I. The Call for Repentance given by Peter
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Vs. 37, 38
The first sermon of the church was about two minutes long. The results we are going to soon see is that 3,000 people became Christians. When Peter had explained what had taken place in the life of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the people who had gathered asked an important question, one we should all ask, “What shall we do?”
There are two important question we should be able to answer in life. The first, Jesus asked of His disciples and also asks of us. When He was walking with them in Casearea Philippi Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” This is a question of significance because our whole destiny depends on how we answer that question. The second question we must answer is what they asked of Peter here, “What shall we do?” A wrong answer to this question, no matter how correct a persons belief may be, will lead to eternal tragedy. And Satan has worked his hardest to bring confusion to the minds of people when it comes to this question. We all know there is a plethora of wrong answers which have been given over the centuries to this question. We need only to go back to Peter’s comments in the first sermon to bring clarity to the question.
A. Conviction grips at the heart.
The Bible says after they had heard from Peter they were pierced to the heart. This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek word used here, Katanusso, pierced, is used. It depicts something sudden and unexpected, something that stunned them. And they came to the realization that they were indicted by their guilt and behavior before God. There were several reasons for this:
1. They realized they had crucified their Messiah. They had been looking forward to the Messiah for decades, and now they came to the realization that the One whom they had hoped for they had now executed. That instead of welcoming Him when He walked among them, they had instead rejected and turned over to the Roman authorities to be executed.
1. They themselves had done it. Imagine, it would have been bad enough to hear that someone had killed the Messiah, but far worse when they found out that they were implicated in the complicity in the crime. Could you imagine a greater sin than to have killed the Messiah.
1. They now had fear of the Messiah’s wrath. Peter told them, unquestionable, the Jesus they had killed was now alive. Peter had quoted Psalm 110 which spoke of how the Messiah would now come and vanquish his enemies, and what greater enemy would he have then those who killed him.
1. They were devastated by what they had done. What they had done, they realized there was no way they could undo it. I think all of us know how that can happen in our lives.
A. Conviction leads to the question of Repentance.
What happens to us when we come to a place where we have done something wrong? If we do not have a seared conscious, when conviction comes, then we begin to feel remorse, we become repentant. That is where those who had heard from Peter had come in their journey. Overwhelmed with anguish, despair, remorse and guilt, they asked Peter, what shall we do? An indictment of sin is important in any presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without conviction one will never see the need they have for a Savior. So they ask Peter what they must do, and he responds.
1. You must repent.
Repentance is the Greek word, Metanoeo, which is a changing of purpose, a complete change of the direction one is heading and going the opposite way. A person who is truly repentant hates what they have done strongly. They hate sin because they know it to be an affront to God. False repentance dreads the consequences of sin while true repentance dreads sin itself. A person who is truly repentant forsakes their sin and turns and makes a total commitment to Jesus Christ. Repentance is an important and essential part of a genuine conversion. You cannot be converted without being repentant.
When John the Baptist was on the scene, it says in Mark 1:4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus teachings made repentance central in what he was telling everyone. Judaism itself had repentance at the core of its message as well. Peter told them there was something else they needed to do…
1. You need to be baptized.
There was no way they could become secret agent believers in Jesus. Baptism is a very public demonstration of ones faith. And Peter was specific in to whom they were being baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ. What it seems to mean is that a person repents, is baptized in the name of Jesus so as to be declaring his or her intention of being aligned with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. All of this so that for the forgiveness of your sins.
Now I want us to understand, baptism does not wash away sin, baptism is not necessary for salvation. So why do it. Baptism is the outward sign of the inward change which God has brought through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ who has paid the price for our sins. Baptism is the proof text of what God has done, it is the visible way of telling others that you have aligned yourself with Christ and are following in the obedience which he demonstrated Himself, being baptized in the Jordan River.
This was a dramatic step for those who heard Peter’s message. To be baptized was to as I said, publicly identify oneself as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth which would cause them to risk being an outcast in their society. But baptism follows repentance which is for forgiveness, then the person is baptized.
