God's Message goes to All Nations
The Beginning of the Church
Peter Speaks about Jesus for the First Time Acts 2:36
An EasyEnglish Study Unit (2800 word vocabulary) on the New Testament from Acts to Revelation
G. Barrie Wetherill and M. P. H. Stear
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
This commentary has yet to go through Advanced Theological Checking.
READ Acts chapter 2.
The subject of these studies is the *New Testament from Acts to Revelation. We will read about the work of the *apostles, especially Paul.
We start when the church began. The church began when Peter spoke about Jesus for the first time. Some people say that this was the birthday of the church. Six weeks before this, men had *crucified Jesus. After that, Jesus became alive again. He met the *apostles several times. Luke tells us that Jesus taught them. He showed them that some of the *Old Testament was about him (Luke 24:45). Jesus had died and now was alive again. God punished him instead of us. If we are sorry for our sins (the bad things that we do), he will forgive us. Jesus told the *apostles to tell everyone in the world about this.
After this, Jesus told them again that God would send the *Holy Spirit.
The *apostles were witnesses to what Jesus did. They heard what he taught. They were there when he died. They were there when he came alive again. Jesus had told them to spread the *gospel through the world. They needed new power, new strength and new courage. Jesus promised that they would soon have it.
When Jesus died, the *apostles had been very frightened. When men arrested Jesus, the *apostles ran away. They needed to change. God had to give them power for this important work. Jesus, the Son of God, promised them this power. God the Father gave them the *Holy Spirit. The three members of the *Trinity were there at the birth of the church.
Jesus was with the *apostles for 40 days. These appearances proved that he was alive. They had no doubt about that. Then Jesus left them. They saw him go up to *heaven. Two men dressed in white appeared by them.
The *ascension of Jesus is as important as the *crucifixion and the *resurrection. It teaches us where Christ is now and for ever. Jesus went to heaven in a cloud. A ‘cloud’ in *Scripture often means that God is present. So, here, the *Lord is returning to the Father. He suffered on the *cross. He defeated death and came alive again. Now Jesus has taken his place next to God the Father. He shares God’s rule and authority. The words that follow are about this.
This same Jesus will return, with great power and *glory. Before he comes, there is a task to complete. This is the task that he left for the *disciples, to spread the *gospel through the world. As this story continues, we shall see how this work started.
Soon, the day that Jesus had talked about came. Thousands of people from all over the world were in Jerusalem. Many were *Jews. Also, other people were there who believed in the God of the *Jews. They had all come to Jerusalem for an important *festival. The *Holy Spirit came on the *disciples as they met together. Luke tells us what happened:
The *apostles began to talk about the wonderful works of God in all kinds of languages. A crowd gathered round them. Everyone in the crowd heard the message. Each person heard it in his own language. The *Scriptures say that they heard about the ‘works of God’. We can be quite sure what the *disciples spoke about. They would tell about what Jesus had done to *save men from *sin. They would tell how he died on the *cross and then became alive again.
Several things astonished the crowd. They did not understand what was happening.
(a) How could these ordinary men do this? They had no education, but they could speak about God’s wonderful works. They spoke in many languages, in Latin, Cyrenian, Arkadian, and in other languages. What power did they have? This was a *miracle!
(b) Many people would know that Jesus’ *disciples had run away from him at the *cross. People would have talked about that. In those days, they did not have the modern ways to spread news that we have. However, they did know how to pass on messages from one to another. It would astonish the crowd to see the *disciples now. They were close to the place of the *crucifixion, but they spoke about Jesus with great courage.
(c) The *Jews heard men praising God in *gentile languages. This would upset them very much. (A *Gentile is a person who is not a *Jew.) *Jews thought that they were much better people than *Gentiles. They said that *Gentiles were ‘animals without God’s law’. The story of Jonah shows us this. God had told him to go to Nineveh. He was to *prophesy there. He was to say that God would destroy Nineveh. At first Jonah refused to go. Then he did go and *preach. The people of Nineveh *repented. God did not *judge them as he had promised. This made Jonah very angry. He did not want God to be kind to Nineveh. Also, when Jesus spoke about the *Old Testament *prophet Elijah, he made people very angry. He said that a *gentile woman had looked after Elijah. The same thing happened to Paul. When men arrested him in the *Temple (Acts chapters 21 and 22) he made a speech. The crowd were quiet. Paul even mentioned that Christ is alive. He called him *Lord. Then Paul said, ‘I will send you far away to the *Gentiles.’ That was when the crowd shouted out against him. They said that it was not right for such a man to live. The *disciples were praising God in *gentile languages. This would be a great shock to the *Jews.
