EN ES

Sermon: Let Us Call Upon The Name Of The Lord: Acts 2 and Selected Texts


New Testament Reading: Acts 2

“When the day of Pentecost arrived [Pentecost was the second of the annual harvest festivals, coming 50 days after Passover] they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting [“they” being the apostles along with other disciples who were eye witnesses to the life of Christ] . And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’ And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:1–47, ESV)

Introduction

Friends, I’ve read this scripture to you thinking that it would help us to transition from our study of the Gospel of John to a brief series in which we will give attention to the topic of prayer. 77 Sermons were devoted to John, only 5 will be devoted to the topic of prayer, but I wanted to make a connection between the two. Acts 2 helps us to bridge the gap, think.

Notice that the book Acts tells us all about the continuation of the work of Christ in the world. His earthly ministry was concluded when he ascended to the Father – Acts chapter 1 tells us about that. But it would be wrong to assume that his work was completely done.

Christ’s work in the world continues to this present day. It continues by the agency of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 tells us of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit was poured out in fulfillment to the word of the prophets, particularly Joel, who wrote, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” (Joel 2:28, ESV) The Spirit was also given in fulfillment to the word of Christ, who made a promise to his disciples, saying, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18, ESV), and, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17, ESV) This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2 tells us about that. The work of Christ continues through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not have another mission. His mission is connected to and flows from the mission of Christ, which is the mission of the Father. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all perfectly agree.

Notice also that the book of Acts demonstrates how the apostles of Christ continued the work of Christ. They were among those upon whom the promised Spirit was originally poured out. They were the ones to first proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. They were the ones to bring in the first harvest – when Peter preached, 3,000 souls were added to their number on that first day. They were the ones through whom “many wonders and signs were being done (Acts 2:43). The apostles of Christ continued Jesus’ work in the world.

See also how Peter was the one to lead in the earliest days of the church. Remember how we saw him stumble in John’s Gospel. And remember also how he was restored. And see how, once the Spirit was given, his ministry was made fruitful. Peter cast out his net on the day of Pentecost and he pulled it in full with converts from all over the world.

And notice how, in Acts 2, everything comes to focus upon the church. The New Covenant church was born on the day of Pentecost. First, the apostles and other original disciples of Christ were filled with the Spirit, and then, through their preaching, many others were added to their number. People from all over the world were ushered into the kingdom of Christ on that day. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV) It was the church that would continue the work of Christ in the world. The apostles are the foundation of the church. Christ himself is the cornerstone. A church is not a true church – a Christian is not a true Christian – unless they align with Christ. Nor are they true unless they be built upon the fountain of the word of the apostles. But it is the true church – the church filled with the Spirit, built upon the foundation of Christ and the apostles – that continues the work of Christ in the world.

The question might be asked, where is Christ at work in the world today? 

In one sense we might say, ‘Christ is at work everywhere and through everything.’ This is indeed true if we consider the work of Christ from the vantage point of his providence. Indeed, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3, ESV) And truly, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [him].” (Matthew 28:18, ESV) If viewed from this angle we must confess that Christ is at work everywhere, and in everything.

But in another sense we must acknowledge that Christ is especially working in this world in and through his church. It is through the church that Christ’s redemptive kingdom is advancing. Christ spoke to Simon, saying,  “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV) It was to the church that Christ gave the Great Commission. He spoke to the apostles, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV) This commission is our commission because we, the church, are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The church is Christ’s body. The church is the house of God. The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So, if you want to answer the question, where is Christ at work in the world today?, the answer is, in and through his church! The kingdom of Christ advances when the church advances. The gates of hell are pushed back when the church faithfully proclaims the gospel of the kingdom to the world, when the Spirit regenerates sinners, bringing them to repentance and faith in Christ, and into the church. It is then that men and women are “delivered… from the domain of darkness and transferred… to the kingdom of [the] beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13, ESV)

When we pray to the Father, saying, ‘your kingdom come’, we are praying “that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed, and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced; ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it, and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened” (Baptist Catechism, 109).

Christ accomplished redemption for all of those given to him by the Father in his earthly ministry. But his work continues in the world as he applies the redemption he has earned to his elect by the Spirit, and through the church, as she is faithful to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the world.

That is what the book of Acts is all about. In it we see the church militant. When I use the word militant by no means am I suggesting that the church should ever advance by force or by violence. Instead I wish to emphasize the forward moving, offensive (as opposed to defensive), missional nature of the church. The church is called by God to advance the kingdom of Christ. Hell has gates, and the church is to push them back. There is indeed a war, and the church is to engage in warfare. But “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4, ESV)

But what does a forward moving, offensive, missional church look like? What are we to do? What are we to devote ourselves to?

