22) Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24) Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.Acts 2:22-24 (KJV)
Introduction – The Necessity of Acts
When man has had enough of the errors of his own time, when current leaders, philosophies or systems no longer work, he often looks back to his ancestors for guidance.
This is how many of the world’s creative and intellectual epochs began, the Reformation and Renaissance being the foremost examples.
However, this approach must not be limited to the secular sphere. Christians must continually look back to learn where they have come from and to find answers for their needs.“There is no man, philosophy or system like Him, and we must remember that.”
If fact, believers are to remember God’s works and word. (Ps. 77:11 Prov. 10:7, Lk. 22:19) All the more so because God’s wisdom is true wisdom, and His precepts are the only cure for sin.
There is no man, philosophy or system like Him, and we must remember that. (Is. 46:9)
The church must look back as well. Thankfully, God has preserved for us a book in the Bible through which we can do just that.
God inspired Luke to write Acts to ensure that we as a church remain faithful to the great heritage He has entrusted us with.
Acts stands then as a curb against contemporary trends that try to always sway us away from the true Gospel. (Eph. 6:12) The book is a constant reminder of how the church is to consist and operate, even when everyone else tells us otherwise.
It is an amazing book. Through it 21st century readers get a recorded, firsthand account of the beginnings of the New Testament church and of the fulfillment of God’s promises post-ascension.
As Christians we are part of the same church and family of God that was recorded in Acts. It is just as much their story, as ours. This is true no matter how distant we in the 21st century might feel from the first century.
Put plainly, Acts matters. The Christian church cannot have continuity or its heritage without it. “As Christians we are part of the same church and family of God that was recorded in Acts. It is just as much their story, as ours.”
In this series, we turn our attention to specific teachings in Acts, with today’s lesson looking at some of Peter’s teachings about Jesus at Pentecost.
From this we will learn a concise yet no less sound theology of Jesus that all churches today must ensure they preach and teach.
Before we jump in though, we are going to look at the background to Peter’s famous sermon.
Peter’s Pentecost Sermon
The second chapter of Acts describes the arrival of Pentecost. This was the day when the Holy Spirit first descended as mankind’s Comforter and Helper. (Jn. 14:26)
While the Holy Spirit certainly operated before, it was at Pentecost where His role changed for believers. (Gen. 1:2, Mk. 1:8)
Now, the Holy Spirit had come to fully indwell believers and live in them, just as He does today. This is why the bodies of believers are described as the “temple of the Holy Ghost” and why the spirit of God dwells in us. (1 Cor. 6:19, Rom. 8:9)
God did something extra special however during the early days of the church. Per Jesus’ promise, the arrival of the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to speak in tongues. (Acts 2:17, Lk. 24:49)
This meant they spoke the languages of others along the Mediterranean. This event, seen only in Acts during the first century, helped the Gospel to flourish and spread throughout the world. (Acts 2:8)“While the Holy Spirit certainly operated before, it was at Pentecost where His role changed for believers.”
However, not all present were willing to concede Pentecost as a work of God. In fact, some went so far as to accuse the Apostles of being drunk! (Acts 2:13)
Peter responded with what is known as his Pentecost Sermon. It’s a spiritually and theologically rich defense of the faith, and a example for all believers of the importance of defending and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel.
In our verses today, taken from Peter’s sermon, we will look at three things that Peter said to those present about Jesus.
Jesus Is Undeniably God
22) Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:”Acts 2:22(KJV)
The first thing Peter teaches is that though Jesus has always been, His miracles and earthly ministry confirmed His existence as mankind’s one, only and final God. (1 Cor. 8:6)
Specifically, Peter tells us that Jesus was a “man approved of God” among us.
Jesus is God’s proclamation of Himself; He is God in the flesh. He is sinless, perfect and divine. Yet He is also a real human man who lived among us. Peter adds that He was also from a real town called Nazareth.
His life and actions confirmed His humanity and divinity. He, in consort with the will and power of God the Father (“which God did by him”) accomplished “miracles and wonders and signs.”“Jesus is God’s proclamation of Himself; He is God in the flesh.”
Peter’s emphasis in all of this to the Jewish listeners was that Jesus is undeniably God. He also states that they knew it (“as ye yourselves also know.”) Jesus had done miracles and walked in the “midst” of them as God Himself.
