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Lecture 2: The Gospel is Proclaimed in Jerusalem
Lecture 2: The Gospel is Proclaimed in Jerusalem
This is the 2nd lecture material for the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)
(Any slides, photos, notes or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)
(As mentioned already, the mp3 file for this lecture is missing. Even though the following major points are from the outline provided from the Dr. Thomas Schreiner’s own notes, the comments are not. These comments are only provided as filler until the mp3 file is made available.)
The Gospel is Proclaimed in Jerusalem 1:1-6:7
We have the Gospel being proclaimed in Jerusalem in Acts 1:1-6:7 and in these five sections, we see Jesus before he leaves the earth providing further instructions of the coming Holy Spirit. We have the experience at Pentecost with three thousand people turning to Jesus. We then see the disciples boldly proclaiming the power of God through miracles with the power of the Holy Spirit evident in their lives. In those short few days, the church has grown by leaps and bounds. People were being baptized in the Holy Spirit as they believed.
A. Preliminary Events: The Promise of the Holy Spirit 1:1-26
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said to them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power. But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem to the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where stayed both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. And in those days Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brothers, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spoke before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the middle, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; so as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his position as bishop let another take. Why of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, to that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, You, Lord, which know the hearts of all men, show whether of these two you have chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
In the Prologue we have the address to Theophilus but Acts was obviously intended for all believers. We have already commented that Peter was very much in the forefront of the first twelve chapters with Paul taking over after that. We eventually have Paul conversion and his first, second, third and fourth missionary journey and his imprisonment in Rome. Some of the themes include the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to witness, a growing community of believers from Jews, gentiles and even Samaritans and lastly we see increased persecution as the Word is preached. We can break this down into Acts 1:1-5, 6-11, 12-14 and 15-26. Or we can separate this chapter into topics: Prologue, Christ Appearances, His Ascension, Anticipation of the Holy Spirit and the Appointment of Matthias.
So we have Jesus revealing himself to the Apostles. The appearance in verses 4-5 was an example of one of his appearances. As in the Book of Luke, Theophilus is addressed in Acts as the receiver of the Book. In Luke he is called most excellent Theophilus but not here in Acts. Jesus advises the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes. This is also mentioned in Luke 24:49. He calls this the Father’s gift and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As mentioned in the last lecture, they first thought the Kingdom of Israel would be restored but this wasn’t to be. Jesus simply tells them that they were not to know the times or dates of this but instead redirected their thoughts back to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that they would receive power and that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Jesus wanted them to understand what was going to happen after he left them. It wasn’t important to know when the Kingdom of Israel would be restored. So we have the disciples: Peter, John, James and Andrew along with Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James and Simon and Judas, son of James with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus was gathered together praying.
B. Witnessing begins: Pentecost and Fellowship 2:1-47
Pentecost was an annual Jewish Feast, held every fifty days after Passover. It was a commemoration of giving of the Law of Moses, thanksgiving to God for the harvest and an offering of the first fruits of the grain harvest. The Old Testament background for this comes out Deut 16:9-12 and other Old Testament verses.
There are really three major points in chapter 2: the coming of the Holy Spirt, Peter preaching to everyone in a message with 3,000 people being saved and finally the Fellowship of Believers. So we have the coming of the Holy Spirit on people from Cappadocia, Egypt, Libya, Rome along with Jews and proselytes. This was an incredible miracle, remembered today as one of the most celebrated events in the history of the church. This enabled everyone to speak in someone else’s language. People were dumbfounded as to what was happening until Peter explained. First he assures everyone that no one had been drinking. He quotes Joel in explaining that God promised that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all flesh.
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. So the time of Pentecost had fully come. It was the time of God’s introduction and start of the Age of the Spirit. In 2:2, there came a noise from heaven like a violent rushing wind. This is similar to Genesis 3:8 and the Old Testament word ruah is used of breath, wind, and Spirit. In the New Testament pneuma is used for wind and the Holy Spirit. Filling implies a daily Christlikeness. It is the spiritual empowering for effective ministry for everybody.
