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Category: Sermons

Faith in the Name of Jesus

This morning we continue our look at the book of Acts – specifically today we are in Acts chapter 3. And if you haven’t been with us for the last two chapters, there are basically three key things that have happened in the story so far:

  1. After his resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven and commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses throughout the world.
  2. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell his disciples and every believer – just as he had promised earlier – empowering them to boldly share about Christ where ever they went.
  3. As the disciples shared the message of Christ, more & more people accepted their message, trusted in Jesus, and the early church began to take shape.

In fact, when we last left off, the church had just exploded in growth as 3000 people were added to the church as the result of Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost. Acts chapter 2 describes it like this:

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.

Acts 2:41-44

Now when we went through this passage in chapter 2 a couple weeks ago, we talked mostly about how the believers were devoted to God and devoted to each other. But we didn’t really spend much time on verse 43, which says “A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” But this, too, is an important verse.

This verse points out how God affirmed the Apostles’ message & authority by enabling them to perform miraculous signs and wonders – very much like the signs and wonders that Jesus performed during his ministry on earth or even like the prophets of old – such as Moses, Elisha and Elijah.

These signs and wonders not only gave credibility to their message – but it also provided for them many opportunities to share their message with the people who witnessed these amazing miracles!

And that’s what we’re going to see today. Today, chapter 3 gives us a specific example of the signs and wonders that Peter & John were performing and how they used that as an opportunity to preach about Christ.

So we are going to start in Acts chapter 3, verse 1.

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Acts 3:1-3

And we’ll pause here for a minute. So far, this is a pretty normal day for everyone involved.

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The Command to be Baptized

This morning we are really excited that we can baptize 5 people out in the river in just a few minutes from now! And I am glad that we are doing this in June instead of in late September like we have in the past. Theoretically, it should be a little bit warmer! 

But I’ll admit that this year’s baptism is a unique baptism for me. This will be (by far) the youngest group of baptism candidates that I have ever baptized.

And because of that, I do want to clarify a few things this morning about baptism – what it is and what it is not. You know, having these young kids wanting to be baptized has actually been a good but challenging process for me. It’s caused me to go back and review the Scriptures to make sure that what we’re doing is actually the proper way to obey Christ’s instructions regarding baptism.

And so this morning, before we get into the actual baptism, let’s just take a few moments to look the Scriptures and see what the Bible has to say about it all!

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For the last month we’ve been taking a look at the book of Acts. The full title of the book, as listed in your Bibles, is likely “The Acts of the Apostles” – but as we’ve noted previously, it might be more accurate to call it “The Continued Acts of Jesus” or even “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”. While the different Apostles certainly play a key role in the various parts of this book, it’s clear right from chapter 1 that this book is all about the incredible activity of God in people’s lives.

And that’s exactly what we saw last week. Last week, we saw how the Apostle Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit – and he was enabled, not only to speak in languages that he had never learned, but perhaps even more miraculous, the Holy Spirit enabled Peter to boldly share the Gospel with a huge crowd of people and 3,000 of them accepted Christ as their Saviour and were baptized that day!

Now remember, this was the same Peter who had denied even knowing Jesus when a little girl asked him if he was one of Jesus’ disciples! In fact, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times that night – but now here he is, an absolutely changed man, boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Christ to the very crowds who had put Jesus to death 7 weeks earlier!

What a change! Now that the Holy Spirit was living within Peter, Peter was being absolutely transformed from the inside out.

And not only Peter, but all of the Apostles too, as well as the other 120 disciples, as well as the other 3,000 people who had just accepted Christ as their Saviour after hearing Peter’s message!

And of course, that made for a really interesting scenario! Here we have the very first church – and it’s a big one – over 3,000 people. But every one of them were brand new Christians! Even the Apostles had only just recently come to understand who Jesus really was, what He had done for them, and what the Kingdom of God was really all about!

This was all brand new for everyone! There wasn’t even any other other churches in history that they could look at and learn from! They just had to make it up as they went along – trusting that the Holy Spirit would guide and direct them as they learned what it meant to be followers of Christ.

And so today, we’re going to look at the final six verses of Acts chapter 2 that describe what that very first church did as they attempted to figure out what it looked like to be a church. 

