Posted Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 7:55 AM
“So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them.” (Acts 2:41)
Note: You may want to pull out your Bible and turn to Acts 2.
The apostles and friends had been praying continuously since Jesus' ascension to heaven, waiting obediently for the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit arrives on the Day of Pentecost, causing a scene like any of us has ever seen, but the people in Jerusalem had definitely never seen this before. So, with people standing around trying to make sense out what they are seeing, Peter steps up and delivers his first sermon to describe to the thousands that were there what is happening. He explains how the Holy Spirit was prophesied about in the Old Testament, how Jesus was prophesied about, and how the Holy Spirit is a gift made available to those who repent (turn away) from their sins and accept Jesus because of Jesus' life with us. And following this message, the Holy Spirit moved in 3,000 people's hearts to accept the message of Jesus.
So what are we to take from this? Let me start with the reflections that I've had about Christmas this year: God HATES sin. Seriously, that was the summary of my Christmas devotions this year. I mean we all know this much, a good portion of the Old Testament is God giving parameters to what sin is and how He reacts toward sin. God hates sin so much that He sent Jesus, and Jesus clarified parts of the Law by saying things like, “You've heard it said, do not commit (murder, adultery, etc.), but I say to you that if you've thought about it, then you're guilty of sin.” But, thankfully, as Peter also points out in his sermon, God also sent Jesus that our sins may be forgiven for all times and that we may live in communication and community with God. And the 3,000 people who accepted Peter's message were each baptized as their first act of obedience and, in effect, became the earliest church.
There is another thing that we can infer from this one verse. The passage says that the 3,000 were added to “them”, who's “them”? If you go all the way back before Peter started his sermon (Acts 2:14), you'll find the answer: “the Eleven” or the apostles. If you look at the end of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), you'll find that Jesus tasked the apostles with sharing this message with the whole world, starting in Jerusalem. And as you go on to read the rest of Acts, you see that the mission of spreading the gospel message leads them throughout much of the Roman empire. Then, the book of Acts ends with no resolution, as if to say that the “acts of the apostles” and the mission are still ongoing. So when the 3,000 were added to the apostles, they were not just added for them to be saved and made right with God; they were added to the apostles so that they might join in the mission of sharing the gospel message with the whole world. And like an invitation, as the book of Acts ends not having complete resolution, those that have accepted the message of Jesus are to join the apostles' mission of being sent to share this message to the whole world. Like the apostles were sent, so were the first 3,000 sent, and so is everyone who has accepted Jesus' message since then is sent...until Jesus' resolves the book of Acts.
So as we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions for ourselves (as is our modern day tradition), what possible resolutions can we derive from these early Christians:
- If you've never truly accepted this message, then please do accept it. And if you find it hard to accept, plead with the Holy Spirit to accept the message of Jesus the way the 3,000 people did here.
- If you have accepted the message of Jesus but have not been baptized, then you need to be baptized. This is your first act of obedience in the new year.
- If you have accepted the message of Jesus and have been baptized, then know that the path you walk is not about you but Jesus, and you are called to share the the message of Jesus as Peter and the other apostles did. For the new year, pray that the Holy Spirit helps remove whatever hinders you from sharing the message of Jesus and work to share the good news.
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