Our minds naturally go to Christians doing evangelism, don’t they? We think of Christians preaching the gospel to the non-believing world. We think of Christian witness. We think of the sending of missionaries. These things are indeed aspects of a forward moving, offensive, missional church. And the book of Acts is filled with accounts of the early church being faithful in their witness to the world. In fact, the bulk of Acts 2 is a record of Peter’s preaching of the gospel on the day of Pentecost.

The day is coming when we will give special attention to the topic of evangelism. A class will be offered on the subject this fall. I hope you attend. We must evangelize. We must reach out. But today I’d like to give attention, not to the outreach of the church, but to the habit of the church itself. What did the Christians devote themselves to when they gathered together as the church in those early days? That is the question.

Brothers and sisters, it is important for us to see that there exists an organic connection between the outreach efforts of a church and the church itself. The two cannot be separated. The church must gather before it can scatter. And the health of the church gathered will dictate the effectiveness of the church scattered.

To say it another way, if we hope to do evangelism well in this community we must first give attention to the health of the church itself. Just as a seed sends forth a shoot, so too the church sends forth its members to witness in the world. Just as a heathy seed will produce a healthy shoot, so too a healthy church will send forth healthy ambassadors. The two things are organically connected and cannot be separated.

For an evangelist or missionary to be operating disconnected from the local church is unbiblical. It is the local church that sends men to proclaim the gospel. Just as a shoot cannot exist apart from the seed, neither should an evangelist or missionary exist apart from the local church.

Listen to the way that Paul expresses this concept in Romans 10:13-15. He works backwards from the thought of a sinner coming to believe upon Christ after hearing the gospel preached. He says,

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:13–15, ESV)

How then will sinners come to call upon the name of the Lord? They must first believe in Christ! And how will they come to believe in Christ? They must hear about him! And how will they hear about him? Someone must preach to them! And how will men preach the good news of Jesus Christ to sinners? They must be sent. The local church must send men – commission them – to preach the gospel locally, and to the ends of the earth.

Is this not what we see in the book of Acts? Were not Paul and Barnabas, for example, sent out from the church in Antioch. Antioch was the seed, Paul and Barnabas were the shoot that sprung from them.

So what is the point I am making?

My hope for us is that we would indeed grow into a dynamic sending church. My prayer is that the gospel would spring forth from us. Of course every member is to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, with gentleness and respect. But more than that, I hope to see men commissioned to proclaim the gospel locally and to the ends of the earth. We hope to plant churches. We hope to support and send missionaries. We hope to be a proactive, forward moving, missional church – a church that advances the kingdom of Christ and pushes back the kingdom of darkness.

But if the Lord is to use us in that capacity we must also labor to be a fully formed and healthy local church. It is a healthy local church that is able to do missions well.

So what are the habits of a healthy local church?

Acts 2 tells us what our habits should be. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, ESV)

Four things are mentioned in this passage. The habit of the early church was to give itself, one, to the apostles teaching, which is the word of God. Two, they were devoted to the fellowship. This involved more than superficial relationships. To have fellowship is to share Christ in common. To have fellowship is to love one another in from the heart and in practical ways. Three, the early church broke the bread together. This is a reference to the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Baptism has already been mentioned in Acts 2. Here it is the Lord’s Supper that is in view. The early church devoted itself to the observance of the sacraments. And four, the church devoted itself to the prayers. This is a reference, not only to the individual prayer habits of the Christian, but to the congregational, corporate, communal prayers of the church gathered.

If you were to critique Emmaus Christian Fellowship concerning our devotion to these four means of grace, where would you say that we are lacking? I am desirous that we would strengthen our devotion to the prayers.

Much effort and progress has been made in the past five years as it pertains to our devotion to the apostles teaching, the fellowship, and the breaking of the bread. My desire is that we would be strengthened in the area of prayer – that we would devote ourself to it as a church – that we would learn to labor in prayer together, and to call upon the name of the Lord.

I trust that we are praying as individuals. I trust that we are praying as families. I trust that we are praying in small groups. And I trust that we are praying during our corporate time of worship on Sunday mornings. But my hope is that we would learn to labor – to truly work in prayer – as a body.

As you know, we will be starting a prayer service on the third Sunday of every month at 4:00pm here at Diamond Valley Middle School. The first service will be held on July17th. I hope you can come. I hope you bring the children so that they can learn to pray. It will last about an hour with a little singing, a little scripture reading and teaching, but mainly prayer. The prayer time will be structured. My hope is that we will labor together as we come before the throne of grace.

As I said earlier, five sermons will be devoted to the topic of prayer – this one and four more. The last one will be preached on July 17th, and then we will gather for our first prayer service that evening.

