The Lord and Christ of the Christian Message
April 7, 2024

The Lord and Christ of the Christian Message

Preacher:
Passage: Acts 2:14-41

How Should We Understand the Life of Jesus?

Jesus has left an unerasable mark on human history. Jesus’s death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, and distribution of the Holy Spirit to the Church – these events profoundly impacted the lives of his followers. They understood that Jesus had accomplished something extraordinary. Life could never be the same again. So what did Jesus do? How did Jesus’s followers understand his life? What impact did Jesus have on the mission and message of his followers, and how should the events of his life impact us?

We’ll dig into these questions together by opening the Bible to the book of Acts (A-C-T-S). Acts lays out the history of the early Church. And over the next seven weeks, I want to show you how the earliest Christians spoke about Jesus and his importance. And as we do this, I expect that you’ll gain greater clarity on who Jesus is, greater confidence in His message, and greater conviction that He’s truly worth living for.

Now in the first Chapter of Acts, that’s where we read about Jesus ascending into heaven and promising to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples (to his followers). Fast-forward to Acts, Chapter 2: Ten days later, on a Jewish feast day called Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrives noisily and rests visibly on Jesus’s followers. The disciples are now filled with the Spirit, and they go into the streets and begin to talk about God in real-world languages they hadn’t known before.

As this is happening, there are Jews in Jerusalem for the festivities from many different nations and languages. They’re astonished that Jesus’s disciples are boldly talking to them about God in their native languages. Some people assume the disciples must be drunk. But Acts 2, verse 14 tells us what’s really happening. So if you haven’t already, please turn to Acts 2, verse 14. Before I read the text, please pray with me:

[PRAY AND READ THE PASSAGE]

Tonight we’ll focus on three things in the text. First, the parts of the Christian Message. Second, the point of the Christian Message. And Third, the Push of the Christian Message.

The Parts of the Christian Message

So first, the parts of the Christian message. In verse 14, one of Jesus’s twelve disciples, Peter stands up and speaks to the crowds – he gives them a sermon. And I want you to notice four basic parts of Peter’s message here. The other sermons we look at in Acts are going to have most or all of these four basic components. Component 1: Peter interprets Scripture. He directly quotes three Old Testament passages, and takes time to explain what they mean. Component 2: Peter defines sin. He identifies that the Jews are guilty of rejecting and crucifying Jesus. Component 3: Peter exalts Jesus. Peter explains who Jesus is, what He has done, and where He is now. Component 4, Peter asks for a response, particularly in verses 38-40.

These four components can help guide you when you’re having conversations with people about Jesus. Interpreting Scripture is important, because it shows that the Christian position isn’t built on human opinions. Instead of saying, I think such and such, it’s much more meaningful when you can show people what God has said in the Bible. You could open the Bible right then and there. Or you could say, “Hey, there’s a part of the Bible I’ve found to be really helpful on this topic. Let’s get together for lunch sometime, and I can show you what I mean.” Whatever your context, you should aim to bring God’s Word to people, and to interpret Scripture into terms they can understand.

Defining sin is also important. If I were to print counterfeit money, I’d be committing a felony, which is incredibly serious. But even worse than breaking a human law and getting a human penalty, is when I fail to keep the law of God. If you have failed to love God with all your being and to worship him in a way that is right, reverent, and timely; if you’ve dishonored parents and other authorities; if you have neglected to love your neighbor as yourself – you have insulted and offended the Divine judge of the universe! You must understand, and you need to help others understand – sin is exponentially worse than any earthly crime. Because sin doesn’t just provoke the wrath of human government – it provokes the wrath of Almighty God. It deserves cosmic punishment.

Once people realize this, they’ll be able to understand the preciousness of Jesus. And we have been entrusted with good news. We can exalt Jesus, and show others his care for sinners and his credentials to save. He has the unique authority and ability to remove your guilt and to bring you to God.

But this good news is something we need to ask people to respond to. Knowing what Christians say about Jesus isn’t the same thing as you, personally, receiving this Jesus as your Savior and your King. God urges you, me, and the world to come to Jesus. This is a real and essential part of the message we’ve been entrusted with as Christians.

