The Spirit as Proof & Blessing of Jesus' Lordship
Passage: Acts 2:22–36
Peter is still interpreting Pentecost through the lens of the Old Testament.[i] It lines up with Jesus’ own teaching back in Luke 24:44, “that everything written about [Jesus] in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” And here we have it: Peter has already used the Prophet Joel; now he turns to the Psalms just as Jesus taught him. Let’s hear what God says through Peter, and still says to us. Verse 22…
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—23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29Brothers, 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. 30Being 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, 31he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33Being 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. 34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
I want you first to understand why Peter is saying what he’s saying. Why listen to this word? What’s it got to do with you and me? Peter is saying these things, because he wants people to have the Holy Spirit. He’s not just saying, “This is what’s going on over there with the foreign tongues and the Spirit coming and so forth.” He’s saying, “Here’s how you can have the Spirit too!”
Look at verses 38-39: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That’s where he’s heading—“You will receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit, if you chuck you’re old way of living and identify yourself with Jesus.”
What’s wrong with my old way of living, someone might ask? Well, it’s crooked! Peter says that much in verse 40: “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” “This crooked generation” means people opposed to Christ, outside the kingdom, and off to judgment.[ii] We’re part of a crooked generation by nature. We’re born with it (cf. Rom 5; Eph 2:1-3). We’re morally warped. Our desires aren’t straight; they’re out of whack and not level with God’s law. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness that comes from the Spirit applying Jesus’ death to us.
Proving that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord
But you can’t have the Spirit unless you call upon the name of the Lord. Look back at verse 21: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Any Jew hearing Peter quote from the prophet Joel knows he has Yahweh in mind. “Everyone who calls upon the name of [Yahweh] shall be saved.” Yahweh is Lord in Joel 2:32. But by the end of verse 36, who is Peter calling Lord? Look at it, verse 36: “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” What’s happening between the Lord of verse 21 and the Lord of verse 36? Peter identifies him as Jesus of Nazareth.
This is highly offensive. Peter is preaching to religious people. They’re celebrating Pentecost. They journeyed to Jerusalem from all over the map—these are devout Jews (Acts 2:5). They’re all hanging out around the temple. They all think they know Yahweh. And Peter stands up: “You’re all crooked, and you can’t have the promises unless you confess that Jesus of Nazareth is Yahweh, Lord!” Religious people who claim to know God still need Jesus to be saved. You don’t embrace Jesus as Lord, you don’t know God.
Our passage today answers the lingering question of verse 21: who is this Lord on whom I must call in order to be saved and receive the gift of the Spirit? Peter’s answer is Jesus of Nazareth. He develops his argument through four steps.
1. God Attested to Jesus
Number one: God attested to Jesus. That’s the first reason we know that he is Lord. Verse 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.” My dad has a reputation of being quite the handyman. He can fix just about anything. People see his works, and they’re able to identify things about my dad’s character. He is a man of integrity and skill; he is dependable. God gave Jesus works for the same purpose, to reveal something unique about Jesus.
Jesus had works that “no one else did”—John 15:26. The works revealed something especially unique about Jesus. He was a man for sure, but he was more than a man. His works reveal that he is God’s Son. He performs them as God’s Son. They are works given to him by the Father. He told people that, so that everybody knew that when he acts, the Father is acting in him.[iii] His works revealed he is God’s Son.
They also revealed that he is God’s Messiah, the anointed Savior. The Scriptures reserved certain works for God’s coming Messiah: the messiah would bring the sweet wine of God’s kingdom; Jesus changes the water into wine at Cana.[iv] The Messiah would cause the lame to leap like the dear, the blind to see, and the earth to rest from sickness and sin.[v] Jesus heals the official’s son, heals the thirty-eight year old invalid man on the Sabbath, heals the blind man. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” they say. And Jesus responds, “That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…pick up your bed and go home,” Mr. Paralytic (Mark 2:10-11).
The works reveal something about Jesus publicly. He wasn’t doing this behind closed doors. Everybody saw it. It couldn’t be denied. The Scriptures were testifying and God was testifying that Jesus was more than a man, he was God the Son in the flesh and God’s Messiah. Or let’s put it like Peter does: he is both Lord and Christ
2. God Delivered Up Jesus
Number two: God delivered up Jesus. End of verse 23 says, “you crucified [Jesus] and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Peter is right: humans are morally crooked. God can perform everything right before our very eyes—this is what happened in Jesus’ earthly ministry: God is on earth in the man, Jesus; just look at his mighty works and signs. And we suppress the truth about him and finagle the justice system until he’s dead. That’s how crooked humans are apart from grace. We will call evil good and good evil to get what we want when we want it, and nobody better get in the way or they’re dead. Crookedness crucifies Christ.
