“These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning! No this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved.””
I have always been intrigued by the concept of the first sermon preached in a given location. When C. H. Spurgeon began his ministry in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London England his first words preached in that great building focused upon what was to be the theme of his whole ministry. They were words that underlined the great gospel theme which was to dominate that preacher’s whole message. They were therefore words of tremendous historical importance. Such is certainly the case with Luke’s record of the very first sermon preached in the Christian Church as it is recorded in the Book of Acts. In this sermon the Apostle Peter, standing with the other eleven Apostles delivers a message that touches upon the essential points that would be central to Apostolic preaching from that time on. This sermon sets the tone for all that the Christian Church will proclaim throughout the world.
In taking a careful look at what Luke records here for us in Acts 2:14-41 we are struck first of all by the way in which the message in rooted in the historic events that have been taking place in Jerusalem in the years preceding the establishment of the Church. When D. M. Lloyd-Jones preached upon this passage he drew his hearers to the fact that he was preaching on January 24, 1965 the day on which Sir Winston Churchill had passed away. The death of a great man was an event which caused people to stop and reflect upon the meaning of that one life. There was however something of greater historic importance that had taken place. This was the factual event which had taken place in the life and ministry of the LORD Jesus Christ. Peter is here preaching as an eyewitness of certain key historic events. These events were not speculations, they had actually taken place, and they had a far reaching impact upon each person who had ever lived. They would in fact have a dominating impact upon each of our lives because they will bring us to the place where we must decide for ourselves just what our response will be to the LORD Jesus Christ.
Years later Peter was still focused upon these themes as he wrote his two letters to Christians. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things which have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even Angels long to look into these things.” (1 Peter 1:10-12)
“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our LORD Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our LORD Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:12-19)
What Peter writes here is what he preaches in Acts 2. Much more important than Peter’s eyewitness account, as important as that is, is the more certain word of the prophets which we must not only hear, we must pay careful attention to it. As Peter begins his sermon, the first sermon ever preached in the Christian Church, he is answering the question which the crowd had asked in verse 12, “What does this mean?” Peter’s answer takes the crowd back to Joel 2:28-32. The answer can be found there. These historic events in the life of the LORD Jesus Christ and in the establishment of the Church on the Day of Pentecost can have only one true explanation. That is the one found in the message of Scripture. Some 800 years before a prophet by the name of Joel had written about a day coming when those very events would take place. And now Scripture is being fulfilled in their presence.
This leads us to the crucial question. Joel goes on to write about the valley of judgement, or decision. What will be our response to the word of Scripture which has been fulfilled in the LORD Jesus Christ? Will we believe in Him, receiving the grace that He brings to us for salvation? Or will we turn from Him in unbelief, and falling under the judgement of God? Peter’s focus, like Joel’s is on these words, “And everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved?” (Acts 2:21)