Sunday, March 25, 2018


Acts 2

The Holy Spirit Comes

This event occurred on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is the Greek term for the Jewish Feast of Weeks or First Fruits. (Leviticus 23:15-21) It was a harvest cerebration. It was observed 50 days after the the day of the wave offering at Passover. Pentecost comes from the Greek word for 50 (pentecostos). Greek speaking Jews used this term for the Feast. This was the day chosen by God to send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.

When the Holy Spirit arrived, there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind. It filled the whole house. (2) The sound of the mighty wind may have been to show that the Spirit was coming with power. It reminds me of Ezekiel commanding the wind to blow on the dead, dry bones so that they lived. (Ezekiel 37) It also reminds us of John 3, where Jesus spoke of the wind blowing as being like the Spirit regenerating a person. 

In addition to the noise, tongues that looked like flames of fire appeared above each one. Thus we have a fulfillment of the prophesy of John the Baptist that Jesus would baptize with the Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16-17) 

Fire often means God is present in the Old Testament. The most famous example is the burning bush of Exodus 3:2-5. There the “angel of the Lord” appeared to Moses in a flame of fire in the bush. The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity.

The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gave them “utterance”, the ability to speak in other languages. (4) We know that the tongues were understandable languages by the reaction of those who came to see what caused the noise. They each heard the disciples speaking in their language. Luke records the countries these people came from, roughly east to west. They were mostly Jews who came for the feast, but Luke recorded that some from Rome were proselytes, who would have been gentiles who converted to Judaism. 

Thus the coming of the Holy Spirit reversed the curse of Babel, when God scattered the people and made them speak different languages because they united in an attempt to build a tower to heaven. (Genesis 11:1-9)

Notice what the disciples were saying in their various languages: they were proclaiming the mighty works of God. (11) They were not speaking incoherent sounds, but words in known languages that allowed the foreigners to hear the word of God.

The coming of the Holy Spirit if the fulfillment of Jesus’ words to the disciples Acts 1, that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit soon. (Acts 1:5) The Holy Spirit would come to empower the disciples to be Jesus’ witnesses all over the world. The tongues showed this to be true, as the Spirit came and empowered the disciples to speak to those who had come from all over the world they knew. 

Some, of course, scoffed. They accused the disciples of being drunk. (13)

Peter’s Sermon

Explaining the Holy Spirit

The people in the crowd were amazed and perplexed by the disciples speaking in many languages. The apostles (the Twelve) realized an explanation was needed, so they stood together and Peter, their leader addressed the crowd. (14) He assured them the men were not drunk. It is actually a bit funny. He said they were not drunk since it was only nine o’clock in the morning (the third hour). (15)

Rather that wine, Peter said their actions were that of the Spirit. He launched into a sermon, using many Old Testament proofs for his Jewish audience.

First, Peter said, this event was the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel. (Joel 2:28-32) He quoted those words, where God, speaking through Joel, said in the last days he would pour out his Spirit on all flesh, men and women.  All of those disciples gathered together received the Holy Spirit and the languages, men and women. 

Joel called this time “the last days”. We often think of the last days as the very end of time, but Peter use it to mean the age of the church, the time from the arrival of Jesus to the return of Jesus end of the age. In 1 Peter 1:20, he said Christ was made manifest at the end of the times. 

The end of the passage says “it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. (21) All who commit themselves to Christ in faith will be saved. Paul also referred to this verse in Romans 10:13. He said if you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

Explaining Jesus

Peter explained who Jesus was: a man attested by God with his miracles. (22) He also referred to Jesus’ mighty works, just as the disciples had proclaimed God’s mighty works in various languages. (22)These were done in their midst. Many of those present had seen Jesus perform miracles or heard about them. 

And Peter talked about sin, He reminded them that they had crucified him. They bore the guilt of his murder. 

