Why didn’t He tell Paul to begin with?

Yesterday I preached at Spring Baptist Church (video will be on later this week) from Acts 16:6-10, where Paul and Silas are seeking God’s will as they embark on Paul’s second missionary journey. They try to go to Asia, then to Bithynia and end up in Troas where Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man asking them to bring the gospel to Macedonia.

It occurred to me in between services that there was one question I hadn’t talked about in the first service. I addressed it briefly in the second one and I thought I’d throw out some thoughts on it here: Why didn’t God just give Paul the vision to begin with instead of letting them walk around the desert for a couple of weeks?

This is a question most of us ask when we are searching for God’s will. We just want God to give us the directions now, show us the road map and we’ll get on our way. But most often the process of finding His will is a journey, not a moment.

I can’t say I know the answer to the question, but I can think of some possibilities:
1. The search forced Paul to seek God and not rely merely on his past experience.
2. Paul’s call was going to be so dramatically different that the Lord had to get Paul in the right spot to be ready to listen.
3. Paul’s experience was as much for Silas, and maybe us, as it was for Paul. We needed to see the lesson found in the journey of Paul. So maybe it wasn’t about Paul at all, but about us.

I’m sure there are other reasons but these are a few I thought of this morning.

Acts 2:40

37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah 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, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”

Look at how Peter approached the job of evangelism. As he shared that day the message, he was straightforward and clear in what he said. He did not mince words. He clearly laid out not only the truth of the work of Christ but also the necessary response of the people. But many times, in reading this passage and relating this story, we overlook verse 40.

Peter warned and pleaded and called them out. He spoke many other words to them. He urged them to make a decision. He repeatedly called on them to come to Christ.

Probably the most difficult thing to do when sharing Christ with someone is asking them to make the decision to accept Christ. It is at this point that we encounter the greatest battles from Satan. He will do anything to keep us from asking the very simple question, “Would you like to receive the gift of eternal life right now?” For in that question we go beyond the giving of information and offer the appropriate response to information. It is the same in the worship service, the greatest tension can take place in a service during the invitation. At that point in the service Satan will do anything to distract you from hearing from God and reacting to him. He will give you any number of excuses why you shouldn’t respond. The commitment is hard.

That is why it is so important for believers to pray during the invitation time at church. Realize that there are mammoth spiritual battles taking place all around you. I know that not every message speaks to every heart they same way. There are times when we come to church, listen, are encouraged, but not convicted because we are already right with God, we are doing what we should be. This isn’t a time to relax and take a nap, it is time to pray. Pray for others who are dealing with conviction. Pray for God’s Spirit to win battles in hearts and minds at that very moment. Pray for a powerful move of God during the invitation. Commitment is hard, pray for those around you.

Acts 2:37-39

37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah 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, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Peter shared the good news of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord. He shared the need of man who in his sin and rebellion against God has brought upon himself the judgment of God. That each of us is responsible for the death of Christ, for it was our sin that sent him to the cross. But that God did not leave him in the grave, but raised him from the dead that he might offer us the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with him. Now man must respond to that offer. “What shall we do?”

Repent. The message of Jesus Christ is that we must repent. That means that we must turn from our former way of acting and thinking and turn toward God’s way of acting and thinking. It is a change of intellect, emotion and volition. We change the way we think, the way we react and what we do. Peter’s message is the same as John the Baptist’s and Jesus’. Repentance involves a change in approach to life. It includes an new and intense abhorrence of sin and an adherence to Jesus.

It is the message to the world, we must change the way we have lived in, reacted to and thought about the world. Christianity is not a religion that can be added to your plate, it is a relationship that will overtake your life. You cannot remain the same as you are today and claim Christ as your Savior and Lord. That is why Peter includes baptism in his statement. Repentance is clearly the emphasis in this urgent command. But baptism is associated closely with repentance for baptism is the visible picture of the inward change. For Peter, it would have been inconceivable that anyone who would repent of their sins and receive Christ as Savior and Lord would not be baptized. Baptism is a natural response for the regenerated Christian. It does not bring forth forgiveness of sins, it accompanies genuine conversion. This is the message Peter brought to the crowd on Pentecost. It is the same message preached for 2000 years and still today.