But, notice what the beginning of verse 23 says: “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Ultimately, God delivered Jesus up. Isaiah 53:10 says, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him.” I read that passage with my kids one night. And my little Anna looks up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “What? That’s not right. God is loving. He can’t do that to Jesus.” I said, “I understand your question, but that’s how we know God is loving toward us. He gave up his only Son for our sake. He planned to save us by crushing him in our place. He didn’t give us left overs; he handed over his most precious possession.”
The crucifixion of God’s Son was not an accident of history; it was God’s design. That doesn’t mean God is sinful. We know from other places in Scripture that God cannot be tempted with evil (Jas 1:13). It also doesn’t mean that the Jews and these lawless Gentiles are not responsible. They very much are, and Peter tells them to repent in verse 38. God is able to ordain evil through human acts and not be blamed for the evil.
The point is that Jesus isn’t suffering as a helpless victim; he’s willingly fulfilling the Father’s plan to save us. The cross is first and foremost God’s design, God’s doing, God’s deliverance, God’s demonstration of love (1 John 4:10).
How does this serve Peter’s argument? It does so by showing that Jesus is the Messiah who was to suffer just as God planned in Scripture. He died like the Passover Lamb. He bled to surpass what the Old Testament sacrifices offered. He was pierced for our transgressions like the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. He suffered as God’s righteous King like we see in the Psalms. God delivered him up according to that predetermined plan. Jesus was the one chosen, and nobody else, to fulfill that role and save the world. Further proof of that comes in what God did next…
3. God Raised Jesus from the Dead
Number three: God raised Jesus from the dead. Verse 24, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Psalm 18:4 uses similar language: “the chords of death encompassed me…the chords of Sheol entangled me.” Death holds people captive. Humans don’t normally rise from the dead. Yeah, God would eventually raise everybody from the dead at the end of history. But not within history. Until then, death holds all people captive.
It can hold you captive. You will have no say-so in the matter when death comes for you. And we feel it, don’t we, when we burry our loved ones? We want them back and they don’t come back. Oh, but give thanks to God for raising Jesus. Notice the uniqueness of Jesus: “it was not possible for [Jesus] to be held by [death].” Why? He was a man. What makes him so different, so unique?
The New Testament gives several answers to that question. One is that death couldn’t hold Jesus, because Jesus himself had no sin. Death is judgment against sin. If Jesus stayed in the grave, it would be proof that he was in fact guilty like the rest of us. But he didn’t and he couldn’t, because he was in fact righteous before God. The death he died was for our sin, not his. The resurrection is the vindication of Jesus, the Righteous One. That’s one reason.
That’s not the reason Peter gives here. The reason Peter gives here is this (“for” in 2:25): Jesus couldn’t stay dead, because he had God’s promise through David. The Messiah can’t stay dead if God promises he will reign. He quotes from Psalm 16:8-11. The Psalm is one that expresses David’s confidence in the Lord. As long as the Lord was with David, David couldn’t be shaken. He could be glad. He had hope for the future. Even if he died, he was confident that God would stand by him in death.
Death wouldn’t get the last word. Verse 27 is crucial: “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades [that’s the place of the dead], or let your Holy One see corruption.” Now watch how Peter moves from a Psalm speaking about David to seeing how the Psalm was ultimately pointing to Christ. We went through this a couple weeks ago with how the Psalms of David anticipate Christ, Christ being the far superior David.
Verse 29 starts the explanation: “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.” In other words, you all know where you can go find David’s bones. We know where he’s buried. But we can’t say the same about Jesus, because we all witnessed him. That’s his point in verse 32—“we all are witnesses.” The apostles saw him and touched him and ate with him for forty days after his resurrection.
So, that must mean David was speaking prophetically about someone else. Verse 30, “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to [David] that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.”
In 2 Samuel 7:12-14, God promised David that he would have a son on the throne forever. That either meant that son, after son, after son, after son, after son in David’s line would sit on the throne; or that one son would eventually sit on David’s throne who would never die. Peter is saying the latter in Jesus’ case. Jesus belonged to David’s line; and by raising Jesus from the dead, never to die again, he becomes the superior Son of David that this Psalm was ultimately pointing to.
God did not abandon Jesus to Hades, nor did he allow Jesus’ flesh to see corruption. Three days after he died our death, after he suffered God’s wrath, God raised him up. Meaning, God vindicated Jesus as the true and ultimate Son of David, true King of Israel who surpasses all other kings…which leads him to one final step.
4. God Exalted Jesus
Number four: God exalted Jesus. Verse 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. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’”
So we get another Psalm of David here. This time it’s Psalm 110. And this is another clear instance where Peter follows the teaching of Jesus. Turn with me to Luke 20:41-44. It reads like this: “But [Jesus] said to them, ‘How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?’” What’s going on? What’s Jesus getting at?