Now many people would point to this passage in Acts 2 as the description of the ideal church – in fact, I think I’ve probably preached on this passage before with similar intent. But as I’ve grown in my understanding of the Bible over the years, I’m not so sure that we should read this as God’s blueprints for the perfect church.

These people that we’re going to read about were still imperfect people who made mistakes and still struggled with sin (just like you and I). In fact, as we read on through the book of Acts, we see that made quite clear to us with stories like Ananias and Sapphira lying about their donations to church or the racial discrimination that happened at the church food bank, or even (as Paul later mentions in Galatians) how Peter refused to eat with Gentile Christians.

This was not a perfect church, nor did they have perfect leaders – and so what we read here is not necessarily the prescription for what God intended church to look like. However, it is a description of what these first believers did to carry out their mandate to make disciples, to learn to love each other and to love God, and to grow in the knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is. And that’s what makes this passage so helpful for us.

While not everything they did was perfect, there was a lot of good stuff happening in that church, so I think there is a lot that we can learn from them.

So as I said, we’re looking at the last verses of Acts chapter 2 this morning, so let’s begin at verse 41, and then read through until the end. It reads like this:

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Poured Out On All People

This morning you guys are in for a real treat, because today you are going to hear one of the most powerful and most effective sermons that has ever been preached to mankind!

Now to be clear, it’s not my sermon this morning that I’m referring to. The sermon I’m talking about is the very first sermon ever preached by the Apostle Peter, on the day he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a witness for Jesus Christ.

As most of you know, we’ve recently begun studying the book of Acts – a book that is introduced as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. In the opening words of this book, Luke writes:

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach…

Acts 1:1

The implication here is that, while the Gospel of Luke is all about what Jesus began to do and teach, the book of Acts is all about what Jesus continued to do and teach – primarily through Apostles empowered by the Holy Spirit.

And that is very much what we are going to see in our passage today! On the very day that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples – in fact, probably within the hour of that event – the Apostle Peter boldly stood up and preached a powerful message to all the people who had gathered there and more than 3,000 put their faith in Jesus Christ that day and were baptized!

It was an incredible kick-off to everything Jesus would continue to do through the Apostles and the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s sermon begins in Acts chapter 2, starting at verse 14, but before we read that, we should probably back up a little bit to review the first 13 verses so we understand what’s going on here.

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The Priority of Prayer

Well, last Sunday we began working through a new book of the Bible – the book of Acts – and we noted that it was written as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of everything Jesus began to do and teach during his time on earth.

This book is traditionally titled “The Acts of the Apostles”. However, as we pointed out last week, it really would be more accurate to call it “The Continued Acts of Jesus” – since it is He who continues to be the central character throughout the book!

The book opens with a brief summary of the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven. During this time, Jesus appeared to his disciples on numerous occasions and he proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive! And of course in those visits, as He had done throughout the previous three years, Jesus talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

And one of the key things that Jesus talked to them about concerning the Kingdom of God, was their role in the Kingdom. Specifically, how they were to be his witnesses – telling people about Him everywhere they went.

Now of course, this would be quite a daunting task for such a ragtag group of fisherman! They weren’t trained professional speakers. They certainly weren’t powerful or influential in society… They were really just a bunch of nobodies… Who were they to boldly tell the world all about the Messiah of Isreal and what He had done?

Besides, had Jesus forgotten that just a few weeks earlier, his disciples had all abandoned him and fled when he had been arrested and put on trial? Why, even their fearless leader, Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus!

And yet now, Jesus expects them to go out into the whole world and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has been raised from the dead? And to boldly do that in the same city where Jesus had just been put to death 40 days earlier!

How could Jesus ever expect the disciples to carry out such a task? In their own limited strength, they would surely fail!

Well, Jesus never intended them to accomplish this in their own limited strength. God was going to strengthen and equip and them in an incredible way – He was going to send His Holy Spirit to dwell within them – empowering them to be His witnesses where ever they went. For the rest of their lives, they would have the power of God enabling them to do anything that God wanted them to do!

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To Be His Witnesses

This morning I’m excited to begin preaching through a new book of the Bible. 

