Formations 04.16.2023: Where to Begin?

Acts 2:1-4, 14-21, 32-36

The title of this unit is “Easter and Onward.” For the last two weeks, we’ve approached and finally arrived at “Easter.” This week we get to the “Onward.” The second half of this unit leads us through the story of the early church after the first Easter. Fittingly, we begin with the day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, we hear a sample of how the early Christians preached about Jesus. He begins with what the many pilgrims in Jerusalem can see and experience: the miracle of Jesus’s followers proclaiming God’s saving acts in their own language.

Peter then appeals to Scripture (Joel 2) to explain what his audience has heard. After that, he summarizes Jesus’s saving work in just a few verses: how he was crucified, was raised from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

These are Jesus’s credentials. Because this is who he is and this is what he has done, “God has made him both Lord and Messiah” (v. 36). And this message will soon reach out to the ends of the earth.

It’s important to note that Peter doesn’t begin his message with the confession that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. He doesn’t begin with the story of the things Jesus did. He doesn’t even begin by quoting Scripture. No, he begins where his audience is: they are bewildered (v. 6), amazed, and perplexed (v.12)—though some think the disciples are drunk (v. 13)!

Peter acknowledges the elephant in the room. We’re not drunk, he says. Rather, you are seeing and hearing something that Scripture itself foretold long ago.

Maybe Peter’s sermon would have been as effective if he had set forth his thesis statement from the start. Maybe this audience of devout Jews would have warmed to his exposition of the book of Joel. We’ll never know. Filled with the Spirit, he began with the opening that the Spirit gave him.

Sometimes, the straightest line to the gospel is through the lived experience of people God wants to touch.


• How do you understand the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of a believer?
• When has the Holy Spirit given you an opening to bless someone in Jesus’s name?
• What difference has the Spirit made in your life?
• What difference has the Spirit made in the life and ministry of your church?
• How does the Spirit make us bold in faith?
• How does the Spirit inspire us to share Christ’s love with others?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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