The Meaning of Pentecost (Part 2)

The Meaning of Pentecost (Part 2)

The Meaning of Pentecost (part 2)
Text:  Acts 2:22–41

Main Idea: The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost underscores Jesus’ true identity and beckons every person to humbly respond in repentance and faith.

Sermon Outline:

I.   Three Ways God Validated the Life and Ministry of Jesus (Acts 2:22–24)

II.  Two Things this Validation Reveals about Jesus’ Identity (Acts 2:25-36)

III. The One Way People Should Respond to this Revelation (Acts 2:37–41)

As we turn to the second half of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost this morning, we are presented with some heavy-weight ammunition in the defense of the deity and mission of Jesus Christ. What I mean by this, is that one of the most common attacks against the deity of Christ is the unwarranted claim that: the disciple’s deep respect for their highly unusual rabbi slowly morphed (over the decades and early centuries of the church) into their veneration of him as God. Simply put, they believe that the deity and Messianic identity of Christ were not central tenants of the early church, rather these claims were the product of increasing exaggeration over time.

Yet, this very text, along with many, many others like it, expose the fundamental error of this accusation. Because, in this passage, we have a record of the first truly Christian sermon AND in it, Peter does not present Jesus as a role model, a religious reformer, or an enlightened Rabbi. Does he? No.

Peter answers the question, “What does this mean?” with a multi-layered argument that Jesus is —in no uncertain terms— Israel’s Messiah and covenant God only 50-days after he was crucified and raised from the dead. This ultimately means that Jesus is the One to whom his Jewish audience must call upon to be saved from the coming “day of the Lord.”

Main Idea: The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost underscores Jesus’ true identity and beacons every person to humbly respond in repentance and faith.

  • Three Ways that God Validated the Life and Ministry of Jesus (2:22–24)
  • Two Things this Validation Reveals About the Identity of Jesus (2:25–36)
  • The One way that Sinful Humans Should Respond to this Revelation (2:37–41)

Three Ways God Validated the Life and Ministry of Jesus (Acts 2:22–24)

The Supernatural Miracles that Accompanied Jesus’ Ministry (2:22)

Notice what was Jesus’ ministry “in their midst” marked by? It was marked by amazing supernatural acts that were humanly impossible. In fact, Peter goes out of his to emphasize this by using three different terms to describe Jesus’ ministry: miracles, wonders, and signs. Activities that were visible, public, and verifiable.

And in this Peter wants his “God-fearing” audience to recognize there is only one reason that Jesus could heal deaf, lame, and lepers alike; feed 5,000 people from a little boy’s lunch, walk on water, and raised the dead. It’s because God was actively working through Jesus. Or to put it another way, it was because God was putting his public stamp of approval on Jesus’ ministry. God gave Jesus the greatest endorsement any prophet, priest, or king in the history of Israel had ever received.

Yet the sad truth of the matter is that, for the most part, the Jewish people did not recognize God’s endorsement OR receive Jesus as God’s messenger, even though they had every evidence that God was actively working through him… but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Recent Crucifixion AND Resurrection of Jesus (2:23–24)

Now, I know that our logic circuits tend to go into melt down when we try to reconcile the unhindered sovereignty of God and the personal responsibility that sinful humans bear before God for their sin. But, in this single verse we have one of the strongest affirmations of God’s unlimited sovereignty and mankind’s responsibility.[1]

On the one hand, Peter is clearly pinning the blame for Jesus’ death on the Jewish people, even though Jesus was officially executed by the Romans. And in this, he wants the crowd to know, in no uncertain terms, that the blood of Christ is on their hands. But on the other hand, he wants them to know that, even though, the crucifixion was a sign that they had rejected Jesus, it was NOT a sign that God had rejected Jesus. In fact, he does this two ways:

First, he points them to the mind-bending and paradoxical reality that God delivered Jesus to them long before they delivered Jesus to Pilate, in that, God had planned the crucifixion of Jesus from eternity past. In light of this we can see, the crucifixion of Jesus was a divine endorsement of Jesus’ infinite worth not an inditement against his ministry.

Secondly, he points them to the mark-ed contrasts between their murder of Jesus in verse 23 with God’s resurrection of Jesus in verse 24.

Acts 2:24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Notice, in this he is telling the crowd: You voted no against Jesus. But God voted YES for Jesus. You denounced Jesus, but God endorsed him. You condemned Jesus to death as a God-denying apostate, but God reversed your verdict and vindicated him in the most ostentatious way possible— he literally raised him from the dead!

Just think about it, the resurrection is much more than exonerating a man who is waiting for his execution on death row, it’s exonerating a man by raising him to life after his execution! What greater act could God have performed to reveal his unceasing pleasure in and full acceptance of Jesus?

