Evidence of God's Power

Evidence of God’s Power

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Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. (Acts 2:43)

Many of us wonder what it would be like to experience some of the great events of history. We think of momentous battles, breakthroughs, inventions, triumphs, and tragedies and imagine what it was all like first-hand.

The life of the earliest church is one of those times that I wish I could go back and experience in real life. There is a rush of excitement in just reading what happened in Acts 2 and following – it would be amazing to experience this in daily life, even if just for an extended season.

Evidence of God's Power

Here in Acts 2:43 we have mention of two significant features of this exciting time. First, we read that fear came upon every soul. I like the New Living Translation of this phrase: A deep sense of awe came over them all. This in itself was evidence of the power of God. These people who once rejected Jesus had completely changed their mind about Him. Now they embraced Jesus as Messiah, Savior, and Lord. Therefore, they honored Jesus and His followers.

One of the greatest, most powerful works God can do is to change the human heart towards a reverent honor of God. This fear that came upon every soul (or sense of awe) means that this was not a light, superficial work. There was joy, but it wasn’t all laughing and silliness. People understood that an awesome God was doing a mighty work.

We also read that many signs and wonders were done through the apostles. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He wasn’t finished doing miraculous things on the earth. I believe that even today God isn’t finished doing miraculous things. We don’t have any indication that this meant that even the apostles could “perform” a miracle any time they pleased to – as if the power of the miracle rested in them. Instead, we see that God appointed that such miracles should happen, and the apostles were the willing servants to do such miracles.

These two things – the changed lives (fear came upon every soul) and the miraculous works (many signs and wonders) were evidence of the power of God. Where God is at work, lives will be touched in miraculous ways. We can never tell God what miracles to perform and how to do them, but we will see changed lives and examples of God’s power.

As I look at the Christian world today, I see many people excited about signs and wonders and such obviously amazing things. I understand why; when it comes to genuine miracles that truly give glory to God, I want to see more of them and not less!

I simply wish that more Christians wanted to see fear come upon every soul – including their own soul! Let’s believe God for great things and let Him take care of the miracle department. Yet each of us can humbly come before Him in awe and reverent fear. Let’s do that today.

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A Healthy Church

A Healthy Church

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)

It was one of the most amazing days in Church History, or in all history – the day of Pentecost, the birth-day of the Church. That day 3,000 souls were added to the original 120 believers after Jesus ascended to heaven.

On Pentecost the sound of the rushing wind, the tongues of fire, Peter’s preaching, and the conversion of 3,000 were all remarkable events. But the things described in Acts 2:42 were the abiding legacy of God’s work. We read that they continued steadfastly in things that become the foundation for every healthy church.

A Healthy Church

First, they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. This means they relied on the apostles to communicate to them who Jesus was and what He had done. They had just trusted in Jesus; now they wanted to know more – so they continued steadfastly in the truth. There was to be no departure from the apostles’ doctrine, because it was the truth of God.

Thankfully, God allows us to sit under the apostles’ doctrine today – the New Testament record. Every Bible teacher should seek to be unoriginal in the sense that we don’t have our own doctrine, but the apostles’ doctrine.

Then, they continued steadfastly in fellowship. The ancient Greek word koinonia (translated here as fellowship) has the idea of association, communion, fellowship, and participation; it means to share in something.

The Christian life is meant to be full of fellowship, of sharing one with another.

– We share the same Lord Jesus.
– We share the same truth that guides our life.
– We share the same love for God
– We share the same desire to worship Jesus.
– We share the same struggles.
– We share the same victories.
– We share the same duty of living for Jesus.
– We share the same joy of communicating the gospel.

They also continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread. Even though they lived so close to the time when Jesus was crucified, they still never wanted to forget what He did on the cross. How much more important is it for us to never forget?

Finally, they continued steadfastly in prayers. Whenever God’s work is done, God’s people gather for prayer and worship. The original here has the sense of “the prayers” – speaking of arranged services for God’s people to worship, pray, and hear God’s word together.

These four things – the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and in prayers were a foundation for the health of the early Church. Everything else we read about the power and glory of those early Christians flows from this solid ground.

