Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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Further Study of the Early Jerusalem Church in Acts 3-4

July 24th, 2011 · No Comments

Peter’s Sermon at the Temple (Acts 3)

Luke has been telling the main story of how the apostles bear witness of Jesus’ resurrection with signs and wonders following to confirm the authenticity and veracity of their witness. The healing of a lame man in Acts 3 results in a crowd gathering in the Temple precincts to hear Peter again bear witness concerning Jesus. Peter’s sermon is worthy of study its own right. We here highlight a few important points:

  1. They had rejected and murdered Jesus, the Holy and Righteous One (3:11-14), but God, in reversal of their decision, had vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead, a fact to which Peter and the other apostles were witnesses (3:15)
  2. They and their rulers had acted in ignorance (3:17), but God, through their wicked act, was working to accomplish His Sovereign plan for the redemption of His people through a suffering Messiah, as announced beforehand in the Scriptures of the Prophets (3:18) 
  3. They therefore must repent of this murderous crime, and indeed of all their sins.
  4. Repentance results in our sins being blotted out. We here recall the words of David in Psalm 32:1-2, cited by Paul in Romans 4:6-8, concerning the blessedness of the man or woman who has been forgiven of all transgressions, whose sin is not taken into account. This is not a message of cheap grace, for it is always connected in the apostolic proclamation with repentance borne of godly sorrow and conviction of sin, a loathing and hating of sin and a return to God that is whole-hearted and sincere. God’s forgiveness is total and free for those who come to Him with a broken, sincere and contrite heart, a forgiveness that frees one from condemnation and an evil conscience, and brings one near to God, to have communion with the Holy One, to know His favor (the light of His countenance), to experience the joy of His presence, and rest, comfort and solace in His bosom.. Passages to consider: Psalm 103:8-14; Hebrews 8:10-12; Micah 7:18-19. We should hear this call to repent, to turn away from sin and return whole-heartedly to God, so that our sins may be wiped away, gone forever from God’s accounting book and from our own consciousness, not so that we may go on sinning, but that we may live unto God in the freedom of the power of the Holy Spirit.  ….. .
  5. Repentance and forgiveness will lead us into “seasons of refreshing … from the presence of the Lord”, in Whose presence there is fullness of joy. This is another way of speaking of the gift/baptism of the Spirit. Participation in the Holy Spirit is the pledge and first-fruits of our inheritance, which is nothing less than regaining the glory of God Adam lost through transgression. .
  6. This all points forward to the second coming of Jesus the Messiah,, Whom heaven must receive until ….. the times of the restoration of all things, which, again, God had spoken of in all the Scriptures of the Prophets. Peter is making reference to the future Messianic kingdom that will be inaugurated at Jesus’ return from heaven, a kingdom, which, according to Revelation 20, will last for 1000 years.
  7. Peter twice makes reference to the events surrounding Jesus being a fulfillment of the OT Prophetic word (3:18, 21). This theme of Divine promise and Messianic fulfillment continues in 3:22-26, underlining God’s faithfulness to covenant (cf. Rom 15:8-9).
  8. Prophetic word (3:18, 21). This theme of Divine promise and Messianic fulfillment continues in 3:22-26, underlining God’s faithfulness to covenant (cf. Rom 15:8-9).

Arrest, Trial, Release, Prayer, and Renewed Proclamation with Power (Acts 4:1-31) 

Peter’s bold proclamation of the resurrection of the dead in Jesus results in he and John being arrested and brought to trial before the Jewish Council, before whom they bear witness, after which they are threatened to speak no more in the Name of Jesus. They, however, are determined to obey God, Who had commissioned them, rather than a Council of men who needed to hear their witness and repent. Having been released, they prayed together, and were freshly filled with the Spirit, after which they speak the Word of God with boldness, as the Lord continues to confirm their witness with signs and wonders.

A Community of Love, Grace, and Generosity  (Acts 4:32-37)

Luke here offers a brief picture (looking back to 2:43-45) of God’s work within the community of the disciples which had been growing exponentially in Jerusalem. The early followers of Jesus were marked by generosity, being willing to sell their possessions and to give the proceeds to the apostles, who to this point are still giving some measure of direct oversight to the distribution of these funds, so that there is not a needy person among them. They did this, not out of coercion, but out of love. This accords with the principle Paul lays out in 2 Cor 8-9 with respect to the collection he gathers from the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia for the poorer Jewish brethren in Judea who had been struck with famine, heavy taxation from Rome, and exploitative injustice from greedy Jewish landowners. 2 Cor 8:9-14 speaks of “a principle of equality” in which the abundance of the Gentile churches will make up for the lack of the impoverished believers in Judea. This accords with the Scripture’s testimony that: “he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack” (2 Cor 8:15).

 Paul tells them to sow this in abundance, in accordance with a reap-sow principle, and to do so, not grudgingly, nor under compulsion, but with a cheerful heart before God (2 Cor 9:6-7). Paul in another place makes this to be a matter of indebtedness on the part of the Gentile churches (Romans 15:26-27). It is a small thing for those who minister spiritual things to receive material support back from those to whom they minister (1 Cor 9:11). Paul sees a principle of indebtedness (1 Cor 9:11) and the principle of reaping and sowing (Gal 6:6-10) at work in  relation to those receiving spiritual benefit ministering material support back to those who minister the Word of God to them.

 Thus, giving, in both the Old and New Testament, is related primarily to two things: 1) meeting the needs of the genuinely poor and destitute in the redeemed community who are truly worthy and deserving of such help (1 Timothy 5:3-16; 2 Thess 3:6-15); 2) providing material support of those who by God’s will and appointment work hard at teaching and preaching in the church and mission (1 Tim 5:17-18 and the whole argument of 1 Cor 9:1-14).

 Other passages to consider: Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:7-12; Lev 27:30; Matthew 23:23; Nehemiah 13; 2 Chronicles 29-31.

Tags: Sermons

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