*NOTE*

On October 1st, 2023, we will be joining our brothers & sisters at True Vine Ministries for Sunday morning worship. The service begins at 10:30am, and the address is 3701 N Spencer Rd, Spencer, OK 73084.

No Other Name

August 13, 2023 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Crosstown Basics

Scripture: Acts 2:22– 4:31

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him, “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The mission of Crosstown Church is to make disciples of Jesus by exposing people to credible gospel community. Every year since 2013 we’ve done a short series called Crosstown Basics to help keep before us what we consider to be the three essential ingredients to fulfilling our mission. It is our conviction that disciples of Jesus are made by the gospel, in community, and on mission.

‌Gospel, community, mission. These are the three essential ingredients to disciple-making. We must proclaim the gospel. We must live in gospel community. And we must be on gospel mission if we want to be disciples of Jesus and if we want to make disciples of Jesus. Today, and the next two weeks, we’ll be considering these three ingredients once more.

So, today: the gospel. Every membership interview we’ve conducted for this church begins by asking the candidate to answer the question, “What is the gospel?” How should we answer that question? One author suggests that we look “at what the earliest Christians said about Jesus and the significance of his life, death, and resurrection.”[1] Yes, let’s do that, though I would add we need to include the significance of Jesus’s ascension as well. So, let’s look at three chapters here in the book of Acts (Acts 2–4) which report events immediately following the ascension of Jesus to heaven. What we’ll see is that the gospel is a claim about reality that creates real-life opportunities and also generates quite a bit of hostility.

Gospel Reality

We begin with gospel reality. Let’s get this straight: The message we proclaim as Christians is about reality. It’s about how things truly are, because it is about real-life events and their significance. The gospel we preach needs to be true-to-life because it is a claim about how the world truly is.

Here in Acts 2 we read about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first group of Jesus followers, numbering 120. They all “began to speak in other tongues” (v. 4) proclaiming “the mighty works of God” (v. 11). It was a very public event, drawing the attention of a crowd who want to know, as verse 12 says, “What does this mean?” Beginning in verse 14, Peter sets out to give the answer.

The Death of the King

Down in verses 22-23, Peter gives this explanation for what is happening:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

He begins with the bare facts of history, facts that are not really contested by serious historians to this day. Jesus of Nazareth was a man who lived an extraordinary life, doing some extraordinary things that caught the attention of his fellow Jews in the first century. Even as the rumors started swirling—could this be the Messiah?—his life was cut short as the Jewish authorities succeeded in having him crucified and killed.

But Peter’s argument is that this apparent tragedy, the death of the would-be king and lord, was all “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” What? God planned the death of the king? Why would he do that?

Raised to Reign

In verses 24-36, Peter declares of Jesus that “God raised him up.” He does not linger here to try to prove that claim. He knows his audience. He’s speaking to Jews who simply could not comprehend the possibility that the one they were looking for, the one who would lead them out of exile and to the long-awaited Jewish hope, could have had his life cut short, and by his own people, too!

So, Peter appeals to their sacred text. He reminds them of what David said in Psalm 16 when he spoke of God’s “Holy One” whom God would “not abandon . . . to Hades” or allow to “see corruption.” His argument is that, in fact, the one they ought to be looking for was not one who would not die in failure but rather one who would be raised from the dead as in victory.

‌Peter points to David’s tomb and says, “Well, clearly David was not prophesying here about himself, but of some future descendant who would sit on his royal throne.” And now the facts of history have made it plain who David was talking about. The prophecy has been fulfilled! David was prophesying “about the resurrection of the Christ” (v. 31), “this Jesus” whom “God raised up.”

‌Notice in verse 33 that Peter quickly associates the resurrection of Jesus with his subsequent ascension. God has exalted Jesus to his right hand. He has given to Jesus the promise of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus has poured out his Holy Spirit right here in front of everyone, for all to see (v. 33). Peter then cites from Psalm 110 to demonstrate that God’s plan all along, precisely in the death of Jesus, was to raise him from the dead and exalt him to his right hand. That’s royal language. The ascension of Jesus refers not to some geographical journey from earth to heaven. It refers to the significant act of taking one’s place on a throne. Get this now: The ascension of Jesus means that there is now a human being, with a real human body, sitting on heaven’s throne.

‌So, then comes this pronouncement, in verse 36. “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

There it is. One of the great gospel summaries taken right from the Bible itself. Like all summaries, it does not say everything that needs to be said. But this clearly is an important point that is often left unsaid. Given the realities of what has just happened to Jesus in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, “Jesus is Lord” is an accurate and meaningful summary of the gospel.[2]

What Shall We Do?

It is also something that demands a response. Look at verse 37.

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

‌Peter has just said that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. “Jesus is Lord” is utterly bad news if you are his enemy, if your response to him is, “Crucify him.” Things don’t usually go well for the enemies of the victor.

