What Shall We Do?
By Pastor Teddy
Key Verse: 2:42
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
On Pentecost Day, fifty days after the day Jesus rose from the dead, something astonishing happened in a poor neighborhood, probably a neighborhood far removed from where the idle rich live and have their guarded empty streets and their gaudy private estates. Somewhere in the heart of the city of Jerusalem and in one of those tenement houses, maybe an upstairs floor, 120 followers of Jesus had gathered to pray when suddenly— to those who were on the streets— it seemed as if the whole building was on fire and the sounds of a strong wind was heard. When this happened, all who witnessed it from the outside were bewildered. They were even more bewildered when the 120 people who were in that seemingly burning house rushed to the streets and began to speak in so many different languages to the foreigners who had crowded the streets for the celebrations! So the crowds were bewildered and asked what it all meant. And so Peter the fisherman-turned-witness-to-Christ gave the crowds a sermon. He explained what they had seen and heard that day. It was definitely the work of God! They were guilty of the greatest sin of all— rejecting the Son of God and giving him up to be crucified. Yet, God loved his Son and raised him from the dead, and exalted him above all in the heavens. And now as a sign of his Son’s exaltation, and as he had promised long ago, the Holy Spirit was now given to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. They only needed to call on the name of the Lord to be saved from their sins. Peter’s sermon was beautiful beyond measure! Some of them were skeptical at first, but in the end they all listened as Peter explained all that was happening, and why it was happening, and to whom it was happening! And the sermon cut to their hearts. In other words, they were pierced at heart; they were so deeply convicted that their hearts began to stir for God. They were tender hearted and the gospel dear to their hearts. What happened after that?
What happened after that was beyond the Apostles’ wildest dreams. The Apostles had seen Jesus how Jesus’ sermons moved the most unlikely people in the crowds, cutting them to the heart. They had witnessed even the few tax collectors and prostitutes who were broken before Jesus’ words and changing their ways. But the Apostles were not expecting to witness what happened next. We never really do, mostly because of our own unbelief, or because of our own insecurities. But our expectations shouldn’t be based on our own abilities or our confidences, not even on our own imperfect faith. Our expectation need be entirely based on the Lord God and the veracity of his Word and Promise. When expectation is based on what God said or what he says, then there’s no reason not to have expectations or to expect the unexpected. This kind of mindset is critical to the work God gives you and me to do. Always expect the unexpected when God says it! Always anticipate the incredible and miraculous when God speaks of it! With this mindset, all God’s servants over the centuries fulfilled the work God entrusted to them. It’s at the heart of our faith, but more so it’s at the heart of what God wants to do in and through you for his glory! As Peter may have turned to go, many who heard his sermon said to him and to the other apostles. “Brothers, what shall we do?” (37)
This is another one of those amazingly important questions of life as well. [What was that important life question we talked about last time? (12)] “What shall we do”, is extremely relevant. Indeed, what shall I do? Who asks this kind of question? One who listens to the word of God with his heart; One who knows that it speaks to him or to her personally; One who’s convicted by it; And one who’s eager to correct the wrong done to God or to others; Or one who’s eager to ask God’s forgiveness, or to plead his mercy; One who’s heart is not hardened by his or her own sins, or who’s conscience isn’t numbed by his or her worldliness. We have to be careful how we listen to the word of God, and how we receive it, all the time, every time! “What shall I do?” says the humble man or woman, and there were about 3000 of them that day. (41) And Peter had an answer for them. Look at verses 38-39. “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.”
He says to them first and foremost: “Repent”! What is repentance? And how can a person repent? Repentance begins with a conviction that— my life and the way I live my life— is contrary to the way God wants me to live my life and therefore my life has been so far offensive to God and sinful; It begins with a conviction that— my thinking and my way I think— is also contrary to the way God thinks and wants me to think, and therefore offensive and sinful; It begins with a conviction that— my actions, or my feelings, or my desires, or anything else that is part of who I am and what I believe and live for— is contrary to God and to his word, and therefore offensive to God and sinful! Repentance begins with my conviction that I have offended God, sinned against him, and so I deserve every judgment coming to me. It begins there. But repentance goes on from my conviction to my desire to make things right with God. So I admit the wrong and throw myself on his mercy. That’s the first step. And repentance isn’t a one time thing. Beyond the initial repentance that I exercise for the forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul, I also begin to live a life of repentance (Luke 3:8). Why? Because as I grow and mature in my understanding of God and of his word and of his ways, I realize more and more the extent of my sinful thinking and sinful ways and sinful feelings, and now I desire to correct the wrong, and do what’s right before my God. Every true and humble believer always exercises repentance because they love God too much to insult God with their lives. Peter told this religious crowd to “Repent” because without repentance not one of them could ever be reconciled to God, no given forgiveness, or receive the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation.