1. Then you receive the Holy Spirit.
Peter then told them of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is another way of describing what the disciples had received while they waited in the Upper Room. The Holy Spirit is a gift, it is free, it is unmerited. There was no condition to receiving the Holy Spirit except through repentance. The gift of the Holy Spirit here is the gift of the Spirit Himself which is given to minister the saving benefits of Christ’s redemption to the believer. Peter’s promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the logical outcome of repentance and baptism. This primary gift includes a variety of spiritual gifts which are used for the advancement of the gospel and the welfare of God’s people.
I. God’s Gift is Available for Everyone.
For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. Vs. 39
Peter was telling them this is not just for you who are gathered around on this day, but it is also for your children, it is available to your family, and to succeeding generations yet to come. It is a promise which has been given to us in the book of Joel, which we now access right now, which future people will have the opportunity to accept when they call upon the name of the Lord. The implications which we have come to see today is the gift of the Holy Spirit was not just for the Jews but it became available to the Gentiles as well.
Some people draw from the comment that as many as the Lord calls to Himself excludes some people. To draw an interpretation from Scripture, you need to balance all sections. The Bible tells us that it is God’s desire that all men and women be saved. Now we know not everyone will accept Jesus, but everyone has the opportunity to make such a decision. A Biblical view of salvation does not exclude human responsibility or divine sovereignty.
I. Growth results from Accepting the Truth of Jesus
And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Vs. 40, 41
Peter expected the people to make a hard decision, something that was not politically correct in their day. To turn their back on the norm of their society, to go against the flow, and make a public decision for Jesus Christ. How could Peter ask them to be outcast in their family, to demand that they accept as Messiah the very one they had rejected and executed? So there would be no doubt where they stood. How does that work with us today? How often do we shy away from pronouncing we are Christians to the broad area of influence we have because we fear fall out in the work place, or fall out in the family? Peter left no place for any hiding and as a result we see that those who heard the word, those who repented, those who were baptized numbered about 3,000 that day. I wouldn’t mind an altar call like that here, would you? If they knew the number, that is a good indication they were counting people because people count.
Baptism I should point out, was not a foreign concept to the Jews who were gathered there. They had generally looked at it as a rite of passage for Gentiles who had become proselytes to Judaism but it was not a practice those who were born Jews participated in. For the Gentile who was baptized into Judaism it symbolized a break from one’s Gentile past and the washing away of the defilement of being a Gentile. So when the Jews accepted baptism in the name of Jesus upon hearing Peter’s sermon, it was very traumatic and significant but as a result, 3,000 took the revolutionary step of being baptized. Here, a congregation which began with 120 in an Upper Room days prior, now leaves the day with about 3,000 members forming the first church.
I. The Christian Mission Begins
And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Vs. 42
A. Four Distinctives of the Early Church
Luke points out four distinctive of the early church beginning by pointing out they devoted themselves to these things. These four things comprise the mission statement of our church at Ballard and are weaved through the framework of the Life Development Series we offer here at the church. So lets look at them:
1. They were a Biblically based church.
They were devoted to the apostles teachings. For them, the New Testament had not yet been written so they relied on the letters as the church grew that now make up the Bible we have today. They listened to what the apostles taught because they had been with Jesus when he traveled around teaching people and doing the work of ministry which set the stage for the early church.
Education is important for believers, education beyond just a Sunday morning message. Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
When you get into the Word of God, it provides for growth and power in your life. That is why we are working toward assembling small groups throughout the Puget Sound region as a means to help Christians grow in addition to eventually offering our own in house collage level classes to help you and others grow spiritually. All taken from this expression in Acts where they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching’s. The prophet Hosea in Hosea 4:6 gave this warning to the people of Israel, a warning which is also for us today, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. We cannot function on principles which we have not learned.
1. They were a fellowshipping Church.
The word for fellowship in the Greek is koinonia which implies that there were something’s distinctive in the gathering of the early believers. Fellowship is the spiritual duty of all believers. When we accept Jesus Christ, we not only come into relationship with Jesus, but we also have a relationship with all believers, a fellowship which is eternal not temporal.
