Life in Christ

Life in Christ

Have you ever wondered about what connection exists between God sending his Son and God sending his Holy Spirit? Part of the mystery of our faith is that we believe in one God who eternally exists in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And though we’ve spoken often about God’s promise of Messiah, a title most of our English translations of the Bible render as “Christ”—hence to say “Jesus Christ” is simply another way of saying “Jesus Messiah”—it’s important that we not overlook the fact that not only was the sending of God’s Messiah in fulfillment of his promises in the Old Testament but the sending of God’s Holy Spirit, who fell upon his people at the Jewish festival of Pentecost, was equally in fulfillment of his promises in the Old Testament.

For the next month or so, between now and Pentecost Sunday on June 4th, we’re going to hopscotch out of sequence through parts of the book of Acts, a book that records the birth and spread of the church through the ministry of Jesus Christ’s apostles. Though the birth of the church occurs through Christ’s coming as those who acknowledged him as Lord and God were taught about their oneness in him, the birth of the church is powerfully established when, after ascending to heaven, Christ Jesus sends his Spirit to his followers that they might continue his ministry on earth. This morning and next Sunday we’ll consider portions of Peter’s Pentecost sermon and then return to the actual Pentecost event on June 4th, considering other parts of the book of Acts in between.

In this morning’s passage we find Peter explaining to the crowd the significance of the miraculous event that has just occurred. God’s Holy Spirit had just fallen upon his disciples, enabling them to speak in tongues—meaning here foreign languages, not the spiritual prayer language we saw in I Corinthians[1]—so that God-fearing Jews from all nations, who had gathered to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost, were able to understand the apostles’ words in their own languages. After this had taken place, and as people were trying to make sense of it all, as stated in the first half of verse 14, “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.” And after noting that the events that had just occurred were in fulfillment of the prophecy given by God through his prophet Joel, Peter went on to explain the significance of this event by connecting it not only to the life of Jesus Christ but also to King David from whose kingly line it had been prophesied that Messiah was to descend and, as Peter explained, had now descended through Messiah Jesus.

In verse 22 Peter testifies to Jesus’ identity through the lens of the events that took place in his life. “22 “Fellow Israelites,” he begins, “listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” So Peter notes here how the deeds performed by and through the man Jesus of Nazareth were all “accredited” by God, that is, God sanctioned these deeds as pointing to the fact that Jesus was indeed God’s promised Messiah. For Jesus did things no mere man could do. He performed miracles—he healed people, had power over the supernatural realm, had power over the natural realm, he multiplied fish and loaves, he turned water into wine. Jesus did things that violated the laws of nature and these deeds were done not in order to dazzle people as a magician’s slight of hand might, but that through these “wonders and signs” others might realize he was in fact not only Jesus, but also Christ, he was also Messiah, and consequently acknowledge him as Lord and follow him.

This is in keeping with how God worked many times in the Old Testament as, for example, the plagues that came upon Egypt pointed to the supremacy of God over other gods as he worked through Moses, his servant;[2] or how the contest Elijah set up with the false prophets and false god of Baal revealed who really was the one true God.[3] Recall as well that when John the Baptist was alive and facing his impending death, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus’ response? “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”[4] Jesus, knowing how grounded John was in Scripture, answered his question by showing how the deeds he had done were those prophesied by Isaiah about what God’s Messiah would do when he came. To quote Isaiah,[5]Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” And these are the miracles, these are the wonders and signs that Jesus did for he was God’s Messiah as evidenced not only by his words but also by his deeds. And as Peter notes, these miracles, these wonders and signs that God did among them through Jesus are ones about which they themselves know. The Israelites to whom he was speaking had either heard about or seen or personally witnessed them. Peter wasn’t making this up and his fellow Israelites knew this.

Having noted how Jesus’ identity was confirmed by his works, Peter next mentions his death in verse 23: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” As we keep observing time—and time—and time again, not only was Christ’s initial coming in accordance to the Scriptures, in fulfillment of what God had disclosed and which his prophets had proclaimed hundreds of year previous to Christ’s coming, but so, too, his death was according to “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” Though this plan was carried out by both Jews and Gentiles, as we noted on Good Friday, Jesus’ crucifixion, his being put to death by being nailed to a cross, was no surprise to God but was in fulfillment of what he had spoken through his prophets of what must take place so that in Christ’s death we who placed him on the cross might be provided an opportunity to receive eternal life by receiving him who took our punishment upon himself.

