Saturday, February 12, 2022

2022.02.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 2:37–41

Read Acts 2:37–41

Questions from the Scripture text: What had they done while the apostle preached (Acts 2:37)? With what result within them? To whom did they speak? What did they call them? What did they ask? Who responds (Acts 2:38)? What two commands does Peter give? To how many of them? In what name? For what result? And what subsequent gift? What had the Lord already given them (Acts 2:39a, cf. Joel 2:28, Joel 2:32; Psalm 110:3)? Who else could come into these promises (Acts 2:39b, cf. Joel 2:28, Psalm 110:2, Psalm 110:6)? What did Peter add to this original response (Acts 2:40)? How had some received this word of response (Acts 2:41a)? What happened to them? What was added (verse 41b, cf. Acts 1:15)?

The primary text of Peter’s sermon was Joel 2:28–32. The primary point was that it is Jesus Who had spoken this word as Yahweh, because it is Jesus Who has poured out His Spirit, from where it is Jesus Who has sat upon the throne of heaven, and Jesus upon Whose Name everyone who calls will be saved. The question that this short passage answers is: what must one do to receive this pouring out of the Spirit from Jesus? What must one do to call upon Jesus’s Name and be saved?

Hear by the help of the Spirit. The question is partly answered before they even ask it. “Now when they heard, they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). It’s very similar to the language of Acts 7:54, except that uses a verb for sawing through, and this uses a word for stabbing deeply. There are those who hear and are so dull as to be unaffected. That’s one sort of hardness. But even when the Spirit gives us to understand, we still need Him to give us spiritual life. We need Him to give us the “glad receiving” of Acts 2:41 instead of the dull resistance or hostile rebellion of the flesh.

Hear with the “hand,” not just with the “heart.” The question of “what shall we do?” isn’t answered by “nothing.” It is true that saving faith, justifying faith, renounces any merit or hope in anything that we do and grounds its worth and hope only in Christ Himself and what He has done. But this faith that renounces any worthiness in what we do or hope in what we do does not therefore simply do nothing. The apostle’s answer in Acts 2:38 consists of an active command and a passive command.

The active command is, “repent!” We may ask “of what?” The answer is “of anything and everything that is sinful” (cf. Luke 3:3). A more specific answer is “whatever sins are most peculiar to you” (cf. Luke 3:8–14). Considering the way that the sermon had ended in Acts 2:36, the primary place of repentance for this group was in their relation to Christ. They had rejected Jesus as either Yahweh or King, and now they must acknowledge Him as both. In the context from which Peter had preached, the Lord had called the people to repentance, and one of the things that perplexes Bible students about Joel as a whole and Joel 2:12 in particular is that we don’t know of what, specifically, they needed to repent. But there is a clue there in the following verse: the Lord allures them to repentance by a display of Himself. And now the apostle has preached that Jesus Himself is the great display that Yahweh makes of Himself in the flesh (cf. John 1:14, John 1:18). 

Repentance bears the fruit of coming out of the bondage of slavery to self and into the liberty of complete subjection to Jesus Christ as your God and King. What the baptizer had said in Luke 3:11, subjection to Jesus produced (cf. Acts 2:44–45, cf. Luke 4:32–35). He exercises His authority by giving us the greatest liberty: becoming His subjects.

The passive command is “be baptized.” God still has a mark that He places upon His people. It is no longer circumcision, but baptism. And it is a mark not merely of being a child of Abraham but a subject of King Jesus. Upon His authority, all whom He adds to His covenant people—His kingdom people—must be baptized. But baptism is not something they do. It is something to which they are subjected, because they have become subjects. It is the mark of the Lord Christ. He has a church to which He is adding. He is washing sinners clean and remitting their guilt. He is pouring out His Spirit not only to work on us and be with us, but even to be in us (cf. John 14:17–18, John 14:23–26). 

