Peter’s Pentecost Sermon (Acts 2:14-41)

Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | June 15, 2014


Acts 2:14-41

  • This message is based on a sermon by Derek Thomas from his expository commentary on Acts.
  • On the day of Pentecost we see and hear a very different man in Simon Peter.
  • In a month and a half, he has changed from the fearful coward we saw in the high priest’s courtyard to the brave and outspoken preacher portrayed here.
  • This about-face is the Spirit’s working in Peter.
  • This section of Acts is the first of fifteen “sermons” recorded by Luke – seven by Peter, five by Paul, and one each by Stephen and James.
  • In this sermon, obviously, Luke provides only a summary of what Peter actually said.
  • It was an exposition of many texts of scripture centered on a common theme.
  • It’s an example of how to preach Jesus Christ from the Old Testament.
  • Even though Pentecost was a revealing of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, more importantly it was a continuation of the ongoing ministry of the ascended Jesus Christ


  • Peter makes an evangelistic appeal to his listeners to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
  • Peter’s sermon is good news driven home to the hearts of men and women insisting that what is at stake is a matter of life and death.
  • There’s a sense of urgency.
  • Something needs to be done and right away.
  • And it has everything to do with the identity and mission of Jesus Christ who only six weeks ago was crucified and buried in this city.
  • It has to do with salvation (2: 21, 40).
  • But what’s the meaning of Pentecost?
  • The answer, for Peter, lay in a prophecy of Joel, as well as several other Old Testament passages.
  • As Peter preached the first NT, post-Pentecost sermon, several issues became clear.
  1. Peter held a conviction about the Bible: one book with one message
  2. Peter held a conviction about history: God guides it
  3. Peter held a conviction about Jesus. Jesus is God
  4. Peter held a conviction about salvation:change of mind is necessary
  5. Peter held a conviction about urgency: we are in the last days

First, Peter held a conviction about the Biblethat it’s one book with one message.

  • Peter had been reading the Scriptures during those 40 days of waiting.
  • Because of what he had read in Psalms 69 and 109, we saw him insisting to the disciples in Acts 1 on the replacement of Judas so that the number of the apostles would be restored to 12 again.
  • Now it was the prophecy of Joel that was on his mind.
  • Peter looked to Scripture in order to understand the present.
  • Peter explained in v 16 that what had just occurred on the day of Pentecost was what the prophet Joel had written of.
  • 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
  • Peter had come to understand Pentecost as fulfillment of a part of Joel’s prophecy. (v 28–32).
  • What had occurred that morning in the temple was what the Scriptures foretold.
  • The Bible writers of the New Testament were very conscious of the continuing the story of redemption that had begun in the Garden of Eden.


  • The Bible is one book, with one message, with one principal author – the Holy Spirit.
  • There are 66 separate books in the Bible, and two distinguishable sections – the old and new Testaments.
  • The books themselves were written over the span of 1500 years and include almost every conceivable genre:
    • prose and poetry,
    • hymns and history,
    • sermons and statistics,
    • letters and liturgies,
    • little red divisions and love songs (JI Packer).
  • Yet we call them all by one name, the holy Bible. Why?
  • Because throughout them all, there’s
    • one leading character – God the Creator;
    • one historical perspective – world redemption;
    • one focal figure – Jesus of Nazareth, who is both son of God and Savior; and
    • one solid body of harmonious teaching about God and godliness. (JI Packer).
  • For Peter, as he cites Joel and will later cite Psalms 16 and 110 regarding the identity of Jesus Christ,
    • the Bible is God’s word;
    • it has divine authority.
  • God wrote through these men so that what was written was God’s word no less than it was men’s words.
  • So Luke’s record of Peter’s words now becomes God’s word for us.
  • Peter then provides us with a model of what preaching is: exposition of God’s written Word with a view to applying it to the present and preparing us for the future.

Second, Peter held a conviction about history – that it is guided by God’s hand.

