New Life in Christ

As the crowd gathered in response to the sound of the wind and the tongues of fire on Pentecost, Peter preached a powerful sermon, convicting of the sin of putting the Messiah to death, but also affirming that God had raised him. The response to the message, as you see in Acts 2:36-47, is a call to respond to the summons God extends, and the example of new life in Christ, lived in fellowship with God and his people.

Respond to God’s summons. Peter’s convicting message, concluding with the proclamation that God had made this Jesus both Lord and Christ, brought the cry, “What shall we do?” Peter tells you to repent. It is a call to the nations to repent as the blessing of the Holy Spirit extends beyond Israel. The command grows out of a conviction of sin, v. 37. Repentance no only marks conversion, but also characterizes the entire Christian life this side of heaven. The kingdom belongs to those who have turned (and continue to turn) from sin to Christ. Peter’s command in his Pentecost sermon echoes through the years to your ears as well.

Be baptized! Repeatedly in Acts conversion is indicated by baptism. Note the difference in emphasis from the individualism of much contemporary evangelism. Coming to Christ also implies an involvement with his church. Baptism is a sign of separation from sin and cleansing from its guilt. Water is the substance that is used in baptism. It seals your union with Christ, Romans 6. It marks you as belonging to your Lord. John Murray writes, “. . . baptism signifies union with Christ in the virtue of his death and the power of his resurrection, purification from the defilement of sin by the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, and purification from the guilt of sin by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. The emphasis must be placed, however, upon union with Christ.” (Christian Baptism, p. 8).

Respond because God’s covenant promise is yours. God’s promise still stands, v. 39. The phrase “the promise” was a familiar one to the Israelites gathered for the feast, one that needed no elaborate identification. What promise would come to the mind of a godly Israelite? The basic covenant promise, “to be your God and the God of your descendants after you,” Genesis 17:7. Just as there had been an emphasis in Nehemiah’s day to enroll those who were God’s covenant people, so the count is maintained of those who are marked with the sign of the new covenant.

What does life in the new covenant community look like? Live in fellowship with God and with his people.

Live in fellowship with the Lord. You, made in his image, are created with a need for fellowship. TSin broke that fellowship, Genesis 3, both between God and man and between men. It takes the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman restores fellowship between man and God.

The way the early church lives with one another flows out of the way they live with the Lord. Central, foundational, is continuing in the teaching and fellowship of the Apostles. Christ continues to build his church through his Word, by his Spirit. Along with the primary means of grace come the sacraments (vv. 41 and 42) and prayer. The ascended Lord does extraordinary things through the ordinary means of grace. Notice that isn’t just the apostles, nor even the 120 of Acts 1:15, but the three thousand who had been baptized into the body of Christ on Pentecost Sunday.

Live in fellowship with God’s people. Open your lives to the body of Christ. Some aspects of the life of the Jerusalem church seem to be unique to that situation (there is no indication of believers in other churches selling everything and having everything in common–although the selfless generosity at work here is evident elsewhere). Recognize that because you belong to the same Savior, you belong to one another as well. Grasp the concern for one another, for meeting needs, whether it is here in Acts 2, or a few years later, the daughter churches sending gifts for famine-stricken saints in Jerusalem and Judea. Appreciate the warm note of fellowship, of connection, reflected in New Testament letters. “To be sure, converting one’s personal possessions into common property, held in partnership with other believers, was not a requirement for entrance into Jesus’ holy community. But Luke’s definition of fellowship challenges our attitude toward, and use of, private property. On tangible example of the Spirit’s renewal in the early Christians was their attitude of partnership, their bias toward sharing with needy Christians.” (Dennis E. Johnson, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, p. 77).

Open the doors of your homes, for the sake of your Lord. The church in Acts showed a commitment to the Lord and a concern for one another. That took the practical form of hospitality together, v. 46. Apparently this eating together from house to house is not the public worship nor the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Rather, it is fellowship, including meals, together. Notice subsequent encouragements to hospitality, especially Hebrews 13:1-2. Jesus in Matthew 25 views the way you treat your brother as doing it to him.

God is the one who adds to the church, v. 47. But he also uses the means of his people living in fellowship with him and with one another to build his church.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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