Exalting Jesus so the Spirit Falls
"You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
The Holy Spirit Is Free to Do as He Pleases
The Holy Spirit is free to come and to go whenever and however he pleases. He is free to give gifts and withhold gifts, to regenerate and convict and baptize and seal and fill and comfort and counsel whenever he wills according to his own infinite wisdom. He is not bound to make any of our programs work. He is not constrained to do what we think he should do when we think he should do it. He is God. And he is free.
Hebrews 2:4 says that when the gospel came to those people, God "bore witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy spirit distributed according to his own will." "According to his own will" means that the Spirit is free and sovereign in the way he gives his gifts and works his miracles.
1 Corinthians 12:11 says the same thing. "All these [gifts] are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." As he wills, not necessarily as we will. He is free.
Jesus put it in a picture. He compares the freedom of the Spirit to the freedom of the wind. In John 3:8 he says, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so is every one who is born of the Spirit." The Holy Spirit is as free as the wind. You can't see him. You can't control him. Suddenly he is around you and in you. You did not make him come any more than you can rule the wind. He is free.
Peter's Preaching and the Coming of the Spirit
That's the way he came in Acts 10. Before the sermon was over, before any formal invitation for him to come, suddenly he was there. Verse 44: "While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word."
The question I have is this: Is there any correlation between the way Peter preached and the coming of the Holy Spirit in power? I don't mean, Did Peter make him come? He's free. I simply mean, Is there something about the sermon that might increase the likelihood that the Spirit would choose to come?
The Mission of the Holy Spirit
I think there is. And the clue is realizing what the mission of the Holy Spirit is. Jesus told us what the essence of the mission of the Holy Spirit is in John 16:14. He said, "He will glorify me." J.I. Packer wrote a very good book called Keep in Step with the Spirit. His main point in that book is this: "The essence of the Holy Spirit's ministry is, at this or any time in the Christian era, to mediate the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ" (p. 55). In other words, the Spirit is sent to make Christ real to people and to show us who he really is in his glory so that we come to love him and trust him and obey him and show him to the world.
What this means is that the Holy Spirit is more likely to come in power where the truth about Jesus is being lifted up and made plain. The Spirit loves to come and take the truth about Jesus and turn it into an experience of Jesus. That's what happened in Acts 10. Peter held up a verbal portrait of Jesus and the Spirit came and turned the portrait into the living reality of Jesus himself.
Peter's Preaching Exalted Jesus and the Spirit Came
So my answer to the question: Is there any correlation between the way Peter preached and the coming of the Holy Spirit in power? is YES. The correlation is that Peter painted such a picture of Jesus that the Spirit saw a very attractive opportunity to come and glorify the Son of God—which is what he is appointed to do. That is his mission. That's the essence of his ministry. So he is very likely to come in power when Jesus is lifted up in truth and made the center of our focus.
So if you want the Spirit's power in your life, I encourage you to make Jesus the center of your life.
How Peter Exalted Jesus
To be more specific let's take the rest of our time and simply dwell on the way Peter focused on Jesus. Let's try to do what he did. And let's pray that the Spirit will clothe us with power so that Jesus is not merely an idea or a word picture, but a living person in our lives. The central person in our lives.
1. Jesus, the Bringer of Peace
Peter lifts up Jesus as the one through whom God makes peace with his rebellious creation.
Verse 36: "You know the word which he [God] sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ."
This sermon begins here and ends in verse 43 with God as a Peacemaker through Jesus Christ. Here we see God offering terms of peace through Jesus. There he offers forgiveness through Jesus. It's the same thing. We have peace with God only when his anger at us because of our sins is put away, and replaced by peace. And that comes through Jesus. So the first and last thing Peter lifts up about Jesus is that he is God's Peacemaker. "God sent good news of peace by Jesus Christ" (v. 36).
2. Jesus, the Lord of All
Peter lifts up Jesus as the Lord of all.
Verse 36 (at the end): "You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)."
When God undertook to make peace with sinners and send a message of amnesty to his rebel subjects, he did not send an errand-boy, or a heavenly James Baker, or even a five star general like Gabriel or Michael. He sent the "Lord of all." "God sent good news of peace by Jesus Christ—"he is Lord of all."
That's how important the mission was. That's the way it had to be done. That's who he is. He is Lord of all. Not just Lord of the Jews, but Lord of the Gentiles like Cornelius and his family, and not just Lord of the Gentiles, but Lord of all angels and all demons (as we'll see in a minute). He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). He is universal Ruler. He is not a mere local prophet or a tribal deity or a Jewish teacher. He is Lord of the universe and everything in it—Lord of all.
That's the second thing Peter lifts up about Jesus: Lord of all.
3. Jesus, a Man Anointed with the Spirit and Power
Peter lifts up Jesus as a man anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.
Verse 38: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power."