But Peter is not done. If his audience is going to understand “what does this mean?”; they are going to have to come to grasp with the unimaginable horror of their rejection of Jesus. They didn’t just kill an innocent man; they rejected and murdered their only hope of joy and salvation in this life and the next! And to prove this, he points them to the Psalms to show them two things this validation reveals about Jesus’ Identity.

Two Things this Validation Reveals About Jesus’ Identity (Acts 2:25–36)

Jesus is the Christ, the Long-Promised Messiah (2:25–32)

When we come to passages like this, it’s easy for us to wonder, “How in the world did Peter make this connection between David’s psalm and Jesus?” Because for everything we can see, the psalm seems to be written about David’s personal experience NOT someone else. Well, in this case it’s important to remember that Jesus told his disciples how the OT prophesied his ministry, death, and resurrection.

Luke 24:45–47 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Therefore, it is most likely that Peter is using these passages because, sometime in the past 50-day, Jesus had shown the disciples that they were about him.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at how Psalm 16 reveals the Jesus true identity. To begin with, Peter is pointing his audience to the fact that David foretold of a hope and an experience that he did not ultimately receive. David died and was still buried in a tomb (at that very moment) in Jerusalem. This in turn meant that David had not been spared from the realm of the dead (Hades not Hell) and that his flesh (body) had seen corruption, in that, it had certainly decomposed over the centuries.

Therefore, David had to be speaking prophetically about some other person in the future that would experience these promises. And who was this future someone else? No one less than the promised son of David, the Christ (the Messiah), the one who would rule over God’s people on David’s throne forever and ever; just as God had promised.

Acts 2:31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

But here is the key. This prophecy is no is no longer pointing to an event in the future. No, it was fulfilled in their very midst in the recent crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • The man attested to by God with might works and wonders and signs.
  • The very man that they rejected and crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
  • The man whom God himself, had raised back to life. Fulfilling the word of the Prophet David.
  • Thus, proving that Jesus was the Christ!

This is incredibly bad news for Peter’s audience, in that, it is comprised of devout, God-fearing Jews. They have killed the very one that they have been waiting, longing, and looking for— the promised Messiah. But, that is not the worst of it. They have rejected and murdered their covenant God!

Jesus is Lord, which means that he is Israel’s Covenant God (Acts 2:33–36)

Notice that God’s approval does not end in the physical resurrection of Jesus. NO. It culminates in his exaltation to the right hand of God himself! Which means that Jesus is reigning at God’s right hand at this very moment! And the implications of this are monumental, in that, it points Peter’s audience to the stunning conclusion that Jesus is, in fact, God.

First, if we look back to Joel’s prophecy in verse 17, what is God’s promise? It is, “I will pour out my Spirit” (v. 17, ekcheō). But, there is an stunning shift in verse 33. Peter declares that it is the exalted Jesus himself who has poured out (execheen) what you now see and hear (v. 33). What God had promised to do through the prophet Joel, has been fulfilled through the resurrected and exalted Jesus. What the crowd at Pentecost could see and hear were signs of Jesus’ exaltation to the seat of absolute glory, power, and authority in the universe. And as the dispenser of the Spirit, he was now acting with ‘the Father’, sharing fully in his heavenly rule.[2]

Second, to make sure that his listeners do not miss his point, Peter turns, once again, to the words of David in Psalm 110:1 to help them see that Jesus is so much more than an exalted human.

Acts 2:34–35 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’

The literary key to this quotation is that the first word Lord in this text is, in fact, the covenant name of God, Yahweh. Remember, the Jews never spoke the name Yahweh in fear that they might use his name in vain. So even though they wrote his divine name in the Scriptures, they would say “lord” when they read it out loud. (In fact, most of your translations show this by rendering “lord” in capital letters when the underlying word is Yahweh.) And what does God promise to this future Davidic king that he calls “my lord” (not Yahweh)? God promises to let him reign from his right hand and promises to destroy all of his enemies.

Yet, this very affirmation presents us with a problem… God’s Word is incredibly clear, human beings cannot sit in God’s presence BECAUSE God is committed to his glory over all things AND his holiness would quickly break out against and consume anything that was unholy.

See, this promise begs the question, who is holy enough to sit in God’s presence? Who is worthy enough to share in God’s glory and his rule? The implied answer is no one but Jesus; the one who is (in some mysterious way), a man and the Lord God himself.[3]

And when we link this truth with Peter’s earlier citation of Joel, it becomes clear that Jesus is the Lord on whom Israel must call if they are to be saved from God’s wrath on the coming Day of the Lord! Jesus is the hope of Israel and the one whom Israel must embrace to be saved. But this leads to a devastating implication.