The passive nature of this—the fact that even water baptism is something that is done to them rather than something that they do—gives them hope. First for themselves, there is hope despite their inability to produce even their own repentance. It is God who grants the moment of repentance unto life (cf. Acts 11:18). And it is God who grants the life-long exercise of that repenting (cf. Philippians 2:12–13). 

Upon the King’s Name, they may receive the mark. Upon the King’s Name, their enmity is cancelled, and they receive the King’s gift of remission of sins. Upon the King’s Name, they receive the King’s gift of His Holy Spirit—the same Spirit Who gives faith and repentance.

This last is something that would have been desperately important to them—more important even than their own admittance into the church-kingdom of Jesus Christ. Because here they were, repenting already. If they didn’t know it already, they would soon know that the repenting had come by the merciful, almighty work of the Holy Spirit. 

But what of their children? Seven short weeks ago, they had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children” (cf. Matthew 27:25). But the promise from Joel had included sons and daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). Yes, there was an expansion promised that would come out of Jerusalem (cf. Joel 2:32), but there was a specific promise touching your sons and your daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). And Christ’s enthronement prophecy in Psalm 110:34–35 especially emphasized not only the willingness with which His people would come but also how like dew at the dawn, He would receive children, first thing in the morning on the day of His power (cf. Psalm 110:3).

The passive nature of baptism offered them hope for their children. Just as the parents could not produce their own repentance, so also their children needed more than a dad and mom who love Jesus, and lead them in family worship, and give them the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and especially bring them to the public worship for the public administration of the ordinary means of grace. Their children needed more than this, infinitely more. They needed the Holy Spirit to give them spiritual life and repentance.

Would the parents follow God’s prescriptions concerning their children in fear of the curse they had called upon them until they saw the fruit of faith? No. They would follow God’s prescriptions concerning their children in hope bolstered by the sign that Jesus had placed upon them as members of a household He had brought into His church as those whom the Lord Christ had marked off from the world as holy (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14).  

So the apostle says, “For the promise is to you and to your children.” Not “to you and your children, if you and they are faithful enough that they come to believe.” But rather “to you and your children, concerning whom you trust that the Holy Spirit will be faithful, so that they believe.”

And the passive nature of baptism offered them hope for the nations. For, the Lord is calling a remnant from all the nations (cf. Joel 2:32) just as He had on this particular day called to Himself a remnant of some three thousand from among the Jews (Acts 2:41). Jerusalem, Zion, was just a starting place. Christ’s kingship would spread to the ends of the earth. This too appeared in Joel 2:28 and Joel 2:32), Psalm 110:2 and Psalm 110:6, and the recent context in Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8

This is a great reason for a church that is biblical and spiritually alive to keep membership rolls. For, these are a celebration of the fulfillment of Christ-promises and Christ-prophecies. Three thousand souls were added to their number that day. Rejoice! And, when just one is added to the number, the Lord Jesus teaches us to rejoice with heaven (cf. Luke 15:6–7, Luke 15:10). Membership rolls and counts didn’t begin by men trying to consolidate control or prompt self-praise. They began as a testimony to the faithfulness, power, and goodness of the Lord Christ—and that’s how they ought to continue.

So, what hope do you have? Are you a believer? Then Christ has done that by His Spirit Whom He gave. Are you a church member child who doesn’t yet believe or don’t know if you do? Then your hope must be that Christ Who has given you the mark of His membership and washing and Spirit will give you the inward, eternal reality of that washing and Spirit. Are you an outsider altogether? Then cry out to God that He would call you to Himself as part of that remnant that He is calling by His Spirit.

Have you turned from your sin to Christ? Why must you? Why can you? Have you been baptized? Why is it significant that it was done to you, not by you, on earth? What other things does it show may be done to you, not by you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You are the giver of Your Spirit and salvation. We thank You and praise You for how the mark that You have chosen for church members shows this. Forgive us all of our sins’ guilt and keep cleansing us from all our sins’ power, by the work of Your Spirit, which we ask in the name of the Lord Christ, even Jesus, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, From the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

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