series

The Holy Spirit

In this series we are looking at the book of Acts

message

Acts 2:39: The wide extent of God's Mercy

By

Craig van Echten

on

August 29, 2018

Bible reading: Acts 2:39

Sometimes in life you have those moments when you say, “what have I done.” There is that sinking feeling that something has gone horribly wrong. For example, you invest your money into a company that goes belly up. And you wonder why on earth you put your money in such a risky venture. What have I done! You download a dodgy program and it crashes your computer. What on earth have I done! You lapse behind the steering wheel, and crash the car. What have I done!

 

In our text today we see the Jews, say something along those lines. But it wasn’t a risky investment, a dodgy program, or a lapse in concentration that they regretted. They regretted the rejection of Jesus and all the covenant promises.

But the wide extent of God’s mercy meant that they could repent and still share in all the blessings of Christ, the one they crucified.

What we are going to see this morning is the wide extent of God’s mercy means  that through repentance we, our children, and the people in our communities can enjoy all the benefits of the covenant.

 

The first thing we should notice is Pentecost is a fulfilment of God’s covenant promises.

I’ve got some Renuncula bulbs that will soon need planting. At the moment they are not much to look at. But over time they will grow, shoot out of the ground, and flower. The covenant God makes with His people is a bit like that. Over time it develops and grows until finally it flowers. The day of Pentecost is the flowering of many of God’s covenant promises.

When does this covenant begin? Where do we first sight the bulb of this covenant? Genesis 3:15. The language of covenant is not used. But, the concept is certainly there. After the fall, God calls out “Where are you?” And He graciously welcomes Adam and Eve into relationship with Himself. That’s why theologians refer to this as the covenant of grace. And as part of that covenant relationship, God promises to crush the seed of the serpent. So Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of the gospel. And first reference to the concept of covenant.

 

This covenant of grace flows all the way through the Bible. And it develops and evolves as time goes on. Under Abraham it becomes official. A sign of the covenant is given. And the children of believers are admitted into this covenant. The Mosaic covenant then adds a new dimension. Likewise, the Davidic covenant with its promise of a King to sit on the throne. And, the prophets add another dimension what is common the new covenant. And so even more promises are added, including the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

So, by the time of the first century God’s people wait in expectation for the fulfilment of the covenant of grace. They wonder when the promises will come to fruition. And no doubt they talk often with their children about the promises.

Now the day of Pentecost is the flowering of all these promises. Pentecost is the Apex of Christ’s work (beginning of course with His birth, death, resurrection and  ascension). On the day of Pentecost God pours out His Holy Spirit. Some in the crowd wonder about these events. Other mock, and pass them off as being drunk.

 

So then Peter gets up to preach. And in a nutshell his message is ‘this is that.’ He begins by quoting the prophet Joel. And he basically said, what is happening is what was promised. This is that! And his sermon continues in the same vein. The crucified Jesus is the promised Messiah. The risen Christ is the promised One of Psalm 16. The ascended Lord is the promised One of Psalm 110. And he is pouring out the Spirit. ‘This is that’ In verse 36 we read, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucifed.”

 

Now this is when His audience gets that sinking feeling. What have we done? No wonder verse 37 says, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart.” How would you feel? Not only did they get it all wrong about Jesus. They crucified Him! Is there any greater crime that could be committed? They have the blood of the ‘Son of God’ on their hands.

And so they come under great conviction. By the way notice the means by which they come under conviction. Nothing less than the Word of God. The Word of God has the power to save sinners. The Word of God is the  means of bringing our children to faith. Through the word of God they come under conviction.

But there is hope. It’s not too late for repentance and faith, which we will look at in a moment. Peter holds before them the wide extent of God’s mercy.

 

The second thing we should notice is the wide extent of God’s mercy. What would you do if someone killed your son or daughter? So why should God receive such a people back to Himself? Why should those who yelled out ‘crucify him’ share in the blessings? So how is God supposed to respond? He is just afterall. His amazing response is mercy. We see the wide extent of His mercy on full display. We introduced again to the God who doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve.

 

We read in verse 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” There’s still a chance to share in all the covenant blessings. The word ‘promise’ could refer to a particular blessing of the covenant, like the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. But, it could also refer to the whole box and dice of the covenant. Either way, the point is the same. There is still a chance to share in covenant blessings.

Peter identifies three groups that are able to share in these blessings. Interestingly, the three groups correspond to Genesis 17. Genesis 17 mentions believers, their children, and the nations. Let’s have a look at these three groups in detail.

 

a. The promise remains for the Jews. Those in the audience were of course Jews. And despite what they did, Peter now holds out the promise to them. Can you imagine their relief, joy, thankfulness? You drop a glass on the floor and it doesn’t break. How good is that! How much more their relief to know God will accept them back! Today there are estimated 6.5 million Jews in Israel. The total number around the world is estimated to be 15million. For nearly 2000y the Jews have been rejecting the Messiah. But God still holds out the possibility of sharing in the covenant blessings.

