February 7, 2013

The Gospel: The Power of God, Part I- A Study of Acts 2:14-41

It's been a while since I've been able to post. I've decided to post an exegetical review of Acts 2:14-21. Since time is scarce and the message needs to get out, I went for the juggler on this one. It's the Gospel, pure and unadulterated. Furthermore, this is what a sermon looks like long before it becomes a sermon. On paper , this is about 12 sheets of 8 x 11 notes and nearly all of this is study that filters through me first before being written or turned into a form recognizable as a sermon. It will be about 5 pages of notes and 30 minutes long. I will post the sermon word for word after this. This is how one becomes attuned to the Spirit. Through is mercy, grace, patience...and intensive study of His word.

Just so you know, this is what your pastor goes through once a week preparing a sermon. At least he should be. If he is not, you are getting robbed of the thoroughness and deepness that proper study draws out of the Scripture. Come to think of it, the pastor is robbing himself too if he does not take the time to let the Scripture filter through to this depth. Yes, I personally go through this every time I study to deliver a sermon with few exceptions. I owe it to the servants of Christ.

The other reason I felt like posting this is because its all I have to post right now. I am on page 45 of my graduating thesis which will be posted here by May.


The Power of God

Peter's Sermon At Pentecost
Acts 2:14-21, 22-36, 37-41

Peter’s Apologetic…

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

The Kerygma (Preaching of the Gospel)

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

A Call to Repentance & Blessing

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
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Meaning of Text: What it Meant

The "Sitz im leben" (Setting In Life) of Text

Author: Luke

Luke is the author of Acts (as he was of the Gospel of Luke). Both Acts and the Gospel of Luke are written to a Theophilus in the same Greek style (Stott 21). As Longenecker states it, the structure and stylistic tendencies of and the Gospel of Luke and Acts are virtually the same and can be demonstrated through a linguistic study (Longenecker 34). Per Colossians 4:14, Paul states that Luke is a physician.

Audience

Luke is primary writing to Theophilus just as he did in his former book (Acts 1:1) (Luke). This comes directly from internal evidence in the text. Outside of informing Theophilus, this book also has a “kerygmatic purpose” of preaching (of the Gospel) also. As such it should be noted that Theophilus may not have been the sole intended audience in writing Acts under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The “kerygmatic purpose” may be the more profound and overriding purpose than that of the face-value purpose internal to the text which was writing to Theophilus. (Longenecker 13). In other words, Luke may have had intended one thing when writing but the Holy Spirit may have been working through that intent for a much more profound and far-reaching purpose (i.e.: sensus plenior).

Date

Acts was most probably written or started in 62 A.D. which coincided with the approximate time of Paul’s release from imprisonment. This the last time of reference in Acts, or the two years mentioned in Acts 28:30 (Kistemaker-Introduction 21-22). Longenecker suggests that Acts is written approximately 64 A.D. (Longenecker 35). Between these two sources I produce a terminus a quo (start date) of 62 and a terminus ad quem (finish date) of 64 A.D. Nero’s persecutions would’ve begun in 65 A.D. and the outbreak of hostilities of the Jewish Zealots and Roman Tenth Legion commences approximately 66 A.D. Neither are mentioned in the text but historical markers in the text lead one to believe this.

Occasion

The purpose/occasion of Acts should be answered at least in a four-fold manner.

The purpose in writing according to Longenecker is scripturally based. He quotes Luke 1:4 (being the first part of Acts), “so that you [Theophilus] may know the certainty of things you have been taught”. It is clear from the way Luke writes that Theophilus may not have understood the full implications of “these things”, so Luke elaborates on them at length in Luke-Acts.

The next occasion according to John Stott is that he wrote as a historian. He approaches the events of Christ as a historian because he wishes to document the things that transpired with Christ and that they were in accordance with Scripture or to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.  God literally entered history as a historical event. He shows contemporary eyewitnesses. He did so to draw up an account.

He wrote as a diplomat because he is interested in developing a political apologetic since he seems concerned about Romans authority’s attitude towards Christianity in general. This was important because the perception that Christianity was a “sect of the Jews/Judaism” was starting to fall out of favor and as such the religio illicita that had afforded some level of protection from persecution was beginning to dissolve (Bruce 19-20, Kistemaker 5, Longenecker 15).