Next Peter turns to Christ Jesus’ resurrection in verse 24: “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” As we saw on Easter, death was the last foe Jesus Christ conquered. If the wages of sin is death—and he took upon himself those wages on Good Friday—then we must never forget that the gift God places before us is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.[6] And on that first Easter Sunday, by rising from the dead, he decisively demonstrated just how impossible it was for death to maintain its hold on him for he who was the resurrection and the life[7] rose from death never to die again. And he who is the way, the truth, and the life[8] now offers his life to any who believe in him thereby enabling them to conquer death even as he did.

Having noted how Jesus’ life indicated he was God’s promised Messiah, Peter next turns to the testimony of King David, his fellow Israelites’ most treasured king. Starting in verse 25 he quotes from one of David’s psalms, Psalm 16,[9] which states, “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Though this is a psalm, it also functions as prophecy. And as can be the case with prophecy, it has a double-fulfillment. Its words are fulfilled in a preliminary way in the life of David whose confidence and trust was in the LORD. But, as Peter goes on to state, this prophecy was also powerfully fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. Whereas David in the psalm rejoiced and received strength from knowing God was before him, David had died a thousand years or so earlier. As Peter affirms in verse 29, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.” Peter’s point, as it relates to the psalm, is that though the psalm states, “you will not let your holy one see decay,” having been dead these many years, David’s body had naturally decayed, even if his soul or spirit was with God as he awaited Christ’s coming.

But Peter goes on to acknowledge David not only as King but also as one of God’s prophets who, in the words of the psalm, “knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne,” verse 30. Peter then connects the dots from the words of David to the events in Jesus Christ’s life in verse 31: “Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.” Though Christ’s death was real, he wasn’t completely abandoned by God. And because he rose from the dead on the third day, not even his body—unlike David’s—had decayed. As Peter goes on to declare in verse 32, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.” So not only would those listening to Peter have been aware of the deeds—the miracles—Jesus had performed when he first came to earth as stated at the beginning of this passage, but they also would have known about the reality of his resurrection. As we also saw Paul testify to in I Corinthians 15 on Easter Sunday, among those to whom the risen Christ had appeared after he has risen from the grave were “more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living”[10] as well as Peter.[11]

So in these few verses Peter has addressed:

the Incarnation—Christ’s coming to earth and living and performing miracles;

his Crucifixion—Christ’s being put to death on a cross and thereby taking our sins and punishment upon himself on Good Friday;

and his Resurrection—Christ rising from death, thereby demonstrating that his sacrifice on behalf of those who receive and follow him had been accepted by God the Father;

And now Peter goes on to speak of Christ’s Ascension to heaven in verse 33: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” We have here a beautiful and mysterious expression of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together carrying out God’s promise to send his Spirit upon those who are his. After Christ ascended to heaven—which we’ll be considering in more detail on Ascension Sunday[12] a few weeks from now—he sent his Holy Spirit. And this sending of God’s Holy Spirit upon his people is what allows us, Christ Jesus’ family, to continue his work on earth as we rely upon this very Spirit for sustenance, strength, and guidance. So Jesus Christ’s ascending to the Father’s puts in motion another part of God’s plan, that of sending his Holy Spirit to his people that they might never again be alone, not in this life or the next.

Peter then returns to King David in verses 34 and 35 and notes that though he, unlike Jesus, didn’t ascend to heaven, in another psalm, Psalm 110, he nonetheless said, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” What is interesting about Peter’s use of this psalm is that it’s in keeping with the use that Jesus himself once made of it while addressing some of the religious leaders of his day. As Matthew recounts,

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ 45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.[13]

Jesus asked these religious leaders a good question, didn’t he? If the Messiah—if Jesus Messiah, Jesus Christ—is the son of David, then why in the world would David call his son, that is his descendant, “Lord”? Both Peter and Jesus are making the same point: A thousand years prior to Christ’s coming—to Messiah’s—coming to earth in the person of Jesus, David, through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration (in other words, Peter’s earlier comment was correct—David wasn’t simply a King but also a prophet)—David testified that the Messiah to come through his line would also be his Lord; would also be God in the flesh.