It is tremendously important to say the awesome fact that Jesus—the Lord of all—was a man. That's the point of Peter's identifying him as "Jesus of Nazareth." He had a hometown. He was known by friends and kinsmen there. He worked in the carpenter's shop. The Lord of all had become a human like you and me (only without sin).
And so he was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power like other humans need to be anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power in order to have extraordinary effect in ministry.
The end of verse 38 says, "for God was with him." The point is not that he was not God. The point was that as a man he relied upon God. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. The Lord of all humbled himself and became a servant and lived his life in the anointing and the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is the one mention of the Spirit's ministry that the Gentiles at Cornelius' house hear in Peter's message. I can't help but wonder if this kindled a sense of expectancy that if Jesus—the one from Nazareth 25 miles to the northwest—was anointed with the Spirit and with power, maybe they could be too. And maybe us.
4. Jesus, a Man Stronger Than Sin and Satan
Peter lifts up Jesus as a man who was stronger than sin and stronger than the devil.
Verse 38b: "He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."
The anointing and power that Jesus had from God was not given from far away. When the anointing came, God came. Jesus walked with God his Father. When Jesus acted, the Father acted. There was perfect intimacy. God was with him.
And because God was with him, and the anointing and power of God were on him, Jesus did what was good. Jesus never did bad things. He was tempted to do bad things, just like we are, but the Bible teaches that he always conquered the temptation (Hebrews 4:15). He was stronger than sin, because he kept such intimate, satisfying fellowship with God. The power of sin was broken by the presence of God's joy in Jesus' life.
And by this same power he conquered the devil: verse 38b, "He went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." Jesus is stronger than the devil. Jesus rescues people who are oppressed and harassed and tormented and tempted by the devil. Peter lifts up this truth. He wants Cornelius and his family—and us—to know this and believe it and experience it. When the Holy Spirit comes, he comes to make Jesus real as a deliverer from satanic oppression.
5. Jesus, a Man Who Was Killed in Spite of His Goodness
Peter lifts up Jesus as a man who was killed in spite of his goodness.
Verse 39: "And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree."
In spite of the fact that he was God's Peacemaker, in spite of the fact that he was Lord of all, in spite of the fact that he was anointed by the Holy Spirit and power and was stronger than sin and the devil and that God was with him, he was killed.
There is only one possible explanation for this: God must have willed it and sin must have caused it. Some strange and wonderful divine work was happening here. But Peter leaves it a mystery and moves immediately to lift up three final truths about this crucified Christ.
6. Jesus, Alive from the Dead and Raised by God
Peter lifts up Jesus as alive from the dead because God raised him after three days.
Verses 40–41: "But God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead."
Jesus is alive. He is alive because God did not abandon his Peacemaker in death. He raised him from the dead. He vindicated him and gave him a name above every name so that every tongue in the universe will confess that he is indeed Lord of all—just like Peter said he was.
And his resurrection was bodily. He is not a ghost. He is not mere spirit. Verse 41 says that the witnesses ate and drank with him. He has a new resurrection body with flesh and bones and a glorified digestive track (Luke 24:40). Jesus did not disappear into some ethereal realm and leave creation to the dogs. He took the created world of flesh and bones and fish and wine up into the realm of God and set the stage for the new heavens and the new earth.
7. Jesus, the Final Judge of All People
Peter lifts up Jesus as the final judge of every person in the universe whether they are dead or alive.
Verse 42: "And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead."
O that the Spirit would come and make this real to you! Every one of you will stand before Jesus Christ as your judge, just as surely as I am standing before you right now. No pinstriped power suits, no Visa cards, no medals, no make-up or cool pants or trendy shoes or stylish hair. Just the plain, get-up-in-the-morning, unimproved, sinful you.
And Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, will decide where you spend eternity. And what he decides in that moment, you decide now. You will either be condemned justly for all your sins and sent to everlasting torment (Revelation 14:11), or you will be acquitted, pardoned, and received into everlasting joy.
The difference? That's what Peter lifts up last in his sermon before the Spirit falls.
8. Jesus, the Source of God's Forgiveness for Our Sins
Peter lifts up Jesus as the source of God's forgiveness for our sins.
Verse 43: "To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
Before you meet Jesus as Judge, you may meet him this very morning as the forgiver of sins—the Peacemaker of God. That's how Peter's sermon begins and ends. And if you believe in him, you will receive forgiveness of sins through his name and be pardoned when you stand before him as judge.
If you believe in him. And that means trust him with your life as the Peacemaker of God; trust him with your life as the Lord of all; trust him with your life as God's anointed one, full of the Spirit and power; trust him with your life as stronger than sin and Satan; trust him with your life as one who died and rose again and lives today; trust him with your life as the one who will judge the living and the dead; and trust him with your life as the forgiver of sins.
This is the Christ that the Spirit loves to glorify. May he come to you and make this Jesus infinitely more than a sermon. Amen.
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