The Apostle Peter Addresses the Crowd
[Acts chapter 2, verses 22-34]
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Last week when we began our in-depth analysis of Acts chapter 2, the day of Pentecost – or the arrival of the Holy Spirit that sounded like a hurricane and appeared as shimmering tongues of fire – created such a big commotion that everyone within earshot found themselves compelled to find its source. When we left off at verse 21, Peter was in the process of quoting from the Book of Joel in the Bible, where it foretold of the arrival of what is arguably the 2nd most important event in human history – right after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, of course. Today we will take up where we left off, beginning at verse 22.
“Men of Israel, 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. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 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. David said about him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of your life; you fill me with joy in your presence.’” (Acts 2, verses 22-28)
I don’t know about you, but the first thing I notice is that Peter brings up what was the still-hot topic of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The apostle Peter saw no need to explain who Jesus was, because everybody knew exactly who he was. What Peter clarified for the crowd was the ultimate purpose for Jesus’ life, his reason for existence, which was the salvation of humankind through reconciliation with God. Although those who were listening to Peter didn’t realize it yet, Peter was accusing them of complicity in the death of Christ. “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.” So we can say with certainty that God nullified all the best efforts of the religious establishment to make sure Christ met with an untimely end by permanently adorning him with glory, honor and praise for all eternity, seating him at his right hand. In the process, Jesus conquered death and the grave, and so all who place their complete faith in Christ achieve immortality along with Christ.
“David said about him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken….’” Why did David always “see the Lord before” himself? Because he always put God ahead of himself, that’s why! Since Jesus was always with David, literally at his right hand, nothing really bad could ever happen to him provided he put Jesus before himself (see Psalm 23). Except that David lived roughly 1,000 years before Jesus did – so how did David know the Spirit of the risen Lord would be beside him? Because it was prophecy, which is exactly the point that Peter had just made with the crowd that was gathered around them! “….my body will also live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Right here is where Peter finished quoting from Psalms 16, verses 8-11, from which the previous quote had been taken. At this point is one of many places in the Bible where the resurrection of Jesus Christ is boldly prophesied with the utmost conviction. As the text says, Jesus Christ is the only dead man ever buried who did not decay while in the ground, something many modern churches don’t teach. And now let’s continue to follow along with Peter, starting at verse 29.
“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants upon his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”” (Acts 2, verses 22-34)
Peter was referring to Psalm 138 verse 11 when he stated, “But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants upon his throne.” This verifies what I wrote further above as to Peter’s reasons for quoting the passages of Scripture that he quoted, as well as his quoting from the prophet Joel in last week’s study. For those who may have missed it, part 1 of Acts chapter 2 can be found here. Then Peter continues: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” Peter had 11 more witnesses standing by him as he spoke, ready and eager to give their own testimonies about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a man who had been publicly executed. The Holy Spirit of that risen Christ was manifesting itself in the speaking of other languages, the purpose of which was to make sure as many as possible could hear the good news of the Salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
There are, unfortunately, a few denominations that teach that everyone must speak in tongues as evidence of their Holy Spirit baptism. But this is not what the Bible says, as the apostle Paul wrote: “ Follow the way of love and eagerly desire Spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But anyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy….” (1st Corinthians 14, verses 1-5). So, not everyone who receives Holy Spirit baptism – and there most assuredly is such a thing – speaks in tongues, since there are a total of nine Spiritual gifts (see 1st Corinthians 12, verses 4-11). Moreover, only Jesus and the apostles, to the best of my knowledge, operated in multiple gifts of the Spirit. Human beings get one, since more than one Spiritual gift could potentially overwhelm us.
“For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” This quote is from the New International Bible, but the New Living Translation reads a little better: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet’.” David, Peter was explaining, had not yet ascended to heaven like Christ did, but he had witnessed Christ being seated at the Father’s right hand. Therefore, David saw Christ ascended and crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords! That is exactly how Peter explained it to the crowd gathered around them. Be sure and make it back next week for part 3, when we conclude Peter’s first sermon and chronicle what happens next in Acts chapter 2, including a start-up of the first faith-based economic system. Until then, everyone be sure and keep Christ in your hearts.