ACTS: UNDERSTANDING OUR ORIGIN
Thank you for bringing your Bibles. I wish to begin with a brief review of our
study last Sunday evening. We examined the way the last paragraph of Luke and Acts
1 overlap. We noticed the confusion that characterized Jesus' eleven disciples after
Jesus' death and resurrection. We stressed the fact that Peter, in Acts 2, emphasized
that God was keeping His promise to Israel.
I spent some time showing that for centuries God promised the He would
"restore the fortunes of Israel." When anyone in Israel heard a discussion focusing on
the coming of God's kingdom or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that person spoke
about something of immediate, great interest to the Jewish people.
There is a significant connection between Jeremiah's emphasis on God's
promise to restore the fortunes of Israel and the events in Acts 2. Jeremiah's primary
emphasis on God's promise to restore Israel's fortunes is found in chapters 29 through
Jeremiah 30:3, 17-20
Jeremiah 33:6-11, 23-26
Let's summarize the first lesson in this manner: God made a promise to the
Jewish people, and they looked for God to fulfill that promise for hundreds of years. In
Acts 2, God gave life to Israel's dry bones as He promised in Ezekiel 37.
- From Acts 2:1 through Acts 9:43, the church is completely Jewish.
- What do I mean when I say "the church was completely Jewish"?
- Certainly there were converts to Christ as God's promised Messiah who were
not Jewish descendants of Abraham.
- Acts 2:10 states clearly that both Jews and proselytes were present when
the event of Acts 2 occurred, and I would conclude some proselytes were
among the 3000 who repented and were baptized.
- Proselytes did not have Jewish ancestors; they were non-Jewish converts
- But in Acts' emphasis, everyone who heard in the beginning of
Christianity was devoted to Judaism.
- In the earliest days of the church, only men and women who were
devoted to Judaism became Christians.
- At the earliest stages of Christianity, no non-Jewish idol worshippers were
converted to Christ.
- In Jewish understanding and thinking, God was keeping His promise to
- God was doing what He promised to do.
- That was Peter's explanation for what was happening (Acts 2:17-21)
when he began his sermon with a quote from Joel 2:28-32.
- That was the understanding of every Jew who accepted Jesus as God's
promised Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew), God's Anointed One.
- We need to take a moment to reflect on what that means.
- When the church began it was an all Jewish church.
- The Christians who were the very first Christians had this clear
understanding of what was happening: God was keeping His promise to
- These first Christians did not separate themselves from Israel or from Jewish
- The primary distinction between Jews who did not believe in Christ and
Jews who did believe in Christ was this: Jews who believed in Christ were
Messianic Jews who believed Jesus was the Christ.
- They did not separate themselves from Israel.
- They did not remove themselves from the Jewish community and build
- They did not abandon Jewish heritage and Jewish practices.
- They did not need to! God was keeping His promise to Israel!
- To them there was no conflict between being a Jew and being a Christian.
- God was doing what He promised to do!
I call your attention to three reactions of those who repented and were
baptized in Acts 2. I realize there are more than three, but I want you to note
- Maybe you have noted these reactions in your study of Acts 2; maybe you have
not; maybe you understand these reactions; maybe these reactions confused
- The first reaction I call to your attention is in verse 43: those who were baptized
were filled with a sense of awe.
- To me, the verse makes a distinction between the awe these Jewish
Christians felt and the miracles performed by the apostles.
- They were astounded by what God did in Jesus Christ.
- They were astounded at God's intentions in the Messiah.
- God's actions in Christ did not meet common expectations, but exceeded all
- They had an entirely new understanding of the restoration of Israel, and in
this new understanding God astounded them.
- The second reaction I call to your attention is seen in verses 44 and 45:
believers had all things in common; they even sold possessions to share with
those in need. Obviously, taking care of the poor was an immediate, high
- To deepen our understanding of this reaction, turn to Deuteronomy 15:1-11
and follow the reading.
"At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he
shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the Lord's remission has been
proclaimed. From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is
with your brother. However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless
you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you
listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment
which I am commanding you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as He has promised
you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many
nations, but they will not rule over you. If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in
any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your
heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him,
and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware that there is no
base thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,' and your eye
is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the Lord
against you, and it will be a sin in you. You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not
be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all
your work and in all your undertakings. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I
command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor
in your land.'"
- Remember the context: Moses spoke to second generation Israel before
they entered the land of Canaan.
- Moses explained how God wanted them to treat each other.
- They would forgive debts every seven years.
- They would help the poor generously and willingly.
- They definitely would not be like everyone else, living as other people
- The Jewish Christians understood [with the apostles' approval] what was
occurring was God's promise to restore the fortunes of Israel.
- They understood, "This is what God meant for Israel to be from the
- What God did in Christ restored the fortunes of Israel.
- It gave them opportunity to be what God always intended them to be.
- They gladly become what God always intended them to be, were thrilled
to have a part in the opportunity.
- "We are God's community in which God rules over us showing us how to
treat each other; God is restoring the fortunes of Israel!"
- These Jewish converts understand what was taking place was the
restoration of Israel.
- The third thing I call to your attention is seen in verse 46: every day with a
common understanding they went to the temple, they ate their meals together in
their homes, and they had a clear, joyful understanding of who they were.
- These first Christians behaved very Jewishly.
- They went to the Jewish temple to pray to God and to worship God there
- Note the emphasis on their Christian Jewishness through Acts 9.
- 3:1--Peter and John [two apostles] went to the temple to pray.
- 4:1-3--Peter and John are arrested by Jewish authorities in charge of the
- 4:32-35--Jewish Christians continue to help the poor by selling
- 5:25--the apostles are at the temple teaching people.
- 6:7--many priests are converted.
- 6:9--Stephen has disputes about Christ in specific synagogues.
- 6:11--false witnesses claim that Stephen opposed Moses and God [they
were false witnesses--Stephen did not oppose Moses and God].
- 9:1,2--Paul wanted permission from the Jewish High Priest to go to
Damascus (another country) and arrest Jewish Christians in the
synagogues there, bring them back to Jerusalem, and have them tried
[obviously Jewish Christians meet with the synagogue].
The earliest conversions of Jewish people was conversion to Christ in the
understanding that God was at work keeping His promise to restore Israel. These early
Christians did not consider their belief in Jesus Christ to be the beginning of a new
religious movement. Their understanding was that God was doing in Israel what He
promised to do--restore Israel.
Remembering what you have seen in Acts this evening, consider part of the
closing remarks of Peter's sermon at the temple in Acts 3.
Acts 3:18-21 But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets,
that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. [God did what He promised to do.] Therefore
repent and return [realize God is at work in Jesus Christ so redirect your lives], so that your sins
may be wiped away [immediate result], in order that times of refreshing may come from the
presence of the Lord [long term result]; and that He may send Jesus [the return of the resurrected
Jesus], the Christ appointed for you [your Messiah God promised], whom heaven must receive
until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy
prophets from ancient time [the complete, total restoration of Israel will occur when the
resurrected Jesus returns].
- God through the prophets promised that the Christ would suffer.
- That has happened, so repent, accept the remission of sins, and allow the refreshing to occur.
- The complete restoration of all things will not occur until Christ returns from heaven.
- My summary: let God keep His promise to Israel.
I want you to see in Acts that earliest Christianity was Jewish. It is very
important to see that. When we see that, it will open a door to a deeper understanding
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
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Evening Sermon, 14 July 2002
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