Surveying Peter’s Sermon at the Pentecost event (Acts 2:14-41), by Rev. Dr John Kwasi Fosu

Introduction

Acts 2:14-41 records Peter’s first sermon in the book of Acts. In this sermon, Peter sought to answer the people charge that the people were drunk. He went on to interpret the speaking in tongues of Pentecost in the light of a quotation from the prophet Joel. Acts 2:22-32 then presents the kerygma or the proclamation of the Good News of Christ. Peter then establishes a relationship between the coming of the Spirit with the Good News of Jesus Christ in Acts 2:33-36 as the last part of his sermon. The main purpose of this study is to analyse Peter’s sermon so that we will be equipped with the know-how of preaching and witnessing Christ.

Peter answers the charge that the people were drunk (Acts 2:14 – 15) – Sermons are to address current issues

Peter first answered their charge that the men were drunk. To Peter, no Jew would eat or drink anything before 9:00 am on a Sabbath or feast day.  It was then the third hour, or 9:00 am. Note that throughout this sermon, Peter addresses Jews only (Act 2:14, 22, 29, and 36). Pentecost was a Jewish feast and there were no Gentiles involved. In this sermon, Peter addressed the Jewish nation and proved to them that their Messiah had been raised from the dead.

Peter interprets the speaking in tongues in the light of Joel 2:28-32 (Acts 2:16-21) – Sermons are to be biblical

In Acts 16 – 21, Peter referred the men to Joel 2:28 – 32. He did not say that this was a fulfillment of the prophecy, for Joel’s words will not be fulfilled until the end of the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth. Peter does say that this is that same Spirit spoken of by Joel. Verses 17 and 18 took place at Pentecost, but verses 19 – 21 did not, and will not until the end times. Between verses 18 and 19 unfold the entire church age.

Peter explains who Jesus is (Acts 2:22 – 36) – Sermons are to be Christocentric

Peter now proved to the Jews that Jesus was alive. He used five very convincing proofs of the living Messiah:

(1) Jesus’ Person and life demand that He be raised from the dead (verses 22 – 24 and John 10:17 – 18). He who raised others could not remain dead himself.

(2) Psalm 16:8 – 11 predicted the resurrection (verses 25-31).

(3) The apostles themselves were witnesses and had seen the risen Lord Jesus (verse 32).

(4) The coming of the Spirit is proof that Jesus is alive (verse 33).

(5) Psalm 110:1 promised His resurrection (verses 33 – 35). It appears here that Peter was not preaching the Gospel of the cross as we preach it today. Instead he was accusing Israel of a great crime (verse 23) and warning them that they had rejected and crucified their own Messiah (verse 36). Peter was giving Israel one more opportunity to receive the Messiah. They had slain John the Baptist and Jesus, but God was now giving them another chance. The resurrection of Jesus is likened to the promised “sign of Jonah” that proved Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 12:38 – 40).

Peter applies the message to the existential needs of the people (verses 37 – 40) – Sermons are to be applicable and thus relevant to the needs of the hearers

The men were convicted and asked Peter for counsel. Peter told them to repent, believe, and be baptized. In that way, they would be identifying themselves with Jesus as the Messiah. This is the same message John the Baptist (Mark 1:4) and Jesus (Matthew 4:17) preached. To make baptism essential for salvation and the receiving of the Spirit is to deny the experience of the Gentiles in Acts 10:44 –48, which is God’s pattern for today. The Jews in Acts 2 received the Spirit when they repented and were baptized.  The Samaritans in Acts 8 received the Spirit by the laying on of the apostles’ hands.  However, believers today receive the Spirit when they believe, as did the Gentiles in Acts 10. There is no salvation in the waters of baptism, for salvation is by faith in Jesus.

Peter stated that the promise of the Spirit was not only for the Jews present in Jerusalem but also for the Jews scattered abroad (verse 39 and Daniel 9:7).

Conclusion

This material has focused on studying Peter’s first sermon in the Acts of the Apostle. In this sermon, Peter responded to the charge that the believers were drunk as they spoke in tongues. Thereafter, Peter sought to link the phenomenon of speaking in tongues to the event prescribed in Joel 2 and went on to explain who Jesus was to the people. Peter did not conclude his message without making a relevant application of his message to the lives and needs of the people. It is important to study this passage serving as a recorded sermon of Peter if we desire to share the gospel message in contemporary times. In this light, the gospel message must be current, biblically based, Christocentric, and contextualized. Thus, it must meet the needs of the people.

The Pentecost event and my Christian life (Acts 2:1-13), by Rev. Dr John Kwasi Fosu

Introduction

One of the most important New Testament events that reminds us of the fact that the Spirit of God is with us, upon us and in us is the Pentecost event. As an important event in the Christian calendar, it reminds us of how the Holy Spirit came upon the early disciples of Christ in a dramatic sense. Thus, the Pentecost event gives us the picture of how the Holy Spirit began to use the Apostles of Jesus and thus how the Church began. This study thus purposes to reflect on the significance of the Pentecost event as recorded in Acts 2:1-13. To do that, a brief historical background of the passage would be given. Thereafter, attempt is made to describe the text of Acts 2:1-13 and finally give the significance of the event to our Christian faith and practice.

