28 April 2017Acts 2:36-41
“So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.” (v. 41)
Psalm: Psalm 140:1-7
This verse is one guaranteed to make preachers either jealous or sceptical. Wow, 3,000 converts in one sermon. That's old-school Billy Graham territory without any of the pre-planning. Or is it Luke (the writer of Acts) getting carried away with his story?
What we do know is that this is the culmination of an extraordinary movement of God's Spirit in Jerusalem as promised by Jesus (Acts 1). The disciples had done as they were told, and waited faithfully. Then, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, they had poured out from their meeting room and begun telling the story of God's grace (Acts 2:1-11).
Jerusalem, packed with crowds for festival-time, was ripe for a holy experience and they got it. Peter, newly fired up, preaches what we read in Acts 2 and much more, it seems: "… he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them …".
The question that comes at the end of Peter's sermon already suggested the crowd had been blindsided by their experience. In verse 37 we read, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, 'Brothers, what should we do?'"
Then comes the first altar call, a challenge to repentance and baptism, and 3,000 respond. Luke says they are added - but to what? There's no church yet. There have been about 120 previously in the disciples' group so where they have been meeting is clearly not big enough for this lot.
Suddenly Peter is the leader of something unexpected. And why shouldn't it be 3,000 people? The Holy Spirit has moved in the kind of extraordinary way foretold by the prophet Joel and a whole new response is called for.
What will become the Christian Church is beginning to flower: tentatively and with many hurdles on the way, but it begins here.
- How can we help people when they ask 'what should we do?' as a result of being impacted by the word of God?
- How effective is public preaching today? Are people likely to respond as powerfully as the people of Jerusalem did? Why?