Acts 2:33-36 “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Now we come to Peter’s third text in his sermon to those thousands of devout Jews who had gathered in the city of Jerusalem which had been the destination of their pilgrimage from their various homes all over Judea and Galilee but even from the uttermost ends of the known world. They had journeyed there to the city of David to attend the feast of Pentecost. The theme of the first text Peter announced to them was that, “This event was prophesied by God” and the text he had quoted was Joel chapter 2, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh.” His second text was from Psalm 16 declaring that God had raised Jesus from the dead, while the passage of Scripture before you today is the third text Peter quoted to them, from Psalm 110. This passage in the word of God declared that Jesus was now exalted; God has made him Lord and Christ.
So Peter’s sermon actually had three different texts. Think of it. The first dealt with this fact; (1) The outpouring of the Spirit was divinely prophesied. (2) God has raised Jesus from the dead. (3) God has given him all authority in heaven and earth. Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached many sermons based on two texts and eight sermons based on three texts. One of the most famous sermons that consisted of three texts was preached by that giant theologian-preacher from Scotland, Hugh Martin and it is still known in the Highlands today. His first text was the divine precept, “Make you a new heart and a new spirit,” (Ez. 18:31). His second text was the divine promise, “A new heart also I will give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you” (Ez.36:26). His third text was the sinner’s prayer, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10). The precept, the promise and the prayer, and that kind of structure can be traced right through the Bible. The first text is an utterance from the great white throne of justice, and the second text is an utterance by the king of love who sits on the throne of grace, while the third text is an utterance from its footstool.
In this sermon Peter declared firstly that the supernatural signs that the crowds had been witnessing came in fulfillment of a prophecy of the word of God, the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit that Joel spoke of. Then Peter declared that the Jesus they’d crucified had been raised from the dead as God had promised, and all 120 of them were witnesses that all the powers of death had been unable to stop the Lord Christ rising again. But that was not the end. Peter has a final text concerning the exaltation and present authority of our Lord. It was another great truth that he really laid on them to bring them to conviction. Hear Peter magnify Jesus Christ! “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (vv. 33-36). So what are we told here about the Saviour? What three things do we know about him?
WE KNOW WHERE JESUS NOW IS.
John is given a vision of Jesus in the book of Revelation and he is standing in the centre of the throne. Peter tells them that Christ is “exalted to the right hand of God.” In other words, the Jesus whom those Jerusalem sinners crucified is more than a man. We know that the saints will be seated with Christ, and that they will be judging men and angels with Christ, but the saints are never described as ‘exalted to God’s right hand.’ And to which of the angels did God say at any time, “Sit here at my elbow”? Aren’t they all subject to the Lord God, under God, not co-equals, shoulder to shoulder with God? It is to the Messiah alone that God says these words, that he is uniquely at the right hand of the throne of God, or the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, the place where the omnipresent God is most powerfully known. There he is, God’s right hand man – the friend of sinners and our mediator with God! He has not usurped that place. God has given it to him. God has in effect said to him, “I have been delighted with all that you’ve done, all your wonderful accomplishments. You humbled yourself even to the death of the cross and so I am highly exalting you. I am giving you the greatest name, far above all other names.”
Again we are told about Christ’s posture, that in fact he is sitting at the right hand of God, in other words, he has completed the work of atonement. In both the earthly tabernacle and earthly temple there was not a single chair. There were lamps and tables and altars and curtains, but no chairs because when priests were on duty they had no time to sit down. There were always more sinners coming with their animals to be sacrificed and with the confessions of their sins, seeking advice for their pardon. The priests had no time to stand and stare let alone sit down. But now God says to his Son, “You have finished the work of redemption. Sit at my right hand side!” Have we all come to appreciate this, that the saving suffering work of Christ is all over? That God has accepted all that his Son has done, and so now he exalts him. Are any of you thinking that the work of Jesus could be just a little more perfect if you could only add to it your little bit of witnessing, and your personal devotional life, and your pains in providence, and the sufferings that you have experienced as a Christian. So then, when you have also made your contribution, I say, you feel the work of your redemption will be perfect. In other words you have not learned simply to look to Jesus who has been lifted up just as the brazen serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, that whosoever looks to him will be saved. You have not been taught by God of the finished, perfect work that Jesus alone accomplished, that he is now resting after the travail of his soul, and he is satisfied, and the Spirit is satisfied, and God is satisfied, and the benefits of his life and death can be yours only as you sit and put your faith in the sitting Saviour. Are we all satisfied with Jesus Christ?