“He is both Lord and Messiah” – Acts 2:36

To be the Christ is to hold several offices, or to carry out certain functions. Those offices are: prophet, priest and king. They could be described in function as: revealing, reconciling and ruling.

Jesus Christ is a prophet, he reveals God. Many times in the gospels he is called a prophet. A prophet speaks the word of truth about God. Jesus not only spoke the word of God, as we generally associate with the work of a prophet, but he was the Word. John, in the beginning of his gospel, declares that Jesus was the Word and was God. All creation came into being by Jesus and is being held together by Jesus. Remember how God created the world, he spoke it into being. He used the Word. He also spoke the truth. Not limited to speaking the truth, in John’s gospel again, he lays claim to being the truth. Jesus was a prophet, revealing God, in what he said and what he did. He didn’t just reveal God, he was God.

Jesus Christ was a priest, he has the work of reconciliation. Jesus work as the priest encompasses intercession on behalf of his people, ministry to their needs and offering sacrifice for them. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is still, to this day, praying on behalf of the saints before the Father, interceding on your behalf. He set the example of ministry on the earth and now, through his Holy Spirit, he continues the ministry of lifting burdens and giving encouragement and strength. And he offered the ultimate sacrifice for his people, he gave himself. He reconciles the world to himself and to each other. Jesus, as your priest, will work to bring about reconciliation between you and God and between you and your spouse, friend, family, neighbor, enemy. It is his nature to reconcile.

Jesus Christ is King – he rules. The best picture of this during his earthly life is Palm Sunday, when everyone came to give Jesus a kingly welcome into Jerusalem. They proclaimed, “Hosanna to the king!” Today, as the King of kings, he rules over the universe. We may doubt that, evidence may seem scarce. But Jesus’ reign begins in the church and in the hearts of his disciples. He should have Palm Sunday in our lives everyday. He should be proclaimed the king each and every day. In Philippians 2, probably the best and easily one of the most recognized passages on the kingship of Jesus, it says that, “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That is not just a statement of future events, it is an encouragement to present reality. This truth is for today and was the clarion call of the church in that day. It was the second part of Peter’s statement.

This is the identifying call of the church. To call Jesus Lord is to acknowledge all that has been said about him. Jesus is Lord is the church’s only distinction from all other religion. Others may claim that Man is lord, or creation is lord, or reason is lord, or these holy writings are lord, or I am lord, but only Christians make the claim, “Jesus is Lord.” To make this statement is to surrender your own agenda to Christ. It is to give up claim to your life. It is to lay your marriage, your job, your family, your pride, your reputation, your wealth, your poverty at the feet of Jesus. Jesus is Lord means that you never put anything on your calendar that has not been cleared with Jesus first. It means that when he gives direction to your life that you put all else aside to be obedient. Jesus is Lord means that you do not accept anything less in your life than total subjugation of your will. You are acknowledging another will as greater and more important than your own. When Jesus is Lord you will do things that you do not enjoy for the sole purpose of honoring him as your Lord. When Jesus is Lord you will speak to people you despise so that the goals of His kingdom may be forwarded. When Jesus is Lord you will forgive those who have hurt you immensely just so you may walk in step with Christ.

A word of warning, when you make Jesus your Lord today, he will not erase your past. He will not strike it from your memory. He will not return your life, your family, your marriage, your relationships back to where they were before they became messed up. He will take you where you are to a different place though, that is more wonderful than where you are and more joyful than you can reach on your own. When Jesus is Lord, he does not erase your past, he gives you a future.

Acts 2:32-36 – Jesus is the Messiah!

32 “God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended 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. ‘
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!”

Jesus has been raised from the dead. He has been exalted. He has received the Holy Spirit. He has poured out the Spirit on them. These are all aorist tense verbs, which means that they represent past action that has been completed. That is to say, each of these events is now a fact of history.