But God was at work in this. Jesus was killed according to the definite plan ad foreknowledge of God. (23) God both planned and knew that Jesus would be killed. Jesus said the scripture said he must suffer and die. It could only say that if God knew and ordained it to happen. Romans 8:32 says God gave Jesus up for us all. And, just as God was sovereign over the death of Jesus, he was sovereign over his resurrection. (24)

To prove this point about resurrection, Peter went again to the Scripture. He quoted Psalm 16:8-11, written by David. David spoke of one who would not be abandoned to death. This did not apply to David, as Peter said we all know he died and was buried in the tomb that was present in Jerusalem.  

Rather, Peter said, David foresaw as a prophet and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ (Messiah), who would not be abandoned to the grave or to see corruption. (31) Part of the reason he knew this is that God promised he would set one of David’s descendants on the throne, referring to 2 Samuel 7:16 and Psalm 132:11. (30) 

Peter also added that he and the other disciples were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. (32) That is the reason Jesus made so many appearances to the disciples. 

Peter did not stop with the resurrection, but went to to talk about Jesus’ ascension. He said God raised Jesus up and exalted him at God’s right hand. This, the Jews would have recognized, was a fulfillment of Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”, which Peter quoted. Again, Peter pointed out this was not David, who did not ascend to the heavens but was buried in Jerusalem. (34) 

The ascended Jesus received from the Father the Holy Spirit who had been promised. He poured the Holy Spirit out on the disciples. And the Holy Spirit caused the language speaking the crowd had observed. (33)

Peter concluded with the fact that God made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Messiah).

And the Jews killed him. (36)

The Response of the Crowd

Hearing these words, the people were convicted of their sin. They were “cut to the heart”. They asked Peter what they should do to escape judgment for what they had done. 

Peter responded to them, saying to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. (38) Some have used this verse to claim baptism saves. But the idea here that one is baptized in the name of Jesus because one believes Jesus is the Christ, repents of his sin, and commits himself to Jesus. 

Baptism does not save, but it is a public profession of faith. And it is the first act of obedience. Many churches today diminish the importance of baptism and do not demand it. But, if you will not be baptized as commanded, it is hard to imagine you have indeed repented and turned to follow Jesus.

Peter also told them that, upon their commitment to Christ, they would receive the Holy Spirit. (39) All of us who have believed have received the Spirit. It is the gift of God to those who follow his Son. This verse is not talking about spiritual gifts, it is saying the Spirit is the gift. 

Peter emphasized the scope of the promise of salvation. It was certainly for them, the Jews, and their children\descendants. But is was also for the Gentiles. They were the ones who were “far off”. (39) Paul, in Ephesians 2, used this same language referring to the Gentiles of Ephesus as those who were once far off having been brought near. There is a reflection here of Isaiah 57:18, which says “Peace, peace to the far and to the near, says the LORD”. As Joel prophesied, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. (Joel 2:21) And everyone whom God calls to himself will call upon Jesus and be saved. (39) 

Luke summarized Peter’s sermon, but let us know Peter said many other things. (40) His preaching was effective: about 3,000 people were baptized and added to the church. 

The church, empowered by the Spirit, led by the apostles, had begun to fulfill the commission to make disciples.

Let us continue the mission! 

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Acts 1

Luke is the author of Acts. We can tell that by his address to Theophilus, as he did in his gospel. Luke told us in his introduction to the gospel that he “followed all things closely for some time”. (Luke 1:3) Additionally, it appears Luke had some personal knowledge of the events in Acts, having joined Paul in some of his journeys, shown by his use the pronoun “we” in relating their experiences beginning in chapter 16.

In fact, the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are volumes 1 and 2 of a continuing history. Originally, the two books were kept together. However, in the early second century, the four gospels were put together and circulated as the fourfold gospel. Thus, the book of Acts was separated from Luke’s gospel. It is often, therefore, considered a stand alone book, a bridge between the gospels and Paul’s writings. It is that, but it is also a continuation of the history written by Luke.

The good thing about Acts serving as a bridge between the Gospels and Paul’s writings, is that one of the themes of Acts is a defense of the apostolic authority of Paul, shown by Luke’s record of Paul’s calling and service.

The theme of Acts is the record of the church’s obedience to Jesus’ command and commission to be Jesus’ witnesses.