He said that God promised wonders in heaven and signs with blood and fire and smoke. The sun would even turn to darkness and the moon into blood. He introduces Jesus as being from Nazareth, accredited by God through miracles, wonders and signs. I believe that Peter included this description in order to relate the Holy Spirit being part of the trinity connecting God to Jesus and to John. He explained that God has raised Jesus from the dead quoting the Scriptures from David as speaking for God. This was done to further link Jesus to prophecy and explained that Jesus was now in heaven at the right hand of God as that was prophecy confirmed. Peter explained that Jesus was both Lord and the Messiah and challenged them to repent and be baptized. Three thousand people were saved that day and thus the beginning of the church. So afterwards, everyone devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayer. And the church increased. So in summary: the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter’s message with 3,000 people saved and continued fellowship. But the prophecy of Joel may be considered in perhaps two parts. The first part of the last days was happening then with the pouring out of the Spirit with the second part of wonders in heavens being for a later time. This is not clear because the great and glorious day of the Lord can be considered as being then and it can also be considered as the future. I think the application of calling on the Lord was for then and for the future, especially in regards to the return of Jesus.
C. The Witness in the Temple and Before the Council 3:1-4:31
The following chapter and verses can be divided up into Peter healing the lame beggar, and then speaking to the onlookers. And then with Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and then a time of praying. I find it interesting that now that the Holy Spirit has come to the apostles, we see them acting with power and authority which we haven’t seen before. It was mentioned earlier that when Jesus sent the disciples our two by two that they performed miracles but little else was said about it. Jesus was always criticizing them for the lack of faith.
So it was the 9th hour, the hour of prayer that Peter and John met the lame man. This 9th hour would be nine hours after sunrise. It was the Pharisees who had initiated praying three times a day. The first time was in the morning at 9:00 am and then at 12 noon and then 3 in the afternoon. These three times were also called sacrifices.
So it was with Peter and John met a lame man on their way to the temple who asked them for money. Note that the new believers saw no division between their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah and the practice of Judaism. They didn’t have any money but Peter said to him, ‘what I do have I give you.’ So Peter gave him the ability to walk. This was instantaneous with the man jumping up and walking. This happened near the gate on the eastern side of the temple, facing the Mount of Olives. Here, the use of the word ‘name’ is a Hebrew idiom which speaks of one’s character. So this miracle drew the attention of Jewish worshippers, and because of this, people started to gather around the man and Peter started to preach a message seeing the opportunity to share the good news. This would be the second sermon of Peter for the new church. The message included who Jesus was and why he came. You killed Jesus, Peter exclaimed but God raised him up from the dead. Again Peter placed Jesus as being foretold from the Prophets as being the Messiah. The key verse of the message was, ‘repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.’ We see that repentance is absolutely necessary as it shows a willingness to change; it is both human and God’s gift. Peter continued describing who Jesus was and why he came. Peter linked this to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob showing that Jesus’ ministry and the Gospel were directly connected to the Covenant God and its people. It was the true fulfillment of Judaism. We see that the early sermons in Acts present Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament promise and prophecies. So the church had increased to five thousand men. We are not sure if this number included the three thousand that were saved when the Holy Spirit came or the five thousand were the increase since the three thousand were saved. This number did not include women and children. But it was then the temple guard and the Sadducees seized Peter and John and so they were brought before the elders and teachers of the law under the high priest Caiaphas. Note that the Sadducees were rich, political leaders of the Sanhedrin and denied the theological concept of resurrections in general. Here we are told that Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit started to preach to them. Boldly he proclaimed without fear of what had been done. The leaders saw their boldness, the same they had seen in Jesus. They knew that they had been with Jesus. In the end they did nothing because all the people were praising God for what had happened. The healed man was standing right in front of them and they saw what had been done. So the last point in this section shows them returning praising God for what he had done. It is here that they prayed that God would stretch out his hand to heal and perform those signs and wonders that he promised. This is further evident that these signs and wonders were possible for their present day. It says again that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God. I don’t’ think this was another filling as such but a confirmation of the Pentecostal filling of the Spirit they had already experienced.