They have all witnessed his resurrection. This no doubt refers to the 120 believers who were in the upper room that morning of Pentecost and are now speaking in various languages. There were about 500 witnesses to his ascension, which is the reference of being exalted, raised up, to the right hand of God. Since Jesus said that he must go to the Father so that the Spirit may come, they can then assume that he has received the promised Spirit, verse 1:4, and they are all witnesses to the pouring out of that Spirit. These facts seem clear, but what can we make of their interpretation. The conclusion is reached in verse 36.

Peter’s startling conclusion is that Jesus must be the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah. I call this a startling conclusion because of the impact this statement would have on those listening.

In first century Judaism there was some great expectation that the Messiah would soon come. The Messiah is spoken of often in OT scripture. He is to be the one to establish the kingdom of God on earth, bringing peace and joy to his people. He is to be the savior and king of the world. While many were eagerly expecting his appearance, many also had some false understandings about the nature of the Messiah and the work of the Messiah. Many thought that when the Messiah came he would topple the Roman government and establish a new Israel here on earth that would rule with an iron fist all the pagans of the world. Many thought that the peace and joy that would come with the coming of the Messiah would be a peace between nations and a joy of victory over other countries. You can see how, with this pervading understanding of the Messiah, presenting Jesus as the Messiah was quite startling. Maybe even more so because not many had recognized him as the Christ while he was alive. Jesus referred to the coming of the Christ several times in scripture, but only a few times did he acknowledge his identity when others called him the Christ. He did so when Peter made his statement, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God” and at his trial. He was called the Christ by John the Baptist, Andrew, Martha and some demons. The last time he was called the Christ was by those who ridiculed him while he hung on the cross. So when Peter, on this day calls him the Christ is an amazing statement of theological boldness.

That kind of theological boldness has historically been in short supply and remains so today. There is a pervading weakness in the church to stand for Christ as THE ANSWER, THE CHRIST, THE KING OF KINGS. We must not shrink back, but stand boldly in the marketplace of ideas, as Peter did, and proclaim the truth about Jesus.

Acts 2:22-28 – Apologetics

Acts 2:22-24 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. 24 God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.

You walk into a room in a house. There is a twin bed against the wall, covered with an NFL bedspread. A shelf with books, arranged neatly is at the foot of the bed. On the shelves are three trophies from various little leagues. On the table in the corner are crayons and coloring books, ready to be used. All the toys are put away, and a quick look reveals that none of them are stuffed under the bed. The closet is arranged so that all the clothes can be found easily, the dresser has no dirty clothes stuffed into it and the floor is vacuumed clean. What can you deduce from these clues? There is a mother in this household. There can really be no other logical explanation. For only a mother will take such care of a little boy. Goodness knows the boy can’t and the father most likely wouldn’t.

In the same way, as a Peter stands to address the crowd, there are events in this world that can only be attributed to an act of God.

Peter’s address to these men of Israel emphasizes the work of God. God is prominent in this first section of his message. It is a Holy God and his word that they will listen to, and it is God’s son, Jesus of Nazareth, that he wants to point them to. To do this, he shows how Christ was attested to by God, delivered unto death by God and raised from the dead by God.

God performed miracles through Christ to attest to them that he was indeed the Messiah. The signs and wonders were done with the specific goal to point to something beyond the miracle, to the person behind the miracle. These were one way that God bore witness to them of the person of Christ.

It is Christianity alone, of all the philosophical systems and other religions in the history of the world that argues that God himself entered the world to redeem the world. He did this through the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The fact that Jesus of Nazareth had performed many miracles was not in doubt to them. Peter stated, “as you yourselves know.” No one in the audience would deny the fact of these miracles. Peter explains that these miracles were done as evidence of who Jesus was, the Messiah, the Christ. But this evidence seems to fall into doubt when one considers that Jesus was crucified.

Peter answers this question in their minds, before they ask it, by explaining the twofold nature of the crucifixion. It was the plan of God, foreknown and yet the fault of both the Jews and the Gentiles.

The tension of this twofold nature is not resolved, only illuminated. God , in his purpose, sent Jesus to the cross. It was his purpose and he knew beforehand that it would happen. God meant to send Christ to the cross to redeem men from their sin. And yet, recognizing that what took place was in the plan of God and part of his redemptive plan, the Jews and the Gentiles were responsible for the death of Christ. Specifically, he says lays the blame at their feet for enlisting evil men, the Romans, and nailing Jesus to the cross. But in general, we are all responsible, to blame, for the death of Jesus on the cross. It was our sin that led God to sacrifice his son on our behalf.

