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28 August 2019

The Jesus of the First Christian Sermon


Day of Pentecost
The Apostle Peter preached the first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost after God poured out His Spirit on the fledgling church at Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-36).
Approximately one hundred and twenty disciples were gathered in Jerusalem for prayer when the Holy Spirit fell suddenly on them with great fanfare.  The commotion confused many in the city, including Jews visiting from other nations. Their consternation was intensified as “each one severally heard those who were speaking in his own language.” Some mocked saying, “They are drunk with wine!
In response, Peter stood up and called the crowd to heed his words.  He began with a citation of Joel 2:28-32, a prophecy of the “last days” when God would “pour out His Spirit on all flesh.”  According to Peter, that prophecy began to be fulfilled on that very day.
Peter then called the “men of Israel” to hear his words about “Jesus the Nazarene, a man pointed out of God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs.” He used the term anér or “male” rather than the more generic anthrōpos.  Anér means “man” but also one who is male rather than female.
This “man” was “pointed out from God” by signs and wonders that God did among them.  The miracles performed confirmed that he was a man sent from God.  In this sermon, a distinction is maintained between God and the man, Jesus.  It was God who performed the miraculous deeds, not Jesus himself. 
This same man was “marked out” by the “foreknowledge” of God. What happened to Jesus was in accord with God’s purpose.  “Foreknowledge” does not imply preexistence; rather, God saw ahead of time who and what this man would be; the things that occurred were according to a plan set in motion by God in the distant past. 
This same Jesus was “slain” on the cross and buried, yet his body did not see corruption because God raised him from the dead.  He “neither abandoned him to Hades nor allowed his flesh to see corruption.”  Instead, God raised him up.  As a genuine human being who had died, his body was subject to decay, but God prevented that by raising him from the dead.  The implication is clear:  if God had not raised Jesus his body would have decomposed.
This same Jesus was subsequently “exalted to the right hand of God” where also, he received “the promise of the Holy Spirit” from the Father, the very Spirit poured out on the disciples in Jerusalem.  The passive voice signifies that God raised Jesus; he did not exalt himself.
Peter concluded by calling on the house of Israel to know that the very same Jesus whom they crucified “God made both Lord and Christ.” “Made” (poieō) translates a common Greek verb for “make, do, perform, accomplish.”  God was the one who acted to make Jesus “Lord and Christ.” At a point in time, God exalted Jesus to rule at His side.
“Christ” or Christos is the Greek equivalent of the Jewish term messiah or “anointed one.”  Peter did not specify when or how this appointment took place, but the implication is that there was a time when Jesus was not “Lord” and “Christ.”  His position is not something that is his by nature; rather, God gave his exalted position to him in consequence of his obedience even unto death (Philippians 2:6-11).
The Christology of Peter straightforward. Jesus was a genuine human being who died a very real death on the cross. Unlike other men, God did not allow Jesus to see bodily corruption though, if God had not intervened, he would have decomposed.  God raised Christ from the dead and then exalted him to His right hand where Jesus now rules until God puts all his foes under his feet.  This was all done in accordance with God’s plan and foreknowledge.
Throughout this sermon, Peter maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus.  It was God who performed the miracles in the life of Jesus, God Who allowed him to be slain according to “his counsel,” God Who raised him from the dead, and God Who exalted him.  At a specific point in time God “made Jesus both Lord and Christ.”
Nowhere in his sermon does Peter suggest that Jesus is anything other than a genuine human being; there is no hint of his preexistence.  His unjust death is seen as a real death.  Peter treats Jesus the Nazarene as a genuine human though one in whom God worked miraculous deeds, raised from the dead, and exalted to become Lord over all things.

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