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The Gospel Story 3 - Acts 2:14-47

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 26th September 2021.

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The Gospel Story 3: Acts 2 v 14-47

Intro:

(Slide 1) One of my favourite TV programmes of all time was called “The A-Team” and it followed the adventures of a group of ex-soldiers as they went from place to place helping people who were struggling by beating up (but never ever killing) the bad guys (Slide 2). The best scene in every single episode was when the A-team were captured or pinned down in a warehouse or a garage - they looked beaten and helpless and doomed, but then the doors would burst open and they would come out all guns blazing with some amazing vehicle or weapon they had fashioned from whatever rubbish was lying around. The situations they were in always looked so unpromising but every single time they managed to transform the poorest of materials into a winning formula and every single time Hannibal, the leader, would put a big fat cigar into his mouth and say with a smile “I love it when a plan comes together.” 

 

(Slide 3) So far in this short sermon series, travelling from Genesis chapter 3 to Jeremiah chapter 31, we have focussed on 2 main truths that God’s word, the bible, reveals to us –humans fail all the time to put their faith in the good God who made them (that is to believe him and so obey him), and yet God never fails to show grace to the creatures he has made (again and again he offers forgiveness and healing). (Slide 4) Our lack of faith has broken this world but God’s consistent grace means that he will fix it.

The one true faithful God of grace has a plan and despite the materials he has to work with - the sheer evil of our sin and the spiritual death it has brought to people - God will accomplish everything that he intends to accomplish. In Acts chapter 2 today, on this side of the cross of Jesus Christ, God declares triumphantly “I love it when a plan comes together.”

 

                        1) God’s plan deals with great evil and produces great good (v1-36)

 

Firstly, God’s plan deals with great evil and produces great good. (Slide 5) As Acts 2 begins, we are about 7 weeks after the evil yet glorious crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Peter and the other disciples who saw Jesus after he was raised from the dead have obeyed Jesus’ command and are waiting together in Jerusalem for God to do something great. And suddenly it happens – a violent wind, tongues of fire and then these pretty-much uneducated men are filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in all sorts of languages that the huge crowd of Jews who are in Jerusalem from different countries could understand. The people in the city are so amazed and perplexed that the accusation is made that they are drunk (which is ridiculous because one of the very last pieces of advice you would give to a student about to sit their final Spanish exam would be to put their verb tables away and open a bottle of Jack Daniels instead). 

 

What is actually happening in these verses is something of the greatest cosmic significance. Peter has the privilege of standing up on Pentecost and proclaiming to the world that God’s plan has come together, the day God had promised has come, (slide 6) – all of the promises God has made to his people by his word through their leaders and their prophets, all of those promises are being fulfilled and are heading towards a climax.

 

In our series so far remember that in Genesis 3 God promised a descendant of Eve that would crush the head of Satan. And later when God made his covenant with Abraham he promised blessing to the whole world through one of Abraham’s descendants. Then in Jeremiah we saw that God promises (he covenants) through his prophets about a time when God would do something inside his people to change them and their relationship with God forever.

 

As a very changed Peter stands up with the other disciples he can add the prophet Joel (v17-21) and King David (v25-28 and 34-35) to our list of promises kept as he gets to the very centre of his sermon and every faithful sermon that has ever been preached since. Who is it that has managed to fulfil all of God’s grace-filled promises to his sinful people?  How has sin been dealt with so that humanity can be changed and come close to God again? Verses 22 to 24;  

 

(Slide 7) “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

At the cross of Jesus Christ, the God of grace won the war that sin started. The crucifixion of Jesus, God in human flesh, was the lowest point that humanity could ever stoop to; as wicked men put nails through Jesus’ hands and feet and hung him up to die, we are at the climax of sin and evil and wickedness. We know that from Genesis 3 onwards sin had ruined our relationship with God but it is at the cross where we see this in evidence in its most naked and stark form. Peter says “you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” and again in verse 36 “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

That “you” that Peter keeps using includes everyone listening to his sermon and it includes us sitting here today. Human sin, our sin, meant that when the God of grace walked among us, feeling our pain and sharing in our suffering, we responded by killing him. This is how terrible sin is, this is why we are so guilty before God and that is why it is so amazing that in Genesis 3 God didn’t crumple it all up and start again. Instead, God’s plan deals with this level of evil.

Verse 23; “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” Yes, it was because of our sin that Jesus died on the cross, and yes we as humanity are guilty for putting him there, but the incredible truth is also this; the Triune God put Jesus there (the Father sent his son) because of his great love and amazing grace. Back in Genesis 3, death was the ultimate result of sin – death hunts us all. But here we see that God himself took death upon himself, he accepted the consequences of our sin, he died. The darkest point in the human story of faithlessness and sin is also the blindingly brightest revelation of the grace and glory of God. “Good Friday” is the right name for the day Jesus died on the cross because it was the day that pure goodness took on utter evil and good triumphed. God wins.

At the cross of Jesus Christ, God’s grace overcame humanity’s faithlessness. God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Jesus rose from the dead, Satan’s head was crushed, the whole world is offered the blessing of forgiveness of sins, new resurrection life is poured into God’s people enabling them to be people of faith in Jesus. Faith in who Jesus is, faith in what Jesus achieved, faith in what Jesus offers to those who would come to him in need. The promises in Genesis and Jeremiah and the Psalms of David and the prophet Joel all are kept when Jesus died and rose again and when his Spirit was sent to transform the lives of his people. “I love it when a plan comes together.” What a plan, what a God.

