First Century Conversion
Quarter 2, Lesson 5

Lesson Five

The Sermon in Acts 2

Only Acts records first century sermons intended to convert people to the resurrected Jesus. Acts provides a variety of unique information. In this information are the early church's emphases when the gospel [good news] was presented to potential converts.

With this lesson, the focus changes. For a few lessons the focus will be on sermons in Acts. Past experience suggests few Christians actually study Acts' sermons. Some skip the sermons without reading them. Some ignore the sermons. They read them without concentrating. Some do not understand the sermons. They read with concentration but find the sermons confusing. Some consider the sermons boring. [Perhaps that is a commentary on today's sermons.] Too commonly, Acts' sermons are neglected in order to focus on "important information."

As worthwhile sermons should, Acts' sermons address the specific needs of the listeners. Those sermons do two things today's Christians should find important. First, the content of each sermon provides significant insights into the audience. Second, the content of each sermon provides significant insights into the speaker's understandings and priorities. Both make the sermons a source of unique information.

Personal preparation must begin by reading the sermon to be considered. The sermon studied in this lesson is found in Acts 2:14-40.

Location: The sermon was delivered in Jerusalem on Pentecost. Jerusalem overflowed with Jewish [and proselyte] pilgrims on Pentecost. In Israel's past, Pentecost was the Feast of Weeks. Originally, it was the national assembly to present the harvest's first yield to God. [See Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26; and Deuteronomy 16:9-12.] Two original purposes were served by this assembling of Israel's men. The first acknowledged God was the source of their harvest. The second rejoiced in God's harvest blessings. In Israel's past, the Feast of Weeks was one of three annual pilgrimages Israelite men made to national assemblies (Deuteronomy 16:16).

Situation: While Jerusalem was overcrowded with pilgrims, Acts 2:6 focused on "Jews living in Jerusalem from every nation." Seemingly, the initial audience was the residents of Jerusalem. Some Jews throughout the Mediterranean world retired in Jerusalem.

Luke used comparisons to describe the presermon events. A noise or sound like a wind storm filled an unidentified house where the apostles were. Something that "looked like" or "seemed to be" flames settled on those in the room.

At some point, the apostles moved from that house to the temple courtyard [the only known place in first century Jerusalem that could accommodate a gathering of thousands]. A mysterious phenomena heard throughout Jerusalem (2:6) could easily result in a gathering in the temple area.

Each person from the room was speaking in the language [dialect?] of the assembled Jews (2:6). The crowd was amazed because those speaking were Galileans. [Galileans were regarded as uneducated.] Though this happened in the temple area of Jerusalem, the speakers were not priests, rabbis, scribes, Pharisees, or Sadducees, but Galileans. Though the hearers understood the words in their own "language," they were confused. The hearers included both Jews and proselytes (2:10). The hearers heard the speakers declaring God's mighty acts (2:11). However, the hearers could not comprehend the happenings (2:12,13). Some suggested drunkenness as an explanation.

The speaker: Though many speakers shared at first, Peter became the speaker. Peter's entire lesson is not recorded. He said much more than is recorded (2:40).

Peter's approach: His audience was eager to understand the confusing events they witnessed. Remember he spoke to a Jewish audience. Remember the hearers were familiar with Jewish prophecies and Messianic expectations. Peter's evidences and approach made use of their knowledge, background, expectations and arguments.

The sermon: First, note Peter's use of their arguments. (1) Some suggested the events could be explained by drunkenness. Peter said that explanation was unbelievable. It was harvest time. "New wine" did not contain enough alcohol to allow a person to be drunk by 9 a.m. (2) Note his anticipation of an argument. In 2:23 he anticipated this argument: it would be impossible to kill God's son. "People cannot stop God. Killing God's son would not stop God." In their expectation, the Messiah could not be stopped. He would accomplish God's purposes, and God's purposes would be this world purposes. Peter declared Jesus' death accomplished God's predetermined plan.

Second, note Peter's use of Jewish prophecy. (1) Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:29-32) predicted the Spirit's coming. They were witnesses of the fulfillment of his prophecy. (2) David prophesied about a person who would not decay (Psalms 16:8-11). David was not talking about himself because he died and decayed. (3) David prophesied about a king he called Lord (Psalms 110:1). David knew someone greater than he would come.

Third, note Peter's collective use of evidences. (1) The prophet Joel prophesied the coming of the Spirit. In Jewish expectation, the coming of the Spirit was associated with the Messiah's coming. (2) They personally knew Jesus' deeds. They were witnesses. (3) God knew that Jesus would be killed. (4) King David prophesied the resurrection. (5) The great King David recognized a Lord superior to himself.

Fourth, note the conclusion: all Israel should know that God made the crucified Jesus Lord and Christ [Messiah] (2:36).

The reaction: Those who believed Peter's conclusion asked what they should do. These people were terrified! They were guilty of encouraging the execution of God's son. Jewish justice would demand their death. What they did could not be corrected. Peter introduced them to Jesus' forgiveness [often seen in Jesus' ministry]. As often occurs in Acts, repentance was stressed. The combination of faith [evidenced in their question and response], repentance, and baptism would result in being forgiven and receiving the Spirit (see Acts 5:32). The promise of forgiveness and the Spirit was given to them and to many others. The hearers and Peter likely thought those "far off" referred to the Jews throughout their known world. As Peter learned later (Acts 10), those "far off" included all people.

Your Thoughts: State the theme of this sermon. On whom was the sermon centered?

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 5

Copyright © 2001
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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