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Study Notes:

Acts 2:14-41
Peter Explains Pentecost

Summary: Peter explains Pentecost as God doing what He had promised through the prophets and calls people to be saved, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit in response.

As we return to the book of Acts this morning, we find Peter preaching the first Christian sermon.

You remember the flow of events – Jesus was put to death on a cross during the feast of Passover. Three days later, He rose from the dead surprising everyone. He taught them off and on over the next forty days, and then, with the feast of Pentecost coming, they all returned to Jerusalem where Jesus told them to stay until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit.

That happened on the day of Pentecost. The first Christians were gathered, praying, and suddenly:

Acts 2:3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It turns out these other tongues were foreign languages spoken by people who were visiting Jerusalem from all over the region – these visitors suddenly heard people praising God in their native tongue – people who should not have known that particular language. It was an unprecedented, miraculous, event and no one really knew how to respond.

It reminds me of the earthquake we had here in Virginia back in 2011. I grew up in Southern California, so I know what earthquakes are, but they’re pretty rare out here on the East Coast.

The day of the earthquake I was studying at the library.
The building started to shake and people were confused,
trying to figure out, what is going on? I remember being stunned for a second myself – my experience didn’t line up with my environment – this felt like an earthquake, but this is Virginia. How do these two things fit together?

When it finally clicked, that yes, this was an earthquake, I knew what to do – but I remember the look of confusion and panic on people’s faces.

And then a second or two later, it was over. But it still took people a while to figure out what they had just been through and how to respond, what to do next. They actually

evacuated the Pentagon if you remember and California started mocking us with Internet memes for our cute little 5.8magnitude quake.

I imagine that stunned sense of confusion people
experienced during an earthquake in DC was something
like what happened on Pentecost: an unexpected event
caught everyone off guard and people stood around in a state of shock trying to figure out what it all meant and what was going to happen next…until Peter stepped up and explained everything by pointing back to Scripture.

Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,

Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.

Here’s the point Peter is making to the crowd: what you’re seeing, hearing, and experiencing is something God promised a long time ago.

If you go back in history, back into the early parts of Scripture, you will find God using certain men and women in special ways. The Holy Spirit would come upon people, but it was rare – it was something experienced by prophets and priests, or by kings and judges. It was not widespread. It was not commonplace.

But God promised, through the prophet Joel, a day would come when there would be a great outpouring of the Spirit on all kinds of people – sons and daughters, young and old, employers and employees not just the religious and political elites. God said, I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh.

And then, a day would come when He will do incredible signs and wonders in the skies above and on the earth too:

Acts 2:19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,

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And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

The space between these two things – pouring out the Spirit on all flesh and signs and wonders on the earth and in the sky – is known as the Church age. Pouring out the Holy Spirit happens at the starting line, and signs and wonders on earth and in the skies are apocalyptic events associated with the second coming of Christ and His earthly kingdom so they’re the finish line. 1

We don’t know how long the race is – we don’t know how long we have between the starting line and the finish – remember Jesus told His disciples it wasn’t for them to know days and seasons that the Father has established for His own purposes. But, we do know we’re in the race and He has given us power through the Holy Spirit so that we can serve Him and touch the lives of people around us. In fact, look at what Joel’s prophecy says next:

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’

This is the end state, this is the goal. This is why Pentecost happened, and it’s the reason for many miraculous or spiritual things that happen today. God is getting people’s attention, bringing them to the place where they will call on the name of the LORD and be saved.

We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but for now, make note of it – long ago, at a very real point in history, God used a certain man named Joel to communicate this message: that a day was coming when God would do miraculous things so that, ultimately, other people would call on His name and be saved. That was the plan.

And now, Peter is going to transition and explain how it all came to pass – why is this happening now, why had it never happened before?

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him:

‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;

1 For more information see Matthew 24:29, 30; Rev 6, 8, 9, etc.

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Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades
[or, the grave], Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he [David], foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

So, here’s Peter’s point – Jesus fulfills what King David prophesied and that enables Him to unleash Joel’s prophecy. Because Jesus died, and was not left in the grave, He’s now able to pour out the Holy Spirit just as Joel said would happen. So, this is Peter’s line of reasoning.

Now remember, Peter was speaking to a group of Jews who had just traveled from all over the region to be here, in Jerusalem, for this religious feast. These were people who knew and believed the Scriptures Peter was quoting, but now he’s telling them – Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy, it’s here, it’s happened, it’s real.