But God, in his infinite love for us, knowing all that Jesus would suffer, sent him anyway. He was not surprised by the cross, for he had seen it from far away. The miracle is that he still went to Golgotha.

So Peter explains, that the miracles were God’s attestation of the person of Jesus and that his death was not a mistake, but in fact the very plan of God. For it is the death of Christ on the cross that makes the greatest act of God possible.

For it was a dead, limp body of Jesus that was laid in that tomb, but a resurrected, powerful, glorified body of Jesus that came out of that grave. God raised him from the dead, showing that he is indeed the Christ, the one who gives life. Death couldn’t hold him down. He rose again. As much as people would deny that death, and as many stories as they would create to explain it away, the resurrection is the centerpiece of history and is as undeniable a fact as you will find.

Peter even says later that we can go visit David’s tomb, and see where he is laid, but Jesus’ tomb is empty. You won’t find his body there. It is that empty tomb that becomes a great problem for people to explain away. But do not think that the event of the empty tomb took place in a vacuum, away from history. In fact, the resurrection is the most attested to miracle in the Bible, and in history. We know more about how Jesus died than any one in history. We know more about how he was buried and how he was cared for in his burial than anyone else in that time.

That the tomb was empty and that Jesus was raised from the dead was not a question for Peter, it was a fact. He knew it as he knew his own name. It would’ve been easy enough for anyone there to prove Peter a drunkard who was speaking out of his head. For all that anyone had to do was show the tomb where Jesus laid. Anyone who did so would stop all the claims of resurrection made by the disciples. But you notice no one did that. They knew where he was buried, the priests had even sent a guard there. What they didn’t know, was what had happened to the body of Jesus of Nazareth.

It is clear from the history, Jesus must be the Son of God. As obvious as it must be that that bedroom was clean and neat because of the presence of a mother in that house, so even more we know that Christ is risen from the dead and so is the Savior of the world.

Acts 2:17-21 – Part 3 – The Spirit breaks down walls

But for some, no matter how much we may show love to them, they will continually put up walls to the work of God in their lives. For many, there are natural sociological barriers that prevent us from being able to share with them easily. These barriers can be race related, language related, class related, national origin related, cultural or even a barrier of gender. Some people have put up walls between themselves and God because of some past history with the church or religion. They may have built walls of distrust because of something that happened in their home or with a relative. Without doubt, the church, being composed of fallible humans, has many times contributed to the establishment of a wall of distrust between men and God. And at times, men create their own walls. Our personal sin creates a barrier between us and God that can lead to embarrassment, resentment or a feeling of unworthiness. Satan capitalizes on these walls by making them seem larger than they are and impenetrable.

However, the good news is that the Holy Spirit comes to all. He crosses all gulfs and tears down all walls. For the scripture says clearly, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord believing in Him and trusting him will be saved. That expansion of understanding is inherent in the word, “Lord.” To call on Jesus as your Lord is to recognize who he is, what he did and to make him so in your own life. No matter where you are today and what you have done, the Spirit will come to you today. You can be saved, if you will call on the Lord.

Acts 2:17-21

17 And it will be in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 I will even pour out My Spirit
on My male and female slaves in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will display wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below:
blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
before the great and remarkable day of the Lord comes;
21 then whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The prophecy from Joel addresses truths about the Holy Spirit. The promise was that in the last days, in which we now live and which began with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is poured out on the people. The word “pour” means to be spilled out, to fall like rain, a downpour. It is used to describe a generous, full pouring, not a sprinkle or a small amount. Two times he says, “I will pour out my Spirit.” This is the breaking open of heaven. The gates of heaven will open and the presence of God will descend on the people. God will no longer limit himself to one person, but he will pour himself out on all people. God’s Spirit will come out of heaven in abundance. He will come in fulness upon his people. He will bring all of himself to those who believe. He will enable them to see visions and dream dreams and prophesy. That is to say that the coming of the Spirit will enable God’s people to see the world as it is and as God desires it to be. To see their own lives as they are and as God desires them to be. To prophesy is to be enabled by the Spirit of God to understand and express God’s truth. Most prophecy today, as it did to Peter on the day of Pentecost, is understanding the truth of God revealed in scripture.

