Category Archives: Sovereignty of God

Acts 2:14-41 – this ‘Jesus’

One discipline to keep in mind when preparing studies is to read more than one translation of the text. As you read and re-read the passage, and meditate on the meaning yourself, read it in the ESV and see if you notice anything different.

Context

The book of Acts picks up the account of all that God is doing in the world through Jesus after his resurrection and ascension. Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until he sends them the promised Holy Spirit to empower the gospel mission into all the world (acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost when God-fearers from all over the known world were represented. Everyone present heard the 120 believers declaring the glory of God in languages that could be understood. This loud event left all onlookers either scoffing the disciples as drunk or asking “what does this mean?”

The present passage immediately follows that question.

Observations

The structure of this section might be broken up like this (I say “might” because it is part of the readers decision regarding structure. The original Greek text didn’t have spaces between words let alone paragraph markers. I look out for clues in the writing for the breaks – time changes, location changes, new idea type words like ‘for’, ‘now’, ‘therefore’. This passage could be divided based on the logic of what Peter is saying but I will be using his recurring phrase: ‘fellow Israelites, listen…’ to help the structure…)

  • 14-21 Peter addresses the crowd to preach Joel 2 – this is the last days.
  • 22-28 Peter continues to preach Psalm 16 – this Jesus was accredited by God.
  • 29-36 Peter continues to preach Psalm 110 – This Jesus is both Lord and Messiah.
  • 37-41 Peter calls the people to repent and be saved.
Verses 14-21

Then Peter stood up with the eleven not only is Peter taking the initiative to preach the gospel to the crowd, but the eleven are distinguished from the other 120. These were, one way or another (see acts 1 on Matthias), chosen by God for this mission. Peter shows more courage now than he did at the time of the crucifixion when he denied Jesus thrice (I hope you like that word). Keep in mind that the disciples are growing and learning in their faith as we read the accounts in Acts.

Raised his voice and addressed the crowd I suppose many will wonder what language Peter used to speak to the crowd of so many different languages. Was this speech a miracle of languages too? It’s likely that he spoke Aramaic to his fellow Jews or perhaps Greek. It’s possible for many people to share a common market language while each having their own language of origin. Peter raises his voice to address everyone and call people to attention. From this day onward, Peter and the eleven will be recognised as the leaders of the Christian church.

…not drunk…it’s only 9 o’clock! A straight forward response to the accusation from verse 13. The people shouldn’t dream up some absurd conclusion but should ask the question: what does this mean (v12).

By the prophet Joel Joel 2:28-32 is used by Peter as the passage for his sermon. It’s possible that the word ‘Joel’ was not included in the original by Luke and added later by copiers who knew clearly where this prophesy came from. The addition (if it is an addition), although true, hides the actual author who Luke does name in the text! As he quotes from Joel, he attributes the message to God: “in the last days, God says…” The point is that these are the words of God, the promise from God, not a prophet.

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. The passage quoted is from Joel 2 and marks this event as the last days. These last days, which we still live in today, began at the resurrection and Pentecost and will continue until CHRIST returns.

The sign of the last days is the pouring out of God’s Spirit. Isaiah 44:3 and Ezekiel 39:29 also promise the pouring out of God’s Spirit when God acts to restore his people. And note my favourite OT reference on the Spirit in Numbers 11:24-30. Why don’t we have more people named Eldad and Medad?! Listen to how Moses rebuked Joshua for wanting to stop people working through God’s Spirit: “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:29). This prayer of Moses is answered at Pentecost and to all who believe in Jesus as CHRIST and Lord (John 7:37-39).

Verses 17-18 uses poetry to repeat the one message: the Spirit is for all people – sons, daughts, men, women, you and your children and so on.

Verses 19-20 could describe some events of Jesus’ earthly ministry but it seems clearer to read it as describing the second coming (Luke 21:11; Matthew 24:29). When the Old Testament refers to the last days it often calls it the day of the Lord and seems to describe it as one great and terrible day. Here we get a clearer understanding that the last days represent an age which encompasses the great day of salvation through the cross and resurrection and culminate in the second coming which will bring on judgement day. So, not one day of the Lord but two.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved Everyone who does not call on the name of the Lord will not be saved. We need saving and God has made it clear who our saviour is – we need to respond to God or else face judgement.

Verses 22-28

Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God…as you yourselves know this person named and identified as from the Jewish town of Nazareth was, in the listeners own history, given undeniable support from God. Jesus was well known in and around Jerusalem and people came from all over to be healed by him. God supplied enough evidence in his life to show that he was approved by God.

But you put him to death by nailing him to a cross the crowd are given joint responsibility for their behaviour against Jesus. They were ‘wicked’ in their actions. Jesus blood is on their hands. This was not a blow to God, however, since even in men’s wickedness, God was seeing his plans fulfilled.

