Church: What message started and sustains the Christian Church?
The New Testament church was birthed with Peter’s preaching of the gospel in Acts 2. This gospel is the means by which God’s power is exercised both for and through the church. The gospel pattern of Acts 2, as well as of other Scriptures, breaks down into three aspects: (1) revelation, or what God did; (2) response, or what we do; and (3) results, or what God gives.1
Revelation: What God Did
Peter begins by affirming that Jesus fulfills the promises of a divine Messiah, God come among us, with miracles, signs, and wonders (v. 22). Next, Peter declares that Jesus died on the cross according to God’s prophetic purpose (v. 23). Then he proceeds to emphasize the reality that God bodily raised Jesus from death in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (vv. 24–32). Peter concludes with the final acts of God exalting Jesus to the right hand of the Father and pouring out the Spirit in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (vv. 33–35).
Response: What We Do
The first thing we are to do in response to God’s revelation is repent (vv. 36–38). Repentance is the Spirit-empowered acknowledgment of sin that results in a change of mind about who and what is lord in our life, what is important, and what is good and bad.2 This is followed by a change of behavior flowing out of an internal change of values. The second response is to accept the revealed message about Jesus by Spirit-empowered faith (v. 41). Faith means taking God at his word and trusting our life and eternity to the truth of his revelation. All of this is seen in the act of baptism, which is the visible expression of our connection with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus through repentance and faith (vv. 38, 41).
Results: What God Gives
Peter immediately announces the gift of forgiveness of our sins, which is the result of the propitiatory death of Jesus (v. 38). This gift flows into justification, or the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Peter goes on to the second gift: the Holy Spirit and the new heart and new life of Christ (v. 38). This regeneration, or the imparted righteousness of Jesus, is for living a new life as a Christian with, like, for, to, and by the living Jesus. The third gift is membership in the body of Christ, the new community of the Spirit called the church. This community is a supernatural community where God’s power and generosity are seen from miracles and supernatural signs to the sharing of possessions among the community members and giving to all in need (vv. 41–47). The fourth gift is participation in the mission of the church to join God’s mission to rescue the world from sin and condemnation through the gospel (v. 47).
Tragically, many Christians have lost the understanding of the new life of the Spirit. They do not preach or live the regeneration new life of believers in Christ.
Rather than living out a joy-filled life flowing from their deepest desire to be like Jesus, they settle for being sinners saved by grace, obligated to do all they can to keep the law of God by duty rather than by delight.
Subsequently, they have not fully enjoyed the double gift of imputed righteousness, which accompanies our justification,4 and the imparted righteousness of the indwelling Spirit, which accompanies our new heart and regeneration.5
On the cross God did a work for us by saving us through the death of Jesus in our place for our sins; with his resurrection he conquered death, bringing us the power of his life.6 We then see at Pentecost that God does a work in us through the Holy Spirit in our hearts for regeneration. Together, both our eternity and every step along the way can be filled with hope, joy, purpose, and passion if we see the relationship between the cross and Pentecost. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the heart is the source of the Christian life and Christian church and the powerful result of the gospel doing its redemptive work.
What top three changes have you seen in your life by the power of the Holy Spirit?
1These three organizational points are adapted from Steve Walker, pastor of Redeemer’s Fellowship, Roseburg, OR. The same basic outline can be seen in Luke 24:46–47; Acts 10:39–43; 13:26–39; Rom. 4:22–25; and 1 Cor. 15:1–8.