Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:36-39).
We have all heard of Peter's famous sermon in Acts chapter two. What we will focus on here is the result of the message. At its end comes what we just read. "God has made Jesus, who you crucified, Lord and Christ."
Hearing that, they were "cut to the heart." They were convicted they were guilty for Jesus' crucifixion. It was only after they recognized their own guilt that they asked, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
We'll look at what we should do. But first, let's better understand this business about personal guilt for Jesus' crucifixion. How is it that Peter accuses this crowd, including numerous people who were not even present at Jesus' crucifixion, of being guilty?
All are Guilty
All people are guilty. No one is born guilty. But all people are born with a human organism that in the flow of its development receives gifts of rationality, conscience, free will, and so on. In due course, virtually all persons attain that point of moral accountability. They are responsible before God, because God has given them the equipment needed for making their decisions against the moral backdrop of life.
Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery, remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, and so on, are moral parameters for which all people are accountable. But those commands do not hang antiseptically in the air. They are particular forms of the two main principles of the law of love. The first four commandments roughly outline our duty to God, the last six, roughly our duty to our fellow man. There is a spirit that goes with our recognition of these duties to others. We are not stand-alone entities; we are not micro-gods over our own autonomous moral bubbles we dwell in, alone, separate from others. No man is an island, and there is no secret place in the shadows where someone can hang out eating ramen, poking their phone, existing separately from the world God has placed them in.
Each one comes to their age of accountability and crosses over into the space where we choose between what we ought to do and what we in that moment desire to do. And we all get guilty at that time. God works through our conscience, and shows us we are about to do what is not right, and then we do it anyway. Then we become guilty. Or, He shows us a duty we should do, but we choose not to, and again, we become guilty. One can sin by committing wrong acts, or, omitting right acts.
In Romans chapters one and two, Paul argues first that non-Jews sin and become guilty before God. God's wrath is revealed, Romans 1:18, against all men, all people, who suppress the truth by their wrong thinking and doing. They are guilty because, verses 19-21, the spiritual realities of this existence are evidenced in us; God communicates this reality to us. All people are without excuse because (verse 21) they know there is a God, they know the difference between good and evil, at least in a primitive way. But (verse 28) they do not want "to retain God in their knowledge," and God, forever the Gentleman, permits them the freedom of choosing to rebel.
Then comes Romans chapter two, where Paul skewers the self-righteous religionist on his own marshmallow stick, because he knows enough to condemn the wickedness of the non-believer, but he himself does the same things. In 2:14-15, again, there it is--conscience--men and women doing right or wrong, as the case may be, each person's choices measured against God's working upon their conscience.
Having laid this all out, Paul pulls all the pieces together in Romans 3:9-20. All are guilty, verse 9. Then comes Paul's Scripture evidence. He refers to a half dozen or so passages, mostly from the Psalms. These all contrast the wicked, evil men, or the fool, with the humble, the poor, Israelite, the repentant Hebrew, and so on. None, yes, I said exactly none of these passages, says a man is born guilty, or that all people are sinners by birth. And yet, they make clear that every person has made choices to sin against God, As Isaiah 59 reminds us, it is our chosen iniquities that separate us from God. Every person becomes accountable; every person becomes guilty. Every person chooses to sin. Then every person needs salvation.
And so, Romans 3:19 is true. All the world, all the humans in the world, "become guilty before God."
If all are guilty, then all need salvation. All need Jesus. All need to repent. All need to receive the Holy Spirit. All need that Jesus' blood shall be shed for them at Calvary, that the life of Jesus might become their life. All have a corpse to bury and a body to resurrect. But only Jesus can bury, and only Jesus can resurrect. And so, all are guilty of crucifying Jesus. All have sinned. And Jesus' love led Him to make the sacrifice so that all men might have the opportunity to turn back from evil and be saved. Jesus died for all. He died for the sins of all. Therefore, Jesus was crucified for all. Therefore, Jesus was crucified by all.
Now then, to the response of the crowd.
First, while many responded positively, many did not. Hatred rose up in hearts over what they heard. But let's look at the response of the true-hearted.
Do, not not Do
The response is, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" Acts 2:37.
Notice first of all that the crowd sees these as true men. They see them as their brothers. So, whatever alienation might have existed before then, has been broken. There are forces in our world today, ideologies, which seek to dehumanize, to delegitimize the very existence of, fellow humans. It's called cancel culture. It is a milder form of murder. It is removal from society, sidelining, and even outright depersonalizing, dehumanizing, and elimination.
The Holy Spirit was working in the message; hearts were touched. And to whatever degree that alienation might have existed, it has been neutralized. There is a oneness.
The response is not, what should we think now. This is not a merely cognitive thing, a rational thing. The questions they ask in response to God's word to them is, "What shall we do?" There are many esoteric head religions out there, and in many places and ways, the Christianity of many is mere head knowledge. There is a mental component, but real Christianity is a matter of the heart. When something is a matter of the heart, that is when we ask about what we should do.