Peter went on from Repentance to “And be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ”. If they repented of their sins, why be baptized? Water Baptism is the symbolic association of a sinner who repents with his or her Christ in death and resurrection. In other words, when I, a sinner, repent of my sins, I am repenting of the old life and ways I lived in the world and am renouncing my association with the world in all its sinful ways. My baptism testifies to the world that I am now dead to you-world, since I now choose to live in Christ and to identify with him who died for me, and in whose death I too have died to you-world and to all your sinful ways! And my water baptism also testifies that as my sins are buried with Christ in his death, so also in his resurrection I testify that I have been given a new life, that I may no longer live for this world and its sinful ways, but live for God who rescued me and live for his word. The early church baptized in obedience to Christ and as a sign that this baptismal washing with water testifies to all people that I no longer belong to the world and its way, but that I now belong to Christ who has brought me into his church family. And they baptized in the name of Jesus Christ! What does “In the name of Jesus Christ” mean? It means to be brought into the fellowship of Jesus Christ and consequently into fellowship with the triune God. It also means to be brought into his family on account that you carry his name upon your heart. And it means to enjoy every blessing that comes from being united with Christ. For our ancestors who were despised and persecuted for their association with Jesus’ name, baptism was like signing your own death sentence, a bold declaration of allegiance to Christ and to his gospel. Baptism is indeed a badge of honor for those who understand its significance, who desire baptism for no other reason than to testify that they forsake the world to belong to Christ.
Peter continued telling them about the outcome of repentance. He said: “For the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Why should a human being repent before God? Because every human being sinned excessively and continues to sin, and so needs their sins atoned for before they can ever come into a relationship with God. One needs to repent of sins because sins are so repulsive to God that God needed to sacrifice his Son in order to change the miserable destiny of destruction that we incurred on ourselves because of our sins! So we repent in order to have our sins covered in the blood of Christ who alone can wash them clean and to receive his forgiveness. And when our sins are forgiven, we are purified from everything that made us offensive to God, and we then enter into a life relationship with him. Everyone needs God’s forgiveness, even though some think they don’t because what they do seems natural to them on account of their human nature. But it is still sin and needs forgiveness. Some Christians consider their sins of immorality natural and even healthy following after the world’s understanding of things. But they are still sins against God that need forgiveness. Sometimes one sins so much in areas of sex and drunkenness that they become numb to God’s own pain because of these things But that doesn’t absolve them of what they’re doing. They need forgiveness, or they will not see the face of God. There’s no one on earth who doesn’t need God’s forgiveness.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a mercy God bestows on anyone who humbly asks for forgiveness in the name of his Son. And it has to be in the name of his Son Jesus or else forgiveness isn’t possible nor even granted. It was his Son’s sacrifice on the cross and the blood that he shed that made it possible for God to forgive our sins. The author of Hebrews reminds of something crucial to our salvation when he says: “And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22) And the Lord himself says: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) No other name but Jesus’ can give us forgiveness because no other blood has the power to do so. And God knows we all need forgiveness. We need forgiveness when we’re angry or hateful or cold hearted. We need forgiveness when we despise, snub and withhold love from each other. When we walk in our own path and enjoy our life apart from God, we need of his forgiveness. As long as we live, we need his forgiveness and we need ask for it, and we need give thanks for it, because he purchased it for us with his life. God freely grants forgiveness to those who humbly ask for it in Jesus’ name.