So, understanding all of that, let’s see how we can make a few connections between this historical event and our modern lives. Let’s ask the question – what does this matter to us?

And the answer is: it matters a great deal because although there has never been another day like Pentecost, why it happened and why it was able to happen, is still relevant today.

The unusual speaking in tongues, which shocked the large crowd, was evidence God was pouring out His Spirit on a diverse group of people. As far as we know, none of them were kings or judges, none of them were prophets or priests, they were common people – shepherds, farmers, fishermen, small business owners, government employees and contractors. The people who surprisingly spoke that Pentecost morning were what you would call ‘normal people.’

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They experienced this miracle because God was doing something new, kicking off the beginning of the Church. The church had not always existed, it was starting now. And here was God, using normal people in spectacular ways, to prompt and provoke other people to call on the name of the LORD and be saved.

In order to do that though, in order to be saved, they had to understand the gospel. They had to understand who Jesus was, what He had done, and why. You cannot be a Christian without understanding these things.

Coming to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Being born to Christian parents doesn’t make you a Christian. Not being Muslim or Hindu doesn’t make you a Christian. There is no default switch on your soul that says ‘Christian.’ You have to become a Christian. Just like the people responding here at Pentecost, you have to be aware that God is getting your attention, and you have to respond.

Here is what Peter told the crowd they needed to know. He emphasized four important points about Jesus. He spoke of: 1. A historical Jesus; 2. A crucified Jesus, 3. and, A risen Jesus 4. According to the Scriptures. These are all the same things we need to know today. From here you can start asking all kinds of questions like: Who was Jesus? Why did He have to die? How did He do His miracles? Etc. But this is the core, the starting place.

1. A historical Jesus (vs 22). Peter speaks to the crowd about Jesus of Nazareth in verse 22. He’s talking about this very particular and unique person – anchored in history, tied to a specific time and place – who ate food, drank wine, worked with His hands, left footprints in the dirt when He walked. He was as real as Napoleon, King Tut, Julius Caesar, or Alexander the Great and you can prove that from history in all the same ways you can prove any other historical figure.

But this Jesus did extraordinary things – He was attested by miracles, signs, and wonders – there was no missing Him. When He was alive there were plenty of people who disagreed with Him, plenty of people who disliked Him, but no one ever doubted the works He did, and Peter points that out.

Some people thought He was doing the miracles by the power of Satan, but no one could deny the fact that He did them. No one could deny God tried to get people’s attention through the miracles of Jesus. And, no one could deny the fact that God was trying to get people’s attention through the miracle of Pentecost either. Even today, in big ways and small, God is trying to get people’s attention so they will consider His message. And that message involves:

2. A crucified Jesus (vs 23). Peter tells the crowd – you crucified him – you rejected Him, but God proved you were wrong by raising Him from the dead.

Jesus was making a stir, working miracles no one could deny, but He was also making

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claims some people couldn’t accept and so, Peter says, you got rid of Him because He was inconvenient and didn’t fit your agenda.

People still reject Jesus just like they did 2000 years ago and try to send Him away. You see, Jesus isn’t fun to hang out with unless you’re on His team. You can’t sit with Jesus for very long before things start to get uncomfortable. But here’s the problem, you can’t just get rid of Him. You can’t unfriend Him or unfollow Him or ban or block Him and make Him go away, because even if you crucify Him and think you’ve killed Him, He comes right back.

You see, Peter’s historical, crucified Jesus, is also

3. A risen Jesus – (vs 24; 32-33; 36). This is the point Peter made about David still being dead in His tomb, but Jesus being raised. God did not leave His soul in the grave or let Him see corruption – His body did not decompose and become food for worms. God accepted His life and sacrifice and raised him from the dead. And, Peter said, we are all witnesses – we can take you over to the empty tomb right now if you want to go and you can see for yourselves.

In fact, that’s why all of this is happening. Remember what he said? Look with me back at

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear [all the events of Pentecost].

34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

He is both Master and Savior. He is both the power behind these miraculous events, and the One who made them possible.

And notice, this is all

4. According to the Scriptures (vs 25-31; 34-35). Everything Jesus did and everything happening that Pentecost morning was the fulfillment of things God promised long ago. Many centuries before Jesus was born, various men wrote down, in documents that were preserved, prophecies about a person who was going to come. They told about His life, where He would live, the circumstances of His birth, what He would do, and how He would die. They prophesied that He would rise from the dead, ascend to heaven, and send the Holy Spirit.