This is where the discussion of free will and God’s sovereignty pops up. We will conclude that God didn’t need men to behave wickedly in order to accomplish his purposes – people did what they did by their own choice. But we will also conclude that God is not taken by surprise by the actions of people and he will work all things for the good of those who love him. Exploring what it means for God to have foreknowledge is a complex thing. Many will be satisfied by saying that God knew beforehand what would happen and that is enough for them. Others will see that the issue is more complex than that and will need to look into a good book on the topic.

God raised him from the dead, we sometimes sing in church that ‘death could not hold him down’. Verse 24 expresses this sentiment and portrays God as the one who raised Jesus. It was not simply that Jesus’ slipped through death’s fingers, but that he was raised up. God accredited this Jesus, God raised this Jesus up and later we’ll read that God seated this Jesus on the throne in heaven.

Verses 29-36

David died and was buried Psalm 16 was written by David and you could imagine that people could nurture the idea that The Psalm was about David. But he is dead and was buried.
The Psalm is not about him but about one of his descendants as promised on oath in 2 Samuel 7 that a descendant would be on the throne forever.

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it the we must refer to the 12 apostles. The locals in Jerusalem can testify that Jesus performed many signs and wonders but the apostles can inform them that they have seen Jesus alive again.

Psalm 110 is quoted by Peter to support his statement that the Messiah, Jesus, has been exalted to the right hand of God.

36 Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah this is the punch line to Peter’s sermon. Let me assure you, say Peter, that God himself has presented Jesus to you as our Lord and promised Messiah – and you crucified him. Lookup the ESV for a better translation to the NIV here. Note that crucifixion is not simply the act of killing somebody but is almost the definition of humiliation and shame.

Verses 37-39

Peter immediately supplies the remedy for the people’s heartfelt grief over what they have done – repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus. There is no time to waste. Everyone listening is called to turn to CHRIST. On believing what Peter has preached and repenting, they will receive the Holy Spirit – the outpouring will continue and has continued to this very day.

Verses 40-41 Peter said many more things than what Luke recorded. Can you imagine 3000 people being baptised in a day?!

Save yourselves from this corrupt generation again, the NIV misses the mark here. The idea is something like, “don’t just stand there, accept the invitation today!” True evangelist style. The gospel was described compellingly. The people were cut to the heart and the preacher didn’t give them time to go away and think about it. Peter did the alter call.

3000 souls were saved that day. It was a remarkable day indeed. God is still saving souls today. Be encouraged that the Holy Spirit has not stopped working. The gospel has been spread and continues to do so. People all over the world are hearing the call to repent. People in Campbelltown are also. Pray that we will expect to see more people come into the kingdom when we preach and teach and exhort souls to believe that Jesus is Lord. The apostles saw a revival in Jerusalem in the name of Jesus.

Meaning

Don’t you understand that this Jesus of Nazareth is both King in heaven and the promised rescuer of the world!? Turn to him now and do not put it off. We are living now in the last days! The proof is out there.

Application

  • Have you turned to CHRIST yet?
  • If not, what are you waiting for?
  • Praise God that his promises always come true – the Messiah came and the Spirit has come – and he will return again.
  • CHRISTIANITY was not invented by the disciples. They simply saw the signs and interpreted the scriptures as God had said.
  • Our gospel conversations need to centre around who Jesus is…beware of describing your faith apart from Jesus.
  • Jesus is not simply our ticket to the resurrection – his relationship to this world is King. The king will rule and defeat his enemies, so, call on the name of Jesus and get on the right side. Is he your master?
  • The crowd of people were cut to the heart to hear what they had done to the Messiah – pray that we would awaken our hearts to love the Lord and care about how he is regarded in this world.
  • Expect people to respond to the gospel in this way. Many will reject faith in Christ, but let’s repent from expecting everyone to respond in this way.

Prayer for the week

Father God, we give you thanks and praise that while our hearts were far from you, you came near to us. We acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Saviour and deserves first place in our hearts. Thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit on all who believe. Help us, we pray, to declare the name of Jesus wherever we are. Please revive our own hearts as well as the hearts of those around us. We pray this in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Romans 13:1-7 – under the authority under God

Context

Romans 1:16-17 Know the gospel. Paul is so impressed by the gospel of God – the good news that is the all God’s work to save us. We are saved by faith and credited the righteousness of Jesus. How incredible is that!

Romans 12:1-2 The gospel is life changing. So, the knowledge of God’s mercy and grace will affect our lives. You can’t embrace the gospel without seeing how transforming it is on us. God has shown us such great love and we are now devoted to him because of it.

Romans 12:9-21 The change is a reflection of who God is. Our lives will be defined by love – sincere, genuine, true blue love – the kind of love that comes from the Father.

Romans 12:19-21 Our knowledge of God allows us to love others and let God avenge evil. God is the ultimate authority in the whole universe. The logic behind loving our enemies is that God will bring justice when the time is right – leave it to him. With the ultimate almighty God on the side that we are now on, where does that leave us in relation to the authorities in this world – how should we relate to governments?

