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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Jesus shows the right thing to do
Text:Acts 2:37-39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5

Psalm 119:4-6 (after the law)

Psalm 105:1-3

Hymn 56

Hymn 78

Scripture reading: Acts 2:1-39

Text: Acts 2:37-39

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

Everybody thought they were drunk on that Sunday morning.  Here were these men who’d hardly gone to school and they were speaking foreign languages.  To some people watching, the only explanation could’ve been that Peter and the other apostles had overindulged.

However, there was another explanation.  Ten days before this, Jesus had ascended into heaven.  Before he went, he promised he would send the Holy Spirit.  The Bible teaches that God is three persons in one God.  There’s the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit, Jesus promised that he’d be poured out on the followers of Jesus.  That’s what happened.  And when it did, the Holy Spirit made it so that these Christians could speak in different languages.  That was something unique for that time.  We could go into a lot more detail about this, but this speaking in tongues is something that disappeared after the time of the apostles.    

I want to focus on what happens around this speaking in tongues.  Peter saw it as a perfect opportunity to preach to the people about Jesus.  He wanted them to know the good news of rescue in Jesus Christ.  He was speaking to Jews.  They were God’s special people, people with whom God had established a unique relationship known as a covenant. In that covenant relationship God had promised that he would provide rescue from the consequences of their rebellion against him.  To do that he would send someone known as the Messiah.  Messiah means the anointed one of God.  Jesus was the Messiah.  But the Jews killed him – they killed the one God had sent to be their rescue. 

Imagine if you were in a survival situation out in the bush.  You’d long run out of food and water, but you still had a rifle.  Now imagine if a rescue helicopter was approaching to save you.  But you take your rifle and with a carefully aimed shot take out the engine and the helicopter crashes, killing everyone on board.  You sabotaged your own rescue.  It would be senseless and irrational.  But that’s what the Jews had done.  They’d killed the one who’d come for their rescue. 

Peter used the Bible to show this to them.  Some of the Jews listened carefully.  They heard what Peter was saying and it convicted them, it “cut them to the heart” as it says in verse 37.  They had put Jesus Christ on the cross – they now realized that that was a terrible thing to do.  So these Jews asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  In verses 38 and 39, we get the answer to that question.  I preach to you the Word of God from Acts 2:37-39 with this theme:  Jesus shows the right thing to do

We’ll see how, through Peter, he gives:

  1. A command to obey
  2. A promise to believe

In verse 38 of Acts 2, Peter issues a command which these Jews are supposed to follow.  The first word he says is “Repent.”  That’s an important word in the Bible, so we need to look closely at it.

For those Jewish people in Acts 2, they’d had a bad attitude towards Jesus.  They thought Jesus of Nazareth was an evil man, a blasphemer, a false prophet.  Many of the Jews thought he was an accomplice of Satan.  Because they had that kind of an attitude about Christ, they thought he deserved to be put up on that cross.  But more than that, they believed Jesus should really go to hell.  He should be where he belongs, with Satan and the other demons.

When Peter tells them to repent, he’s telling them they have to stop thinking like that.  Their attitude about Jesus has to change, their thinking has to change, how they feel about Jesus has to change.  To repent here means that everything you think and feel about Jesus takes a 180 degree turn.  Whereas before you thought negatively about Jesus, now you think positively.  Whereas before you hated Jesus, now you love him.  Whereas before you would never listen to Jesus or take him seriously, now you believe in him and trust him.

Peter was telling his Jewish listeners that they needed to now see that Jesus was truly their Messiah, the one God sent to rescue them from the consequences of their rebellion – the eternal wrath of God.  The Jews were called to place their trust in Jesus, believe that he paid for all the ways in which they have offended and displeased God.  Then they were also being called to a change of attitude about their rebellion.  Whereas before they didn’t see a problem with it, to repent means that now you hate it.  To repent means that instead of embracing it, you want to run away from your rebellion against God.

Loved ones, all of us have to repent too.  When we read this one word here in Acts 2:38, “Repent” – that word is also addressed to us.  It comes to us from Jesus Christ.  It came through Peter, but we know from Acts 1:1 that Jesus was speaking through Peter.  It’s the word of Christ, also to us.  He’s asking, “What’s your attitude about me?”  Jesus is asking, “How do you think and feel about me?”  Do you have a positive attitude about him or is it negative, or perhaps indifferent?  Do you believe that he’s the one who can rescue you from what your rebellion against God deserves?  Your rebellion against God deserves infinite punishment of body and soul.  But if you believe in Jesus, then he took your infinite punishment when he suffered and died on the cross.  All of us here this morning are called to believe that.  God tells you to here in the Bible. 

And if you say that your attitude about Jesus, how you think and feel about him, if you say that your attitude is positive, then what about your rebellion, your sins?  Jesus wants us to hate our sins.  After all, those sins put him on the cross.  Too often, we don’t hate our sins.  We don’t hate our sins enough.  I don’t and you don’t either.  We love to go back to them over and over.  The Bible says it’s so foolish it’s like a dog going back to its vomit.  That’s gross, but that’s the way God says we are with our sin when we keep going back to it.  We have a love affair with sin.  But what we need is to have a love affair with God and his good ways.  When we repent, we’re humble and we admit that there’s something wrong with us.  We’re broken.  We’re sad about it and we want to change.  We want to stop doing what’s wrong in God’s eyes and instead, we want to go in God’s ways.  When we repent, we have a new attitude about our sins and rebellion and we turn to Christ with faith.  We believe that he is our Rescue, our Saviour.