When the *apostles spoke like this, a very great crowd soon gathered. This gave Peter the opportunity to *preach his *sermon. Luke describes this and writes down part of it in Acts chapter 2.
The *apostle Peter concentrates on a very basic question. Who is Jesus, who is our *Lord and *Saviour? Peter reminds people about the *Scriptures that they would have known. This is our *Old Testament. He talks about Jesus’ death and *resurrection. He does not say much about the life of Jesus or what Jesus taught. He does not say much about his *miracles. He reminds people about what the *prophets said. What they said would happen did happen. This is a most important question for us too, whether we are Christians or not. Who is Jesus? Peter finishes his speech like this, in Acts 2:36.
This is what Peter wanted to show. He *preached with strong feeling. He did not only want to argue well, or to discuss something. He wanted people to change. He wanted them to be sorry for the wrong things in their lives. He wanted them to trust Jesus. He had to tell them the truth about Jesus. He had to tell them what Jesus has done.
The *apostles stood up and spoke in other languages. Some in the crowd thought that they were drunk. Peter explains that this was not possible. It was too early in the day. He told the crowd that the *prophet Joel had said that the *Holy Spirit would come. This is what the crowd had just seen.
Peter then speaks about his most important subject. He speaks about who Jesus is. He reminds the people of what they knew about Jesus. Many of the people who were there must have heard and seen Jesus. They had listened to what he taught them. They had seen some of his *miracles. They knew that he had made sick people better. He had made blind people see. And he had made *lame people walk. They knew that he had given dead people life again, three times. When Jesus had taught them, he had spoken with authority. His authority had impressed those who heard him. One soldier had listened and said, ‘No man ever spoke like this man’. The *Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) impresses everyone. It shows that Jesus was aiming at very good standards of behaviour. No one else has ever spoken like this.
Probably the crowd had also heard about Jesus’ other *miracles. Jesus fed 5,000 people. He walked on the water. He made the storm stop. Peter says something about this, but perhaps he said more in his *sermon. We have the most important parts of his *sermon. He must have said more than what we have in Acts. He said:
This is all that Peter says about the life and work of Jesus. This is all that was necessary. People could not deny these things. Everybody knew about them. There was no need to speak about them again and again. Many people in the crowd would have known about the wonderful things that Jesus had done. For three years, Jesus had lived and worked in public among them. When Jesus taught people, many of them had praised God. When they saw his *miracles, many people had praised God. Now many people would remember this. Peter was speaking to them about something that they would remember.
But Peter’s audience knew more than that. In these modern days, many people think that Jesus was the most wonderful man to have lived. That is all that they think about him. The people who listened to Peter could not only think that. That would be impossible for them. They knew more. Jesus had said that he was God. This is why men *crucified him.
Through the *gospels, we read of hundreds of times when Jesus spoke about himself. He showed very clearly that he was far more than a man. He showed that he was God with us. John tells us that once the crowd wanted to throw stones at him. They wanted to kill him like that because of what he said. He said that he was God.
The crowd who stood in front of Peter knew that this was important. The *apostle did not need to say it again and again. The people knew it. What he did was to speak about proofs. He wanted to prove who Jesus is. Jesus is who he said he was. Peter spoke to the people from the Bible, and from *prophecy.
Peter reminds the crowd that the *prophets spoke about our *Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:17, 18, 25-28). This is very interesting. It is also very exciting. What the *prophets said is evidence for Christianity. Many *prophets wrote in detail about the *Messiah. They said what would happen in the life of Jesus. These *prophets lived hundreds of years before the time of Jesus. All that they said came true in his life. This is very important evidence, and there is a great deal of it.
But Peter is able to give even more proof. There are two other facts that the *prophets also write about.
Much of the next part of Peter’s *sermon is about the *cross and the *resurrection. The *cross and the *resurrection were very important to the early church. We shall see this as we read the book of Acts. *Calvary and the empty grave were very important to these early Christians. The *Gospels, which men wrote years later, show us this. A large part of each of the *Gospels is about the last weeks of Jesus’ life. More than a third of each *Gospel (almost half of each) is about those weeks. His *crucifixion and his *resurrection are the most important parts of the work of Jesus when he was on earth.
The *apostle Peter also says that the *resurrection was very important. Jesus had come alive again. There is very much evidence about this. When we think about the *resurrection, we must also think about these facts.
a) No one could show the body of Jesus. The *Jewish rulers even made up a story about this, (Matthew 28:11-15). If they could have shown his body, they would have done it. That would have stopped this ‘new religion’ very quickly. The authorities were afraid that they would lose the respect of the people.
b) The *apostles changed so much. They had been very frightened when Jesus died. They left him and ran away. Now they were bold men. They spoke about Jesus without fear, although they were in danger. Men might kill them. (Only one of the *apostles died an ordinary death.)
c) Many people became Christians very quickly, in the early days. Soon there were too many for the *Jewish authorities to control.
d) The *apostles *preached about the *resurrection in public. Many people who had seen the *resurrection were there. These people could immediately say that the message was true or false.