Today I would like to do three things with the brief time that we have remaining. First of all, I want for you to recognize this simple principle: God’s people have always been people who pray. Secondly, I would like to define prayer. And thirdly, I would like to address a common objection to prayer.

God’s People Have Always Been People Who Pray

First of all, see that God’s people have always been people who pray. It is one of the defining characteristics of a child of God. To believe in God is to pray to him. Those who have faith in God   are those who call upon the name of the LORD.

Notice that the Old Testament saints prayed.

It was in the days of Seth and Enosh that people began to call upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). Job consistently prayed to God on behalf of his family. Abraham called upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:8). Samuel prayed. Moses was a man of prayer. So was David. To know God is to pray to God.

The Old Testament tabernacle and temple symbolized this. God commanded that an alter of incense be positioned just outside of the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies, symbolized the throne room of God. Sweet smelling incense was to be burned on the alter continuously. When it was burned it would fill, not only the Holy Place, but the Most Holy Place too. The smoke symbolized the prayers of the people. It was a reminder to the saints of old that their prayers, though they were spoken on earth, did, in fact, come into the presence of God.

Notice also that Jesus prayed. He prayed, not according to his divinity, but according to his humanity.   He was devout in his prayer, and he taught his disciples to pray, saying,

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9–13, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, the apostles prayed. And the early church prayed. Paul wrote to Timothy, saying, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling…” (1 Timothy 2:8, ESV)

Christians throughout the centuries have prayed. It is said of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, for example, that he, even in the busiest days of the Reformation, would devote three hours a day to prayer.

Brothers and sisters, we are to pray. We are to pray as individuals, in families, and in small groups. But we are also to pray as a church, laboring together in it. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, ESV) So should we.

What Is Prayer?

Let us now define prayer.

Calvin defined prayer as “a communion of men with God by which, having entered the heavenly sanctuary, they appeal to him in person concerning his promises in order to experience… that what they believed was not in vain (Institutes, 3.20.5). In another place he wrote that prayer is “a communication between God and us whereby we expound to him our desires, our joys, our sighs, in a word, all the thoughts of our hearts” (Instruction in Faith, 57).

He is right to notice that prayer, in essence, is “communion of men with God”. It is “communication between God and us”. We approach God in prayer. We are invited into the Most Holy Place. And we are invited to “appeal to him concerning his promises”, and expound to him our desires, our joys, our sighs, in a word, all thoughts of our hearts.”

Brothers and sisters, what a gift prayer is! Is there anything more intimate in our communion with God than prayer? Is there anything more precious than to be invited to approach the throne of grace? “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV)

Of course we can only approach the Father in this way through the Son and by the Spirit.

Prayer is a Trinitarian thing. We approach God the Father through the Son and by the Spirit. This is why we pray in Jesus’ name. We approach the Father, not based upon our own merit, but based upon the merit of Christ. We come in his name. And it is the Spirit who helps us in our weakness, showing us how to pray, and even interceding for us when we are to weak to know how to pray.

The Baptist Catechism number105 asks, “What is Prayer?” The answer: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, believing, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.”

Addressing A Common Objection To Prayer

Lastly, I would like to briefly address a common objection to prayer. Some say, ‘if God knows the future – if he has ordered all things according to his will – then why bother praying?’

The answer is not complicated. The simple truth is that, though it is true “God [has] decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass”, it also true that God brings about his plans and purposes through means. He uses us in the process. Our actions matter. Our words matter. Our obedience and disobedience matter. Our prayers matter. God uses them to bring about his purposes. The end result is this, God works through our prayers. He works when his people pray, and if his people do not pray, we ought not to expect him to work. God has decreed the end and also the means.

This is true of many things, and not just prayer. If God has determined to bring so and so to salvation, how will it happen? It will happen through (and that is the key word – through, or by the means of) the proclamation of the gospel. For someone to come to salvation they must believe upon Christ. But they cannot believe upon Christ unless they hear about him. And they will not hear about him unless someone preaches to them. And no one will preach to them unless they are sent. So yes, God has predestined some to salvation, but they will be brought to salvation through the means of preachers preaching who have being sent.

Prayer is no different. God answers our prayers because he has determined to do so. Do you want God to act in this way or that? Then we had better pray, because God has determined to work through the means of prayer.

Concussion

Brothers and sisters, would you ask yourself this question: how can I grow in the area of prayer? How can we labor more faithfully as individuals, families, and as a church. Do you want to see God move in this valley and to the ends of the earth? Do you want to see “Satan’s kingdom… destroyed, and… the kingdom of grace… advance (Baptist Catechism 109)?” Then we should begin here.We should learn to labor more faithfully together in prayer, calling upon the name of the Lord.

Comments are closed.


"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

© 2011-2022 Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church