- Tuesday, April 07, 2009
THE SPIRIT-EMPOWERED GOSPEL (ACTS 2)
Acts 2 is widely appreciated by Christians across varying denominational traditions and theological persuasions as the record of the dawning of the new covenant church. Jesus poured out his Spirit to begin and to commission the church—the community of Holy Spirit–regenerated and–empowered people who continue the ministry of Jesus.
Some people ask, “What is the gospel?” and then proceed with their own speculations, as if God never revealed it. A better answer is to read the Bible! There we find Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, which summarizes the gospel, the power center of the mission of the church. The gospel pattern of Acts 2, as well as of other Scriptures, breaks down into three aspects: (1) revelation, or what God did; (2) response, or what we do; and (3) results, or what God gives.59
Revelation: What God Did
Peter begins by affirming that Jesus fulfills the promises of a divine Messiah, God come among us, as accredited him by miracles, signs, and wonders (v. 22). Next, Peter declares that Jesus died on the cross according to God’s prophetic purpose (v. 23). Peter proceeds to emphasize the reality that God raised Jesus from death in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (vv. 24–32). Peter concludes with the final acts of God exalting Jesus to the right hand of the Father and pouring out the Spirit in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (vv. 33–35).
Response: What We Do
The first thing we are to do in response to God’s revelation is repent (vv. 36–37). Repentance is the Spirit-empowered acknowledgment of sin that results in a change of mind about who and what God is in my life, what is important, and what is good and bad. This is followed by a change of behavior flowing out of an internal change of values. The second response is to accept the revealed message about Jesus by Spirit-empowered faith (v. 41). Faith means taking God at his word and trusting my life and eternity to the truth of his revelation. All of this is seen in the act of baptism, which is the visible expression of our connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus through repentance and faith (vv. 38, 41).
Results: What God Gives
Peter immediately announces the gift of forgiveness of our sins, which is the result of the propitiatory death of Jesus (v. 38). This gift flows into justification, or the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Peter goes on to the second gift, the Holy Spirit and the new heart and new life of Christ (v. 38). This regeneration, or the imparted righteousness of Jesus, is for living a new life as a Christian with, like, for, to, and by the living Jesus. The third gift is membership in the body of Christ, the new community of the Spirit called the church. This community is a supernatural community where God’s power is seen from miracles and supernatural signs to the sharing of possessions among the community members and giving to all in need (vv. 41–47).
This full and robust biblical understanding of the gospel is incredibly important. There are many truncations of the gospel in today’s church. Some overemphasize the missional aspect of the church and in so doing abandon the theological truth that Jesus is God who came in the flesh to die and propitiate the just wrath of God toward sin. Others overemphasize the experiential aspect of the church and focus almost exclusively on renewal and worship while neglecting God’s missional calling for the church to be incarnational like Jesus and actively involved in their community and its culture. Perhaps the most common overemphasis is the confessional reduction of the gospel to Jesus’ death, forgiveness of sin, and imputed righteousness leading to eternal life in heaven. While this is true, it neglects Jesus’ exemplary life, resurrection, imparted life of regeneration, and the rich life of the missional community of the church on the earth until we see him face-to-face.
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