Peter's First Sermon

Peter explained what God had accomplished in Jesus to a confused crowd on the Day of Pentecost, stressing fulfillment in Jesus – Acts 2:16-36

River Rainier - Photo by Daniel Bosse on Unsplash
On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God descended on the assembly of disciples accompanied by audible and visual manifestations. As they were “
filled with the Spirit,” they all began to “speak in other tongues,” which caused consternation among many Jewish pilgrims who witnessed the event - [Photo by Daniel Bosse on Unsplash].

The chapter is dominated by the theme of fulfillment, beginning with the opening clause – “And when the Day of Pentecost had fully come.” That is, the outpouring of the Spirit fulfilled what the original feast day foreshadowed.

The visible and audible phenomena that accompanied the arrival of the spirit caused great confusion among a crowd of Jewish pilgrims gathered near the Temple. It was to this crowd that Peter addressed his first “Christian” sermon.

Peter’s discourse is bracketed at the start and finish by two questions. First, “What does this mean?” And second, “What shall we do?” The first question sets the stage for his sermon. The second provides the opening for his summons for all men to repent and receive the Spirit - (Acts 2:12, 2:37).

The Apostle began by citing Joel - “These men are not drunk, but this is that spoken by the prophet Joel.” The emphatic pronoun “this” stresses that what the crowd just witnessed was in fulfillment of the promise, “In the last days” God would pour out His Spirit on all His people.

In the Hebrew Bible, several times the prophets promised that Yahweh would fill His sons and daughter with His Spirit, a promise linked to the “last days” and the New Covenant. That promise was now being fulfilled in Jerusalem- (Joel 2:28-32, Jeremiah 3:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19-21, 36:25-27).

Peter deviated from the original Hebrew text of Joel at several points. First, he changed “afterward” to “the last days.” To “they shall prophesy,” he added “servants and handmaidens.” He inserted the term “signs” and paired it with “wonders” (“I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath”). And the “great and terrible day of Yahweh” became “the great and manifest day of the Lord.”

Next, Peter focused on what God had done through Jesus. prophecy about “wonders and signs” was applied to His Son: You men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man pointed out of God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know - (Acts 2:22-24).

Thus, the prophesied “signs and wonders” of the “last days” began in the ministry of the Messiah, just as also in the church, including the manifestations that accompanied the receipt of the Spirit on that very day. The term becomes a key theme in Acts as the church takes the gospel from Jerusalem to the “uttermost parts of the earth” – (Acts 2:43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:6-13, 14:3, 15:12).

Whom you slew.” The priestly leaders of the Temple were guilty of conspiring to put Jesus to death by accusing him of sedition to the Roman governor. However, although he was executed by the Romans, Peter places the primary responsibility for his death on the Jewish leaders, even describing them as “lawless men.”

The counsel and foreknowledge of God…suspending.” But his crucifixion was in accord with the redemptive plan of God. The Messiah was the one truly righteous man, therefore, God raised him from the dead, having “loosed the pangs of death.” Death had no claim on him. And his death was according to God’s plan.
  • (Acts 2:25-28) – “For David says concerning him: I beheld the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore, my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh also shall dwell in hope: Because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you give your Holy One to see corruption. You made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with thy countenance.”
Peter then quoted a Psalm of David to validate his claim that God raised Jesus from the dead; his resurrection fulfilled prophecy. The application of the Psalm assumes the Messiah was the one speaking through his illustrious ancestor, David, with “your holy one” taken as a reference to Jesus. Some years later, Paul applied the same Psalm to Jesus – (Psalm 16:8-11, Acts 13:36).
  • (Acts 2:29-32) – “Brethren! It is allowable to say with freedom of speech concerning the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is among us until this day. Being, then, a prophet, and knowing that with an oath God had sworn to him of the fruit of his loins to seat on his throne, with foresight spoke he concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he abandoned to hades nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
Peter explained how the Psalm applied to Jesus and his resurrection, and not David. The latter remained dead and buried, and his tomb was still visible to anyone interested in inquiring after the matter. However, God had promised that the “fruit of his loins” would sit on the Davidic throne forever; therefore, David must have been speaking prophetically of the Messiah.

Peter’s proposition was confirmed when God raised Jesus from the dead, an event for which the apostles are “all witnesses.” The introduction of the messianic “throne” prepared the audience for his next point.
  • (Acts 2:33-36) – “Being, therefore, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this, which you see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he said himself: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know assuredly, that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Since, unlike David, Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, it follows that he now reigns, and therefore, he also received the promise of the “promise of the Holy Spirit,” which he poured out that very day. To reinforce his claim, Peter also cited another Psalm: “Yahweh said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” -(Psalm 110:1).

God made him both Lord and Christ.” “Made” or poieō translates the common Greek verb for “make, do, perform, accomplish.”  Following his resurrection, God acted to make Jesus “Lord and Christ.”
The activity of the Spirit that day was demonstrated by “signs and wonders,” incontrovertible proof that the final phase of history, the “last days,” was now underway.

The manifestations of the Spirit play an important part in the story. But in Peter’s sermon, the stress falls on the exaltation and present reign of Jesus on the Messianic throne, and his receipt of the “promise of the Spirit,” all in fulfillment of Scripture. And if the “last days” have commenced, then the Messiah now reigns on the Davidic throne, where he dispenses the gift of the Spirit, the “promise of the Father,” to his people.




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