The Promise and the Perimeters – Acts 2:37-40

I need you to remember the general theme of this series of messages:

Most people read the Book of Acts as merely the history of the second phase of the Lord’s first church.

Jerusalem was the site of the Lord’s first church.

And the first era of the history of that church was when the Lord Jesus was it’s first pastor.

In Acts 2 the church was between pastors, but with a new relationship to the Holy Spirit.

Most people read this book as if it was a history book, and without question it is,

But what I am trying to do, while using that history like the exterior wall of a beautiful cathedral,

I want to look through the beautiful stained-glass windows into the practical theology that lies inside.

So we have had a message about the nature of sermons and the evils of alcohol,

Because those subjects are introduced to us by Luke’s history.

And we’ve had a message on the Kingdom of God and speaking in tongues.

Tonight I want you to notice, once again, the promise, and the perimeters of that promise.

You may think that there is a lot of redundancy in these messages.

You may accuse me of repeating myself, and to some degree I confess that I am,

But it’s because every Bible doctrine always links to several other Bible doctrines.

And the things of God are learned “line upon line and precept upon precept” – (Isaiah 28).

First this evening, there is the PROMISE.

Have you noticed the many references to this promise that we’ve had thus far?

“Being assembled together with them, he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem,

But wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”

Then the Apostles and the rest of the church did wait for the promise of the Father.

Ten days after the ascension of the Saviour, the Holy Spirit brought some of His gifts, baptizing the church and filling its members with miracle-working power.

And when Peter began to preach, he told the assembled crowd that what they had seen and heard was the fulfilment of God’s promise through Joel.

After telling those people to repent, he referred to this promise once again.

“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off,

Even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

I had to snicker just a little when I saw that John Gill equivocated about the meaning of the promise.

He said that it might refer to the Messiah,

Or it might refer to the remission of sins;

Or this promise might be talking about the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit.

I have gotten used to the fact that Gill often likes to cover all the interpretational bases.

I have no doubt, Bro. Gill, that this is talking about the same promise introduced to us in chapter 1.

But, notice the precise wording of verse 39: “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

What EXACTLY is the gift of the Holy Ghost?

Is it the miraculous ability to speak in a foreign tongue?

Is it the gifts of dreaming dreams and seeing visions to which Joel referred?

I think that the answer to that question is found in the word “gift” itself.

This time we aren’t talking about the gift(s) plural, but the GIFT of the Spirit.

This time we aren’t talking about “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness or temperance” – the fruit of the Spirit.

This time we are talking about the Person of the Spirit Himself.

Not all the commentators agree with me on this point, but I think that it’s pretty obvious.

What good is the ability to speak in tongues if the speaker is still unsaved.

There are Pentecostalists who compass sea and land to get one more person to speak in tongues, but often when they do, they make them two-fold more the child of Hell than themselves.

The people to whom Peter was preaching needed to be born again of the Spirit of God.

If and when they were saved, they would then be permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

“If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his.”

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Each and every born-again soul is permanently sealed with and by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13),

“Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of our the purchased possession,

Unto the praise of his glory.”

Would some of the people who were saved on the Day of Pentecost eventually speak in tongues or heal the sick? Possibly.

But more important than that was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which comes on all believers.

I believe that the promise to which Peter refers was that of the Spirit Himself.

What about THE PEOPLE to whom the promise was given?

“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off.”

Obviously, the “you” to whom Peter referred, were the people whom Peter was addressing that morning.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were more than 10,000 people there that day.

Of that number they that gladly received his word were born again, indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

I think that the scripture clear implies that there were many who were not saved that day.

Those who repented and believed on Christ (verse 44) saved themselves from the rest of that untoward generation (verse 40).

All that believed were together, and had all things common, but those who refused to believe didn’t.

The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved, but those who weren’t saved, were not added to the church.

I think that verse 47 is a much misunderstood verse, and we will spend some time on it later.

Peter shared the promise with the people who were listening to his sermon that morning.

And he also referred to the children of those people who were present.

I think that he was talking not to the children who were there that day, because they would have been included in the “you.”