Luke writes with a theological-evangelistic purpose. There is a Kerygmatic purpose in this text. It shows the continued confrontation of men and women with the Word of God. In so doing we see in Acts how the Gospel is related to the course of redemptive history, how it interacts with the secular world/history, how it is unique and separate from Jewish law and especially how, behind the proclamation of the Gospel we see the power of the and activity of the Holy Spirit. (Longenecker 13).Of course Luke approaches it as a theologian as he was concerned that the message about Jesus and the early church should be based upon reliable history…so he used history to bolster his theology which was to show; Salvation was prepared by God, it is bestowed by God and it is offered to all people (Stott 22, 25, 29-31).

Place

There is very little consensus of where Acts was written. Two places of possible writing are Achaia or Rome with little to support either claim (Kistemaker 24). It is briefly mentioned by Longenecker (as an aside) that Acts may have been written from an earlier “travel document” or “dairy” and used in conjunction with the Gospel of Luke (Longenecker 19).


Limits of the Passage

Because I will need to build the context for Peter’s sermon/speech at Pentecost it is necessary to break the Passage of Acts 2:14-41 into (3) three portions to frame it and understand it properly. The portion I do my manuscript on is most often understood or referred to as Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost.

Portion #1 (Acts 2:14-21) Peter’s Apologetic. The day of Pentecost has come and there is bewilderment due to the speaking in tongues (v.4) and utter amazement of the things transpiring from the Jews in attendance. The text literally says they were, "amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Peter literally addresses that question in the second portion.

Portion #2 (Acts 2:22-36) Peter’s Kerygma or Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that Peter (a Jew) gives this sermon to mostly Jews, on a Jewish holiday (the fiftieth week, Feast of Weeks) about the Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah who Himself was raised as a Jew (Wiersbe 409). Peter also proves that Jesus is very much alive, not dead.

Portion #3 (Acts 2:37-41) The Crowd’s Reaction. Convicted of their sin, they are told to repent and be baptized. This is the proper reaction to hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It should convict people of their sin obliging them to repent and seek God. This is exactly what we see in the text. Subsequently, 3000 are saved that day and added to the ranks of Christianity (Longenecker 70-78).

This passage is placed with the miracle of Pentecost which is the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s absence after His ascension (Longenecker 64). The Spirit is the Helper or Paraklete promise by Christ in the larger context of Scripture in John 14:15-31 and in Acts itself in Acts 1:4-5. It is the post-Jesus launch of the Great Commission. On the other side of this passage we see a brief statement about the fellowship or koinonia of the believers which is and exemplification of proper behavior within the Church.

It is here we see the fruit or product of obedience to God, communion with God/brethren. We begin to see the outcroppings of the Kingdom of God begin to encroach on our current reality. The “now but not yet” of the Kingdom is well displayed here. We see the Kingdom in Jesus’ physical absence in His believers / disciple / apostles that are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is here we begin to see that God’s Kingdom starts within believers in this new dispensation of grace. Furthermore, the Kingdom becomes larger/greater within 3000 additional through the hearing of the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Having heard, they repent, convert and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (v.38-39) (Longenecker 81). We see amazing proof of the arrival of the Kingdom of God in force…through miracles / powers (dunamis). In the context of the entire Bible at-large we see the power of the Gospel that is noted in 1 Corinthians 1:18 by Paul: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

We see God in word and deed through the preaching of Peter and through the conviction and actions of the Holy Spirit working within people. We also see the embryonic Church and its inception. The immediate fruit of the Spirit that we see after these people are indwelt by the Spirit is displayed in Acts 2:41-47, the portion that immediately follows the periscope of Acts 2:14-41. They are in fellowship devoted to the apostle’s teaching (v.42) which was teaching of Christ (Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20), sacraments (1 Cor 11). They are blessed with miracles and are in reverential awe of God. They are in koinonia and are divesting themselves of earthly goods to help the poor as they are in need (v.45). They are blessed and filled with contentment and joy (v.46-47). People continue to be saved (v.48).