The *Jews who listened to Peter knew this too. False statements from the *Jewish authorities made sure of that. Some people now not only say that the *resurrection is a fact. They say that it is one of the most certain facts of ancient history.
The other fact that the crowd who stood in front of the *apostle saw was the result of the gift of the *Holy Spirit. They saw these men. Suddenly they had the gift of languages. Also, they were not afraid any more. They were bold as they spoke about Christ. They were not afraid of danger. They were not afraid of the authorities. The *apostles also seemed to have wisdom and knowledge of the *scriptures. All this impressed the people there very much. When people became Christians, they changed the way that they lived greatly.
All this evidence showed one thing. Jesus was really the person that he said he was. God had sent the *Messiah and the *Jews had not believed in him. There is so much evidence to show who Jesus is. Peter’s *sermon ends like this:
There is no other answer. Jesus is *Lord. He has all the power, in *heaven and on earth.
This how Peter’s *sermon ended, ‘You *crucified this Jesus, but God has made him both *Lord and Christ.’
Now we can read in many places in the Bible, ‘Jesus is *Lord of all’, ‘I have all authority in *heaven and on earth’… What does ‘Jesus is *Lord’ mean?
God created the world. This tells us very much about Jesus as *Lord. The *apostle Paul tells us that all things exist in Christ. They exist because of Jesus. We have this again in the book of Hebrews.
We can all get some impression of the greatness of God’s world. We can look at the stars at night. Here the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ made these things. They exist because Jesus exists. What a great power the skies show! We seem to have no importance or power. But the Bible says more than this.
Peter tells us, in his letter, that the skies and earth will one day melt in great heat (2 Peter 3:10). But although all things disappear, Jesus is still the same. The Bible tells us this:
The Bible also tells us in many places that this same Jesus will one day return to earth with power and great *glory. The *angels had already said this in Acts 1:11. Paul promises us that one day every person will give Christ honour.
This is very important. It is not just an idea, that Jesus Christ is *Lord. Peter’s *sermon makes this quite clear. Jesus must be our personal *Lord. Let us read what the Bible says:
One person has explained it like this: ‘Jesus Christ is *Lord in such a complete way that we must answer to him. We should ask what he wants for every detail of our lives. We should choose what he wants, not what we want. We should give ourselves to him.’
This is not just a matter of what you believe about something that happened 2000 years ago. It is a matter of how you live your lives here and now.
The crowd in front of Peter and the *apostles could easily understand what he was saying. As Peter spoke, the *Holy Spirit also spoke. He spoke to people’s hearts and minds and *souls. Jesus said that the *Holy Spirit is ‘the Spirit of truth’. ‘I will send the *Counsellor to you from the Father. He is the Spirit of truth. He goes out from the Father. He will speak about me. And you also must speak about me, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:26, 27). Notice what Jesus says about the *Holy Spirit. He promises that the *Holy Spirit will tell about Jesus. The *disciples will do this also.
This is so important for any Christian to remember. When there is an opportunity to speak to other people about Jesus, the *Holy Spirit helps us. It is even more important for anyone who *preaches to other people in the name of Jesus. This will encourage them. The *Holy Spirit will be like a witness that is deep inside a person. He will witness to the truth. Jesus also promised that the *Holy Spirit would work in other ways. Part of John 16 explains this.
As Peter *preached, the *Holy Spirit spoke to people about truth. They understood that there was *sin in their lives. They understood that Jesus was completely good. They knew that one day God would certainly *judge them.
This is a question now for each one of us to ask. What will be our reaction? Will we accept Jesus? One day, when many people were leaving him, Jesus asked his *disciples, ‘Will you also go away?’ They answered, ‘To whom shall we go? You have the words of *eternal life’.
And remember this. He loves us so much that he died for us. Let us turn to him and accept him as our *Saviour, and our *Lord.
The *Holy Spirit really had given the *apostles power. This event really did show a great change in the *apostles. The result of Peter’s bold *sermon was that 3000 people believed in Jesus.