Peter again connects these dots in verse 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Despite the wicked actions of humans, God’s plan could not—and cannot ever be—thwarted. God will have his way no matter what humans or even spiritual adversaries may do. We often scratch our heads about the relationship between God’s will and our will, don’t we? Yet twice in our passage this morning, Peter has pointed out God’s providence—his rule in the world especially as it pertains to Jesus Messiah—working by means of human actions. Earlier Peter noted that on the one hand, Jesus being handed over to them was by way of “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” It was no accident. It was no surprise to God. Yet this was immediately followed by Peter stating how Jesus “with the help of wicked men” was put to death by them “by nailing him to the cross.”[14] Wicked men put Christ to death yet God worked through their wickedness to carry out his plan of salvation for humanity. And in verse 36 for the second time Peter affirms how though they had crucified Jesus, they could rest assured that God had worked through their wicked actions by means of crucifixion and death. And by raising Christ from the dead, God had appointed Christ Jesus as both Lord and Messiah, fully God and fully human.

Though we may ponder the mystery of how in the world’s God’s action can in any way be compatible with human action—even evil human actions—Scripture holds both to be true. We, as those who have been made in his image are accountable and responsible to him; yet even if we act in ways that go against God’s good will for his creation, his good will cannot be thwarted by even evil human intentions.

Isn’t this the real point, the bigger picture, in what Peter is preaching here? That it’s because we were dead in our sins—and that we are dead in our sins is evidenced by how oblivious people can be to God in their daily thoughts and deed—but it is because we were dead in our sins that our gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit set out a plan to address this oblivion and apathy and even hostility towards him. So he sent his Son, Messiah Jesus, who while on earth demonstrated by his words and deeds that he was God’s Messiah; that he was God’s Son; that he was God in the flesh; and therefore, as he told Philip, to see him was to see the Father for he and the Father are one.[15]

And not only did Messiah Jesus demonstrate by words and deeds that he was fully God, but as one who was also fully human, he offered his own life to take upon himself the penalty that we owed for our hardness and ignorance towards the God who made us in his image. And so on that first Good Friday, God’s innocent and holy and good Son willingly took our place, taking upon himself our guilt and indifference to God that our eyes might be opened and we might know and acknowledge not only our Creator but also realize that he, Jesus Christ, was the One who could also redeem us—who could purchase our sins and so provide us eternal life.

And on that first Easter Sunday, in rising from death God demonstrated that he had accepted the sacrifice of his Son on our behalf. And in allowing him to conquer death—to which sin had initially given rise—our heavenly Father indicated that his Son, who had died because of our sin and risen to give us life, would be the only means of our coming to him.

And after appearing to many over a 40-day period after his rising from death, Christ Jesus ascended to the Father, assuming his proper place as ruler and King at the Father’s right hand. But, he didn’t leave us alone. Whereas during the time of his incarnation, he had lived among us as one was fully God and fully human, having ascended back to heaven, he chose to allow us to experience life with God in an even more intimate manner by sending his Holy Spirit to seal us and dwell within us that those who accepted Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, might never be separated from him again.

And this is the connection between God sending his Son and God sending his Spirit. Both have been sent that we might never have to experience separation from the God who loves us so much that he died and rose for us that we, too, might conquer death and enjoy him not only know but forevermore.

Let us pray.



[1] I Corinthians 14, April 2, 2017 sermon, “Build Up Christ’s Church.”

[2] Exodus 7–11.

[3] I King 18:16–46.

[4] Luke 7:22b–23. Parallel in Matthew 11:4–6: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

[5] Isaiah 35:5–6.

[6] Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[7] John 11:25–26: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

[8] John 14:6: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

[9] Peter uses the LXX (Septuagint) translation. The Hebrew [MT—Masoretic Text] states: I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

[10] I Corinthians 15:6.

[11] I Corinthians 15:5.

[12] May 21, 2017.

[13] Matthew 22:41–45. Parallels in Mark 12:35–37: 35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ 37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight. Luke 20:41–44: 41 Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

[14] verse 23.

[15] John 14:6–14:Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

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