 

b. The promise also remains for their children. It would be nice if this verse was a little more explicit. Is this the children of future generations? Is it the children of repentant parents? Is it children like William? I think it’s clear it’s children like William.

Why? Peter here is talking about wide extent of God’s mercy. This is no time for pouring cold water on things. Along with their parents the children have always shared in promises of the covenant. And so Pentecost, the Apex of Christ’s work, is for them! It would be a travesty if it wasn’t. Afterall, this new covenant experience is richer and greater in every way. How could the children miss out?

Put it this way, imagine your company gave your family a company car to use. Imagine it’s a Honda civic. It’s not great, but it’s free and the family gets around. Imagine the company now upgrades you to a Ferrari. But, there are no seats in it for your children. And you don’t have any other car. And you don’t have electric bikes! The new car wouldn’t seem so great. Likewise, the new covenant is a huge upgrade, and if it only had two seats it wouldn’t seem so great.

Why does Peter mention children? Put yourselves in the shoes of the mums and dads standing in the crowd. This is a critical question on their minds. And so Peter puts them at ease by clarifying their status. Just as children of believers were part of the church, assembly in the O.T. so they are part of the church in the N.T. Jesus welcomes the little children. Jesus loves William this I know for the Bible tells me so. Acts 2:39 is part of that broader biblical story.

 

c. The promise is to those “who are far off.Who is he speaking about? Ephesians 2:13 uses the same language when it says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” In context, those who are far off, are the Gentiles. On the day of Pentecost people heard the mighty acts of God in a whole variety of languages (2:1-13). Why not just in the one local language? Because God’s mercy has extended to the nations. God’s mercy has extended to us!

We are part of a sinful and rebellious humanity. What right do we have to claim the blessings of the covenant? In fact, we have blood on our hands too. There’s a song we sing on Good Friday. The song goes “It is my treason, Lord, that has undone You. Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied You; I crucified You.” Do you know that Jesus didn’t have to die if we didn’t sin. So in an indirect way our sin has contributed to His wounds. And yet we can share in the promise too! Not only that, here the intent of the Great commission is signalled, namely world evangelism. Here too, we see how the gospel has the power to break barriers of race, language, and colour. It signals the end of racism and more.

 

So how do we share in all the blessings of Christ?

Finally, we are urgently called to repent.

Notice what is not said in verse 38. Peter doesn’t say, ‘be a better Christian’ and then the promise is yours. He doesn’t give a list of good deeds to tick off. He doesn’t put the churches BSB & ACC number so you can make a donation. He doesn’t even ask the question, ‘make sure you are a Christian’ which too many claim without warrant. He doesn’t encourage church attendance at this point.

 

He calls for urgent repentance. What does it mean to repent? Essentially repentance means to turn around. To change direction. And this affects our whole person. Our mind, our will, and our emotions. You’ve seen those road signs with ‘U’ turn haven’t you? Repentance is one big ‘U’ turn.

One big ‘U’ turn from a lifestyle of sin to Jesus at the beginning of the Christian life. And then lots more ‘u’ turns after that. As we deal with ongoing sin. Without this repentance we are stuck on the highway to hell. Repentance then is the off ramp to sharing in all the covenant blessings.

 

So Peter urges repentance. This morning I also urge repentance. You maybe a moral person, but have you repented of your sins? You maybe attending church, but have you and are you repenting of your sins? Come and find forgiveness, peace, hope and joy in Christ Jesus the Saviour.

 

And I want to encourage our children to repent too. Our children, although baptized, need to repent and believe in Christ. Their baptism is not a sign of faith, but a sign to faith. Baptism is like handing them a cheque. The cheque is not money, but it needs to be cashed. God lays upon our children all the covenant promises, but they need to embrace those promises. They need to cash the cheque. If they rip up the cheque, like Esau did, the fault does not lie in the promises, but in the individual who didn’t embrace them by faith.

 

So I need to address our children who have been baptized. What are you doing with God’s promises? A Christian home cannot save you. Going to church cannot save you. Your baptism cannot save you. You need to repent and believe in Christ.

To anyone here this morning who hasn’t repented, may I say one more thing. Don’t leave it too late. The Apostle Peter is urgent. Why? Earlier he mentions something you need to know. “And in these last days” (v17) We are in the last days. There is only one more event left to complete God’s promises. The second coming. That could be years away, it could be tomorrow. Be ready to meet your Maker by repenting today.

 

Conclusion

So in conclusion, the day of Pentecost was pivotal. It is the apex to the death, resurrection and ascension. It is the fulfilment of many of God’s promises. And because of His mercy people are still called to share in these blessings. So repent. The worst sinking feeling would be for Jesus to return, and for you not to have repented. If you have repented, thank God for His grace to you who were far off, but have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

 

Amen

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