The Christian church began with these new Christians. They met together for prayer and *worship. Peter and the *apostles taught them. They began to share their possessions with each other, as each person needed something. The way that they lived had changed. Soon the people of Jerusalem noticed their behaviour and appreciated it. Many other people believed in Jesus. There is one important sign that a person is following Jesus. His or her life changes. It shows in what people do. It shows in what people say. It shows in the kind of people that they are. This is the result of the work of the *Holy Spirit in the person’s heart, mind and *soul.
Most of the people in this first church were, of course, *Jews. There were also many other people who had been abroad. Their natural language was Greek. God had promised the *Jews that he would send them a *Messiah. The *Jewish members of the early church now believed that Jesus was the *Messiah. Some of them had lived in other countries. In many countries, people spoke Greek. This made it easier to tell the good news of Jesus.
Later evidence tells us that many of these new Christians returned to their homes. There they spread the *gospel. So, from the very beginning, the church was world-wide, although those at Jerusalem were the leaders. But Jesus had commanded the *apostles and given them authority to spread the *gospel through all of the world. We shall see how God acted, so that this began to happen. It is our responsibility to continue this work. The command that Jesus gave to the *disciples is now for us.
angel ~ a servant from God who brings messages to men.
apostle ~ one of the 12 men that Jesus chose to be his helpers. He chose them to teach other people about him. Christians call Paul an apostle.
ascension ~ when Christ’s body went from Earth to *heaven.
baptise ~ put a person in water, or put water on a person, to show that Christ has made him clean. It is a sign that a person wants to obey God.
baptism ~ the act of *baptising a person.
being ~ a person or animal that is alive.
bow ~ bend your body, to show respect for somebody.
Calvary ~ the place where they killed Jesus on a wooden *cross.
counsellor ~ another name for the *Holy Spirit.
cross ~ two pieces of wood fixed together. Jesus died on a cross, and so the cross is now the sign of the church.
crucified ~ killed; someone nails you to a *cross.
crucifixion ~ to kill someone on a *cross.
demon ~ a bad or evil *being that works against God.
disciple ~ a person who believes in Jesus and learns from him.
eternal ~ what has always been and always will be.
festival ~ a special time of *worship and happiness, usually with a special meal.
Galilee ~ part of the country where Jesus lived.
Gentile ~ a person who is not a *Jew; a person who does not know God.
glory ~ the power and greatness of God.
gospel ~ the good news for everybody that God saves people from *sin.
heaven ~ the place of happiness and peace where God lives and rules; the future home of people who love Jesus.
Holy Spirit ~ God’s spirit, sent by Jesus to help people.
Israel ~ another name for the *Jewish people; also the name of the country that God gave to the *Jews.
Jew ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham. God chose Abraham ‘s family to know and serve him.
Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.
Judea ~ the country of the *Jews.
judge ~ decide if a person is good or bad.
judgement ~ when God says what is right or wrong in a person.
kingdom ~ the land that a king rules over.
lame ~ not able to walk.
Lord ~ a title for Jesus, or for God, to show that he is ruler of everything.
Messiah ~ the special servant of God; a name of Jesus. It shows that he is our saviour (he saves us from the bad things that we do).
miracle ~ a wonderful event that shows that God is at work.
Nazareth ~ the town where Jesus grew up.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, about the world before Jesus.
Pentecost ~ a special *festival of the *Jews. It was at Pentecost that God sent his Holy Spirit to his *disciples. That was after Jesus died and came alive again. God sent the *Holy Spirit to all who believed in Jesus.
preach ~ tell people about Jesus, and how to live for Jesus.
prophecy ~ a message from God that he tells a person to pass on to other people.
prophesy ~ tell a message from God to other people.
prophet ~ a person who tells God’s messages.
repent ~ feel sorry, and change one’s attitude and behaviour; turning to God.
resurrection ~ coming alive after death.
righteousness ~ goodness, being right with God; when God sees us with no *sin at all, and not his enemies.
Samaria ~ a country near the land where Jesus lived.
save ~ free a person from the results of wrong beliefs and actions.
Saviour ~ Jesus, who rescues us from the bad things in our lives and brings us to God.
Scripture ~ the book of God’s holy words, or part of it; the Bible.
sermon ~ a speech that tells us about God.
sin ~ when people do not do what God wants; wrong things that we do or say.
soul ~ the part of us that we cannot see. It is in us during life, and lives on after death.
temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.
Trinity ~ God who is three persons; God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the *Holy Spirit.
worship ~ a time when people give honour to God; they pray and sing his praises.
‘Bethlehem to Patmos’ ~ Paul Barnett ~ Biblical Classics Series ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-874-3
‘The Bible as history’ ~ Werner Keller ~ Hodder and Stoughton
‘Israel and the nations’ ~ F.F. Bruce ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-762-3
© 1999-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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