D. The Witness of the Early Church Way and Life 4:32-5:16
This section can be further divided into the sharing of Possessions, the fate of Ananias and Sapphira, and the last section with the Apostles performing Signs and Wonders.
‘The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was on them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need.’
So they felt and acted like a family, it was voluntary and mutual and love and concern were the motive behind it all. Interestingly at a later time this church became very poor materially. Yet, there was a feeling of a responsibility for one another and there were many who had freely gave and shared with those in need. This was all love in action. In different ways, the church has continued to do this down the ages. Individuals have given to the church and in turn the church has helped the needy out. So we have an account where Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus sold some land and gave the money to the apostles. This could have encouraged Ananias and Sapphira to do the same thing. Interestingly the full Hebrew name of Ananias would have been Hananiah which means YHWH is gracious and Sapphira’s name meant beautiful. Basically Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Apostles about the amount of money they received for the land. Their lie was actually to the Holy Spirit, not to the apostles. It was their money in the first place and they could have done whatever they wanted to with it. They could have only given half of it and kept the other half. It was their decision. It would have been better for them to have kept all the money. So why did they lie? Was it that Barnabas received such high praise in what he did and so Ananias and Sapphira wanted that same praise? However, this is only conjecture. We must be sure of our own actions, that we don’t seek praise for the things that we do for God. It is God who should receive praise for it. Ananias and Sapphira’s actions were truly misguided. Was it the devil that put this thought into their minds, most likely? Some commentaries say that they lied to look spiritual in front of others. So this ‘generous act’ was done with a bad motive. And this warns us to commit our ways and actions to God continually, to examine ourselves making sure our thoughts and ways are in line with God at all times.
The apostles continued performing great miracles daily as they preached the Gospel. But we are reminded, for some reason though I am not sure, that that false messiahs and prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive as shown in Matthew 24:24. And this has happened and is happening today. We are to be aware that everything that barks like a dog may not be a dog. But these miracles of the time confirmed the Christian message, which was so radically different from that of Judaism. We see that their number grew constantly, a somewhat summary statement that is typical of Luke’s writing. Positively, the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives was so evident that we see in Acts 19:12 that when even handkerchief or aprons touched people, their diseases left them along with evil spirits. This was a particular culture that understood that God was powerful; it was a culture that believed in miracles because they had read accounts of it from the prophets of old. The miracles reinforced the truth of the Gospel and the compassion of God. I was a missionary in Egypt many years ago. I remember my colleague and I were walking along one of the pedestrian overpasses in Cairo one day. Seeing the poor helpless people sitting with broken and crooked arms and legs along with the smell of urine and defecation made me so sad and a bit sick. I wished that I could have commanded them to walk in Jesus’ name right then and there, and shared with them the healing power of Christ and what the Holy Spirit could do in their lives, but it was not meant to be.
E. Apostles arrested: Second Witness before Religious Leaders 5:17-42
‘Then the high priest and his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. Go, stand in the temple courts, he said and tell the people all about this new life in Jesus.’
The guards found the Apostle preaching the Gospel as they were directed by the Angel. What a sight! Again, they were taken before the high priest. Interestingly in verse 28, he said, ‘we gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet you have filled the whole of Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Of course they were guilty of killing Jesus and they knew that. But the apostles would not let up; again, they spoke with the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming Christ to the Sadducees. Peter seemed to have become the spokesperson for the apostles at that time. They replied that we must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. The metaphor, ‘right hand’ is an anthropomorphic phrase for a place of power and authority. We must remember that God does not have a physical body as he is an eternal Spirit. They continued, ‘we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’ They were furious after hearing these things and wanted to put them to death. But Gamaliel, a Pharisee calmed everyone down by telling them that there were others who made noises of the same nature and it passed. So the Sanhedrin had them flogged and sent them away. The Apostles rejoiced to be counted worthy of suffering disgrace for Jesus. But they continued preaching and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus in all of Jerusalem. What a great testimony! May we be the same, Amen!