Promise is unto you

The gift of the Spirit is for all men and women who repent, “even to those afar off,” all in fulfillment of the promises of the Father - Acts 2:37-41

Cascade - Photo by Henrik Eikefjord on Unsplash
After completing his sermon to the crowd of pilgrims, Peter issued what we, today, might label the “first altar call,” summoning his audience to repent. But something more than a call to accept the gospel was transpiring, and the conclusion of his discourse ended on a note of fulfillment, and even more significantly, with a foretaste of things to come - 
Photo by Henrik Eikefjord on Unsplash.

His sermon began with a citation from Joel and ended with a clause from the same passage, neatly bracketing his core message. What began that day was the commencement of an era of fulfillment, one that will continue until the consummation of all things on the “day of the LORD.”

What the crowd “saw and heard” was none other than the outpouring of the Spirit “in the last days,” just as Joel prophesied. With the Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation of Jesus, the “last days” began in earnest, and therefore, the promised gift was granted, beginning with the fledgling church in Jerusalem, but certainly, not ending there.
  • (Joel 2:28-32) – “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Yahweh shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Yahweh said, and among the remnant those whom Yahweh calls.
Considering the unexpected and cosmos-shattering events of that day, the “Day of the LORD” could not be far off; therefore, everyone who heard Peter’s words needed to repent, even “as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
  • (Acts 2:37-41) - “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to him. And with many other words, he testified, and exhorted them, saying: Save yourselves from this crooked generation. They, then, that received his word were baptized: and there were added to them in that day about three thousand souls.”
The arrival of the “promise” witnessed by the crowd was the “gift of the Spirit” promised by Jesus. Just before his ascension, he commanded his disciples to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they were endued with power from on high by the “promise of the Father.” John baptized in water, but the “greater one,” Jesus Christ, would “baptize in the Holy Spirit.” Afterward, the disciples would become his witnesses and take his gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the “uttermost parts of the earth” - (Acts 1:4-5, Luke 3:16, 24:49).

The setting of the sermon must be kept in mind. The sights and sounds that accompanied the Spirit’s arrival caused confusion among the Jewish pilgrims gathered at the Temple, “Jews and proselytes” from at least fifteen nations from around the Mediterranean and Near East. As the editor of Acts, Luke did not list those nations simply for literary effect, but to make the theological point. The outpouring of the Spirit marked the start of the announcement of the kingdom of God to all nations (“Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven”).

From its start, the covenant with Abraham envisioned a people consisting of more than just his biological descendants. At one point, Yahweh showed Abraham the stars of heaven and challenged him to number them if he could. So, also, would be the number of his “seed.” Later, God promised Abraham that he would be the “father of many nations” - (Genesis 15:5, 17:4-6).

But his physical descendants failed to keep to the covenant. That did not mean Yahweh had rejected Israel. To the contrary, to facilitate their redemption and restoration, He promised to provide them with a new covenant relationship that would include the gift of His Spirit to the remnant of Israel. The day would come when Yahweh would “gather you from among the nations and bring you into your own land.” On that day, He would put a “new Spirit within you… And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes” - (Ezekiel 36:24-27).
Thus, the fulfillment of that covenant promise began on the Day of Pentecost, not only with the outpouring of the Spirit on the small group of disciples gathered in prayer but also with the addition of about three thousand converts from among the Jewish pilgrims gathered “from every nation under heaven.”

But that was only the beginning, for the “promise” was “to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to him.” The proclamation of the gospel began that day in Jerusalem, but as the Book of Acts demonstrates, it progressed from there to “Judea, Samaria,” and even to Rome, the center of the empire.

At the end of Acts, we find the Apostle Paul in the city of Rome under house arrest. Nevertheless, despite his circumstances, he “received all that went to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness,” both to Jews and Gentiles - (Acts 28:30-31).

Thus, the gift of the Spirit and the proclamation of the “good news” to all nations did not represent a radical departure from or abandonment of the covenant with Abraham, but its fulfillment. What began that day in Jerusalem was only the first stage in taking the kingdom of God to all nations, “to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Thus, the “promise of the Father” is to “you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call to him.”



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