Acts 2:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

The Devastating Implication to Christ Vindication and Exaltation

Don’t miss this. The people of Israel are in a far worse position than they were when God sent them into exile. God had finally fulfilled His covenant promise and sent his Chosen One to them after all the long ages of waiting. They had lived in and witnessed the long-awaited day of salvation. They had actually seen and encountered their Messiah and God. But they didn’t welcome him. They didn’t honor him. They didn’t worship him or given him their whole-hearted allegiance. No, they willfully rejected Him, handed Him over to the Gentiles, shouted for His blood, and celebrated his bloody death on a cross![4]

And in this revelation, they were cut to the heart because they realized that had ruined their only hope of joy and salvation… How do you come back from killing your king and rejecting your God?

The One Way that People Should Respond to this Revelation (Acts 2:37–41)

What The Solution is Not

Before we turn to Peter’s well-known response, let me highlight what his response is not. He does not respond with a scathing denouncement and outright rejection of Israel. He does not respond by telling them that they have blown their final chance and that there is no hope (three strikes and you are out). And He doesn’t respond by telling them that they need to perform penance, redouble their religious efforts, or undertake any other form merit-based activity.

What the solution is

The solution to their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ is unexpectedly gracious and simple: repent of your rebellion against Jesus Christ and publicly identify with him as your true King through baptism.

So, what does he mean by repentance? Well, in this context, repentance would have involved a complete change in their view of Jesus. On the one hand, it would have required that they reject their former rejection of Jesus Christ. And on the other hand, it required that:

  • They fully embrace Jesus as their Messiah and God.
  • They put their hope and trust in Jesus as their only hope to a right relationship with God.
  • They endeavor to live a life that was joyfully driven to obey him and live for his glory.

But why does Peter link the gift of the Spirit to the ordinance of baptism? After all, if John’s baptism was about preparing people for the Messiah, and if Peter’s audience truly repented, why did they need to get baptized? Well, as on commentator puts it: the act of baptism: [5]

  • Symbolized their repentance and God’s forgiveness that fully removed their guilt for their rejection of Jesus Christ.
  • And it publicly acknowledged, the fact that they were no longer rejecting Jesus but truly believing in Jesus as their only hope of salvation and that they were joyfully submitting their lives to his sovereign Lordship.

Notice, the gift of the Spirit is not dependent upon baptism itself. Rather, the ordinance of baptism is the means by which believers publicly declare their repentance and faith in Christ. God saves “all those who call upon his name” (Acts 2:21) NOT all those who get baptized. And will never fail to pour out his Spirit on those whom he saves.

Conclusion: What does Peter’s sermon tell us about God?

It Reminds us Who God Is

What I mean by this, is that at the very core of his divine being, God is merciful and gracious NOT malicious, demanding, and capricious. Or to put it another way, what kind of God would offer forgiveness much more whole-sale love and acceptance to the very people who murdered his Son? The Bible’s persistent record tells us, our God.

Exodus 34:6–7 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Mercy and grace do not suddenly explode onto the pages of our NT in the person of Jesus Christ. No, the entire OT is punctuated with radically undeserved exclamations of God’s mercy and grace to sinful humans. This is why there is still hope for those who are most responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

It Reminds us of What God Demands

God doesn’t demand great acts of personal sacrifice or religious service. His requirement has always been the same: that we turn to him in repentance. That come to him for forgiveness, personally owning and rejecting our sin with no thought of personal merit or achievement. Simply trusting in his mercy and grace.

  • What is the difference between the forgiven and the guilty person who is not acquitted in Exodus 34? Calling on the name of the Lord in Repentance.
  • What is the difference between the one whose sin is like crimson and the one whose sin becomes as white as wool? Calling on the name of the Lord in Repentance.
  • What is the difference between the 3000 people who were baptized and received the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost and the people who did not? They called on the name of the Lord in Repentance.
  • What will be the difference between those who will suffer wrath and judgement on the Day of the Lord and those who will be saved from it?

The simple but profound difference will be their response to Jesus in this life. Did they responded to God’s free offer of salvation in Jesus Christ by repenting of their rejection of Christ and embracing him as their only hope of salvation… Or did they refuse his offer?

Friends, this is who God is and this is what he demands.

For those of us who have rightly responded to God’s demand. This text is an incredible comfort and the defining characteristic of our life on this planet (as we will see throughout the book of Acts).

And for those who have not yet responded. This text is a vivid reminder that you do not have a relationship with God and that you are facing the full weight of his judgment IF you persist in your rejection of Jesus. But, at the same time, it is also an ever-present declaration that the only sin that can ultimately separate you from God and condemn you to hell is the sin of rejecting his Son, Jesus Christ. Today is the day of salvation for all who believe.

[1] “Here, in the very first Christian sermon, with reference to the death of Jesus, we meet ‘the paradox of divine predestination and human freewill in its strongest form;” (Bruce Milne, The Acts of the Apostles: Witnesses to Him… to the Ends of the Earth, Focus on the Bible Commentary [Ross-Shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2010], 74).

[2] David Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 150–51.

[3] Milne, The Acts of the Apostles, 80–81.

[4] Milne, The Acts of the Apostles, 81–82.

[5] Milne, The Acts of the Apostles, 83.