Also, if we are to live at peace with all and to love our enemies, how can God maintain justice in this age?

Observation

Verses 1-2 – notice how often the word ‘authority’ appears in these to verses. The authority in view here are the rulers of your culture and city and country etc. it refers to those who, mostly, are elected by the people to be in charge. But notice who is ultimately in authority over all of this process. God is always in charge and no matter who is in power at any time, they are in power because God has allowed it, he has ordained it and he has, to some degree, orchestrated it. These verses tell me that the people in authority are hands and legs for God. They are established by God and instituted by Him.

So living out of sync with the government is to live out of sync with God. You can’t rebel against the government without making the statement that you do not trust God.
Question

It won’t surprise me if every Growth Group will have somebody ask something like: what if the government is evil or communist or unfair or money hungry or….? There’s no doubt that there will be examples that we can either invent or recount that would make this instruction difficult. What do the words say though? They tell us that it is God who has instituted and established these authorities. God does not make mistakes. The promise is not for godly governments but for God ordained authority. We diminish God’s sovereignty if we claim that some governments are in power that God would not have put there. So, governments serve God in bringing order and justice (with a little ‘j’ to this world).

The Christian is just as subject to the land’s authority as the next person but even more so when they learn here that doing so is to be obedient to God.

Verses 3-4 – The rulers of this age serve God to protect those who follow the law and to judge those who break it. Even though we Christians have direct access to speak with God and request his help in all things, we are also subject to the laws of the land. God is not the God of disorder but of order. He will use even an ungodly government to serve his purposes.

Verse 5 – here is the sum of it all. Two reasons for submitting to government: a) they have the power and right to punish us if we do not submit and b) God has put them there and rebelling against them is to rebel against God.

Verses 6-7 – the words here are straight forward. Notice though that we are told here that we owe the government! We pay taxes because we owe them for the work that they do. They are God’s servants but they are also ours. Without them, we have anarchy or strife or mayhem or…I don’t know. It is God’s plan that we operate under the authority of others.

Don’t bad mouth the government. Don’t skimp on taxes or whinge that we have them. But go beyond paying taxes by paying the government respect and honour. Even in our Australian culture of cutting down the tall poppies, we Christians have a call from God to pay respect and honour to those who govern us.

Meaning

What we have here is an insight into how God governs from above. He orders the affairs of people to accomplish his will.

The bible has many examples of how this all works. Daniel was a man of God who worked in close relationship with the kings of Babylon. He respected the kings in everything that he did. He showed respect and honour and served the king more impressively than any of the other men in the king’s court. Only when a law was made that directly offended God did Daniel choose to obey God over the King. Daniel’s reputation was not of a man who rebelled against authority, but of a man who was always God’s man first.

Joseph has a similar story to Daniel. He always did his best to serve whoever he was a servant to. It didn’t matter that he came from the chosen people of God. He found himself, under God’s will, to be subject to Pharoah. And he obeyed.
Even Moses showed respect to Pharoah while following the commands of God to request that the people of Israel be set free.

It’s Isaiah 46:11 that captures the interaction between God’s plans and man’s plans. In that verse, a man of prey is summoned from the east to fulfill God’s purposes. This was an enemy of Israel that God called upon to conquer Israel for their rebellion. The army that defeated Israel would not feel like they were accomplishing God’s will – they just feel how powerful they are in their ignorance of the almighty. But God knows that they are doing exactly what God has designed for them to do. This is the sovereignty of God.
Finally, The Lord Jesus Christ stood before governor Pilate and submitted to the punishment that Pilate ordered to occur. Jesus respectfully informed Pilate that He was not jus ‘a’ king but the one with all authority. He said this calmly and Pilate concluded that there is no guilt in Jesus. Read John 19:11, 35-37 at least to see some interaction between Jesus and Pilate as the one in authority being questioned by the one who was placed in authority by Jesus.

We live in a world where people are n charge. The Christian faith celebrates this and recognises it as a gift from God.

Application

Our governments are really great. We have plenty of avenues to question them, request change from them, disagree with them and vote against them. These can all be done in a perfectly legal way that doesn’t involve assassination or civil war. Praise God for the order that we have in this country.

Pray for our government that they will be fair, wise and just. That they will care for the vulnerable and only ask from their country what they need to ask.

Speak well of all the politicians. Agree or disagree but do it with great respect and honour.

Know that God has got everything under control. This really is the underlying point of the seven verses. Nothing is above God.

Prayer for the week

Sovereign Lord, we pray for your guidance over those who are in authority in this land. We thank you for the peace that we enjoy and ask that this will continue. Please help our governments to be wise and thoughtful in their decision making. Help us too, Father, to respect, honour and care for our governments by the words we use of them, the way we interact with them and the taxes that we owe to them. Amen.