Genre

Acts is primarily narrative (Longenecker 21). Kistemaker goes as far as to indirectly allude to the fact that it is historical narrative. He also says that at certain points the parallels between Luke and Acts are so similar they show inherent interrelation. So much so that Acts therefore is a continuation of the Gospel (of Luke) (Kistemaker-Introduction 29). If Kistemaker is correct that would put Acts in the Gospel genre which is its own unique genre that is neither strictly historical nor chronological. This narrative at times is disjointed but is usually chronological and is interspersed with speeches/sermons by Apostles of Christ. It is the second part of a two volume work. The Gospel of Luke being the first half and Acts of the Apostles being the second half. The primary purpose of this narrative is to propagate the Gospel or for kerygmatic purposes (Kistemaker 29; Longenecker 21, 29).

Grammar / Structure

As noted above in Limits of Passage, Peter starts with an apologetic (Acts 2:14-21) intended to defend against demeaning accusations and misunderstanding of what has occurred at Pentecost. The first thing that should be noted in the apologetic section is that he addresses the “men of Judea/Israel” or Jews and uses this moment to present the message of Christ.  This is significant because Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) is a Jewish feast and there are no Gentiles involved (including Luke as this appears to be a second-hand eyewitness account) (Wiersbe 409).

Peter notes then in Acts 2:17-21 that the Spirit that has caused these people to speak in tongues is the same Spirit spoken of in Joel 2:28-32 and quotes said passage. There is a 1:1 correlation: Acts 2:17-21  =  Joel 2:28-32. It is also extremely important to note that Peter never says that this is an actual fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.

This is because the true full fulfillment Joel’s prophecy is not to occur until the Great Day of The Lord or when Christ returns, it is only partially fulfilled here (Wiersbe 409). Again, we see the “Now But Not Yet” of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom has come in part and the indwelling of the Spirit and the way it has manifested itself this day are the sign of that. God is here among us! He is in us! The fullness of the coming of the Kingdom though will need to wait until Christ returns in the Second Advent and with Him will come the Kingdom in full force and power. The Spirit coming to indwell all who will believe is a tremendous revelation to the Jews, even though they were told this would happen in the Old Testament (Joel 2). They are a people who have been only familiar with the Spirit coming on people at specific times, but even Moses told Joshua that things would eventually be otherwise in Numbers 11:28-29.

Peter then goes on after his apologetic based in the Old Testament to preach the Gospel (2:22-36). The thing to note here is…

Peter’s cross reference of Old Testament Scripture continues here. There is a correlation of Psalm (David) and Acts: Psalm 16:8-11 = Acts 2:25-31. He shows that Christ being resurrected from the dead proves that Jesus is indeed the Messiah promised in the OT (v.22-24). Instead of saying the prophecy of Joel is fulfilled here, Peter instead uses the coming of the Spirit as proof Jesus is alive and is now seated at the right hand of the Father (v.33). Why? Because a dead Jesus could not have possibly sent the Spirit He promised in John 14:26, 15:26, Acts 1:4 (Wiersbe 410).

The implied result of Peter having preached the Gospel/Kerygma is repentance of 3000 present (2:27-41). 
The things to note here are…

Other Grammatical Items of Note:

In Portion #2: Peter’s Sermon (v.23’s) “…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of wicked/godless men and put Him to death.” The “you/ye” here in the declension/conjugation for “put to death” is plural aorist (past tense) and shows the people’s guilt in Christ’s Crucifixion (ours also by default). This is the point of conviction for all sinners. We (through our sin) are all guilty of putting Jesus on the Cross, but even in our wickedness God works through it to fulfill His sovereign and foreknown plans (a la Genesis 50:20).

Theologically, a plan suggests a clear purpose…set by God Himself, it points to God’s Omnipotence. The word foreknowledge points to God’s Omniscience. Men’s responsibility in this points to men’s freewill and therefore their guilt.

It is God Himself who hands Jesus over to the Jews, but it is men’s wickedness that perpetrates the deed of Crucifixion. There is a tension here (Kistemaker 94).

[More on my study in a day or two. Next up in Part II: Greek word study, summary of what the passage means and what the text means to Peter's audience and us today! Part III: The Sermon]

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