I want to go as far as to say that a Christian who does not participate in the life of the church is treading on shaky ground because Hebrews 10:24-25 charges believers to stimulate one another in love and good deeds and not to forsake the gathering together of one another, but to be an encouragement to one another. There are no solo Christians, no lone rangers out there paving their own way without the fellowship of other believers. So we see the early church devoted themselves to the fellowship. And not only that but…
1. They were a Christ Centered Church
I might point out the meaning of breaking of bread has been debated over the years as to was this a Jewish fellowship meal, the Haburah meal which showed the believers mutual love and recalled their association with Jesus or was it a paschal commemoration of Christ’s death which Paul elaborated on in Corinthians. We hold to the view of Paul when we come into the breaking of bread, or Communion as we call it.
When we come together for Communion we all stand on common ground at the foot of the Cross. We go into greater depth with the subject of Communion in Ballard 101, so I would recommend that class in our life development series. There you gain a greater understanding of why we take communion when we do and the depth of meaning.
When we come to communion, it calls for a self-evaluation and a seeking of forgiveness of sin which purifies the church.
1. They were a Praying Church.
They started out in the Upper Room, awaiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which lead to a greater understanding of prayer. They had witnessed Jesus in His earthly ministry to pray to Father God. They had asked Jesus for instructions in prayer and now they were immersed in the power of prayer as the new church begins.
I would like to say that prayer is embraced in the church today, but more often than not it is widely neglected. The least most attended meetings in the church are prayer meetings. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:13-14 whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. The Bible continually instructs believers to pray. The early church had models of prayer which was part of their Jewish faith from which they built a life of prayer.
A. The Spiritual Character of the Church
1. They were awe inspired.
And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
The awe they felt refers to fear or holy terror relating to the sense of divine presence to the attitude of reverence. Awe describes the feeling which is produced when one realizes that God is at hand. We know that God is present, but there are those times when God comes and there is that sense of awe which comes over those who are gathered. It is the same Greek word, Phobos, which is used to describe the reaction in Acts 5 with the death of Ananias and Sapphira.
The life of the first church fellowship was so genuine, dynamic and spiritually powerful that everyone, whether they were inside the church or outside, could sense the awe of what God was doing in their midst. It was the supernatural character of the life of the church, infused by the Holy Spirit that drew the awe, it was not buildings, people or programs.
2. Signs and Wonders characterized the church.
As we get further into Acts we see the signs and wonders described to a greater degree. There was no doubt something was taking place and it was one of the things responsible for the tremendous growth the church experienced. God used signs and wonders along with the preaching of the apostles with miracles to confirm what they were saying. As important as it was in the early church to have signs and wonders, it is no less important for the church today.
3. Sharing was a characteristic of the early believers.
And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking break from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart. vs. 44-46
Before strife and division invaded the church, those who were believers gathered together. It was not only spiritual unity but practical unity they practiced. This is not communal living, but social interaction. They did not at any point sell everything they had and put it together in some sort of socialistic revolution. From reading about Ananias and Sapphira, we know it was purely voluntary. Their sin was not in wanting to part with their possessions, their sin was lying to the Holy Spirit.
Day by day they went to the Temple which was the favorite meeting place of the early Christians. They also went from house to house, taking meals together. Peter later was to write in 1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
We could well use this example of sharing with each other the abundance which God has provided to us. Far to often we shy away from inviting someone over because we lack the means to provide an elaborate spread but I don’t think that was even a consideration with these early pilgrims of the Christian faith.
4. They were a joyful church.
The passage says they were with gladness and sincerity of heart. The Greek word for sincerity which is used only here in the New Testament is Aphelotes which means simplicity. They were simple in their faith, unselfish in their giving toward each other and as a result there was a joyfulness in their fellowship. The beginning of verse 47 says they were praising God. Have you noticed when you praise God there is a joyfulness that comes to you?
Philippians 2:1-2 says If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Let us make Christ’s joy complete in the simplicity of our faith toward Him.
5. This was a growing church.
Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their numbers day by day those who were being saved. vs. 47
The corporate and spiritual life of the first church had a great impact with the people. This verse says they were being granted favor with the people and in this, the church was attractive to those who had not made a profession of faith. There was no strife, there was no turmoil, there was modeled in that day Christian love and acceptance. Because of this, the Lord was adding to their fellowship each day.
Imagine what happens when a church decides to employ these foundational truths. They can expect to do nothing else but grow as they impact the world around them. So is the call of the Church at Ballard, to structure itself in this pattern set by God and then to venture out and make an impact in the world around us. Are you ready?