The Prologue

Luke reminded Theophilus of his previous writing, his gospel, stating that he dealt with all Jesus did and taught until his ascension. (1-2) This is an introduction to volume 2, in a sense, an implies he will now tell what Jesus did and taught after his ascension through the apostles.

Notice that Luke said Jesus presented himself alive to those apostles by many proofs. (3) Luke presents the resurrection as a bodily resurrection attested to by many who saw him. Paul did the same thing when he listed a large number of people who saw Jesus after his resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

Luke also recounted Jesus’ instruction for the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. Jesus called the Spirit the “promise of the Father”. Jesus had told them previously that he would ask the Father and the Father would give them another helper to be with them, and us, forever. He would dwell with them and in them. (John 14:15-17) Jesus identified that helper as the Holy Spirit. (John 14:25) Jesus said the Father would send him in Jesus’ name.

Notice the parallel between the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry and that of the apostles. Jesus began his ministry after being anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. (Luke 3:22) The apostles will begin their ministry after receiving, being baptized by, the Holy Spirit.

This was a fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist: “He (the Christ) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…). (Luke 316) It was also a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, when the Lord said he would pour out his Spirit on all flesh on the day of the Lord.

The Disciples’ Question
1: 6-8

The disciples asked if Jesus would then restore the kingdom to Israel. (6) He had been resurrected, proving that he was God’s Anointed One. He had promised the Holy Spirit to come and help them. It seemed like a good time for the Jews to cast off the Romans and get their own kingdom back. They still did not have an accurate view of the kingdom.

Jesus first of all instructed them that the Father’s time table of events are fixed by him and him alone. And, he has chosen not to reveal it to us. (7) God is sovereign over the affairs of earth and humanity. But, being God, he reveals to us what he chooses to reveal and conceals the rest. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law”.

And Jesus did reveal to them his commandment, or law. He would not tell them when the kingdom would be consummated, but revealed to them what they were to do until it was. He said that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they were to be his witnesses over all the earth. (8) In other words, they were not to worry about the destiny of the Jews, but to spread the kingdom of God by witnessing, telling what they saw and heard when they were with Jesus.

The Ascension

After this final instruction, Jesus ascended. This occurs 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection. (3) That is why Ascension Day  in the church calendar falls 40 days after Easter Sunday.

The disciples saw Jesus rise until a cloud took him out of their sight. (9) This was a cloud of God’s glory as it has been in other passages. At the Transfiguration, “a cloud came and overshadowed them and they were afraid as they entered the cloud”. (Luke 9:34) Jesus said he will return in clouds of glory and power. (Mark 13:26)

They were watching him go into heaven. Luke ways they were literally gazing into heaven until Jesus was enveloped in the cloud of God’s glory. Philippians 2 states that God exalted Jesus to the highest place. This took place as he ascended to Heaven

Two men then appeared to them. The men wore white robes. Were they the same angels that appeared to tell the women Jesus was resurrected? The fact that there were two of them indicates they were two witnesses as required by the Old Testament, first to Jesus’ resurrection and then to his ascension. They had a message for the disciples: Jesus will return to earth the same way they saw him go into heaven. (11) He will return in bodily form, he will be visible, and he will come in power and glory.

From this point, Acts is the story of Jesus reigning from heaven and building his church through the apostles.

Choosing Another Apostle

The first thing done to build the church was to restore the Twelve. Since Judas succumbed to Satan, there were only eleven. Luke listed the apostles, listing Peter first and separated from his brother, Andrew, by James and John. (13) Peter, James and John had been the inner circle of the apostles. Peter was usually the leader. None of the other apostles but these three are mentioned again in the New Testament. When Luke used the term apostles, he meant the Twelve (with one exception in 14:4).

They gathered in the upper room, along with the women and the family of Jesus. Note that his brothers, who earlier thought he was crazy, were there. They were now believers. This may have resulted from Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to James that Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:7.

All of them were devoting themselves to prayer. Jesus was praying as the Holy Spirit descended on him. (Luke 3:21) The disciples prayed as they waited for the Holy Spirit to descend on them.