May you be blessed enough to belong to a congregation with this foundation, and may you do what you can to strengthen that foundation, building only on it. Today, in whatever way God gives you opportunity, find a way to pursue these things.

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

To All Who Are Afar Off

To All Who Are Afar Off

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Preaching Jesus to a massive crowd of people, Peter told them all what they needed to do: Repent and be baptized. After telling them to repent and be baptized, Peter then told them what they could expect: you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, the same wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit seen among the 120 disciples of Jesus could also be theirs. They saw the glorious work of the Holy Spirit among the disciples, and Peter told them that it was something that these people could take part in; they didn’t only have to be observers. This was part of the new covenant, promised in passages like Ezekiel 36:27: I will put My Spirit within you. This was truly the gift of the Holy Spirit.

To All Who Are Afar Off

It’s a remarkable promise – but was it only for those who heard Peter preach on that day? Not every promise in the Bible is for us. We have to be careful that we don’t become arrogant or presumptuous, thinking that promises are for us when they are not.

The good news is that Peter, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, specifically told us that this promise is for us today. The promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off. When Peter made that promise you were afar off. You were far off in geography, far off in culture, and far off in time. Since the promise is for all who are afar off, it can include people up to the present time.

It can be true for you. If you will come to God through Jesus Christ, coming in repentance and faith (true faith that will be expressed in actions such as baptism), you become part of God’s new covenant.

Peter did not say that the unbelieving, unaware children of his listeners should be baptized. He simply said that the promise of the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit were for all who would repent and believe with active faith, even to coming generations and all who are afar off.

How many are there afar off who will receive this promise of salvation and the Holy Spirit? As many as the Lord God will call. This doesn’t give a specific number, but John saw an uncountable multitude around God’s throne (Revelation 7:9). Anyone who will answer God’s call can receive this promise – and no longer be afar off, but now be brought near (Ephesians 2:13).

Today, thank God that though you were once afar off, you have been brought near!

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

Baptism in the Name of Jesus

Baptism in the Name of Jesus

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

With stunning boldness, Peter preached to a crowd gathered for the feast of Pentecost. Peter first explained the unusual events that day as evidence of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter told them that the Spirit was poured out because Jesus the Messiah had come and completed His work, but He was also rejected by most of His people. Peter called his fellow Jews to account for the way they rejected their Messiah, and their response was remarkable. Cut to the heart, they asked Peter “What shall we do?”

Peter told them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. His first word to them was repent, but Peter’s next words were also important, telling them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Baptism in the Name of Jesus

For these Jews to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ would be an expression of their belief and complete trust in Jesus. The Jewish people were completely familiar with ceremonial washings. The temple area was dotted with dozens of mikveh, pools of water for ritual immersion. These ceremonial washings were a regular part of Jewish religious life.

On this day Peter told them to do a different kind of mikvah – to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Go to the water for a ceremonial cleansing of your sin – but do it in the name of Jesus the Messiah. Recognize that He is the one who truly cleanses you from your sins, and He does it because He the the guilt and judgment you deserved. Peter had already explained the crucifixion of Jesus to the crowd; now they needed to trust in that work for their cleansing.

Peter didn’t present baptism as an option, or as something they could concern themselves with in a few years. They needed to immediately stop looking to their temple ceremonies for cleansing from sin and start receiving it in the name of Jesus Christ and in no other name.

Some Christians think baptism is something that we do for God, and others think it is something God does for us. In truth, it is something of both. Certainly, baptism is something we do – Peter had to tell them, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. At the same time, baptism acts out what God does in us when we put our trust in the person and work of Jesus: our sins are forgiven, cleansed away.

The Bible says the followers of Jesus should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

Have you obeyed? If so, thank God for the washing away of your sins by what Jesus did for you!

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

The Preacher's First Word - Repent

The Preacher’s First Word

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

When a crowd asks an evangelist “What shall we do,” a good evangelist will never miss the opportunity to tell them to respond to Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what happened in Acts 2 when Peter preached to the multitude at the Feast of Pentecost.