You and I might wonder about thinking, but the response of the Hebrew crowd was, not, What should we think now?, but, What shall we do? The devil loves it when we pause to consider what we should think. We act on our convictions, and, we should act on them immediately, before we have time to enter into rationalization mode.
Our great failures often come when we have wandered into the desert of rationalization mode. We have come up to a point that requires action, but, we don't like the idea of acting. If we linger long enough in thinking mode, we will usually be overcome by our own self. The devils use our trust in our own rational thinking abilities to persuade ourselves of some kind of halfway response that we regard as accepting or adhering to God's truth when often it is a clever (really, a not-so-clever) self-deception. Then we respond in a way that is inauthentic. God wants our heart, and our heart must act out its love. It is by action that we become Christians.
Remember the biblical definition of repentance. Metanoia, a complete change of mind. Repentance is a very simple concept. You are walking north, you turn around exactly 180 degrees, and proceed to walk south. That is repentance. It is an executed change of mind, an effected, a conducted, an acted-out change of mind. A classic way to speak of repentance is to identify it as "sorrow for sin and a turning away from it" (Steps to Christ 23). This is exactly the way it is in Hebrew, TeShuva, to turn.
There is feeling and there is action. Nor is repentance merely an incremental turn. A turn of one degree is not what God has in mind. This is turning from evil to virtue, from bad to good, and it is more than a few small degrees that separate the two. They are east and west apart. They are opposites, not brothers.
Peter calls for action. Repent and show the reality of the repentance by being baptized by publicly demonstrating your commitment. Not many years ago, baptism in a communist country might well mean persecution and loss of your job. You might pay a heavier price. You might be sent to the Gulag in Russia; millions upon millions were. People who were baptized had thought their decision with some care.
Today in the West, baptism sometimes doesn't count for much. I am amazed today at how easily the churches are content to remain closed on government command. They are content to do what they are told by a godless, secular state. A church that is content to close needs to reevaluate what it is doing. Closure is an admission that your work is not important, that you are not partially but fully embedded in the godless state, that you have been assimilated. How many congregations are mere collections of godless sissies and ninnies, empty echoes for state control. I hold out the hope that many congregations have closed not because they are that but because they have been deceived and led to trust in experts and edicts. In the kindness of their hearts, they hope and expect that all these government commands are coming don for their good from the pure hearts of godless saints. But what did we find in the book of Romans? All have sinned, all, and foremost among all, especially the unbeliever, is operating from self-interest and not from a converted heart. We know how challenging it is even for the converted heart to remain converted. How much less trust should we have in the motivations and commands of the not converted person? No wonder the patriot has warned us, "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty."
I leave it to you to ask yourself which one in 2020 fears which one.
Authentic Christianity acts. There is a reason our main text today comes from the book giving the record of the early church, and it has come to be known not as "the thoughts of the apostles" but as " the acts of the apostles."
But you might say, as we live day by day, that as we draw closer to god our repentance will continually deepen. That is true. that is what we want. But it does not mean for a smaller turn to be made into a larger turn. There is, rather, a deepening of conviction, a strengthening of resolve, a deeper imprinting on the soul of the single chosen path of obedience. There is doing for Jesus.
So there is external action when the Holy Spirit works on the heart and the person responds in faith. For the person who has not yet made their commitment to Jesus, that external action should include baptism. Baptism is the ancient 2000 year old rite of the Christian church whereby one publicly confesses their admission of their guilt, their acceptance of pardon by Jesus, the burial of the unconverted person and the resurrected life, the new life of Holy Spirit powered service to God and to man. We go down into the waters of baptism and die with Christ, and rise from the water in newness of life, our literal life in Jesus' keeping as He rose from the dead in the Father's keeping.
God forgives our sins because Jesus has paid the penalty by dying in our place. The penalty of the law is satisfied, but now Christ is forming within, the hope of glory. Now we live as forgiven persons; now we live as among the confessors of faith in Jesus. Jesus is our personal Savior and Deliverer. Our sins are wiped away through His sacrifice for us on Calvary. His precious blood has paid the price. We are clean.
Receive the Holy Spirit
The word is explicit. The believer receives the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person. His internal presence is received as a gift from God. Jesus has merited this gift and He gives it to you the believer as a gift. You have not merited this gift. You are receiving t as a gift. It is not wages at all, not wages to you. When Luke speaks of the Holy spirit, he especially emphasizes power for witnessing:
Zacharias was filled with the Holy spirit and prophesied... (Luke 1:67).
You hall receive power wen the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses for Me... (Acts 1:8).
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4).
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6).
There is more to the work of the Holy Spirit, but speaking for God is one of the big ones. God can show each of us how. How do we speak in a way that is appealing, interesting, provocative but in a positive way, so that hearts are drawn toward heaven and toward Jesus' nail-pierced hands? We must not keep silent. But we must speak in a way so that people can hear us. The Christian is not an annoying dim-witted witnesser; he is a thoughtful, above all, prayerful person who speaks for God so that others are drawn toward God.
God invites us all to participate in His RBR plan. We are all to repent, all to be baptized, and all to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes it possible for all. He calls all people. Not one need be lost.
2020-22-28 Muskegon MI SDA church