Those people in Acts, they wanted to do exactly that.  So Peter told them also that they had to be baptized.  You have to realize that baptism was a pretty new thing back then.  Jews usually weren’t baptized.  Usually that was only for people who weren’t Jews who wanted to become Jews.  That’s what’s called Jewish proselyte baptism.  Baptism was for Gentiles, non-Jews, who were dirty.  If they wanted to be part of God’s clean people, if they wanted to be Jewish, they had to go through a ceremonial cleansing with water, a baptism.  So if you were a Jew and you were baptized, that would take a lot of humility.  It would show that you didn’t think you were okay, but that you knew you were dirty.  Baptism would show you had really repented.  Baptism would show you knew you were a dirty rebel against God who needed to be cleaned by the blood of Jesus.

All those Jews who heard Peter and felt convicted about their sins – they were baptized.  If we read further in Acts 2, we find that there were some 3000 of them.  Amazing!  And Peter not only had a command for them, he also had a beautiful promise to give them from Jesus.  Jesus had promised he would send the Holy Spirit.  That’s what Peter means when he says they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In verse 39, he speaks about a promise from God which is for everybody, even for children.  That promise is the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit lives in Christians.  He first comes to us and gives us spiritual life so we can believe in Jesus and have our sins forgiven.  We can have real, meaningful joy, knowing that Christ has taken away all the wrong things we’ve done and will ever do.  The Holy Spirit gives us peace in our hearts.  He gives us peace with God.  Before we believe in Jesus, we’re at odds with God, in conflict with him and what he wants.  But the Holy Spirit brings the conflict to an end.  By bringing us to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes it so we can have a good, healthy relationship with God.  God becomes our Father and we’re his dearly loved children.  All of this is to say that the promise of the Holy Spirit is another way of talking about our rescue, our salvation.  The promise is for salvation. 

And that promise for salvation through the work of the Holy Spirit, it has a wide scope.  Look at verse 39 again.  It says, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  I want you to notice that this wide scope includes children here.  God’s promise of salvation here was extended also to children.  That’s really an amazing thing.  It shows that God’s love for his people extends to the little ones among them.    

Loved ones, please listen carefully.  When believe in the Lord Jesus, everything we are, everything we have belongs to him.  We acknowledge that.  That’s part of what it means to have Jesus as your Lord.  Everything is his.  That includes your children.  Through the covenant of grace, they belong to him too.  When we become part of God’s family through faith, our kids are also part of his family.  Our children are part of God’s family because through the faith of their parents, God has included them in the covenant of grace.  So, God’s promise of salvation is for them too.  The children of believers are special in God’s eyes.  They’ve been set apart by God from the world.  That’s what God teaches us in 1 Corinthians 7:14 – he says that all the children of Christians are holy.  Holy means “set apart.”  There’s something special and different about the children of Christians.  That’s why they ought to be baptized.

Now I want to be really clear about something.  Baptism won’t save you from your sins.  There are people in heaven who were never baptized.  There are people in hell who were baptized.  Baptism doesn’t rescue you.  You see, there is a promise of salvation that comes to those who are baptized – the promise of the washing away of all our sins.  But in order to receive what is promised, you have to believe.  All of us here this morning, all of us will only go to heaven if we accept and believe God’s promise of salvation.  That’s true for all our children too.  For them to have eternal life, they have to believe in Jesus Christ for themselves.  And parents, you have the responsibility to disciple your children and lead them in that direction.  We can only be saved by Jesus Christ if we personally believe in him, and because we recognize that, we pray for our children to have the work of the Spirit in their hearts, and we teach them what it looks like to believe in Jesus and follow him.

Now that doesn’t mean that baptism isn’t important.  It was instituted by Christ as a sacrament, a sign and seal of God’s covenant of grace.  Baptism is a means of grace, because baptism points us to who God will be for us.  He will be our God and Father through what Jesus Christ has done for us.

Baptism is also important because it reminds us who we’re supposed to be.  We’re supposed to be holy, set apart from the world, set apart from sin and rebellion against God.  Baptism has marked us as God’s people.  If you’ve been baptized, and it doesn’t matter where as long as it was in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, if you’ve been baptized, God calls you to really live like you belong to him.  God calls you to follow what the Bible teaches – all of it.  If you don’t want to do that, you’re showing that you really don’t believe God’s promises.  If you live like you don’t belong to God, you’re showing that you don’t really believe in Jesus Christ. 

There are terrible warnings in the Bible for those who have received God’s promises in baptism and yet refuse to repent and believe in Jesus, who just don’t care.  But if we do care, if we love Jesus, place our trust in him as the rescue God has provided, if we want to follow him and do as he says, then there are beautiful words of comfort in the Bible.  Let me read some of those words in Hebrews 10:19-23 [read].  AMEN.       


O God in heaven, our Father,

Thank you for the promises found in the Bible.  Thank you that you give those promises also to the children of believers.  We pray that you would help all the children in this congregation to see how beautiful those promises are and embrace them in faith.  Help our young people to do that.  Please work with your Holy Spirit in their young hearts so that they personally repent and take hold of Christ.  We pray for anyone here this morning who hasn’t yet repented from their sins and turned to Jesus.  We do ask that you would work with your mighty grace in their hearts and lives.  Please bring more glory to yourself through bringing sinners to repentance and faith.  You’ve done that for us and we pray earnestly that you would do it for others too.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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