And when a person is forgiven, they receive another precious gift— the gift of the Holy Spirit as Peter says. It was a promise God was eager to finally fulfill the moment his Son was exalted in heaven. Jesus taught us many things about the Holy Spirit. Who is he? He is the Spirit of the Risen and Exalted Christ who promised to come live with us and to be in us. The Holy Spirit is God himself, the third person of the Trinity who’s the teacher, advocate, truth bearer, defender, friend, guide, purifier, rebuker, sentinel, and sanctifier of our hearts and the sanctifier of the church. Jesus forgives our sins. When the Holy Spirit comes into the heart of a repentant man or woman, he makes his dwelling in that heart. He gives that man or woman victory over their sins and empowers them to live a new life with the Risen Christ. This gives the Christian the strength to fight the good fight of faith and the grace to defeat the devil’s temptations. We must always give thanks to the Holy Spirit who dwells within and who blesses us to live the Christian life we are called to live, and to do the work we are called to serve.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer, but he also sanctifies the church and builds it up to serve Christ’s purpose. The Holy Spirit is the one who unifies Christians in the sound doctrine of the Bible, and is grieved when a false doctrine takes hold of a weak heart or mind. The Holy Spirit also unifies the church in faith, in love and in hope, and in purpose. In the church, every born again believer and who’s received the Holy Spirit knows the sweetness and glory of Christ. They know that all things belong to Christ and must strive to honor his glory. And for this reason the church as a whole always strives to honor Christ above all else. And that’s what the infant church in Jerusalem began to do. As soon as they receive the Holy Spirit they began to witness to Christ and his gospel. They also as a church began something else— something that honors and glorifies Christ— something entirely foreign to the world they lived in. What did they do?
Let’s read verses 42-47. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The way the Holy Spirit brought them together in this way was unheard of and really remarkable. They were transformed in every way, such that the church itself became a witness to Christ in and through its own life and actions. It was what the author of Luke later described like this: “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” (Acts 4:32a) They were a family in every sense of the word, and a healthy functional family that inspired the world and testified to the glory of Christ who lived in them and among them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Look at their lives. They were first and foremost devoted. Devotion is something like a profound dedication of self to something we have determined is worthy of our love, concern and loyalty. Devotion is a rare quality in this world. Most are devoted to self and to self preservation and to self promotion and such. Even seemingly devoted parents at times abandon their kids for selfish pursuits. Real devotion can only come from the Holy Spirit, and it directed at Christ and Christ’s interests. Luke tells us that these people were devoted people. And they were devoted to Christ not by word of mouth but by their actions. How so? They were devoted to some things they would never abandon because the things they were devoted to served the church and honored Christ. Look at verse 42. They were devoted to the “Apostles’ teaching”, and to “The Fellowship”, To “The breaking of bread” and to “prayer”. Luke tells us what bound them together so strongly. It was their devotion to the very things that serve the church and honor Christ. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. The apostles’ teaching was the very word of God passed on to them from Christ— the gospel, the gospel faith, and the gospel way of life. They were devoted to that. They studied it with conviction in order to obey it and live it. And nothing would deter them from the doctrine of truth they studied and practiced on a daily basis.
They were also devoted to the fellowship. In other words they were a family that stuck together. They were able to stick together not because they tried, but because their family fellowship was rooted in Christ whom they all loved and honored. They also stuck together as a family because in this kind of devotion, the world can see clearly that they belonged to Christ. Of course, there was some friction among them as it is in every family. But when they were devoted to their fellowship of Christ, they worked out everything in his grace and truth. They were also devoted to the breaking of bread. This is perhaps a reference to communion Christ told us to keep with one another. In other words, they seem to have eaten together often, and perhaps even ended their meals in remembrance of Christ whose body was broken and blood shed for their sins. They often remembered Christ to whom they were devoted, and the fellowship family he died to give birth to. They were also devoted to prayer. They never tired of prayer, nor neglected prayer, nor abandoned prayer. They often prayed, and they often prayed together as well. They were devoted to pray together because they were eager to see all of Christ’s will be done. And the only way to accomplish the will of God is prayer. Prayer as we said many times before is a reflection of faith, faith that we trust God to hear and to fulfill our prayers. But we must pray together and learn how to devote ourselves to it as well.
When we read the rest of what this church looked like, we see other things that happened among them and which they did that are almost unbelievable in a modern sense. The Holy Spirit must have worked so many miracles among them when they prayed. The Holy Spirit also helped them see what a true fellowship in Christ is like. They had everything in common. Some even sold possessions so that those needy in the fellowship were supplied what they need. Look at how they loved each other more than they loved their own possessions; look at their value system— how they valued other believers over material things. Where can you find this except in a church blessed with the work of the Holy Spirit! They also met every day and encouraged and blessed one another. Some went to the temple to share the gospel with worshipers there, while others went to the streets to draw some to Christ. They also opened their homes for fellowship, where everyone was welcome there. I don’t know how they lived before the Holy Spirit came on them. But when the Holy Spirit was in their hearts, they all shared the heart and mind of Christ. And they praised God at every step of the way. And as Luke tells us, “The Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.” It was truly a beautiful church that’s been the inspiration of countless people for generations. It is our inspiration as well. May the Holy Spirit work in our hearts and our church to give us the same devotion and values of the first church. May he use our lives and church to