Peter must have been pleasantly amazed to see what God had done in this situation. Instead of people wanting to crucify him because of Jesus, thousands of people wanted to trust in Jesus as Lord and Messiah.

The Preacher's First Word - Repent

Here is what Peter told them: Repent, and let every one of you be baptized. Responding to the question, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37) Peter gave them something to do. This means that we must do something to receive salvation, we must do something to follow Jesus; it doesn’t just “happen.”

Peter did not say to the crowd, “There’s nothing you can do. If God saves you, you’re saved. If God doesn’t save you, you’ll never be saved.” Though it is true that only God could do the saving, the people had to receive through repentance and faith, faith leading to action such as baptism.

The first thing Peter told them to do is repent. To repent does not mean to feel sorry, but it means to change one’s mind or direction. They had thought a certain way about Jesus before, considering Him worthy of death on a cross. Now they must turn their thinking around, embracing Jesus as Lord and Messiah.

Repent sounds like such a harsh word in the mouths of many preachers and in the ears of many listeners, but it is an essential aspect of the gospel. Repent has been rightly called “the preacher’s first word.”

When John the Baptist preached he said, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! (Matthew 3:2). When Jesus began to preach He said, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). Now when Peter began to preach, he started with repent.

Repentance must never be thought of as something we must do before we can come back to God. Repentance describes what coming to God is. You can’t turn towards God without turning from the things He is against.

We can’t repent unless God works in us (2 Timothy 2:25), but God won’t repent for us. God works in and through the human will, and a person must respond to God’s invitation (often through a preacher) and say, “I will now repent.”

Repentance must be present at the beginning of our walk with God, but it doesn’t end there. We are to keep on repenting, as God shows us more and more to get right with Him. Today, think of how repentance can be an ongoing work in your life.

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

What Must We Do?

What Shall We Do?

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

A large crowd heard the bold preaching of the Apostle Peter, and God did a remarkable work by the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke, the author of Acts, tells us now when they heard this, they responded with the question: “What shall we do?” The Jewish people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost was so moved that they asked Peter the preacher how they should respond.

What Must We Do?

It is wrong to think that Peter gave no kind of invitation or challenge to his listeners. We know that he did because Acts 2:40 says, and with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” What we read in Acts 2 is a summary, and Peter clearly did exhort them to respond. He invited his listeners to be saved.

Even so, the crowd showed an amazing response, asking What shall we do? It has been said that in normal seasons of Christian work the evangelist seeks the sinner. Yet in times of revival or awakening, things change: the sinner seeks the evangelist. This Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was one of those great seasons of God’s work. When God is working on someone’s heart, they want to come to Him; they will act to come to God.

When we see this response from the crowd, it also helps us to put the events of that day of Pentecost into perspective. The exercise of the gift of tongues produced nothing in those who heard it except for astonishment and mocking. It wasn’t until the gospel was preached that conviction from the Holy Spirit came. This was the work God really wanted to accomplish.

The people responded this way because they were cut to the heart. This is a good way to describe the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They now knew that they were responsible for the death of Jesus (as each of us are), and that they had to do something in response to this responsibility.

When you think about it, Peter had some previous experience with cutting. When Jesus was arrested, Peter cut off the right ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10). All that was an embarrassing mess that Jesus had to clean up. John 18:10 showed Peter in his fleshly nature, doing the best he could with a literal sword of human power.

When the resurrected Jesus changed Peter’s life and when the power of the Holy Spirit had come upon him, he did some much more effective cutting; cutting hearts, opening them to Jesus. This is what Peter could do in the power of the Spirit, doing God’s best with the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word. Which sword was more powerful?

Don’t ever doubt the power of God to cut hearts and to change lives!

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

It Had to Happen

It Had to Happen

Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. (Acts 2:24)

When Peter preached his fantastic sermon on Pentecost, Peter boldly confronted his hearers with their sin. Peter did not flinch at telling them, “you crucified this Man who was sent by God” (the idea of Acts 2:23). Peter could do this because his first concern was not to please his audience, but to tell them the truth. But Peter couldn’t stop there, as if his only point was to make them feel bad about their sin. Peter had to show them that there was a fact that was even greater than man’s guilt in executing the Son of God.

