Acts 2:14-41 (spring AD 30)
I can’t off-hand think of a bolder or more potentially self-destructive way to conclude an evangelistic sermon than by telling everyone that they killed God. But that’s what Peter did. He was in front of at least 3,000 people, possibly many thousands, preaching from the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was the promised one from God. And this was his epic last line: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (v.36).
Perhaps the only thing more surprising than Peter’s choice of words was the reaction he got:
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (v.37).
Peter responded with the need to repent, followed by the command to be baptised. The latter is the first thing you are commanded to do as a Christian; the first test of our faith is whether we are prepared to publicly identify ourselves with Jesus, without which we have little reason to be confident in our salvation (see Mark 8:38).
Peter made a promise from God to those who would repent and be baptised – not just to the people in front of him but to you and me, saying that “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (v.39).
That means that every single Christian since Pentecost has Holy Spirit in them. Not occasionally, or temporarily, or usually not at all, as was the case for believers in the Old Testament. Everyone, from the moment of conversion onwards, forever.
There is no separate event, time or ritual through which you receive the Holy Spirit. If you are a Christian today, then you have Holy Spirit in you today: equipping, convicting and changing you to become more like Christ. Not in the exact same way as happened on that special day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago but mostly in everyday ways that help keep us in God’s will and point us to the joy in him that can be ours.
Sometimes that means Holy Spirit speaks to us through our Bible reading or praying, letting us know that we’re wandering from God, either in our behaviour, attitude, or just from a general ignoring of our relationship with God. Other times he will encourage us that – despite all our difficulties – God is still our Father and we are still his children.
Do we listen to Holy Spirit when he stirs our conscience? Or do we push it away as intrusive and inconvenient?
Do we listen to Holy Spirit when he reassures us of God’s presence? Or are we too busy trying to manage on our own?
And if you are not a Christian, how do you respond to the guilt that God says belongs to you, that you can never repay? With repentance and accepting God’s forgiveness, like the crowd confronted by Peter? Or pushing God away?