This Week's Ongoing Biblical Study Series for 04/30/22 on the Social Gospel Blog with Rev. Paul J. Bern: "Where Speaking In Other Tongues Became a Witness to All"
Contrasting the Early Church with Christianity in the 21st Century
The Early Church Was a Far Cry From Modern Churches: The Differences Between Then and Now Are Stunning Indeed
(Acts chapter 2, verses 36-41; part 4 of 5)
Last week when we left off in part 3 of Acts chapter 2 at verse 35, the apostle Peter – filled with the Holy Spirit – was vigorously explaining the sound of a hurricane-force wind combined with the apostles speaking spontaneously in other languages. This understandably bewildered everyone within earshot, which was quite a few people considering they were near the center of town. Seeing that the crowd that formed outside the building where the 120 were staying was turning into a mob, the Twelve (which now included Matthias, see chapter one part one) came out to address the crowd. Peter quotes the Word of God liberally and with great precision as he uses the Scriptures to explain what has just occurred. This week as we move along to part 4 of chapter 2, we will conclude our examination of Peter's first 'sermon'. Then I’ll follow up with a quick look at how the early Church operated, but that will be part 5 for next week.
Part One of This Week’s Study Verses
“'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' 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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.' With many other words he warned them, and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2, verses 36-41)
For the 12 apostles to have baptized 3,000 people that day, each one would have to baptize 250 people, a plausible sum since it was only mid-morning. Let me paraphrase what the apostle Peter was saying to the crowd. It would be something similar to this: 'Hey everybody, you know Jesus of Nazareth, that dude you helped crucify on the morning of Passover? You do recall the choice you made that day between him and Barabbas, don't you?' Then Peter connects this with the scriptural quotes he recited from the books of Joel and Psalms, which most of the crowd understood since Jerusalem was mainly a Jewish city.
Jesus Lived Unrecognized to the Majority of the People
Moreover, having been on the periphery of Jesus' mock trial, Peter undoubtedly recognized some of their faces as having been the ones who shouted, “Crucify him!!” the loudest. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' 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.” Many of the people there were evidently devastated once they realized who Jesus really was, that in fact he was the actual Messiah, the Salvation of his people the Jewish nation, and all of humanity. Jesus was the real deal, and they had not recognized him for who he was. It was all right in front of their faces, and they had been missing it all this time up until then.
Straight From the Mouth of Peter
Peter's response to their reaction is the same as it is today when people ask me what to do, seeking my advice, which I give out freely but only when asked for it. 'Turn away from what you have done, all of you, and be baptized with a water baptism like that of John the Baptist. Then and only then will you receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.' This simply means that water baptism must come first and Holy Spirit baptism after that. I have heard some professing Christians give testimonies about having received both baptisms at once, but I think the above scripture disproves that assertion. Plus, those words came straight from the mouth of Peter.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit Only Comes Voluntarily
The other thing we can treasure from the apostle Peter's words is that anyone who declines to be baptized – and we do have the freedom to choose – risks not being saved and eventually finding themselves condemned with the very worst of humanity. At the very least, they risk being locked out of heaven, “...where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 8: 12) The rest of all the evil people who refuse to believe will burn forever along with all the dictators, unrepentant murderers, arch-criminals and habitual sex offenders. That's how important the 2 baptisms are to those who self-identify as Christians. Baptism of the water and of the Spirit (see John chapter 3, verses 1-8) are essential to everyone's salvation. What is also essential is that these gifts must be received voluntarily. At no time does Jesus force anything on anybody.
Reasons For Our Creation
“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” This means it's for everybody, no matter what race, ethnicity, skin color, nationality, age, gender or sexual orientation you are. God's offer of reconciliation through his Son Christ Jesus is offered equally to all no matter what. This also means God can call anyone to serve him no matter who they are. He called Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christianity who later became the apostle Paul, and who wrote one third of the New Testament. That being said, he has called me as well, although I consider myself a servant rather than an apostle – and, God can call you too. Has he? If He has and you haven't yet answered, why not? What's keeping you? Time is running out, you know. Plus, if you think God has not called you, think again. Because he has, and he still is. Otherwise, why would He have created you?
“....he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.” They all got baptized, all 3,000 of them. It's a good thing Peter had the other Eleven to help him, or it would have been a very long service! But what's not being said here is that there were at least as many, or more, who rejected Peter's message despite the overwhelming evidence of his truthfulness and the accuracy of his statements. All this in spite of the fact that the message was universal, for all of humankind. For the sake of brevity, that will be all for this week. Be sure and watch your social media, or your accounts on Wordpress, Medium or Substack, for next week’s installment of this Biblical study series.
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