It Had to Happen

The greater fact was the power of God and the greatness of Jesus, both demonstrated by the resurrection. It was not possible for Jesus to remain bound by the power of death, as explained by Peter’s following quotation from Psalm 16. It was not possible for Jesus to remain a victim of the sin and hatred of man. Jesus simply had to come out ahead, glorious in triumph over sin, death, and hatred. To demonstrate this, notice that Peter used the phrase pains of death. The word pains is actually the word for “birth pains.” The idea is that the tomb was like a womb for Jesus! As one commentator wrote, “It was not possible that the chosen one of God should remain in the grip of death; the abyss can no more hold the Redeemer than a pregnant woman can hold the child in her body.”

Just as a baby must come out of the womb, the resurrection of Jesus simply had to happen. There was no way the Holy One – the sinless Son of God – could remain bound by the chains of death.

When Jesus died on the cross, He bore the full wrath of God as if He were a guilty sinner, guilty of all our sin, even being made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Yet even that was an act of holy, giving love for us. Therefore, Jesus Himself did not become a sinner, even though He bore the full guilt of our sin. This is the good news – that Jesus took our punishment for sin on the cross and remained a perfect Savior through the whole ordeal – all proved by His resurrection.

For this reason, He remained the Holy One, even in His death; and it was not possible that God’s Holy One could remain bound by death – the resurrection was absolutely inevitable. We don’t see many things in life that simply must happen. In almost all things we can think of another way things could turn out. But it was not this way with the resurrection of Jesus – it had to happen. It was not possible for it to be any other way. And it proves that God’s love and power are greater than the worst of man’s sin and rebellion.

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

Peter proclaiming Jesus

Peter Proclaiming Jesus

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know. (Acts 2:22)

As Peter preached to this large crowd in Jerusalem on Pentecost, he began by explaining the strange sights and sounds were actually evidence of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter explained it by quoting the Bible.

Peter proclaiming Jesus

This was remarkable. In the midst of a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, when there were signs and wonders and speaking in tongues, what did Peter do? Essentially, he said, “Let’s have a Bible study and look at the prophet Joel.” In fact, in his Acts 2 sermon, Peter quoted from three different Old Testament passages: Joel 2:28-32, Psalm 16:8-11, and Psalm 110:1.

This focus on God’s word did not quench the move of the Holy Spirit; it fulfilled what the Holy Spirit wanted to do. All the signs and wonders and speaking in tongues were preparing for this work of God’s word.

Unfortunately, some people seem to set the work of God’s Word against the work of the Holy Spirit. They almost think it’s more spiritual if there is no Bible study.

Yet, when Peter finished explaining the Joel 2 passage, he wasn’t finished with his sermon. He said to the crowd, Men of Israel, hear these words. Many people would think it would be enough for Peter to stop after the quotation from Joel, considering all we have in it. Joel told us of:

– An outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17).
– Miraculous dreams, visions, and prophecy (Acts 2:17-18).
– Signs and wonders regarding the Day of the Lord (Acts 2:19-20).
– An invitation to call on the name of the Lord and be saved (Acts 2:21).

As great as all those things are, it wasn’t enough, because Peter had not yet spoken about the saving work of Jesus. Everything until this point had been an introduction, explaining the strange things they just saw. Now Peter would bring the essential message to the crowd saying, Men of Israel, hear these words. Peter had already said something like this at the very start of his sermon (let this be known to you, and heed my words, Acts 2:14). Peter wanted people to pay attention, and he spoke as if he had something important to say – something some preachers fail to do.

After that “second introduction,” Peter spoke some essential words. He proclaimed to them Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst.

Understanding the prophet Joel and the work of the Holy Spirit were both good and important – but it was still essential to proclaim Jesus. We long to know more of God’s word, and to experience more of the move of the Holy Spirit. But we can never neglect the essential proclamation of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the World.

