Sunday, June 8, 2014

Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Acts 2:36-39

King James Version (KJV)
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Imagine with me, if you will, that you were there on the very first "Pentecost Sunday." You were a part of the crowds gathered in Jerusalem on the "feast of first fruits." A time set aside to celebrate God's provision for the needs of his people.

You've been raised following the law of Moses. All your life, you've been told that a deliverer, a messiah, was coming to deliver the people of God from their burdens. At some point during the day we call "Pentecost," called that because it was 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus. (Penta means 50) 

Suddenly, in the midst of the religious celebrations, something had begun to happen. A disturbance. Something very strange is happening. Everyone is talking about it. When you and your friends hear about it, you all decide to rush over and see what is happening.

The first thing you see is a group of people spilling out of a building. At first look, they are staggering around. They seem to be drunk. Someone in the crowd actually accuses them of being just that. 

These strange people are speaking in foreign languages that only some in the crowd understand, but every language present in the crowd is somehow covered. You wonder how these obviously uneducated and low income people ever learned these languages. They certainly couldn't have afforded the schooling. 

Suddenly, one of the "drunks" stands and speaks loudly- almost unearthly. Somehow, it's loud enough for the thousands that are gathered nearby to hear (a feat that is difficult when you consider that they didn't exactly have amplifiers in those days.) He begins to explain that they are definitely not drunk. Rather, he explains, that what you see going on is a fulfillment of what the prophet Joel says: 

17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:

21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

"Wait," you say, "this was prophesied by Joel all those centuries ago?"

He goes on to explain that the Messiah and deliverer that you have pined for and longed for all of your life, is a man named Jesus, from a little town called Nazareth. That this man lived a perfect and blameless life. He performed miracles and spoke the words of God. Then, in the ultimate act of love, he allowed himself to be crucified (at the behest of many in the crowd that day). 

Finally, he points out that Jesus is (by decree of God almighty) "both Lord (supreme controller) and Christ (Messiah/deliverer)."

There is a stunned silence that overtakes the crowd, you can see the look of realization of the faces of the gathered throngs. You can almost see them thinking: "All my life I've longed for my deliverer, and when he comes, I shouted for him to be crucified?"

A look of horror crosses all of their faces. Then, a look of desperation as they thought, "I am guilty of the murder of the Messiah! God will have vengeance on me! How can I ever make this right with God? What can I do?"

Finally, the pressure builds and then one by one, more and more begin to ask the same question out loud. And since these strange people seem to know what's going on, they begin to ask them: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

You yourself start to wonder and ask the same question. You were consenting of the death of Jesus. You even mocked and said, "He saved others, lets see him save himself." Some of your friends said that if he were to come down off the cross, then they would follow him.

Scriptures you haven't considered in relation to the Messiah, but that you've heard from your youth begin to go through your mind: 

Isaiah 53:4-6

King James Version (KJV)
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

"Oh, my Lord," you think in fear. You remember how you felt about him. How you disdained him. How you said God was against him and this Crucifixion was God's just punishment for this false prophet. 

Yet, he was beaten and wounded, just like the prophet said. You saw him beaten with the cat of nine tails- the many stripes he bore. You even saw him lain on a cross and his hands and feet were pierced...

Oh no. Another scripture said: Zechariah 13:6
And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

The feeling in the air becomes more oppressive, as if God himself is dealing with you. You think, "Am I guilty of the blood of the Messiah?"

But, he even cried out on the cross, why would the Messiah do that? Then it hits you: Didn't the Psalms use the exact same words that Jesus did? "Psalm 22:1
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?..."

It hits you then, your Messiah did come. And, just as Isaiah prophesied, you are a sheep gone astray. Suddenly your voice joins the voices of others: "What shall we do," you ask aloud- desperate to have this great sin (Indeed, ALL your sins) somehow washed away.

Then, the man who had been speaking answers you all: 

Acts 2:38-39

King James Version (KJV)
"38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

Finally, a way out! You don't have to carry your sins with you. Your blood guilt can be washed away. You bow your knees and begin to pray in sincere repentance. You then join the multitudes that are being baptized in the very name of the one you had wanted crucified just 50 days ago. When you come up out of those baptismal waters, you find yourself speaking in a language you don't know- just like the crowd you had watched before. Now, however, you're not watching them- you are one of them.

Now, back to our day.

You see, my friend, that the response to the crowds cry on the birthday of the church was simple. When asked how to rid themselves of their sin, they were told- by the Apostles- 3 things: 1) Repent 2) be baptized in Jesus name 3) receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

There was no "repeat the sinners prayer." There was no "just believe." There was no, "shake the preachers hand and join the church." In answer to the dilemma of sin, the Apostles all had the same message: "Repent, be baptized in Jesus name, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."

This same plan of salvation was used in Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19. Jesus himself said we must "repent" (Luke 5:32)and be "born of water AND of the spirit." (John 3:5) John the Baptist taught water and spirit baptism (Matthew 3:11). The Apostles, as we have seen, all taught this same plan of salvation. 

Any "plan of salvation" that says otherwise, is no plan of salvation at all. If a person only repents, but does not do the other 2 steps, they are believers, but NOT born again. 

If a person repents and gets baptized in Jesus name, but fails to allow God to fill them with his spirit? 

Romans 8:9
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

If a person repents and receives the spirit, but doesn't get baptized in Jesus name? 

1 Peter 3:20-22

King James Version (KJV)
"20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:"

No, my friend. There is no middle ground. Either a person is born again, or they're not. 

The Apostles were not born again until the day of Pentecost. How do I know? Luke 22:32
"But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

At this point, Peter and the Apostles had all repented and been baptized and were baptizing (John 3:22). Yet, they were not born again. They still were incomplete and needed to be converted. So, why do we think we have a different path than they? 

And for those who say that "we only want to follow what Jesus said (the red letters)." Jesus also said of the Apostles: "

John 17:20

King James Version (KJV)
"20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;"

So, in God's eyes, the words of his Apostles are his words. Indeed, we are told, 

2 Timothy 3:15-17

King James Version (KJV)
"15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

So, put yourself back in the shoes of the Jewish person we began this blog with. Like him, we are sinners in need of a savior. Like him, we look for our redeemer. Like him, we have -in times past- scoffed at the ways of God. 

Yet, also like him, we are guilty of the blood of the very savior we seek. He was bruised for OUR iniquities, wounded for OUR transgressions. He took stripes for US. He took the nails in order to redeem us!

We, like the thousands on that first day of Pentecost, should ask the Apostles of our Lord, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 

And, like that first crowd, we need to obey what they said and be born again: 

Acts 2:38

King James Version (KJV)
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.