The Point of the Christian Message

And Peter includes these parts in his message in order to make a specific point. Peter summarizes the point of his message in verse 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.”

At this point in history, the Jews recognized that the Old Testament of the Bible had promises and predictions. The prophets said that one day God would send to Israel a new Lord (meaning Master) and a new Christ – referring to someone who was anointed with oil to make them an office-bearer for God. And Peter wants everyone to know that the one chosen by God to be both Lord and Christ is this Jesus – the one that the Jews have just crucified.

And Peter quotes three passages of Scripture to make his case. In verse 14, Peter first quotes from the prophet Joel to explain how the disciples are boldly speaking in foreign languages. It’s because the day predicted by the prophet Joel has arrived. The Spirit is poured out in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. But Peter isn’t just announcing, “this is the day of Spiritual signs and wonders.” But notice, he also includes verse 21, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The arrival of the Spirit proves that this is the time people will call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

And as Peter goes on, he explains who this Lord is that the Jews need to call upon. In verses 22-32, he shows that Jesus is the Christ, the ultimate anointed King, that God’s people have been waiting for. Peter quotes from Psalm 16, written by the great King David: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol (to the grave) or let your Holy One see corruption.” Peter points out David couldn’t have been writing these words about himself. Because David died, and went down to the grave. Instead, Peter insists that David was speaking as a prophet. David was speaking about the Christ of God, the everlasting King. And Peter testifies that the Christ David predicted is Jesus. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t abandoned to the grave. His body saw no corruption or decay. Instead, Jesus rose with power from the dead. He is Christ.

And after rising from the dead, He ascended into heaven. And in verses 33-36, Peter explains, since Jesus is now exalted at the right hand of God, Jesus must also be Lord. Peter announces that this fulfills another prophecy from David, in Psalm 110: “The LORD (God the Father) said to my Lord (to David’s Lord, referring to Jesus), ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’” The fact that Jesus has been given this position, at God’s right hand, means that He is King David’s Lord – his Master. But as the anointed King of God, the only one higher than David was God himself. If Jesus is Lord over the High King David, it indicates that he’s equal to God – that He’s the Lord of all.

And so Peter closes this section of his speech by reiterating the great evil committed by the people. This human Christ and divine Lord, who overcame death and has been exalted by God in the throne room of heaven – him you have ignored, and mocked, and insulted, and mutilated, and crucified. You have made yourself enemies against the Holy One of God.

The Push of the Christian Message

The people are cut to the heart by this message – verse 37. They realize the seriousness of their rebellion against God, so they cry out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter responds with what I’m calling the push of the Christian Message (This is my last point – the Push of the Christian Message). He pushes them to respond rightly to this message. Specifically, Peter tells them to do three things.

First, Repent. The word repent in verse 38 here means to have a change of heart – your indifference and irritation with God must give way to allegiance and trust. Your innermost affections and priorities cannot stay the same.

Second, also in verse 38, Peter says, be baptized. Be washed with water in the name of Jesus. The baptism Peter commands here is not primarily a way to communicate our promise of allegiance to God. Instead, Peter understands that God uses baptism to communicate his promise to us – the promise of the Holy Spirit being given to forgiven sinners, mentioned in verse 38. In verse 39, Peter shows that baptism is connected to God’s promise when he says we should repent and be baptized – why? – “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off.” The command to be baptized is established by the realness of God’s promises for us, for our children, and for those God will call to himself, which we receive by faith.

Third and finally, Peter says, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” in verse 40. Peter isn’t suggesting we should literally try to save ourselves without God in the picture. Instead, he’s drawing us again to the words of the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The Christian message presses us to “save ourselves” by calling upon the name of the only one who can actually save us: the Lord Jesus Christ.

This Is Still Good News

The church of today has been entrusted with the same, timeless message that was proclaimed by Peter here in Acts 2. The message is just as relevant. Scripture is just as true, our guilt and sins are just as offensive, the kindness of Christ to save is just as potent, and God continues to patiently sustain the world, giving time for sinners to respond. We aren’t all commissioned to speak in the same way Peter was. But the message God has given us has eternal consequences – it’s serious. And many need to hear. So as we close, let’s pray that the Lord would continue to increase our capacity to embrace Jesus and to proclaim him to others.