Just as God broke open heaven at Pentecost the same God opens heaven today so that we may experience the power and work of the Holy Spirit. When you receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, the Spirit pours down from heaven into your life and fills you with his presence. You too, as a Spirit-filled Christian, will see visions, dream dreams and prophesy. God’s desire for you is not different that it was for those first century believers and his Spirit is the same now as he was then. He pours down upon you to make you into a witness for God. As he inhabits your life, the only evidence of His presence is what happens in your life from that point forward.

Acts 2:37-39

37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah 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, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

But what did they say on the streets, near the temple of Jerusalem? The proclaimed the wonders of God. When the Spirit comes into your life and makes His power known in your life, He uses you to make known the Person of God. He has no desire and will spend no time extolling your virtues. He will not give you a three minute introduction with applause signs in the background flashing. He is not about to waste His work on naming the number of charities you have worked with. The Spirit comes to give praise, honor and glory to God. He is here to lift high the name of Jesus. He comes to draw men to the cross. He is here to change sinners into forgiven men and women. He comes to use you for the glory of God and for His kingdoms sake. He speaks through you to declare the wonders of God.

Jesus said that the Spirit will come to convince and convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. With regard to sin that you might know that you need the cross. With regard to righteousness that you might see the holiness of God. With regard to judgment, that you might avoid hell and be brought into right relationship with God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ for you. The Holy Spirit will announce His presence in your life so that He may bear witness to the Father.

Acts 2:4-13

4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.
5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, the multitude came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own languages the magnificent acts of God.” 12 And they were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What could this be?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re full of new wine!”

Not only will the Spirit make His presence known in your life, but He will make His power known. He will do things in you and through you that could only be done by the power of God.

The apostles and those others there began to speak in other tongues. That is to say that they began to speak in foreign dialects(v. 6) or languages. This was not an ability that any of them had innately or by education. In fact, look at the reaction of those who heard them.

There was in Jerusalem a community of Jews who had resettled there from many other countries. They are the Jews of the diaspora, or dispersion. They had been in other countries for generations, but had now returned to live in Jerusalem. Luke shows that they represented many nations, cultures and languages from Judea to North Africa, from Iran and Turkey to Rome. North and South of Jerusalem, East and West, these Jews had returned to their native land. They were pious, God-fearing people. But when they heard the ruckus taking place among the apostles they were amazed. Luke uses four different words to describe their reaction. In verse 6 he says they were bewildered. In verse 7 he uses two words which are combined into utterly amazed, individually they mean to be amazed and to marvel. In verse 12 he says they were amazed and perplexed. This was an astonishing event to them because while they could all speak the common language of Jerusalem, they were now hearing the apostles speak to them in their own native tongues. Look at the statement Luke records in verse 7, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?” It was not a slam against Galileans, but it was obvious that these men were not highly educated and none were from other countries. And yet, they each heard the gospel, the wonders of God, in their own language.

This phenomenon is obviously the work of the power of the Spirit in their lives. They were able to do beyond their abilities. Verse 4 states they spoke in tongues as the Spirit enabled them. This is a difficult phrase to translate but part of its meaning is shown in this translation. They were able to speak in these languages because of the work of the Spirit in their lives.

When the Spirit comes into your life, he enables you to do just what it is that He needs you to do. I’m sure that if you would’ve asked those in that room if they could go down to the streets and begin preaching to the Libyans in their own language they would’ve laughed at you. They might have responded to you with these words, “I don’t know the language. What if I use the wrong words. They don’t know me. They wouldn’t listen to me. I wouldn’t know what to say. I’ve never really had any training in that area of service. That’s not my responsibility. That’s not my calling.” The power of the Holy Spirit overcame all of these potential excuses. They did not offer the excuses because they were convinced of the presence of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit to do miracles among them.