                           2) God’s plan deals with dying people and produces a living church (v37-47)

(Slide 8) CC Riverside this morning – even if you have heard this many times before, God demands a response from you to such great salvation. These sermons are supposed to help us knowledge-wise when it comes to reading the bible and understanding the gospel message, but far more than that there must be a personal and church-wide application of these truths in our lives. If the glory of God’s plan (which comes straight from the glory of his character) leaves any of us unmoved and unchanged then we are in a really dangerous place. Verses 37 to the end show us that God’s plan deals with dying people to produce a living church.

I have summarised the application of the gospel in 3 words for us to remember this week; Salvation, Sovereignty, and Service (Slide 9). The new covenant that Jeremiah promised and that Jesus brought into effect by his shed blood immediately dealt with our broken relationship with God, with one another, and with the world around.

It fixed our relationship with God. How? Verse 37 “the people were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” “Repent and be baptised …. Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” Application number 1 is Salvation. Have you admitted your sin, have you asked God for his forgiveness, have you turned away from living life your way and turned instead to follow Jesus? If not, then you haven’t been saved. Hell not heaven waits. Church association is not salvation.

But if so, then your life will be very different – look what happened when the 3000 people accepted Peter’s message and were baptised; suddenly these people were devoted to the things of God (the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer), they were people whose lives were now characterised by praise.

 

It is so important as your pastor to say this to you – there is no way your life will be marked by devotion to God and his people, characterised by praising God, if you haven’t actually come to God for Salvation. And that is because it is God’s Spirit living in his people that produces this supernatural change. It is actually ok for me to unsettle some of you listening today because if you don’t see this devotion and praise in your life then it is a good question to ask; “Have I actually gone to God for the Salvation he offers in Jesus?” If not, be humbled and go to him NOW. Put your faith in Jesus. He won’t turn you away, his plan has been for the benefit of people like you.

Application number 2 is Sovereignty. In Jesus, God has fixed the relationship we have with our broken world. The apostles suddenly performed miraculous signs and wonders pointing people to the reality that there is a better world to come, a new creation that would be put into place when Jesus returned. Yes, we are still dealing for now with the terrible consequences of sin – anxiety, depression, illness and death are some of the most common trials many of our church family are going through.

But the God who can take such evil as the cross and use it to produce such good, is the God who lives inside his people by His Spirit and is the God at work for his people to care for them and change them and prepare them for home, for heaven, for the new creation. God is sovereign and so in your struggles today deliberately be filled with confidence, move from confusion to courage because the Sovereign God of grace is working all things for his glory and for your good. He is working for your good right now. Have faith in Jesus. The enormity of the cross means there is nothing that is too big for God to be using right now for good in your life. Sovereignty.

Application number 3 is Service. At the cross our relationship with one another is fixed (Languages). The church that began with such a bang in Acts 2 immediately was filled with people serving not themselves anymore but serving one another. Remember this wasn’t a church filled with mature believers, they are all about a day old in the Christian faith by this point! But God’s work in them by the Holy Spirit means they love to eat together and meet together and give money to one another and love each other with glad and sincere hearts. How devoted a people are we really? (extra events, difficult people, sudden needs, home groups, prayer meetings etc) Praise God there is no doubt he has been working in us as a church family over the years to make us more devoted and sacrificial and evangelistic but we all know there is such a distance to go here. (Slide 10) Together, once again, let us put our faith in Jesus Christ, let us live the new life he has given us through the Spirit, and let us live for the new home we are waiting for. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

The Gospel Story 3: Acts 2 v 14-47

Intro:

Acts chapter 2: “I love it when a plan comes together.” 

 

        1) God’s plan deals with great evil and produces great good (v1-41)

Not drunk! Instead a matter of cosmic significance.

 

God’s plan has come together:

 

  • The serpent crusher from Genesis 3

 

  • Blessing to the whole world through Abraham

 

  • Jeremiah’s new covenant that will change God’s people

 

  • Joel’s prophesy (v17-21)

 

  • King David’s prophesies (v25-28 and 34-45)

 

 

 

Who has fulfilled all of God’s promises? V22-24: “Jesus of Nazareth”

 

At the cross of Jesus Christ:

  • The God of grace won the war that sin started

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • God’s grace overcame humanity’s faithlessness

 

 

 

 

 

        2) God’s plan deals with dying people and produces a living church (v42-47)

 

The immediate impact of the new Covenant:

 

  • Relationship with God

 

 

 

  • Relationship with one another

 

 

 

 

  • Relationship with the world

 

 

 

Application: Salvation, Sovereignty, Service

 

 

 

Home Group Questions on Acts 2

 

        1) Salvation: What different verses in Acts 2 highlight the urgency of the gospel? Will the people in your life see a greater gospel urgency in you this week?

 

        2) Sovereignty: The cross is the greatest evil possible but was used by God to do the greatest good imaginable. How should this help  us as we deal with the brokenness in our own lives? How can we better pray for and support one another in trials by standing on this truth?  

 

        3) Service: How devoted are we to God and to each other? Why should the gift of the Holy Spirit fill us with hope and expectation as  we seek to grow in this life of devotion and praise?

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