Again, we are told by Peter as he quotes King David just how long the Lord Jesus will be there at the right hand of God. It is “until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (v.35). So now Christ is the great untouchable! After toil comes rest, after victory comes peace. Jerusalem sinners hated him, and lied about him, and made false accusations on oath against him, and unjustly sentenced him to crucifixion. They blindfolded him and punched him and spat on him and whipped him and drove nails through his hands and feet. They mocked him as he writhed on the cross, but they cannot touch him now! He is out of their reach! They are merely kicking against the goads as they cut off the heads of his followers, and torture them in their prisons, and kidnap and defile hundreds of young Christian women, If they could they would look for Christ too, and mock him and put him to shame again, but they cannot find him, and to where he now is they are denied all access; they cannot come there. He reigns over everything and must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. He cannot be raised to any higher degree of glory and honour and bliss and favour and power and majesty. All that the divine omnipotence can do to exalt him has been done. He is as high as your imagination can permit him to be, and then he is infinitely higher than that. Once men scorned him and trampled his name into the dust and spat upon it. But now it is they who are in the dust while he is exalted permanently. His throne is for ever; his reign is everlasting; his peace will know no end. He has the closest proximity to the Father. You cannot slip a sheet of Indian paper between him and his Father. What praise is his, as Gary Brady says, what power, pre-eminence, perfection and permanence.
So the Lord Jesus Christ is in charge of the entire universe from the most distant nebulae to the sub-atomic particles. As I often tell you, there is not a single rogue molecule outside of Christ’s control, so that all the actions and decisions of men and angels and demons are under him. Their decision to crucify Christ, the worst action any men ever took, was ultimately God’s decision, and Jesus Christ today is head over all things to the church – all things! And that is an enormously comforting reality.
I had a letter from Ian Hamilton the pastor in Cambridge, this week. He wrote and said, “The week before Christmas, I answered the phone to be told that the police and fire service had to break into our apartment in Glasgow where one of our children is living and studying. Our daughter had not misbehaved; there had been a deluge of water, the ceiling had partially collapsed and the two apartments directly below us had water dripping into them. Because no one was at home, the emergency services had no option but to break in and try and stop the flood, which they managed to do, thankfully. So, I flew up to my home city to find a somewhat derelict lounge, ruined furniture, tarpaulins everywhere and a number of sizeable holes in the ceiling.
“Perhaps by now you are thinking, ‘poor Ian and Joan’. Well, yes, we were at first somewhat deflated – the mess, the thought of arranging repairs just before Christmas, our daughter and her flat mates inconvenienced, and, to top it all, our insurers told me I was not covered for ‘that kind’ of deluge (wrong kind of leaves, wrong kind of snow and now rain!). To be honest, my first thought was, ‘I could do without this, especially at this time of year’. My second thought, however (and oh how I wish it had been my first), was, ‘but in my Lord’s wise and always gracious purposes, he decreed that I couldn’t do without this’. He does all things well. Every detail in our lives is within his sovereign overruling care and purpose. He ordains all that comes to pass according to his own will and purpose (Ephesians 1:11), and does so not only for his own glory but for the good of his children.
“Sometimes it takes the smallest of cross-providences to knock us off balance. Sometimes it takes the smallest of unforeseen happenings to expose how unspiritual the default of our Christian lives really is. As Christians we rejoice to confess that God works all things together for the good of those who love him. Like all Christian ministers, I love to preach on God’s wise and gracious sovereignty. But the Lord knows we need to be reminded constantly of this truth amidst the daily routines of life, and not least when these routines are rudely interrupted by collapsing ceilings and the like.
“The Lord’s sovereignty at the right hand of God is not first a theological cudgel, it is a pastoral comfort. The God whose sovereignty is unabridged is our gracious Saviour. His care of his own is perfect. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. He upholds and shapes and directs the cosmos to secure the everlasting good of his redeemed children . . . and that includes collapsed ceilings.
“Growth in grace, which is what sanctification is, is all about trusting and rejoicing in the little things that daily touch our lives, linking them to our reigning Christ. My initial reaction to the news of our water damaged apartment did me little credit. I think Paul had people like me in mind when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, and again I say rejoice.” What is your first reaction to collapsed ceilings or their equivalent? Our Lord has been exalted to the right hand of God. His reign is perfect. He can be trusted not to bring anything into your life that is not for your good and your growth in grace.” Everything is under the sovereignty of the Jesus who sits at the right hand of God. A burst pipe, a collapsed ceiling, the theft of our tools, a road accident, some damage done to our neighbour’s property caused by us, a delay in the time of an operation, the birth of a less than perfect baby – every such thing is permitted by Christ, even those things that muggers and thieves and liars have done to us
WE KNOW WHAT JESUS DOES WITH HIS POWERS.