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These are facts of history. God promised these things would happen, and they did.

You see, you need to know that Christianity is grounded in objective facts, things real people witnessed and experienced at real locations in real time – this isn’t just a bunch of feelings experienced by some religious fanatics that you can just brush away.

And the historical nature of our faith tells Christians at least two things: first, the value of the Old Testament. Yes, there are some things back there that are hard to understand, but they also point the way to the Christ you love and explain many of the things you see and experience in the New Testament and in the Church.

And, number two, don’t be surprised when God moves at a pace that feels slow to you. Just because you don’t see immediate results doesn’t mean you’re doing things wrong or you were mistaken. Joel and David prophesied hundreds of years before these events came to pass. But they eventually happened, at just the right time and in just the right place.

So now, having seen, experienced and explained the miracle of Pentecost, we come to the response:

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Now, you may say, “This was a long time ago in a place I’ve never been with people I don’t know. What does any of this have to do with me?” And I’ll tell you – it has everything to do with you, because this is still the message of the Church today. Certainly, as we said earlier, there has never been another day like Pentecost, but we still believe God is working in undeniable ways to get the attention of men and women, boys and girls, to make them aware of His existence and their sin.

And the path Peter laid out for response is the same one we must follow today if we are going to be saved. Look at the steps he lists in vs 38.

If God is calling out to you, pressing upon your soul, like He did with the crowds that Pentecost morning, there are three things that must happen. First, Peter says, you must repent – this involves a change of mind and purpose, goals and direction that moves you from sin and toward God. It’s more than just admitting what you’ve done is wrong, it’s

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saying ‘I want to change; I want to abandon my commitment to my own way of life and embrace Christ.’ Remorse is not repentance; change is repentance.

And then, you must be baptized. When Jesus left the earth, He told His early followers, including Peter to make disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – and here Peter is doing just that. He calls people to make a public expression of their inward faith. When you are baptized, you are admitting, “I have sins that need to be forgiven.” And when you are baptized, you are reminded that God has washed them away, notice Peter calls them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

And, Peter tells his hearers they must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is so much more to Christianity than simply being forgiven. When you are saved, you are brought into a new relationship with God as the Holy Spirit now lives inside of you and gives you the power to be a witness for God.

All of this happens in the middle of a mysterious tension between personal responsibility and divine sovereignty. It’s captured perfectly in these two summary words found in verse 40. Peter tells the crowd they must “Be saved.”

Throughout this passage we see things that God has done, things that only He can do – only He can pour out His Spirit, only He can send Jesus, only He can raise Him from the dead. But Peter also tells his listeners to repent, to be baptized, to receive this message. He tells them to “Be saved.” To go along with their rescue and salvation, don’t resist it.

Think of the desperation of those who survive Hurricanes and flooding, we’ve all seen the pictures of people on rooftops waiting to be rescued.

The Coast Guard or County search and rescue teams, or brave volunteers put in time and effort to bring you a boat or helicopter to make your salvation possible, they call out to you, they get your attention, but now you’ve got to come along, you’ve got to be saved. You can’t say you’re afraid of heights as they winch you up into the helicopter. You can’t ask them to wait for the flooding to go down so you can grab a few things to bring with you – you must be willing to be saved, to go with them.

It may happen, but you don’t normally hear of people being rescued against their own will.

My question for you this morning is: have you been saved? Has God been at work in your life to get your attention, and have you repented, been baptized, and received the Holy Spirit? Can you answer that question with absolute certainty? You should be able to.

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39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Has God called you? Is God calling you? Let me remind you of this: everything we’ve read this morning happened with a religious audience in town to celebrate a religious festival. If He called them, it would not be strange for Him to be calling you right now. It would not be strange for you to think of yourself as a spiritual person, or even as Christian, and still sense God calling you. It could be that you have never truly repented, that you’ve never actually been saved, received the gift of the Holy Spirit and identified with Christ through baptism.

The fact that you’re here is good – you’ve heard the things God wants you to hear – but has He added your soul to His church? Have you been saved?

We’re going to celebrate communion now and be reminded of all that God has done to provide our salvation, to be reminded that Jesus died, but was not left in the grave and did not see decay, but is sitting at the right hand of the Father pouring out His Holy Spirit on us.

And while the ushers distribute the elements, maybe you need to take a minute and pray, to get some things settled between you and God, and then join the rest of us in praising Him for all that He has done by calling us to salvation and filling us with His Spirit.

Let’s pray.

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