The historical background of the Pentecost event

The notion of Pentecost has its root in the Old Testament. The Feast of Pentecost took place fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits. The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth.” This feast is described in Leviticus 23:15 – 21. Just as Passover is a picture of the death of the Messiah (1 Corinthians 5:7), and Firstfruits a picture of the resurrection of the Messiah (1 Corinthians 15:20 – 23), so Pentecost pictures the coming of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). The loaves of bread with leaven that were presented that day to some extent serves as a picture of the Church which is composed of Jews and Gentiles. The priest presented two loaves as a wave offering to the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 10:17, the church is pictured as a loaf of bread. The leaven in the bread speaks of sin yet in the church. There are two occurrences of the Spirit’s baptism in Acts: upon the Jews in Acts 2, and upon the Gentiles in Acts 10. The two loaves presented at Pentecost foreshadow these events.

Describing the Pentecost event (Acts 2:1 – 13)     

The believers were waiting and praying as Jesus had commanded (Luke 24:49), and at the proper time, the Spirit descended. When the Spirit descended, the Spirit baptized them into one spiritual body in the Messiah (see Acts 1:4 – 5 and 1 Corinthians 12:13), and the Spirit filled them with power for witnessing (2:4). The sound of rushing wind reminds us of John 3:8 and of Ezekiel’s prophecy about the dry bones (Ezekiel 37). The tongues of fire symbolize the divine power that would speak for God.  These tongues of fire are not to be confused with the baptism of fire mentioned in Matthew 3:11. For the baptism of fire mentioned there refers to the time of Israel’s tribulation. Since every believer is baptized by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), it is more appropriate to pray for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Worth emphasizing here is that the believers spoke in tongues. They did not preach in tongues. Instead, they praised God in languages they did not naturally know (2:11). Apparently, they were in the Upper Room when the Spirit descended (Acts 2:2) but must have moved out to the temple courts where a great crowd gathered. The purpose of the gift of tongues was to impress the Jews with the fact that a miracle was taking place. In Acts 10:46, the Gentiles spoke with tongues as proof to the apostles that they had received the Spirit.  In Acts 19:6, the Ephesian followers of John the Baptist spoke in tongues for the same reason.

Significance of the Pentecost event

Three main significance of the Pentecost event can be identified in this study. These are theological, ecclesiastical and practical importance. In other words, the Pentecost event gives us a picture of the nature of God and the church as well as how Christians are to live their lives. These three purposes are explained below.

Theological significance – It teaches us about the nature of God

The Pentecost event reminds us of the fact that God’s Spirit came upon all who had gathered to wait upon the promised Spirit. In the sovereignty of God, God sought to reach all by this outpouring of the Spirit. That is to both Jews and Gentiles alike. In this light, and in the first place the Pentecost event reminds us of the nature of God that God is the God of all flesh. God is the God of the rich and poor, the literate and the illiterate and the God of all races. Thus, in God exclusivist attitudes are to be avoided. In the second place, the Pentecost event reminds us that God fulfills promises. Jesus had instructed the disciples to wait for the promise. And in the faithfulness of God the Spirit came upon the believers. Relatedly, being faithful in fulfilling promises, Jesus’ promise of his second return will also come to pass.

Ecclesiological significance – It teaches us about the nature of the Church

The Pentecost event teaches us about the diverse nature of the Church as both spiritual and human organization. That in God’s wisdom the Church is a mystery. For the Spirit of God lives in the followers of Christ. This reminds us of our need to depend on the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that builds God’s Church. As human organization, we ought to plan and organize the Church as we do for any other human organization if we desire to see growth. Since the coming of the Spirit brought about diversity as reflected in the speaking in tongues or glossolalia, it reminds us again that the Church out to be diverse. The Pentecost event thus reminds us that we are to be open minded in terms of doing cross-cultural ministry in the Church.

Practical significance

Practically, the Pentecost event reminds us of what the church ought to be. For a meaningful Christian life, we ought to rely on the Spirit. The spirit helps us in our weakness, teaches us, guides us, helps us and intercede on our behalf. Again, the Spirit helps us to be confident and thus fills us with unction to function (Acts 1:8). Practically, it is worth noting that the coming of the Spirit upon the disciples was for a purpose. God blesses us for us to be a blessing. God anoints us to do something for God’s Kingdom. Last but not the least, as a practical implication, the Pentecost event reminds us to come out of our comfort zone. The pre-requisite to receiving the Spirit is waiting upon God. Walking with the Spirit requires a disciplined lifestyle. For the Spirit of God can be grieved.

Conclusion

This study on Acts 2:1-13 has sought to give important reflections on the Pentecost event. Reminding us of the coming of the Spirit on the early followers of Christ, the Pentecost event among others teaches us about the nature of God, the Church and practically how we are to live our lives as Christians. It is important to remind ourselves that we are to daily rely on the Spirit for meaningful Christian life. We are also to come out of our comfort zone in our desire to be filled by the Spirit and thus to do cross-cultural ministry.

Questions

  1. When was the feast of Pentecost celebrated?
  2. What Old Testament prophecy did the sound of the rushing wind (Acts 2:2) remind us?
  3. The Pentecost event reminds us of the nature of the Church. Explain.
  4. State and explain three main purposes of the Pentecost event.