We know what things the prodigal son received from his father when he returned home with his tail between his legs. He got a loving embrace, and a ring, and a robe, and sandals, and the fatted calf, and feasting, and dancing. What did the Son of God receive from his Father? We are told by Peter that, “he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit” (v.33). What greater gift could he have than that! God gave God to God! Here are the first fruits of the reign of Christ, as Peter further tells them, that this exalted Jesus of Nazareth, “has poured out what you now see and hear.” So, Jerusalem sinners, it was not the drink that had done this that they saw and heard, it was the Lord Christ who’s responsible for the rushing mighty wind, and the tongues of fire, and the gift of speaking in languages they hadn’t known hitherto. The Jesus issued the command to his equally powerful and glorious Holy Spirit to fill all 120 disciples in order to enable and empower and sanctify and enlighten and comfort and keep each one of them. Jesus is ascended, and so the Spirit can be given by him. His enemies thought they’d got the final solution to the Jesus problem. They’d kill him and his influence would cease, but in fact his influence had only just begun and in two thousand years’ time it would reach the ends of the world. The absence of his bodily presence from the Jerusalem temple was not a loss. In his lifetime he had never experienced 3,000 men converted by one sermon, but now what he promised was being fulfilled, that greater things than he did they would do. Except for his baby years in Egypt he never left Israel and Samaria, but now his servants would go to Rome, and Turkey, and Ethiopia. They would advance remorselessly, with devastating effect, whole cities would be stirred by their ministries and hundreds of thousands would become followers of Christ because he would pour out his Spirit on all flesh.
What Jesus of Nazareth had done was to work in one province at a time, or preach just in one synagogue at a time, or in one village at a time, or in one home at a time. He was restrained by the reality of where his body was, but the Holy Spirit in all the fulness of the omnipresent God, is in a million congregations today, everywhere in the world in hundreds of languages at this very moment. Christ sheds the caring Spirit abroad abundantly.
His bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air and shines in the night.
It streams from the hills and descends to the plain
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
The Spirit of God has been sent everywhere by the Lord Jesus; “Go to Aberystwyth this morning and work in the minds and souls and affections of the congregation there. Give life where there is death; give illumination where there is darkness; give knowledge where there is ignorance; give conviction where there is indifference.” And immediately the Spirit obeys and so to our congregation and to millions like us at this very moment the Spirit comes and does his great work. He is just like the Son of God, as divine, as holy, as powerful, as loving as Jesus. Both of them teach; both of them counsel; both are home-makers, on earth and in heaven. He will not leave us orphans; Jesus will come to us by his Spirit. Wesley sings.
Our glorified Head his Spirit has shed, With his people to stay,
And never again will he take him away.
The Spirit is carrying on developing and spreading the work that Christ began. He is doing it here for the first time in this sermon of Peter and in the passages from the Old Testament Scriptures that Peter quotes. That is still the major way the message of Christ spreads, on our Lord’s Day, amongst our Lord’s people, through our Lord’s word and by the Spirit of the Lord. Sometimes he comes very powerfully in Wales, and Scotland and Ireland and England as Whitefield and Wesley preached to vast crowds of people, and in America through Jonathan Edwards. Sometime he comes powerfully but then it is not through thousands but in small meetings he is there, as he was through the missionary to the American Indians, David Brainerd. Christ sent his Spirit there and there was a great change in that congregation as there was in Jerusalem when Peter had finished speaking to them. It was over 200 years ago that Francis Beaufort invented a wind force scale that is still operative today. The scale talks of light breezes, strong winds, high winds, gale-force winds and even hurricane force. So too there are the various breezes from heaven blowing in the churches today and they are sent down to us by the exalted Jesus.
I had a friend in Stanton Lees who worked in Buckingham Palace for many years and went on official royal visits across the world with Her Majesty. He showed me a collection of the gifts which at Christmas over the years she had given to him and to others of her staff. How they treasured the pieces of fine china she had had made from Doulton and Wedgewood and other pottery firms, what she had selected for them, and they had personally received them from her hand. Well, the Son of God gives gifts to men by the Holy Spirit, the gifts of ministry, and gifts by which we can receive ministry from one another, gifts of service and testimony, gift of helps and courage and perseverance. And we say “Thank you Lord for what you have given me. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me or I will collapse.” We can think of the little spiritual gifts each of us possesses and then the wonderful rich gifts he has given our friends and family members – we can see his Spirit’s gifts in our spouses and in our parents and in our children. How we admire them! How wonderful that the Holy Spirit has given them such maturity and wisdom and capability. It is all from him! They didn’t get those gifts genetically or socially from us. They came from the Lord Jesus’ donation of the Holy Spirit.
