Last time I explained my thinking on why we should evaluate the doctrines taught in the apostles’ preaching as recorded in the book of Acts, as a step toward identifying the essential doctrines of the Christian faith—the things we ought to fight about. And I pause to remind my reader (all 1 of you) that we’re also determining, by their absence from this list, the doctrines that are not worth fighting about.
If you’ve done your homework from the last post—you don’t expect to really learn anything worthwhile by just reading blog posts, do you?—you downloaded my little chart as a working template and read through at least some of the sermons in Acts to list what doctrines they asserted.
How about if I go through the first one, and we can see how your list compares to mine?
The first sermon is Peter’s famous discourse at Pentecost in Acts 2, where he refutes the observers’ initial observations and explains what’s really going on with the sound and the fire and the inexplicable speech.
Let’s scan the text to see what we find.
- Ac 2.16—What you’re seeing is a fulfillment of a prophetic scripture from long ago. Peter’s initial statement implies—strongly—that we should expect ancient scriptural prophecies to be fulfilled. And this in turn implies the truthfulness of scripture, even in its predictions. Lest I be accused of bringing my bias to the research, I’ve avoided using the explosive term inerrancy, but I would observe that “truthfulness” means the same thing.
- Ac 2.17—In citing his source, Peter includes its claim that Joel’s words are what “God says” (NASB), and he says nothing that would soften the blunt statement. Joel’s words are the words of God, accurately recorded.
- Ac 2.17—God has a Spirit that can be “poured forth.” Maybe not enough here to support a distinct person of the Spirit, but wording that is certainly consistent with that concept.
- Ac 2.18—God’s empowering work extends to “bondslaves, both men and women.” His work is not limited by our social constructs.
- Ac 2.20—There is a coming “Day of Yahweh.” We can’t tell this from just Acts 2, but the prophets gave us a lot of information about this coming day, and again, Peter seems to take it at face value.
- Ac 2.21—Salvation comes to those who “call on the name of Yahweh.” This verse alone doesn’t tell us whether “salvation” here is physical rescue from catastrophe or spiritual salvation in the theological sense, but further study can settle this question pretty conclusively in favor of the latter.
- Ac 2.22—Jesus did miracles. This has implications about both Jesus and the fact of the supernatural, of miracles.
- Ac 2.23—God’s doing what happens, even when it seems disastrous—as the recent execution of Jesus certainly had seemed to Peter and the other disciples.
- Ac 2.23—Jesus died as a direct result of the crucifixion. Yes, he was really dead.
- Ac 2.24—Jesus rose from the dead. Really.
- Ac 2.25—Here’s another fulfilled prophecy. We should expect that.
- Ac 2.27—The resurrection was specifically predicted.
- Ac 2.30—Like Joel, David was accurately reporting words directly from God himself.
- Ac 2.31—David was speaking not of himself (Ac 2.29), but of Christ.
- Ac 2.32—The resurrection again, this time with witnesses.
- Ac 2.33—The living Jesus is the agent behind what is happening at Pentecost—namely, the coming of the Spirit.
- Ac 2.34—Jesus is alive and active in heaven, the presence of God.
- Ac 2.36—Jesus is “Lord.” It’s true that the Greek word here (kurios) can mean simply “sir,” similar to Elizabethan English (“Good day, my lord”). But since it often cannot have that meaning (e.g. Jn 20.28), and since the Jews used it to translate the name Yahweh in their Greek scriptures, this statement is much more likely claiming deity for Jesus.
- Ac 2.36—Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one—by implication prophet, priest, and king—the fulfillment of the entire Hebrew scriptures.
- Ac 2.38—Forgiveness of sins comes from repentance and baptism and brings “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Note that the presence of sin as part of the human condition is assumed. [Sidebar: here I’m simply listing what Peter is saying; this is what theologians call “biblical theology.” No, I don’t believe that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins; that conviction comes from a comparison of this passage with others, which we call “systematic theology”—and which is not my purpose here.]
- Ac 2.39—Again, God’s plan includes both Jews (“you and your children”) and Gentiles (“all who are far off”); God’s plan overwhelms our cultural and social barriers.
- Ac 2.40—“This generation” is “perverse.”
How did you do? How did I do? Are there unfounded or biased assumptions in my list? How about yours?
Next time we’ll give some thought to what we’ve found so far and where we go from here.