There was no denying Jesus was God. Peter knew they were making up excuses and were choosing to ignore what had happened. Yet, many do the same thing today.
In fact, denying God is worse today because we have two-thousand years of additional Christian witness that confirms that Jesus is God. When we deny Him now, we are denying all that God has done since the first century.
Again, Jesus was, is, and will always be God and there is no other God. (Heb. 1:3, Rev. 1:8, Acts 4:12)
We can rest safely and securely that we follow the One true and living God. (Is. 43:11)
Jesus Has an Eternal Plan
23) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:Acts 2:23 (KJV)
In verse 23 Peter takes us into the cosmic and eternal dimension of God’s plan and purposes. Peter describes that Jesus was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” to the cross to save mankind from sin.
Jesus’ death on the cross, and all events leading up to it were thought-out and planned by God before creation. (1 Pet. 1:19-20)
Notice, it was the “counsel” of God, that planned the cross. This means that all three persons of the Trinity agreed on the method for the world’s salvation.“We can never thwart God’s purposes. His will is always accomplished. Man’s evil designs can never undermine, or change God’s sovereignty.”
From this we learn that even bad things are used by God as part of His plan. Truly even what man means for evil, God uses for good. (Gen. 50:20)
We can never thwart God’s purposes. His will is always accomplished. Man’s evil designs can never undermine, or change God’s sovereignty. In fact, even our sinful lives cannot alter God’s eternal purposes.
Remember, He died on the cross just as much for us as He did for the 1st century Jewish audience to whom Peter was speaking. It was not just those back then that put Jesus on the cross.
All of us are guilty for He died for and because of all of our sins. (Rom. 3:23, Heb. 12:2) He did this “that he might bring us to God.” (1 Pet. 3:18)
Jesus has an eternal plan. None of our sins or even death itself can stop it. That’s good news!
Jesus Overcame Death
24) Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.Acts 2:24 (KJV)
Lastly, Peter points out to us two dualities of Jesus’ eternal plan. The first as we saw was that nothing can stop His plan.
The second, which is our last point in today’s lesson, is that Jesus’ plan has an end goal.
His plan was and is the salvation of the lost. (Lk. 19:10) Yet, as Peter states, Jesus could only accomplish this through His death, burial and resurrection.“We must believe and accept His death for us, and His forgiveness in order to enjoy salvation.”
Through the cross Jesus overcame death once and for all. God “raised” Him up and “loosed” Him from “the pains of death.” (Acts 2:24, Heb. 2:14) Death was powerless against Him.
Additionally, as Paul masterfully expounds in Romans 6, death is powerless against us for He died for us and for our sins which were buried with Him. (Rom. 6:4)
This is why anyone who comes unto Jesus and accepts His gift of salvation will be saved from their sins and from death in hell. (Rom. 10:9)
Our salvation from sin and death was the end goal of Jesus’ plan as it pertains to the cross, and it will continue to be until He returns to build the world anew when “the former things are passed away.” (Jn. 14:3, Re. 21:4)
We must believe and accept His death for us, and His forgiveness in order to enjoy salvation. (Rom. 10:9-10, Jn. 3:15)
When we do, we are raised to life just as Jesus was and are spiritually born again. (Gal. 2:20)
In today’s lesson we learned that Acts is an essential book for Christians because it shows us the beginnings of the church. Its teachings, and their relevance to us today, cannot be understated.
We then turned our attention to Peter’s Pentecost Sermon and learned three extraordinary things about Jesus.
First, Peter’s sermon taught us that Jesus is God in the flesh. Next, we learned that Jesus has an eternal plan, that our salvation is included in it, and that nothing, not even evil itself, can stop His plan from being accomplished.
Lastly, we learned about the end goal of Jesus’ plan when we learned that He overcame death. Additionally, we learned that if we believe on Him and accept His forgiveness and death for our sins, we too will enjoy salvation and overcome death.
May we relish that He is God, that He has a plan, and that we can be partakers in it! Amen!
Tintern Abbey by Moonlight, 1789, John “Warwick” Smith (British, Irthington, Cumberland 1749–1831 London). Graphite and watercolor with scratching out. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Purchase, Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation and Jill Newhouse Gifts, 2003. 2003.118