As most of you know, for the last four months we have been working through a sermon series following the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection – from Christmas to Easter.

And of course, if you were with us two weeks ago on Easter Sunday, you’ll recall how we concluded that series by reading through the details of Christ’s resurrection, his appearance to his disciples, and finally, His ascension back into heaven.

However, while those events did conclude the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, they certainly did not conclude the work of Jesus Christ here on earth.

Jesus would continue to accomplish the Father’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the disciples and the many others who would eventually come to faith over the next many years. Or to put it another way, Jesus would continue to bring about the kingdom of God working through his redeemed people – the Church.

And that’s what I want us to look at for the next little while. Specifically, I want us to read through the book of Acts.

Now most of you probably know this already, but the book of Acts is actually the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Luke, who happened to be a doctor and a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, wrote both of these two books as a carefully researched account of the events surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus.

We see that right in the opening lines of Luke chapter 1. Luke begins that book by saying:

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

Luke 1:1-4

So here we see that the author Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke as a careful, historic account of the life & ministry of Jesus Christ – written for sake of this fellow Theophilus – so that he could be certain of the truth he was taught!

Then after writing this first book, Luke went on to write a second book – again for this same fellow Theophilus as a continuation of that story. Take a look at the opening lines of the book of Acts. It begins like this:

 In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2  until the day he was taken up to heaven… Acts 1:1-2a

So just from those few opening words, we can see that the book of Acts is very clearly a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the story. And actually, even though the traditional title of the book is “The Acts of the Apostles” – it’s probably more accurate to call it “The continued Acts of Jesus” because it really is a continuation of all that Jesus began to do! 

While the stories in the book of Acts certainly feature several of the Apostles, Jesus is the one key figure throughout! It’s all about what Jesus continued to do and teach through the Apostles and through the early church!

So while the Gospels tell us what Jesus began to do and teach – the book of Acts tell us what Jesus continued to do and teach – primarily through the work of the Holy Spirit.

And even beyond the book of Acts, Jesus continues to “do and teach” through the Holy Spirit even today!

While Jesus may not be physically present among us as he was 2000 years ago, He is still very alive and is very much at work in and through our lives – and that’s really what the book of Acts is all about. It’s how Jesus continued to bring about the Kingdom of God – working through the Apostles and all those who would eventually trust in Christ – empowering them by His Holy Spirit – just like what He continues to do even today!

And I think that’s partly why I’m so excited to go through this book with you over the next few months! We might find it difficult to relate to the some of the Gospel stories because we don’t have a physical Jesus walking and talking with us – we can’t watch him walk on water or see him touch the eyes of a blind man. But yet, we can have the exact same experience as those early disciples in Acts! 

We can be filled with the Holy Spirit – empowered by God to boldly share about Christ and his kingdom! What Jesus did through those early disciples back then is exactly what he wants to do through us today!

So I’m totally excited to see what we can learn from this book over the next little while – and I trust that God will use this time to shape us and direct us and to show us how we can join Him in what he is already doing in our little town of Penhold!

Let’s begin.

Acts chapter 1, starting at verse 1:

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.    Acts 1:1-3

Let’s pause here for a minute. When you read through the resurrection story from the Gospel of Luke, you might conclude that Jesus rose from the grave, appeared to the disciples, and then ascended into heaven all on the same day. We read through Luke 24 on Easter Sunday, and that’s kinda how it all reads. But that account is really just concise summary of what happened over the course of several weeks.

We know that because here in Acts, Luke clarifies that there was 40 days between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension into heaven. And during that time, he appeared to the apostles several times and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive! It wasn’t just appearing to those guys on the road to Emmaus or to the disciples in the upper room. Jesus appeared to many different people at many different times.

In fact, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul states that Christ appeared to over 500 people during that time. He writes:

Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.

1 Corinthians 15:3b-8

The point that both Paul and Luke are making here, is that there were many witness who personally saw the resurrected Jesus over a period of many days! It was not just one or two people who imagined seeing Jesus or had a dream that He was alive. But rather, many people saw and talked with him on many occasions – and as Luke says, Jesus proved to them in many ways that He was actually alive!

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