  • Peter held a conviction about the significance of this day of Pentecost.
  • He believed it was a day that God had predicted would occur – just as the death of Jesus had been predicted before it took place.
  • However, Jesus’ death had been brought about by man’s wickedness.
  • Peter declares that it was at the hands of lawless men – verse 23 – living in a crooked generation – verse 40, who were fully responsible for their actions.
  • But at the same time, the hand of God had guided history toward this point.
  • Though it was
    • on the one hand, the most evil day the world has ever seen,
    • on the other hand, the death of Christ took place according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (v 23).
  • 23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
  • For Peter, Pentecost, like the death of Jesus, was part of the unfolding of God’s plan of redemption to save sinners.
  • History – past, present, and future – can be understood from the perspective of the Bible.
  • When we see history as being guided by God’s hand, it can be life transforming.
  • Every day can take on a sense of purpose and meaning because God’s hand is carefully and purposefully guiding it.
  • Peter sensed a divine hand at work in the universe that even the sinful actions of ungodly men couldn’t stop.
  • Jesus had triumphed by securing victory on behalf of of his own.
  • On Pentecost God was once again working in history to prove that his covenantal promises are trustworthy.

Third, Peter expressed a conviction about Jesus – that Jesus is God.

  • That morning men and women in Jerusalem witnessed divided tongues, violent rushing wind, and the ability to speak foreign languages.
  • These were mighty works and wonders and signs of the identity of Jesus (v 22).
  • “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, as you know–…”
  • They confirmed his divinity.
    • Miracles spoke of Jesus’ power.
    • Wonders spoke of his transcendence.
    • These were signs that pointed to Jesus himself.
  • Up to this time, miraculous works had been confined to specific periods of redemptive history especially those that seemed to threaten the existence and continuation of God’s purpose
  • For example, during the time of Moses in the Exodus, and the time of Elijah and Elisha in the establishment of the prophetic ministry and the exile that would follow.
  • God’s power equipped Moses and Elijah to perform supernatural works that both testified to their divine commission and empowered them to fight and defeat the enemies of God.
  • So too, the outpouring of God’s power at Pentecost, served to testify both to the divine commission of the Messiah as well his apostles, and to God’s intention to destroy the gates of Hades (Mat 16:18).
  • The pouring out of the Holy Spirit came as a result of the exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God (v 33).
  • 33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
  • It was to Christ, not the Holy Spirit, that Peter drew attention.
  • He spoke of Jesus’ life and ministry, his death and resurrection, and finally has exaltation.
  • Resurrection received the greatest stress in Peter’s sermon.
  • 24 “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
  • David had written in Psalm 16:8–11 that God wouldn’t abandon him to the grave or let his holy one see decay (v 27).
  • 27 Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.
  • But David’s body did in fact see decay.
  • So David wrote not of himself, but of his descendant Jesus.
  • By the resurrection, Jesus was delivered from God’s wrath to God’s grace.
  • And the resurrection of Jesus becomes the essence of our own redemption, regeneration, and adoption.
  • That’s why the NT sometimes speaks of our experience of salvation as a spiritual resurrection:
    • as believers, God has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph 2:6).
  • This is something we enjoy now.
  • The resurrection of Jesus means that we who are believers already experience resurrection life.
  • Jesus received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit – his Father’s reward for his messianic covenantal obedience.
  • The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son as Christ’s representative agent, as David foresaw in Ps 110:1,
  • (vv 34-35) “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.”‘ .
  • Since Jesus was now in heaven, he would ensure the defeat of all his enemies by his representative agent, the Holy Spirit.
  • And “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” in Joel 2:32, now becomes “Lord” in Acts 2:21,
  • 21 ‘And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
  • Peter calls Jesus “LORD” in v 21, “Jesus of Nazareth” in v 22, “this Jesus” in v 23, and “Lord and Christ” in v 36.
  • The Spirit came to enable them to say Jesus is Lord.
  • Now they understood at least to some degree: there was only one God, but there is more than one who is God. Jesus is God.

Fourth, Peter expressed a conviction about salvation – that a change of mind is necessary.

