps 16 and the one from Ps 110:1 (v34-35) were both prophesying Jesus’ resurrection. The emphasis is that Jesus’ body had not been left to rot in the grave, but had been, in fact, resurrected and glorified. Peter wanted his audience to realize that David was not speaking of himself in these psalms but rather of the Messiah. And if David was not speaking of himself, then he was speaking as a prophet; he was writing about one who would be resurrected from the dead. The oath looks back at Ps 132:11 and 2 Samuel 7:15-16, recording the promises God made to David that one of his descendants would sit on David’s throne as the Messiah. David did have children who ruled, but this promise was for someone to be on the throne for eternity. So Peter says it as bluntly as he could in verse 32. “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.” The resurrection of Christ had taken place less than two months before. The post-Resurrection appearances and instruction sessions for forty days prior to Christ’s ascension must have caused quite a stir around the city. Peter pointed out that he and the others with him—who had just experienced this Spirit’s coming—had been witnesses to the predicted resurrection of Christ.

In verse 33, Peter had one more major point to make: this crucified one, the resurrected one, is now the exalted one, who occupies the throne of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. (5:30-31, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Heb 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Pet 3:22) Not only is Jesus the predicted one in the Psalms, not only had he risen from the grave, but now, he sits in the most authoritative, sovereign position in the whole universe, at God’s right hand. That is why Jesus had the authority to pour out the Spirit with results that the audience could see and hear. Verses 34-35 are from Ps 110:1. Jesus applied this verse to himself as the one having the highest authority because he would be instructed to sit in honor at God’s right hand. The victory belongs to Christ and not to any created being. The greatest archangels stand before God (Lk 1:19, Rev 8:2), but none are allowed to sit, for sitting next to God would indicate equality. Jesus’ sitting also indicates the completion of his task, the successful accomplishment of his mission. God promised to make Jesus’ enemies a footstool. This pictures Christ as completely victorious over his enemies.

Peter concluded his message with a knockout punch take a look at verse 36. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” So let it be clearly known by everyone in Israel that Jesus was both Lord and Messiah. In the prophesied plan of God, this Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified by the Jews, raised from the dead, and exalted to the throne of God.

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v37) When it says that they were cut to the heart, it speaks of genuine pain. The crowd was stunned and they asked the question that warms the heart of any gospel messenger: “What should we do?” and Peter was ready with the answer. Take a look at verse 38. “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter’s answer presented them with four challenges: First, Turn from your sins—In other words, “repent.” It is a basic and wholehearted change of mind that results in a change of purpose, direction, and values. The words, “each of you”, reminded them that this message is for everyone. Everyone needs to make a decision about Christ. His offer is the only effective solution for the sin problem that plagues every descendant of Adam. Second, Turn to God—In addition to turning from sin, people must turn to God. It does no good to turn from sin without turning then to the one who can solve the sin problem. Third, Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins—For believers, baptism is visible proof of repentance and commitment to follow Jesus, the Messiah. The idea of baptism for the forgiveness of sins does not mean that baptism results in forgiveness of sins but rather that forgiveness of sins as a result of accepting Jesus as Savior should result in a baptism—an outward display of an inner conviction. Repentance, not baptism, is what brings forgiveness. Fourth, Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—Only through the coming of the Holy Spirit into believers’ hearts can they truly experience forgiveness of sin. The “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the Spirit himself. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. As Jesus had promised, he is the Comforter and the one who guides his people.

Once again Peter emphasizes the universal application of the gospel in verse 39, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” This is a promise of God that has a personal application (for us), a generational application (for our children), and even a global application (to the whole world). Luke recorded no more of Peter’s words to the gathered crowd except to say that Peter kept talking for a long time, warning and pleading with the people to save themselves from the corrupt generation. Take a look at verse 41 to see what happened. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Wow, what a response. Three thousand people believed and took the step of faith in Christ and were baptized—they took that first step of obedience, publicly identifying themselves with Christ. And they were added to the church; that is, they immediately joined the fellowship of believers.

In conclusion I like to ask you two questions, what does Jesus’ resurrection mean to you? What does Jesus is Lord and Messiah mean to you? Do you have any personal response to them? Because one day, all of us will have to stand before the judgment seat of God to give an account of what we did in our life. And for those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved from the punishment of their sins, because Jesus has paid the price, pardoned them from their death sentence. But for those who don’t call on the Lord they will have to stand on their own. I will leave you with one last parting thought, as Jesus hung on the cross, one of the men crucified with him asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:42-43) Won’t you consider calling on the name of the Lord today?

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