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

a changed man

A Changed Man

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.” (Acts 2:14)

Acts 2 describes a series of remarkable events. As the 120 disciples of Jesus gathered in an upper room, first there was an unusual sound. Then there were one-of-a-kind little flames of fire that strangely appeared above the heads of everyone in the upper room. Then, they spontaneously began to praise God and declare His marvelous works in languages they had never spoken before. This is called the gift of tongues, and it is spoken about in several other Bible passages.

a changed man

On a day of strange things, the best thing was yet to happen. We come to that starting at verse 14: Peter, standing up with the eleven. What a sight! Peter standing together with the other apostles, ready to speak to the amazed multitude.

When Peter raised his voice, it was the start of an amazing sermon. Standing with the eleven, Peter stood and preached to the crowd as a representative of the whole group of apostles.

We should notice that the speaking in tongues stopped when Peter began to preach. The Holy Spirit now worked through Peter’s preaching and would not work against Himself through the speaking of tongues at the same time.

When Peter raised his voice, it was also evidence of a remarkable change in Peter. Now he displayed a courage and boldness that was a complete contrast to the way that he denied even knowing Jesus when his Savior was arrested. All that was before being filled with the Holy Spirit. Now, Peter was a different man.

On the Day of Pentecost Peter didn’t teach as the rabbis in his day usually did, who gathered disciples around them, sat down, and instructed them and any others who might listen. Instead, Peter proclaimed the truth like a herald.

This remarkable sermon had no preparation behind it – it was spontaneously given. Peter didn’t wake up that morning knowing he would preach to thousands, and that thousands would embrace Jesus in response. At the same time, we could say that this was a well-prepared sermon; it was prepared by Peter’s prior life with God and relationship with Jesus. It flowed spontaneously out of that life, and out of a mind that thought and believed deeply.

It is good to remember that what we have in Acts 2 is a small portion of what Peter actually said. Acts 2:40 tells us this: and with many other words he testified and exhorted them. Like almost all the sermons recorded in the Bible, what we have is a Holy Spirit inspired summary of a longer message.

That message came through a man changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it’s not too much to say that what began with Peter’s sermon changed the world. Let the life-changing power of the Spirit have free reign in your life today.

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2

tongues of fire

Tongues of Fire

Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:3-4a)

As the 120 disciples of Jesus gathered in the upper room, a remarkable thing happened. First, there was an unusual sound, something that sounded like a strong wind, and the sound filled the whole house (Acts 2:2).

Then, after the sound of the wind had started, they saw another remarkable thing: there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. A flame appeared above the head of every disciple. Probably, the description divided tongues, as of fire has the sense that the flames were active and flickering – appearing as if they were burning, but leaving no mark, even as one sat upon each of them.

tongues of fire

This amazing occurrence probably should be connected with John the Baptist’s prophecy that Jesus would baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11).

Through the Bible, the idea behind the picture of fire is usually purification, as a refiner uses fire to make pure gold; or fire can burn away what is temporary, leaving only what will last. This is an excellent illustration of the principle that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not just for abstract power, but for purity.

In certain places in the Old Testament, God showed His special pleasure with a sacrifice by lighting the fire for it Himself – that is, fire from heaven came down and consumed the sacrifice. The experience of the followers of Jesus on Pentecost is another example of God sending fire from heaven to show His pleasure and power, but this time, it descended upon living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

The Holy Spirit sat upon each of them. One commentator (A.T. Pierson) said there was a deliberate meaning behind that word sat – that it has the idea of permanence of position and a lasting condition. That idea is important.

Under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit rested on God’s people more as a nation, that is, Israel. But under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit rests upon God’s people as individuals – the tongues of fire sat upon each of them. This strange phenomenon had never happened before and would never happen again in the pages of the Bible, but was given to emphasize this point: that the Spirit of God was present with and in and upon each individual.

Most important of all, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Essentially, the sound of the wind and the tongues, as of fire, were only unusual, temporary phenomenon, which accompanied the true gift – being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Today, we shouldn’t expect to hear the sound of the wind or see a tongue of fire when the Holy Spirit moves among God’s people. But we can and should expect to be filled with the Spirit as we receive in faith and let Him refine and purify us.

Click here for David’s commentary on Acts 2