Without Christ at the right hand of God sending forth the Holy Spirit there would be no apostles, no New Testament, no pastors and teachers, no preparing God’s people for the works of service, no progress in grace and knowledge, no maturity. We would still be little kids, tossed back and fore, blown here and there by every wind of doctrine, excited about music, and drums, and candles, and humour, and stories and trendy eloquence. We would be even more superficial people without Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
WE KNOW THAT GOD HAS MADE JESUS LORD AND CHRIST.
This is what Peter says in our text. In other words there is nothing we did or could possibly do, to make this Jesus (whom they had crucified 50 days earlier) any greater that God has now made him. We merely spectate! He is Jehovah Jesus; “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v.36). God has done it. God has highly exalted him. God has given him all authority in heaven and earth. God has seated him at his right hand in heaven. God is the only one who could make him Jehovah Jesus, God’s anointed prophet, priest and king. There was no action of yours that made Jesus Christ Lord.
Peter faces these thousands of Jews in Jerusalem who’d hated Jesus. They considered him to be a great heretic and blasphemer. Peter did not ask them, ‘trust Jesus as your personal Saviour.’ He did not want them to raise their hand or repeat a formula prayer while thinking that they might as well take out a deliverance from hell insurance by trusting in him, but they could continue to reject his Lordship. No way! The only Saviour there is is the one whom God has made both Lord and anointed one – the anointed teacher and high priest and king.
The gospel is certainly a gospel of trusting in the Jesus Christ, but it is also a gospel that speaks of acknowledging one who is a Lord. There is no way that you may ignore that and still receive eternal life. Remember the words that the disciple whom Jesus loved once wrote; “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him” (I Jn. 2:3-5). If you love the one God has made Lord and Christ then you keep his commandments.
I fear there are numbers of persons who might tell you the very day and hour they accepted Christ as their personal Saviour, but they are living as if they belonged to the devil rather than to God. Many professing Christians believe it’s possible to accept Christ as Saviour while they reject him as Lord. Preachers and religious courses still teach people this possibility. It is a whole new doctrine of two-phase salvation which allows a person to be rescued from hell by accepting Christ as a fire escape, and then, if desired, opt for another step after tasting the world for 20 years and getting rescued from sin and self by yielding to Jesus Christ as Lord.
Where, in the entire New Testament, can a doctrine like this be found? Did the Lord Jesus Christ ever assure his congregation that he would save them from hell while they could be in charge of how they lived? His very own words thunder against such nonsense: “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46); “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21); and “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
Accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour entails yielding to him as Lord. You can’t say to him, “Come into my life with all the benefits of your saving work, your forgiveness and your adoption and your gift of eternal life – but leave you crown on the tree outside the door as you come in!” The true Christian has the life of the King of kings within him. This life is received by exchange: a life for a life – his life for my life. When I come to the end of myself and in faith surrender to him, casting all upon him, then he replaces my broken and ruined life with his own life. Christ does not give life to those already satisfied with the life they have. I am saying that it is impossible to have Christ as Saviour but not as Lord. One cannot be saved from hell without being saved from sin and self. To pretend otherwise is hypocrisy. To teach otherwise is heresy.
Are there not many in the professing church today who have accepted Christ simply for what they can get out of him? They don’t want to be forever lost, and so they accept Christ as Saviour. Let me emphasize the words that “they accept Christ.” This is something they do, and having done it, they suppose that God is now in their debt and under their obligation. God cannot send them to hell, they think. After all, they have accepted Christ, but it is a very diminished Christ they’ve accepted, and also it’s on the terms they’ve laid down. They have not yielded themselves to his Lordship (“Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee”), or really believed what he says, yet they still consider themselves safe because of what they’ve done.
Men are not Christians because of something they’ve done for Christ but what God has done for them in making his Son Lord and Christ. He is in the position of being able to deliver you and keep. Christ made it perfectly plain to all his followers that he is Lord. He still demands yieldedness to this fact today. He insists that men cannot have two lords, for either they will hate the one and love the other or else they will hold to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24). Men cannot have Christ as Lord while still being lords of themselves. If Christ is to reign in a person’s life, that person must cease to reign. No heart throne is large enough for two rulers. If the throne of one’s life is not yielded to Christ, then that unyielded person is not believing Christ. And if he is not believing Christ, then he is not a Christian
If you will not believe Christ on the issue of his Lordship, you cannot be saved. It does not matter what overt responses you have made toward Christ. If he is not Lord of your life, then you are its lord. If you are lord then you are still in your sins, Even if you can remember the exact occasion that moved you to make your decision, yet if Christ is not the Lord of your life, then you have still to believe him. God has made him both Lord and Christ. Is he your Lord and Christ?
25th January 2015 GEOFF THOMAS