You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs…
If we see the effect upon Peter, we shall have a true idea of the effect of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon the entire Church. Fix your minds, therefore, upon Peter. We know what he has been up to this time, ardent, impulsive, unbalanced, enthusiastic, cowardly. Since we last saw him he has been the subject of Pentecostal influence. We have therefore to look on that picture and on this; and upon the change discoverable between the two pictures you may found your estimate of the value of spiritual inspiration. Notice —
I. HIS HEROIC ELOQUENCE. It is not enough to speak — you may teach an automaton to speak. This man is not only speaking words, he is speaking them with unction, with fire, with emphasis, never heard in his tone before. You have not the whole speech in the words. You must be enabled, by a kind of semi-inspiration of your own, to read between the lines, in order to get hold of all the force and weight of this burning oration: there are palpitations which cannot be reported, and tones which have no typal representation. It carries everything before it like a fire marching through dry stubble.
II. Not only was he transformed into an orator, but into A PROFOUND EXPOSITOR OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE IN THE CREATION AND EDUCATION OF THE CHURCH. He speaks like a philosopher. He sees that the ages are not unrelated days, broken and incohesive nights, but that the ages are one, as the day is one, from its grey dawn to the time of the lighting of the evening star. This always follows deep acquaintance with the mysteries of God and high fellowship with the Spirit of the living One; we are delivered from the vexation and torment of daily details, and are set in the great currents and movements of the Divine purpose, and thereby do we acquire the balance which gives us rest and serenity, which often glows into courageous joy.
III. PETER SHOWS US HOW PROPHECY IS FULFILLED. The fulfilment of prophecy is not something which God has been arduously trying to do and has at last barely accomplished; it is a natural process, and it comes to express a natural end. Prophecy is not to God a mere hope, it is a clear vision of what must be, and of what He Himself will bring to pass. It is prophesied that the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. It is not a mere hope, it is the sure outcome of the Divine way of doing things. Christ must, by the necessity of righteousness and light and truth, reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. Prophecy is God's note of hand that He will yet give His Son the heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession, signed in every ink in the universe, signed in heaven before the earth was formed, signed on Calvary by the blood-ink of the Cross. We must rest in this assurance; the word of the Lord will prevail, not by means of education, eloquence, or mechanical efforts on the part of the Church, but the world will be converted unto Christ because God has said it will be so, and when His word has gone forth it cannot return to Him void.
IV. PETER STARTLED THE CHURCH BY BECOMING ITS MOST SOLID AND CONVINCING REASONER. Observe where and how Peter begins his address. "Jesus of Nazareth, a man," there is no appeal to theological bias or prejudice. Had he begun by saying, "Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate God," he would have lost his audience in his first sentence. He began where his hearers could begin, and he who begins otherwise than at the point of sympathy, how eloquent soever, will lose the reins ere he has time to put one sentence to another. Already, therefore, this inspiration is beginning to tell in the mental force and astuteness of this unlettered fisherman. He gives up the Deity of Christ, does he? Note the argumentative skill. Had Peter broken off his speech in the first sentence, the coldest Socinian could have endorsed his utterance, but Peter makes way through Scriptural quotations and through inspired exposition, until he concludes with this burning breath, "God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ." Notice, too, how Peter stands without equivocation upon the historical fact of the resurrection. He was not talking to people who lived a century after the reported rising again of Christ: he was talking to men who knew perfectly well what had happened. Does he put any gloss upon the matter — does he seek to make it a parable, a typal instance, a quasi resurrection? He talks with the absolute frankness of a man who is relating facts, which every child in the assembly knew to be such, and could instantly have contradicted the statements which he made, had they been false. Does Peter separate Christ from the wonderful manifestation of the Spirit which had been granted? On the contrary, he connects the Pentecost with the risen and glorified Son of God. This enables him to use another "therefore." I refer to these "therefores" in this connection because we are trying to show how inspiritedly argumentative the apostle had become. "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted," etc. This is His last miracle, the spiritualisation of all the miracles, the marvel to which all signs and wonders were leading up, the capital without which the column would have been unfinished, the revelation of the purpose which moved His heart when He came to save the world and found His Church.
V. IT WAS ALSO A GREAT EVANGELICAL SPEECH WHICH PETER MADE. He gave the house of Israel a new chance. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly" — it is as if Peter would say, "Now you have the opportunity of escaping all the past and beginning a new and glorious future." This is the continual speech of Christianity. Every morning Christianity says, "You can make to-day better than yesterday." Conclusion.
1. We have in Peter a standard whereby to measure ourselves. When the Holy Ghost falls upon us we shall go to the Bible with a new reading power, and we shall see wonders where before we saw nothing because of our spiritual blindness. Under the enlightenment of the Spirit we shall see that everything grand in thought, thrilling in poetry, tragic in experience, noble in heroism, is in the Bible. There is nothing in literature whose root is not to be found in the inspired volume. This is the Book out of which all other books are made, as the earth is the quarry out of which all its palaces have been dug, and as there are grander palaces in the rocks and woods than have yet been built, so there are more glorious visions in the Bible than we have yet beheld.
2. As the earth owes nothing to any other world but her light, so God has made men that we carry everything in us but our own inspiration. He does not make us new men in the sense of losing our old identity, He makes us new by His inspiration in the sense of lifting us up to the full expression of His own holy purpose in our original creation. We cannot inspire ourselves. The Holy Ghost is the gift of God. We have wondrous faculties as the earth has wondrous treasures — all these are the gift of God, all these we hold in stewardship for God. But these will be in us so many weights and burdens, curses rather than blessings, unless there fall upon us the mighty Pentecostal Holy Spirit. Then shall we be our true selves, eloquent, wise, argumentative, strong, evangelical, sympathetic, new creatures in Christ Jesus, through whom the Holy Ghost has been shed abroad in our hearts.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: