Jesus’ last words to His apostles are often called “The Great Commission.” In Mark 16:15-16, Jesus told them to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” But before they went out into the whole world, they had another command to obey: Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the power from on high. (Luke 24:49). As the book of Acts opens, the apostles have done exactly what Jesus asked them to do. They are waiting in Jerusalem, praying, and leaving the next move up to God. But it isn’t just the apostles who are in Jerusalem at this time. Many other Jews have traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate a special holiday called Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-11)
What does God do next? He fills the apostles with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:4). They are going to have a very special job. When the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit, they are able to speak in many different languages! The people in Jerusalem are surprised and astonished to hear their own languages being spoken by men who did not normally speak their languages. It is interesting to note that they spoke real languages and not just gibberish that nobody could understand.
The apostle Peter preaches a sermon to the people in Jerusalem and teaches them about Jesus (Acts 2:22-36). Peter tells them all about the miracles and signs that Jesus performed while living here on earth. (Our Mark Online Bible Study tells more about Jesus’ life). Peter goes on to explain how the people had killed Jesus, nailing Him to a cross. Jesus was an innocent man who did not deserve to die. But God’s plan was to have Jesus die as a sacrifice for all sins. Jesus had to die or else we could not be saved. While the evil men put Jesus to death, God reversed their decision and Jesus rose from the dead three days later! The apostles were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. They saw the empty tomb and they saw Jesus Himself after He rose from the dead.
Notice that Peter tells the crowd that THEY had been the ones who had nailed Jesus to the cross (Acts 2:23). They crucified the Son of God! This is bad news, and probably not what they wanted to hear. Peter is convicting the people, getting to their hearts. You must see your need for salvation before you will call on the Lord to receive salvation. And that’s exactly what happens to these people in Acts 2:37-41. They are convicted of their guilt and they are pierced to the heart!
There is no such thing as a painless repentance. If you aren’t bothered by your sins and you don’t feel pain because of them, you won’t have any reason to make changes (i.e. repent). But Peter’s audience DID feel pain and they WERE bothered by their sins. They knew they needed forgiveness and they wanted to be saved. They ask Peter in verse 37, “What shall we do?”
“What Shall We Do?”
Peter’s answer to the question has 2 parts: repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38) Repentance is a radical change of heart that leads to a change of life. Repentance is a change in the direction you are heading. Baptism was discussed in detail in Lesson 6. If the people do those 2 things, they will receive salvation! What an amazing gift…the people who were just accused of murdering God’s son are now being offered mercy and salvation from God. Many people accepted God’s merciful offer and became Christians.
After a person has accepted the grace of God and followed His instructions to become a Christian, what do they do next? The book of Acts gives us a peek into the day-to-day lives of the first Christians. They were busy DEVOTING themselves to certain things (Acts 2:42-47). They didn’t just add Christianity as another activity in their already-busy schedules. Instead, Christianity became the main focus of their lives.
Let’s look at some of the things they were “devoting” themselves to: They were devoted to the apostles’ teachings. They were continually learning. How can we find the apostles’ teachings today? They are written down for us in the Bible. So, by reading and studying our Bible, we can do the same thing the early Christians were doing. They were also devoted to fellowship and prayer. They valued their brothers and sisters in Christ and they wanted to spend time together. They were a family. They grew together in their love and knowledge of their Lord and Savior. You can see that being a Christian meant a lot to them. This was their new life. And they praised God for His gift of salvation.
The Old Testament taught us about sin and punishment, as well as grace and mercy. God’s grace was demonstrated by animal sacrifices that paid the price for sin. But animal sacrifices by themselves couldn’t really take away sin. That’s why Jesus came to earth to be “the lamb of God”. He paid the price of death to take away the sins of all who believe in His work and who accept His offer of salvation by dying with Him. This is the gospel, the “big picture” of the Bible.