‌But Peter has good news to proclaim to the enemies of the true Lord. Look at verse 38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” You see, if Jesus is Lord, this is inherently good news because it means that Caesar is not Lord. All the Caesars of the world, once they’ve gained power, will crush those who oppose them. But this Lord has compassion for his enemies. He is full of pity, love, and forgiveness.

‌So, the gospel message, “Jesus is Lord,” comes with the open invitation to lay down your weapons of resistance against him and trust in him. To be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” means to publicly profess that one is in agreement with the gospel summary and is now being marked as one of Christ’s converts and rejecting all other would-be lords.[3]

And the amazing thing is that if anyone will do so, this Lord does not merely spare your life, allowing you to live in his kingdom though only with suspicion and slavery to keep you from planning some later revolt. He turns you into a citizen of his kingdom.

Peter says, “repent and be baptized.” What he does not say next is, “Then you know for sure when you die you will go to heaven.” What he says is, “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The gospel message is very much about the generous offer of the Lord Jesus to not only put away your guilt for rebelling against him but also to gift you the Holy Spirit for advancing his kingdom causes. Right now. In your everyday life. As a citizen of his victorious and everlasting kingdom.

Gospel Opportunity

You see, the gospel message (Jesus is Lord) comes to us with a sense of urgency, but not necessarily for the reasons we usually give. If Jesus is Lord, and if you are invited to get in on his kingdom, then there is an enormous opportunity before us. There is real meaning and purpose and significance to your life as a disciple of the king and as a citizen of his kingdom.

The Age of Fulfillment

So, when the people ask the question, “What does this mean?” in verse 12, and when other people say, in verse 13, “It doesn’t mean a thing. These people are just being silly. They’re probably drunk. Move along. Nothing to see here,” Peter’s answer, in verses 14-21, calls attention to what time it is. “These people are not drunk,” he said in verse 15. “It is only 9:00 in the morning.” Some spirit other than alcohol is at work here.

In verses 14-21, Peter details how this is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, a sign of the arrival of “the last days” when God would do something dramatic and new: he would pour out his Spirit on all his people, sons and daughters, old and young alike, male and female (vv. 17-18). The results would be earth-shattering, to use a modern apocalyptic expression, just as Peter cites Joel’s prophetic one in verses 19-20. And, on that day, the prophecy declared, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v. 21).

‌Here, then, is a point that we ought to make as we seek to understand the gospel from the perspective of what the earliest Christians had to say about it. The gospel message is about something wonderful and dramatic that is already in progress, not about something that has not yet happened. Not that there is nothing to say about what is yet to come, but if the gospel we preach is mainly about what is yet to come rather than what has already come, we need to be corrected. We get enamored with Bible prophecies we assume are yet to be fulfilled when, it seems, the earliest Christians were enamored with what they were convinced were Bible prophecies that had just now come to pass.

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 6, says this, “Behold, now is the favorable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). Because “Jesus is Lord,” we are now living in the long-awaited days of fulfillment. The Holy Spirit being given to all of God’s people makes that point very clear.

The Attractive Community

Baptism is the sign of one’s entry into a lifetime of kingdom service for the world’s only Lord. All who enter into this kingdom through faith in Christ are given the gift of the Holy Spirit for empowering their service for Christ and his kingdom. That means that when we become Christians, we should be saying, “What now?” What does the Lord Jesus want me to do as a citizen of his kingdom? The answer is most certainly not, “Well, just sit tight and wait until you die and go to heaven.” No way! You and the life the Lord has given you is much more important than that.

In our text, the next thing we are told is that “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (v. 41). And then, verses 42-47 give us a picture of life for these earliest Christians in the gospel community. We’ll talk more about the importance of gospel community next week, but here notice that the Holy Spirit, given to every one of these Christian converts, was active among them. All kinds of things were happening, but the result was a positive impact upon the world around them. Verse 47 says these Christians were “praising God and having favor with all the people.” Ben Witherington comments:

‌These early Christians were characterized by having glad and sincere hearts that prompted praise of God, and goodwill among the local Jews in general. The result was that daily God added those who were being saved to this community. Its presence and witness were infectious.[4]

What might have gone wrong with the church if we are not seeing similar results, if the world around us sees us more as a blight on the community than a benevolent presence, and if the last thing anyone wanted to do was come join this kingdom community?

