Jesus, both Lord and Christ. 2:36-41
On the day of Pentecost, following the infilling of the disciples by the Holy Spirit, a crowd gathered outside the upper room, amazed by the behavior of the disciples. When Peter had quieted the crowd, he preached a gospel sermon to them, a sermon recorded in some detail by Luke. Our passage for study consists of the final appeal of this sermon.
v36. Jesus was acclaimed messiah at his baptism by the Father, a status he did not openly claim during his life. In the end, the Sanhedrin rejected even the possibility that Jesus was the messiah. God, on the other hand, affirmed Jesus' messianic credentials, and did so in his resurrection; he was "declared the Son of God with power.... by the resurrection from the dead", Rom.1:4. Jesus is Israel's long-awaited messiah, both Lord (a messianic title used for Gentiles) and Christ (a messianic title used by Jews), and yet it was the people of Israel who brought about his death.
v37. To reject the messiah of Israel is a horrific crime, and obviously many in the crowd understood the consequences. "Brothers, what are we to do?" they cried.
v38. Peter tells them what they can do. First, they must recognize their rejection of God's messiah and turn to him for mercy (repent). Not only will their sins be forgiven, but they will receive the long-awaited outpouring of the Spirit. Second, in similar fashion to the ministry of John the Baptist, Peter tells his hearers that they must submit to water baptism. Water baptism serves as a visible expression of repentance and forgiveness, a washing which illustrates our turning to God for cleansing. Although Peter's call to respond to the gospel is similar to that of John the Baptist, it has two distinct differences. First, it is "in the name of Jesus Christ." The phrase probably means something like "under the personal authority of Jesus Christ", an authority which applies to the person baptizing as well as the person baptized. The apostles would often use the same words when they were performing a mirracle. Second, Christian baptism adds to John's baptism in that it is linked to "the gift of the Holy Spirit." The promised gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of God's indwelling presence in the life of a believer rather than a gift of divine power for ministry. None-the-less, the gift of, and the empowering of, the Spirit, are integrally linked and belong to all who "repent and believe."
v39. The good news of God's mercy in Christ is not just for Jews, but for all mankind, for all who "call on the name of the Lord", Jol.2:32, Isa.57:19. Yet, the "all" Peter is speaking of here is probably the scattered remnant of Isreal. Peter adds, it is for those whom "God will call." It can be argued that God's call serves to gather those predestined to salvation, ie. it is an effectual call. The call is certainly effectual in that it gathers a lost people for salvation, yet it seems more likely that those who become members of God's called-out people are those who choose to "repent and believe".
v40. Israel was always a "faithless and perverse generation", Lk.9:41, yet within Israel there remains a faithful remnant, a godly line. Ultimately, Jesus is that godly remnant, the faithful Israel, and to this godly line a people can now escape from "this corrupt generation" and the judgement that hangs over it.
v41. In the conversion of 3,000 people we see a fulfillment of Jesus' promise of the "greater things" that will following his ministry. Jesus, in his own ministry, never witnessed such a response to the gospel.
God in our midst
On a number of occasions Paul the apostle spoke of the struggle he went through in gospel ministry. He would often have to "argue" out the gospel with his hearers. It was not a take it or leave it business. In our passage for study we find Peter similarly striving to convince his audience of the importance of his message. He "warned" them of the danger they faced, and "pleaded" with them to accept the salvation that was possible through Christ. As a response to that call some 3,000 people chose to follow Christ.
Do we believe that the gospel has the power to inspire people to such enthusiasm and risk-taking today? Perhaps the appeal of Peter's message lay in the promise of a direct relationship with God in Christ; it was "for you and your children and for all who are far away." Perhaps the appeal of the message lay in the sincerity and conviction of the disciples. Perhaps it lay in the hope that the power which had transformed these simple fishermen into orators could be a driving force within the lives of the hearers and their communities. If simple fishermen could be agents of God's Spirit, then there is hope for everyone.
Clearly the Spirit can work with us as he worked with them. The mysterious power of the gospel still transcends human endeavour, both for the evangelist and the audience.
1. Where lies the significance in the phrase "Lord and Christ"?
2. What is the meaning of the word "repent" and what is its relationship with water baptism?
3. What does it mean to be "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ"?
4. What was the promise of v39?
5. How does Peter's powerful pleading fit in with God's "call"?