The Verdict ~ Acts 2: 22-41
Peter continues to address the crowd in Jerusalem – boldly (most churches today would kick Peter out for preaching too hard). Remember, the audience is mostly Jews from all over the Mediterranean (in town for the Pentecost festival). Many of these same Jews would have been in the city 50 days ago for Passover. It was this crowd that had yelled “Crucify Him” to Pontius Pilate, spat on Him, and cheered on His misery. They knew who Jesus was; they saw and heard His words.
Jesus was not the one on trial that day – it was Israel who was on the defense. Jesus had cross-examined His chosen people – and found them wanting. The innocent blood of Christ was now on their hands. Peter acts as the returning jury, and they hear the verdict. The verdict does not come from Peter, but from the Spirit of God prophesizing through Him.
Notice, Peter’s words are firmly grounded in the scripture (this is the evidence). He directly quotes (with utter confidence) or alludes to over ten different passages of scripture. This is not off-the-cuff prophecy/preaching without foundation – all prophecy (application) is rooted in the written word.
Hebrews 4: 12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates (cuts) even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Peter’s case comes down like a hammer on this crowd. “They were cut to the heart” (v.37). Not only did you kill the Messiah (prophesied by David) – but God has raised Him to life and put Jesus in ultimate authority. He sits on the heavenly throne – and all His enemies (cough…cough) will be put under His feet!
This was all according to God’s perfect plan – that cannot be thwarted or stopped no matter our attempts. Alluding to God’s sovereign hand in the life of Joseph when His brothers meant to murder him – God used it to bring life. Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
You intended to murder Jesus – cast Him off! BUT God intended to raise Him to life and use His death as THE MEANS of saving many lives! God fooled your plans and used them against your intentions. You will never get the best of God. Not only that – but like Joseph’s brothers – they will YET be offered mercy. God used your evil actions to save your own life!
Paul points out that God confounded the evil rulers of this world. 1 Corinthians 2:8, “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Now, you stand guilty against a sovereign God – for killing His anointed (Peter points to the words of David – even David condemns you)! What say you? What say you to the reigning, majestic, sovereign, almighty, eternal God? Do you understand the seriousness?
Imagine – if you will the throne of God before you – you hear the words of Peter – what is your defense? “Let me think about it – maybe when I’m ready – I didn’t do anything wrong – You’re awfully heavy-handed, God!” No – you fall flat on your face! It is fascinating to see what an incredible work of the Holy Spirit happened here. Peter offered absolutely no invitation, merely a declaration of truth, but the listeners themselves gave the invitation!
R.C. Sproul once wrote, “I get terrified when I listen to the jargon of Christians who say, “I asked Jesus into my heart, and I invited Him to be the Lord of my life.” What was He before that invitation?
Christianity can be a “religion” that has nothing to do with the truth content of the biblical message. The message is far more radical than this. Peter is saying that it is a matter of objective reality. God, who created heaven and earth, has made Christ the Lord of the universe. He rules; He does not wait for us to invite Him. He rules us whether or not we want Him to rule. We can be hostile to His reign; we can be renegades in His dominion; we may fight against His just empowerment as the King of kings and Lord of lords, but all that does not reduce Him to impotency. Our attempts to supplant Him as Lord are impotent because God has decreed His lordship.” (R.C. Sproul). The gospel message can only be understood in this reality. Jesus is King, whether you like it or not. You will answer to Him – you are guilty before Him.
This was the understanding of many in the crowd that day. Peter preached with conviction. The word of God pierced their souls – it melted their hearts. They were afraid – like passengers on a sinking ship. “Brothers, what do we do?” No argument. No debate. No dismissal. Pure conviction. Have you been here? I hope you have.
Our sin put Jesus on the cross. Our face is among the scoffers and mob. We are all in this crowd. We were all on trial before Christ. The message of Peter lands squarely on our laps to address. The judge has decreed you guilty. Guilty of idol worship, going through the motions, playing church (messing around with the temple), serving the culture, taking holiness lightly, making everything about us, our comfort, our convenience, bowing the knee to Caesar, being entirely self-absorbed, mismanaging our finances and our family.
We have beaten and robbed the messengers of God (Luke 20: 9-19). We have taken over the vineyard and put our name on everything. When God sent His son – what did we do? We murdered Him!
You may call yourself ‘the body of Christ,’ have you acted like it? Have we served as if there is a reigning, commanding, living Christ? Seated in heaven? You could be a churchgoer of 50 years and still be unsaved!
Jonathan Edwards levies the charge against the church today. Are we really living as born-again disciples? Have you been fooling yourself? Can you hear the words of Peter?
“What covetousness and gossip has been in many of you! Such has been your inordinate love of the world, and care about the things of it, that it has taken up your heart; you have allowed no room for God and holiness; you have minded the world more than your eternal salvation. For the vanities of the world, you have neglected reading, praying and meditation; for the things of the world, you have broken the sabbath: for the world, you have spent a great deal of your time in quarreling. For the world you have envied and hated your neighbor; for the world, you have cast God, and Christ, and heaven, behind your back; for the world, you have sold your own soul. You have as it were drowned your soul in worldly cares and desires; you have been a mere earthworm, that is never in its element but when groveling and buried in the earth. If God should for ever cast you off, it would be exactly agreeable to your treatment of Him!”
“Brothers, what must we do? - Repent and be baptized (washed)!” Do a 180 – turn around – be born again – be changed – radically. Come, prostrate yourself before the King of kings. Do not flee from the King of kings. There is nowhere you can go. God says that all at some point will bow down whether they want to or not, even if it means God has to break their knee (Psalm 2:9). That is far different from modern evangelism that issues an invitation to people. God does not invite people to come to Christ; He commands it. He requires it because He has put Christ at His right hand.
Not only has God commanded this – but for those who repent – God will pour out His Spirit on them! The judge will turn to you and say – your debt has been paid! Via the blood of Christ! He has paid your debt! You are free. In the Holy Spirit - hearts will be melted – and they will be given a new heart of flesh with God’s word written on it. This promise is for everyone! All who hear God’s voice!
This promise, this payment is not merely good enough for you – only offered to you – but for all whom the Lord is calling. Therefore, I plead with you as Peter did with the crowd that day. Repent and be washed! You are not promised tomorrow. Your coffin may already be in town! You won’t be taking anything from this world with you – therefore, cling to Christ!
This was the call of Hebrews 3: 12-15, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”