‌I want to suggest that, if we have not bought into the gospel as the good news of the kingdom of God that has already come in Jesus, and that by “kingdom” we mean in fact Jesus’s rule over every square inch of God’s creation, then it should not surprise us if the gospel we preach is no longer compelling to the unconvinced around us. If our gospel message is primarily about what is yet to come, it will not be true-to-life and it will be hard for most people to find much interest in.‌

Let me be more blunt. If our gospel message is primarily news about how one can go to heaven when they die, and, of course, thereby ensuring that they do not perish in hell instead, then should we be surprised if most people do not find this message compelling? However true it may be that one’s ultimate destiny after they die could not be less important than anything else for them, the fact is that our present reality of life has almost all our attention. Most people do not spend their days thinking about what might happen to them when they die, not when they must spend their days thinking about what is happening now while they are alive.‌

What if that's the way it is supposed to be after all? What if that is actually what God wants them to be thinking about?

Greater Works

As we come to chapter 3, we read about an encounter that Peter and John had with a “man lame from birth” at the temple (v. 2). He was there to panhandle. Don’t look down your nose at him. You would, too, if you were unable to make your living any other way.‌

But when he asked Peter and John for a donation, Peter’s response is this:‚Äč

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. (Acts 3:6-7)

‌I wonder how Peter had the courage, had the confidence to do this miracle? I’m guessing the answer is, at least in part, because he understood what time it was. And he remembered that Jesus promised that they would do “greater works” than even Jesus himself had done, not because they were greater workers than Jesus but because Jesus was going to ascend to the right hand of the Father (Jn 14:12). And when that happens, Jesus promised, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (Jn 14:13).

So, what about us, brothers and sisters? You want to participate in this promise? You want to do these “greater works” for the kingdom of God?

Well, you can. But the important point here, the one that is emphasized in our passage this morning, is not the thing itself. Don’t get your eyes on miracles, signs, and wonders.

It’s all about the name. Peter would remind us, here in Acts 3:16, that “his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong.”

So, set aside “miracles” for the moment. Even a cup of cold water given to another in the name will do the job that Jesus wants done in his kingdom (Matt 10:40-42). How much more the work you do in your vocation day by day, were you to do it now in his name?

Gospel Hostility

This is the work, in fact, that has transformed the world. A little historical reflection bears this out, by the way. The world we see today has indeed been transformed for the better by the reality of Jesus and the power of his Spirit at work in his disciples for over two millennia now.[5]

But I cannot get into any of that survey now. Anyone can see that there are still problems to solve, still work that must be done in the world. And it’s not going to be a breeze. The gospel always stirs up hostility. And we need to be prepared for that, too.

Proclaiming the Good News While We Work

The work that Peter and John did in chapter 3, healing this lame man in Jesus’s name, caught people’s attention. Of course it did. Work done in the name of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit of Jesus, will not go ignored forever.

In verse 11, the crowd begins to gather around them, and just like he did in the previous chapter, Peter begins to explain. “Men of Israel,” he begins in Acts 3:12, the same way he did in Acts 2:22. And once more he takes the opportunity to make plain the gospel reality. Don’t look at us, he says, as though there is something special about us. It’s all because of Jesus. Look at verse 16. “And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong.”

This is how we ought to work, how we ought to live our lives as citizens of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Labor in his name, by the power of his Spirit, and sooner or later, people will start to notice. You will stand out, even if only because you seem to be the only one in the office who displays love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness and gentleness—with some self control as well.

Just remember, when this happens, it is your opportunity to say: “Why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have [done this]?” (Acts 3:12). And then tell them by whose power and in whose name you have done your job, and invite them to join you as citizens of the kingdom of Jesus.

Expecting Opposition

Oh, and then don’t be surprised when you face hostility for the name. Don’t be surprised when you find plenty who are—in the words found in Acts 4:2—greatly annoyed because you are talking about Jesus and the realities of his resurrection from the dead. Expect it. Expect that someone’s going to get annoyed if you keep talking about Jesus.

And don’t be deterred if annoyance turns to aggression, either. Yes, don’t be annoying for annoyance’s sake. It’s no virtue to annoy people for any reason. But like Peter and John, who got arrested and put on trial, the powers that be will have no problem if you take credit for the work you do in God’s kingdom. But when you insist, as Peter and John do in Acts 4:12, that “there is no other name” but Jesus, it won’t always be well received.

Praying for Boldness

Hostility to the gospel will aim at one thing: to diminish your boldness for the name, the name of Jesus. See Acts 4:18? Just don’t “speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” That will be the sign of hostility. Keep on doing what you’re doing, but please, just don’t say that name!

What shall we do then? We cannot be silent. Not if we are citizens of the kingdom of God through the one and only Name.

So, we must learn to pray. We must learn the prayer of Acts 4:29-30. Let’s pray it now.

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Amen.

_____

[1] Greg Gilbert, What Is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 27.

[2] Contra ibid., 104-105.

[3] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Logos Bible Software electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), n.p.

[4] Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 163.

[5] For plenty of examples and historical documentation, see, for example, Tom Holland, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (New York: Basic Books, 2021).

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