The common understanding among Jews was that the Messiah would be a son of David (e.g., Matt 22:41-42). Jesus isn’t contesting that. What Jesus is pressing them to consider is whether they have room in their theology for the Messiah to be more than just son of David, but also Lord of David. Father’s don’t normally call sons “lord,” but the other way around. How can this be that David calls his son “my Lord” in Psalm 110?
Well, when it says, “the Lord said to my Lord”—in Psalm 110 it means, “Yahweh said to David’s Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand.’” For anybody to sit at Yahweh’s right hand was for that person to exercise the authority of God himself. This would put one of David’s future sons far above David, such that David himself has to call him “my Lord.” In that sense, Psalm 110 brought together two things about the future Messiah: he would be both the Son of David and the Lord who shares Yahweh’s throne.
Peter is now advancing the story a bit further. In Jesus Christ, we get both the Son of David and the Lord who was exalted to Yahweh’s throne. It’s not that the Son never exercised that authority before, but that now he exercised that authority as a man. God exalted Jesus the God-man to his throne.
Again, Peter figures this out by comparing David to Jesus. David did’nt ascend into the heavens. They know that because of the whole tomb thing he mentioned earlier (Acts 2:29). But Jesus did. They witnessed Jesus ascend into heaven back in 1:9-11. Conclusion: God exalted this Son of David, just like Psalm 110 said. “Therefore,” he closes in verse 36, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
He answered the question of verse 21: who is the Lord on whom we must call in order to be saved? We’re crooked and we need the Spirit, who’s ‘the Lord’ we must call on to be saved? Peter’s answer is Jesus of Nazareth, the one God attested to on earth, delivered up to a cross, raised from the dead, and exalted to his right hand. What can we draw from Peter’s preaching this morning?
Repent, Jesus will conquer all rebellion against him
This first is repentance: repent, Jesus will conquer all rebellion against him. You see there in verse 35 that God is right now putting Jesus’ enemies beneath his feet. The image is a king placing his foot on the neck of his enemies as a sign of their fall and his rise to the throne. God will put every crooked enemy beneath the feet of Jesus. And because he is exalted, the world is already heading there.
Psalm 110 also includes this: “The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.” Revelation 19:15 pictures Jesus treading the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. Revelation 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” This is what we must be saved from.
The crooked generation we talked about earlier is heading to judgment. And Peter is calling them—and God is calling to us—to save ourselves from going there with them by siding with Jesus now, by giving Jesus our allegiances now, by walking in his ways now. Sin will forever separate us from God; God sent Jesus to bring us back to him.
Listen, repentance is for religious people. Don’t be deceived by just showing up to church and just going through the motions and claiming to know God. We must repent from our sins and give ourselves wholly unto Christ. If that’s not you, and you’re still sitting in your bitterness and your anger and your apathy and your lusts—with no repentance—you’re on the road with the crooked generation, and you need to get off of it.
There are blessings a billion times more with Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. Call upon the Lord in your sins, and he will save you from them and all the destruction that goes with it. We’ll talk about how that plays out in baptism next week. The Lord’s Supper is great opportunity for repentance today.
God’s promises are Yes and Amen in Christ
Second, God’s promises are Yes and Amen in Christ. We have seen now five quotations of Old Testament promises—one from Joel and four from the Psalms. All of them get fulfilled through the finished work of Jesus Christ. He is the Yes and Amen to every promise in Scripture. And I just want you to notice the promise he makes Yes and Amen from Psalm 16 that we read earlier.
When you read the Psalm, David is speaking not only about Christ, but also about himself. He’s the refugee in Psalm 16:1 who truly takes refuge in the Lord. David himself is expressing his own confidence in a beautiful inheritance. The Lord is with him personally, and therefore he won’t be shaken. His whole being rejoices. He takes hope in God raising him from the dead. He is confident to experience pleasures at God’s right hand forevermore—some of you memorized this Psalm a while back for yourself.
You want the pleasures at God’s right hand—you want to know the intensity of intra-trinitarian love, you want to experience kaleidoscopic glory at the throne, you want the blessings of seeing God’s infinite holiness and power? Listen, the only way that David gets them or you get them is if you’re united to Jesus. David’s hope in the resurrection stands on Jesus’ resurrection. If you’re not Jesus people, you can’t claim his blessings. When you read or memorize promises from the Old Testament, don’t read them apart from Christ. They’re only yours insofar as you’re united to Jesus personally, spiritually.