  • “What shall we do?” The people cried in response to Peter’s preaching in v
  • Peter urged them to do two things so that their sins might be forgiven: repent and be baptized
  • (v 38) “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • The word for repent here stresses that a change of mind is necessary.
  • When people are in the position of Peter’s hearers, they look at their standing before God and understand that something is very wrong.
  • A new attitude towards sin is formed.
  • Sin can now be seen as something that has brought about the death of Jesus Christ.
  • A new understanding of who God is has also been formed. God is holy and righteous.
  • By the set purpose of God Jesus was put to death (v 23).
  • Something in God’s character required Jesus’ death on the cross so that sin might be forgiven.
  • Peter’s listeners understood that they needed to be reconciled with God.
  • Peter also urged them to be baptized.
  • Baptism would picture outwardly what was true of those who repented inwardly:
    • forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Water baptism illustrates cleansing from sin.
  • It serves as a sign and seal of the covenant purpose of God.
  • Signs and seals have been in existence from the very beginning:
    • a rainbow for the covenant with Noah,
    • circumcision for the covenant with Abraham,
    • the Sabbath for the covenant with Moses, and
    • the king’s throne for the covenant with David.
  • Baptism, then, serves as a sign of what God intends in salvation – a washing away of our sins.
  • In keeping with Jesus’ charge in Acts 1:8 to go to the ends of the earth, the promise extends to all – Gentiles as well as Jews, who call upon the name of the Lord in v 39,
  • 39 “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
  • But Peter was saying more than that God extends the promise of salvation to children who put their trust in Jesus Christ.
  • It’s the children of those who repent, and these children specifically.
  • Such children are in covenant – something that these convicted Jews already knew.
  • Their children had already been circumcised because of it.
  • But the same promise now extends in the era of the new covenant as was the case in the era of the old covenant.
  • Baptism is not a sign of faith but to
  • It calls those who are baptized to place their trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
  • It points to Christ and seals his promise as trustworthy.

Fifth, Peter expressed a conviction about urgency – that we are in the last days.

  • Look at vv 17-21.

17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams;

 18 Even upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy.

 19 ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above, And signs on the earth beneath, Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.

 20 ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.

 21 ‘And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

  • At the beginning of this quotation, Peter changes Joel’s “afterward” to “in the last days.”
  • The events that took place on Pentecost are indicative of the last days.
  • The last days are not merely the time immediately prior to Jesus’ second coming.
  • The entire period between his incarnation and second coming – are the last days.
  • Peter therefore, understood Pentecost in the pouring out of the Spirit as characterizing the end.
  • Something of the final state of existence has broken into this world of time and space.
  • The “not yet” has already broken into the “now” (1 Cor 10:11).
  • There’s a sense of urgency.
  • We are living in the last days and the next great redemptive event is the second coming, though we can’t know exactly when it will occur.
  • The need to be right with God is pressing; it’s the most burning issue we can face.
    Finally, look at v 41. “About 3000 were added that day.”
  • Why were there so many conversions?
  • It was a work of the Holy Spirit! He disturbed their hearts.
  • He brought them under conviction.
  • He drew them to Jesus Christ.
  • Pentecost was a sovereign work of supernatural power.
  • It’s not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech 4:6).
  • Though it’s an unrepeatable event in one way, we can pray for a similar work of the Spirit in our day.
  • George Whitefield was an evangelist of a previous generation, who preached to multitudes in the British Isles and America.
  • Whitefield preached among the miners in Bristol England, who at that time were treated more like animals than human beings and had little in the way of food or warmth.
  • Thousands of men gathered around Whitefield when he came to preach, a virtual sea of coal-blackened faces standing before him.
  • But when the preaching began, the Spirit of God moved.
  • The miners were pierced to the heart in hearing of the love of God and mercy of God.
  • As they began to weep, white lines appeared on their faces, as tears cut furroughs down their cheeks.
  • Many came to Christ that day as the heavens were opened in response to the preaching of God’s word.
  • Do we pray for such results in our time?
  • Do we long that we might see such a day?

Categories: Acts, Acts: The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, Pentecost, Sermons, The Life and Ministry of Jesus

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