The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
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. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
My last post — the first concerning the Book of Acts — discussed the first Pentecost, after which the 70 — Jesus’s closest followers — who had received the Holy Spirit began speaking in tongues for the Apostolic era. The Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in foreign languages in order to expand the church.
These tongues were recognised languages to the Gentiles present who had come from faraway lands. The Jews present did not understand these languages, so instead they accused the 70 of being drunk at 9 a.m.
Peter, in his characteristic boldness, immediately stood up: one, to demonstrate he was sober and, two, to give his first sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit.
He addressed not the Gentiles, but rather the Jews who had witnessed Jesus’s ministry. Some of them might have even called for His death on the day of His Crucifixion.
The Holy Spirit worked through Peter to cite Old Testament scripture, including the prophet Joel and, later, David, revered by all the Jews, from Psalm 110.
Peter’s message was that the Jesus of Nazareth they saw and heard was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Now was the time for them to realise it. Forget the scribes, the Pharisees and their other religious leaders. Scripture prophesied Jesus. They had to realise that and come to God through His only begotten Son.
Today’s verses are at the end of his sermon which concluded with:
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Peter pulled no punches.
In verse 33, Peter was telling the Jews that Jesus — resurrected and ascended to heaven (Acts 1 describes the Ascension) is at the right hand of His Father. Furthermore, God promised Jesus He would send the Holy Spirit to His followers on this day. Essentially, Peter was saying, ‘You are witnessing what He promised to us.’ Therefore, it was no laughing matter: ‘No, we are not drunk. We have received a divine gift, one we were told would come.’
At this point, he mentioned David and cited Psalm 110:1 — the clincher (verses 34, 35). No Jew listening could ignore either. They revered David and loved his psalms.
Peter said that David was not speaking of himself there, because he had not ascended to heaven. He was speaking of the Messiah. David did not sit at the right hand of God, either. Therefore, what he said could not be about himself, but the Son of God.
Acts 2:37 tells us that the Jews hearing Peter’s words were cut to the core. They asked what they should do (emphases mine):
38 And Peter said to them, “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. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Peter was saying that this gift of the Holy Spirit would be given not only to them but also to Gentiles (‘all who are far off’). Note, however, that he qualified it. The gift was for those whom the Lord God calls to Himself. Therefore, by that, he is referring to the elect. The Lord God must call us in order for us to be saved.
We pray that as many as possible are called to be saved, because not all of us are among the elect. Only God our Father knows for certain. But as we are called to the Great Commission which Jesus ordained, we must ensure that as many people as possible are invited to become members of the Church.
I would encourage everyone to read the commentaries by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur linked to above. Both give excellent expositions of Peter’s sermon. Sadly, the three-year Lectionary schedules that sermon for weekday readings. Because of the time limitations for weekday services, officiating clergy are unlikely to be able to explain the significance of Peter’s transformation on Pentecost and the divinely inspired words he preached. More’s the pity.
The Holy Spirit worked powerfully through Peter; he echoed Jesus’s words (verse 40) and, as a result, made many converts among the Jews:
40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
In Acts 3 — all of which is in the Lectionary — Peter healed a beggar and preached again to the Jews, exhorting them to repent and believe that Christ Jesus is their Messiah and Lord.
Next time: Acts 4:22