But when you’re united to him, what great assurance there is, for instance, that you too will escape death one day. Jesus couldn’t stay dead because he had God’s promise through David. You know what else he has? God’s promise to give him the nations as his inheritance (Ps 2:8). God’s promise to raise us from the dead as well, that we might forever be with him in his kingdom (cf. Ps 22:22 with Heb 2:12). He is the firstfruits of our resurrection, brothers and sisters. God’s promises are Yes and Amen in Christ.
Good gospel preaching: Trinitarian, God-centered, Christ-exalting
Third, learn some good gospel preaching from Peter. Several things come out here. The gospel—the good news we share with others—is Trinitarian. Verse 33 mentions Father, Son, and Spirit all acting to redeem: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he [that is the Son, Jesus] has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
Jesus shares the throne with God the Father—God’s right hand. The book of Revelation develops this theme even further: both God and the Lamb share the one throne of glory.[vi] It’s John’s way of saying the Lamb is equal to the Father though distinct in person. So also here: Jesus is distinct from the Father but equal in authority and lordship. Our gospel is Trinitarian, or it is no gospel.
We also see that Peter’s gospel is God-centered. “A man attested to you by God…signs that God did…delivered up according to the definite plan of God…God raised him up…God had sworn…being exalted at the right hand of God.” Salvation is not a matter of what man does for himself, but what God has done for man. Christianity is not a self-help religion. It’s not “pull yourself together;” it’s “God puts you together in Christ through the Holy Spirit.”
Peter’s gospel is also Christ-exalting. One of the key ministries of the Holy Spirit is to shine the spotlight on Jesus. Notice what happens when the Spirit comes. The Spirit comes, and people like Peter start preaching Jesus as Lord, Jesus as fulfillment of Scripture, Jesus as the one pouring out the Spirit. He preaches the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, all rooted in what the Old Testament expected for Jesus.
When we share the gospel with others, avoid all the vague “God-talk” and get to Christ. The gospel has not been shared if Christ is absent. Don’t ever think that by convincing an atheist to become a theist, that he’s all of a sudden a Christian. It might be a step, but people must have Christ to be saved. Peter’s not preaching a new ethic, a new philosophy of life. He is preaching a person—the person of Jesus.
The gospel is not an announcement of what we do as believers, it’s not “You should come to church,” it’s not one way among others to have a fuller life. It’s a message about what God has done to give life to sinners at all. Jesus isn’t a strategy to get people in here; Jesus is everything, period, whole point and end of the Story. He is the very good of the gospel, and if we’re not giving people him, they will not know God.
Jesus’ exaltation is our hope for missions to the world
Finally, Jesus’ exaltation means great hope for missions to the world. What more do we need than the exalted Christ and his gift of the Holy Spirit? We’re promised that Christ will put all enemies beneath his feet. That includes enemies like sin and death and the devil. It includes rulers and principalities of this present evil age. He’s unstoppable in making it happen. On top of that, he poured out his Spirit to empower his church and convert the nations.
That gives me great hope in talking with my neighbors about the gospel. Whatever strongholds they have, Jesus is able to conquer them. Whatever fears I have, the Spirit is able to overcome them. Whatever sins are enslaving, Jesus is able to liberate people from them. Whatever deadness in people’s souls, the Spirit is able to give life. So let’s pray for this city like Jesus is risen, because he is. He’s exalted to save those he died for. Let’s speak into the lives of others, because we know that Jesus is King. Let’s invest in each other and the mission of the church. No matter the cost, Jesus is worthy of your obedience. He is Lord.
[i]As established in the first sermon on this chapter, Acts 2 has three basic parts. The events of Pentecost—that’s the first thirteen verses (Acts 2:1-13). Then we get their meaning from the Old Testament (Acts 2:14-36)—that runs all the way to verse 36. Then finally we get the results—3000 saved and the Spirit creating powerful fellowship in the church (Acts 2:37-47).
[ii]Cf. also the work by Neil Nelson, “‘This Generation’ in Matthew 24:34: A Literary Critical Perspective,” JETS 38.3 (September 1996): 369-85.
[iii]E.g., John 5:17-19, 36; 9:32-33; 10:32-33, 37-38; 11:40-42; 14:11.
[iv]Cf. John 2:1-11 with Gen 49:10-11; Isa 25:6-8; Jer 31:10-14; Amos 9:11-14.
[v]Cf. John 4:46-5:17; 9:1-41 with healing in Isa 35:5-6; 61:1, and rest in Gen 2:1-3; Exod 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15; Ps 95:7-11 (cf. Heb 3:7-4:10).
[vi]In Revelation 3:21, Jesus’ own throne is simultaneously his Father’s throne. In Revelation 5:11 and 13, the Lamb approaches the throne and all heaven includes him in the worship of God (cf. Rev 7:17). John also sees the river of life flowing from what he calls “the throne of God and of the Lamb”—that’s in Revelation 22:3. Meaning, God and the Lamb share the one, single throne.
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