Peter was a referring to future generations of Jews.

This promise of the Spirit was not limited to the generation which was alive in the year in which Jesus died.

And there is a third people to whom the promise was given: “to all that are afar off.”

Remember that many of the people who were listening to Peter, had come 100s of miles to be there.

They hadn’t planned to come in order to hear Peter;

They came to celebrate Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) there in Jerusalem.

But they were providentially led by God that they come from afar to hear this gospel message.

If these people had come from afar, then the people to whom Peter referred were even farther away.

As A.T. Robertson says in his book “Word Pictures from the New Testament:”

“The horizon widens and includes the Gentiles.

Those “afar off” from the Jews were the heathen.”

This phrase “afar off” was a common expression used to describe the Gentiles.

Isaiah used it several times.

And we see it in Ephesians where Paul was talking about the salvation of those Gentile Christians:

“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” – Ephesians 2:13

“And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” – Ephesians 2:17.

The people to whom the promise was given were from Jerusalem and from all Judaea, and from Samaria, and from the uttermost part of the earth.

Amen?

Now, we need to be careful at this juncture.

The promise was given with some specific perimeters:

“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

As Bible students it is very important to let the Bible speak for itself, without the insertion of our preferences.

No, let me correct that:

As Bible students, it is very, very, Very, VERY important to let the Bible speak for itself, without the insertion of our preferences.

The reason that there are so many cults, sects and “isms” today,

Is due to the fact that someone didn’t particularly like what God said,

So he tried to correct it and lead others to follow him in his usurpation of the government of God.

What does this verse say?

Can it mean anything else than that the gift of God would be given only to those whom the Lord chose and called to receive it?

Out of all the people to whom Peter was preaching, and out of their children in the generations to follow,

And out from among those who were afar off,

Those whom the Lord called would be given the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

Does this verse say anything more or less than that?

It doesn’t say that the Spirit would be given to those who believed, but that is certainly true.

It doesn’t say that He would indwell and seal those who repented of their sins, but they all would.

It says that the Spirit would be given to those whom the Lord chose.

I am not misapplying the word “call” here.

It is the word “proskaleomai” (pros-kal-eh’-om-ahee).

And according to James Strong it means: “1) to call to;

2) to call to one’s self; and

3) to bid to come to one’s self.”

Strong says – about this word; not about our verse:

“God is said to call to himself the Gentiles, aliens as they are from him, by inviting them, through the preaching of the gospel unto fellowship with himself in the Messiah’s kingdom.”

The word “call” is intimately related to the words “elect” and “choose.”

Pride-filled men don’t like these words or the theology behind them, but they can’t deny that they are in the Bible.

And as true Bible students, it is very, very, Very, VERY important to let the Bible speak for itself, without the insertion of our personal; preferences.

Did all the people listening to Peter that Pentecostal morning repent of their sins against the Lord?

Apparently they did not.

There were those who received his word, and they were baptized because they showed the fruit of repentance.

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

And as we have said, there were those who believed.

They were together and had all things common, selling their possessions and sharing their wealth with fellow church members.

But the very language suggests that there were others who did not believe and did not share.

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved, but there were others who were not being added to the church.

So what was the difference between these repenting, believing, sharing, joining people and all the rest?

It was that the Lord called and chose them to be recipients of His grace.

This verse says essentially the same thing as Acts 13:48:

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord:

And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” and lost people are natural.

“There is none that seeketh after God” until they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

Their minds are blinded “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them.”

There is not a single child of Adam who is not completely and thoroughly, spiritually dead.

If God doesn’t chose some of them and awaken them, they will all be justly and eternally damned for their sins.

Praise God that there are many “that the Lord or God hath called.”

What is the difference between the people who are at Calvary Baptist Church and those who are at some bar or crack house this evening?

The difference is the sovereign grace of God.

This doesn’t give us reason for pride, it gives us cause to humbly praise the Lord.

While Peter was preaching to a bunch of Jews 2,000 years ago, he spoke and you and me.

He said: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children,

And to all that ARE AFAR OFF, even as many as the Lord our God SHALL CALL.”

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!