We spent our time last week looking at Peter’s Pentecost sermon. And we saw that the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was a confirmation that the Lord Jesus was alive and was now reigning in heaven. Do you remember? Peter’s sermon was all about the Lord Jesus: The people in Jerusalem had killed the Lord Jesus. But God raised the Lord Jesus. And the Lord Jesus is now at God’s right hand side. And the Lord Jesus has poured out the Spirit on his people. It’s all about the Lord Jesus who is now reigning from his throne in heaven and is building his church throughout the world through the preaching of the gospel in the power of the Spirit.
Verses 37 to 41
In verse 23 Peter said that the people of Jerusalem — with the help of wicked men (by which he meant the Romans) — put the Lord Jesus to death by nailing him to the cross. And in verse 36, Peter said that the people in Jerusalem had crucified him. Well, I remember hearing Dick Lucas preaching a sermon on John 7:7 where the Lord was speaking to his brothers, Mary’s other sons. And he said to them:
The world cannot hate you, but it hates me.
The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus shows how the world hated him. He had done nothing wrong. And yet the Jews in Jerusalem demanded that he should be crucified. And the Romans took him and beat him and whipped him and nailed him to the cross. The one who had done nothing wrong was hated and was killed. And Dick Lucas said in this sermon that it shows how sinful and wicked the human heart is because given half the chance we would murder our Maker. And that’s who the Lord Jesus is. Remember what we read in John 1? All things were made through him. Without him nothing was made that has been made. They murdered their Maker in Jerusalem. Well, in verse 37 we read that when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart. Peter’s words hit home. What he said about them penetrated deep down into their hearts. And they were suddenly convicted of their sin. And that’s what can happen through the reading and preaching of God’s word. The word of God, you’ll remember, is the sword of the Spirit. And the Spirit takes the word which is read and preached and he pierces our hearts so that we understand like never before that we’re guilty sinners who need salvation. So, the people were cut to the heart and they said to Peter:
What shall we do?
There’s something to pray for. We should pray that whenever God’s word is proclaimed on Sundays, people will ask:
What shall I do? Now that I’ve heard God’s word and now understand that I’m a sinner, what shall I do?
And in verse 38 we have Peter’s reply. He says:
Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
Our Shorter Catechism helps us here because it tells us what repentance is. The Shorter Catechism, Answer 87 says:
Repentance leading to life is a saving grace by which a sinner, having truly realised his sin and grasped the mercy of God in Christ, turns from his sin with grief and hatred and turns to God with full resolve and effort after new obedience.
It’s a saving grace which means God, because he wants to save us from our sins, graciously gives us the desire and ability to repent. And repentance involves realising that we’re sinners. But repentance also involves realising that God is willing to show mercy to all who repent for the sake of Jesus Christ who has paid for our sins. And so, knowing our sin but know God is merciful, we turn from our sin with grief and hated. With sorrow, because we’re sorry that we have sinned. And with hatred, because we hate our sin and want nothing more to do with it. And we turn to God, ready to begin a new life.
And really, this is what conversion is. We hear God’s word. And we’re convinced by the message. And so we’re turn from our sin. And we turn to Christ for salvation. So, Peter here is talking about conversion.
And then he adds that they must be baptised. Again our Shorter Catechism helps us. Answer 94 says:
Baptism is a sacrament, in which the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, signifies and seals our being grafted to Christ, our having a share in the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our pledge to be the Lord’s.
Water baptism speaks to us of, and it guarantees to us, God’s promise that those who believe are ingrafted or joined to Christ the Saviour. And it speaks to us of, and it guarantees to us, God’s promise that those who believe share in all the benefits of the covenant of grace, including the forgiveness of our sins. And that’s why Peter goes on to speak about the forgiveness of sins. Those who turn from their sin in repentance and turn to Christ the Saviour are forgiven by God for all that they have done wrong. And their baptism is a sign and seal, a confirmation, that God will indeed do what he promises, and will wash their sins away and pardon them for the sake of Jesus Christ.
And what else does God promise, according to Peter? They will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, says Peter in verse 38. Now, isn’t that remarkable? On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus poured out his Spirit upon the Apostles and the others in Jerusalem who loved him and had been following him during his earthly life. And we can understand that. He gives his people who love him his Spirit to help them. But here is Peter speaking to men and women who hated the Lord Jesus and who were guilty of killing him just a few weeks before. And what’s Peter saying to them? He’s promising that they too will receive the same Spirit from the Lord Jesus. Do you see the wonder of God’s grace? He doesn’t say:
The Apostles can have my Spirit. But those others can’t.
He doesn’t say:
They’re okay. I’ll give my Spirit to them. But those ones! They’re far too sinful to have my Spirit.
No, he gives his Spirit to all who believe because all who believe are forgiven everything we have done wrong. There is not one sin left unforgiven. Even the very worst thing we have done is covered over and blotted out and wiped away by the blood of Jesus Christ. And all who believe are accepted as right in God’s sight — and receive from him his Spirit to help us.
And then look at verse 39. The promise of complete forgiveness and the help of his Spirit is for you who believe now. And it’s for your children. And that, of course, is why we baptise the infants of believers. When our children are baptised, God is promising them — though they don’t even know it yet — but God is promising them that he will surely wash away their sins the moment they trust in the Saviour. So the promise is for you. It’s for your children. And, then, the promise for all who are far off. No longer is salvation restricted to the Jews, but it’s for men and women and boys and girls in every nation. It’s for all those whom the Lord our God will call. That’s what Peter says at the end of verse 39. And that reminds us that our salvation is God’s work from beginning to end. He’s the one who saw us in our sin and misery. And he’s the one who sent his Son into the world as our Saviour who would live for us and die for us. And he’s the one who sends out preachers to call sinners to repent and to believe in the Saviour. And he’s the one who sends his Spirit to enable us to respond to the call of the gospel and to turn in faith to the Saviour. Through the preaching of the gospel, God calls us. And by his Spirit he enables us to respond to the call. And that means our salvation is God’s work from beginning to end. And so we have no reason to boast about ourselves. Instead we have every reason to boast in him and what he has done for us.
In verse 40 we read how Peter warned them and pleaded with them. He warned them about this corrupt generation. And he pleaded with them to save themselves from it by turning to Christ the Saviour. And in verse 41 we read that those who accepted Peter’s message were baptised. In other words, they believed what he said about their sin and Christ’s salvation. And about 3,000 were added to the number of believers that day. The Lord Jesus, risen and ascended, was building his church.
Verses 42 to 47
In verses 42 to 47 we have a snapshot of what life was like for those earlier believers. In verse 42 we see how they devoted themselves to four things. First of all, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. And the Apostles, of course, will have taught them about the Lord Jesus and all that he said and did while he was with them. And how he died and rose again and ascended to heaven afterwards. Secondly, they devoted themselves to the fellowship. Sometimes we think fellowship means having a cup of tea after the service of worship on Sundays. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But fellowship here is more than sharing some tea together. It means they shared what they had with one another and they helped one another. And in the verses which follow we read how they used to sell their possessions and share the proceeds with those who were in need. So, fellowship means sharing with and helping one another. Thirdly, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. Some commentators think Luke is referring to the Lord’s Supper. So, they worshipped together and celebrated the Sacrament together. However, others think it refers to an ordinary meal. So, they met in each other’s homes and practiced hospitality. They loved being together and sharing their food with one another. And fourthly, they devoted themselves to the prayers. And as we read through Acts we’ll see again and again that the believers prayed often.
Everyone was filled with awe. Luke doesn’t say why, but perhaps it was because of the signs and wonders which the apostles were able to do. But notice who it was who performed the signs and wonders. We sometimes think that everyone in the early church was performing miracles. But no, apart from the apostles, the only others who were said to perform signs and wonders in the book of Acts were Philip the Evangelist and Stephen, the first martyr. But God the Spirit was at work in the hearts and minds of ordinary believers and instead of being selfish and greedy, they sold what they had to help one another (v. 45). And they met together daily. They ate together with glad and sincere hearts. They praised God together.
So we have learning with one another. We have worshipping with one another. We have caring for one another.
And what else? They enjoyed the favour of all the people. In other words, the world was watching them and was impressed by what they saw. And look at the end of the chapter. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. The Lord, risen and ascended, was building his church from his throne in heaven. Let’s pray that he will continue to build his church here, in this place, and that we will be faithful in learning, worshipping and caring for one another.