Peter stepped up like the leader he is supposed to be. He told the the group of disciples that they needed to add one to replace Judas. He showed a remarkable command of Scripture. He said that both the betrayal of Judas and the need to replace him are matters of Old Testament prophecy.

Before getting to the process of choice, Luke inserted a note telling what happened to Judas. Verses 18-19 are not Peter’s words. They are Luke’s explanation that Judas bought a field with the money he got for betraying Jesus, but fell and was killed. We can see it is Luke’s explanations in that he gives the name of the field in Aramaic, explaining it was their (the Jews’) own language and then giving the meaning in Greek for his Greek speaking readers. Peter would not have needed to explain Aramaic to his fellow disciples who would also have spoken Aramaic.

Peter applied to verses from the Psalms to establish the destruction of Judas and the need to replace him. The first is Psalm 69:25 and the second is Psalm 109:8. Peter said these Scriptures had to be fulfilled. (16)

Notice how Peter described the Scripture. He said the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouth of David. David acted as a prophet giving the word of God, the Holy Spirit. (16) This is similar to Paul’s statement that all Scripture is “breathed out by God”. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Peter also set out the qualifications. The one chosen must have been with the disciplines from the time Jesus was baptized (the baptism of John).  He must also have been a witness to the resurrection.

Two men were deemed to meet the qualifications: Joseph Barsabbas (Justus) and Matthias. Evidently, there was no clear distinction between the two that choice of one preferable. So, they casts lots. The “lots” were marked stones. The lot fell to Matthias.

Although, the lots were used, it was not a matter of chance. Lots had been used in the Old Testament for the Lord to express his will. Also, the apostles asked Jesus to reveal the one he had chosen, just as he had chosen the other apostles.

Now that the group of apostles is whole, the building the church could begin.

Sunday, March 04, 2018


I thought about calling this session "And Then What Happened". When one of my daughters was young, I read her stories. They often ended with "and they lived happily ever after". Then my daughter would ask "and then what happened?' The ending of the story was never enough to satisfy her; she wanted to know more about what happened next.

Often, as Easter comes around, we speak of the resurrection, then move on to other topics the next week. Like my daughter, we should want to know what happened next. Luke tells us in the passages we study today.

The Emmaus Incident

Luke gave a long account of this incident, meaning he considered it important. He is the only gospel writer that records it. It is the story of Jesus appearing to two disciples. It occurred on Sunday, after the women found the empty tomb and reported it to the disciples. 

These two disciples had given up and decided to return home. They left Jerusalem and started walking to their home village of Emmaus. It was a seven mile walk. (13)

As they walked, they talked about the events of the last few days. (13) They were disappointed and confused. They were grieving. As they walked and talked, Jesus joined them. (15) He did not let them recognize him. (16) But he asked them what they were talking about. That made them stop walking. They stood there feeling sad. (17) We know from that they did not believe Jesus was resurrected. 

Cleopas was snarky, though. He asked Jesus if he was the only visitor to Jerusalem who did not know of the things that happened the last few days. This is funny, because Cleopas did not know that really happened and Jesus did. (18) 

Jesus played along by asking “what things”, so they told him about Jesus, who was a mighty prophet, but was condemned and crucified. (20) They must have had some idea about the resurrection, for they mentioned it was the third day and they talked about the women who saw the empty tomb. (23)

They had also hoped Jesus would redeem Israel.(21) In other words, they had hoped Jesus was the Messiah. But they were not thinking of a Messiah, or redeemer, who would die and be raised, they were thinking of a Messiah who would defeat the Romans. Redemption to them meant deliverance, as when God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. That added to their confusion and disappointment with Jesus’ death.  

At this point, Jesus gave them a mild rebuke. He said “O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all the prophets had spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? ” (26)

The law and the prophets spoke and wrote of the Christ’s suffering. 

Genesis 3:15 says that the seed of the woman would be bruised,  or injured, by the devil, before he crushed the devil’s head. Exodus 12 tells how God’s people were delivered from death by the sacrificial death of the Passover Lamb.

Leviticus 16 tells us atonement is only made by the shedding of sacrificial blood. Deuteronomy27  shows grace for sinners found at the altar sprinkled with blood. 

