Monday, February 14, 2022

2022.02.14 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? 

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 1:14John 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 14:17–18John 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. 

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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