Psalm 22 spoke of the one who died while forsaken by God, surrounded by those who pierced his hands and feet and gambled for his clothes. Jonah’s residence in the belly of the fish for three days was a sign of Jesus’ body lying in the grave for three days. (see Matthew 12)

Certainly Isaiah wrote of the Christ’s suffering in chapter 53. Hebrews 2:10 summarizes this for us, as it says “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering”. 

The prophets also wrote and spoke of Christ’s glory.  Psalm 16 spoke of the holy one who is not abandoned to the grave, but entered into the presence of God. Psalm 110 spoke of the Christ’s entering into his glory at the right hand of the Father. Daniel 7 spoke of the Son of Man receiving glory from the Father.

These disciples surely knew these Old Testament passages, but had not applied them to Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

Then Jesus explained it all to them, going through the whole Bible. He began with Moses, meaning the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. He them went through the Prophets, interpreting all things in Scripture that pertained to himself. (27) In other words, he opened their minds to understand all of the Old Testament, all of the Scripture they had at that point. Wouldn’t you like to have a recording of that sermon?

Verse 27 is also an important verse for our interpretation of the Bible. The story of the Old Testament is not primarily the story of the Jews, it is the story of God’s redemptive plan in history, the story of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:10-14 tells us this. It says it was the Father’s will and purpose to unite all things in Christ, both in heaven and on earth. The Old Testament is the story of the Father bringing his will and purpose to fruition. 

The resurrection is the climax of this redemptive history. It is a turning point. All of the Old Testament and the Gospels up to this point look forward to the day of salvation. We, on the other hand, look back to the work Christ accomplished while we wait for the consummation of his work at his return.    

Finally, as they sat down to eat, Jesus allowed them to recognize him. He did it as he took bread, blessed it, and gave it to them. He had likely done this many times before. (30) Normally, the host would bless and break the bread, but Jesus took on the role of the head of the household. The disciples may have deferred to him because of his great teaching. 

However it happened, the recognized Jesus and knew that he was indeed alive. They knew the resurrection was real and what the women said was true. 

Caravaggio painted this scene first in 1601, then again in 1606, attempting to capture the moment the two disciples understood. Here is the 1606 version.

Once the two disciple recognized him, Jesus vanished. This shows us that Jesus’ resurrected body had supernatural properties. 

The two disciples rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven and the other disciples. They had seen the risen Lord. The disciples told these two that Jesus had risen and had appeared to Simon. The excitement and wonder must have been intense. They now knew that Jesus was alive and they wondered what would happen next. 

Jesus Appears

While the group was talking, Jesus appeared among them. They were scared, thinking he was a ghost (spirit). (38)

Jesus confronted their fear and doubt, but he also graciously offered them proof. He showed them his wounds and let them touch him. This proof is also for us. It shows that Jesus was bodily resurrected. He was not a disembodied spirit. He himself pointed out that a spirit would not have the flesh and bones he had and they could see. As a final proof, he took food and ate it.

Jesus not only offered physical proof, he gave them a theological explanation. He again said that all that was written about him in the Old Testament had to be fulfilled, including his suffering, death, and resurrection. (46) 

As the last item of his speech, Jesus commissioned the disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. This is the Great Commission. The disciples were to tell what they had witnessed and preach the need for repentance and the availability of forgiveness. 

However, despite having their minds opened by Jesus to understand the Scripture, they were still not ready to go out and preach. Jesus told them wait until the received the Holy Spirit, who would give them power from on high, or from God. (49)


Jesus ascended, not from Jerusalem, but from Bethany, located on the Mount of Olives. He blessed them before he went, then was carried up into heaven. (51) 

The disciples were transformed. Where they had been sorrowful and fearful, they were now joyful. They worshipped Jesus, understanding that he was the divine Son of God. They went to the place they knew as a house of worship, the temple, and were there blessing God continually. 

Knowing Jesus gives us joy. Knowing Jesus leads us to worship. It leads us to worship together, in a place where believers gather. The body of worshippers is the church.