As we’re gathered here for our first ever Church Camp, a retreat of sorts, it seemed fitting to think about our mission as a church. Why do we exist? Why do we gather week after week at the Best Western in Moscow? Why don’t we gather here every week? Why do we exist? And when we ask those kinds of questions, we really need to go back to the birth of the Church, back to Pentecost where the Spirit was poured out and the Church was born. We need to go back to where we received our calling, our purpose, our mission. And the particular verse I want to look at is the verse about the promise. Peter closes his sermon responding to the people by saying that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for us, for our children, and for the world. Whatever we do in this life, we want to be chasing the promises of God. The promises of God are His sure Word about the future, about where this world is going, about what will happen next, about what God is doing with us. Because God is sovereign, because He is the author of this story, of History, we want our mission, our goals, our plans to line up with His mission, His goals, His plans. And the clearest place to seek to understand His mission and goals and plans is by looking at what He has promised. If God promises to do something, then He will do it. Christ is the great evidence of that. He is proof that God’s Word and Promises are sure. And therefore as we play our parts in this story of life, we are called to faith, to believe the promises of God, to believe His word. And faith looks confidently to Jesus, to Christ for the fulfillment of those promises.
Summary of the Text
Peter’s Pentecost sermon climaxes by explaining that Jesus fulfilled David’s prophecy of the Messiah, and this was proven particularly in the resurrection (2:30-32). After the resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and received the promise of the Spirit to pour out on His people – which explains what has just happened in Jerusalem – it is proof of the resurrection and ascension (2:33, cf. 5:30-32). David was not talking about himself when he was prophesying; he spoke of his lord/master ascending into heaven (2:34-35). Therefore, the house of Israel must know that the one they crucified is the one that God has appointed as their Lord and King (2:36). The people who hear this are cut to the heart and immediately ask what they must do, which is the response every loyal heart must have upon hearing that they have played the traitor (2:37). Peter urges the crowd to repent, be baptized, and to receive the Holy Spirit, insisting that the promise of the Holy Spirit in particular is for them, their children, to all who are far off (2:38-39). And the glad response of the people is more Pentecost, further proof of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus: the word of God goes forth with boldness and power and there are lots of baptisms (2:4-6, 2:17-21, 2:40-41). It’s worth noting this same theme of boldness and power continuing through Acts. In 4:8, Peter “filled with the Holy Spirit” explains to the rulers, elders, and scribes of the Jews that though they crucified Jesus, God raised Him from the dead and the proof of that is the lame man who has been healed. And the rulers, elders, scribes see the boldness with which they speak and know for certain that they have been with Jesus (4:13). Later, after Peter and John have been threatened and then released, they return to the other disciples where they offer prayers of thanksgiving to God asking specifically for boldness in the face of the threats they have received, and Luke says: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word with boldness (4:31). Again in 6:10, Stephen, full of power speaks with the people and disputes with Jews in the synagogue, and Luke says that they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. The Holy Spirit was upon Jesus as He carried out His earthly ministry, the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, and that same Spirit of power and strength and boldness has been poured out on the Church. That Spirit is the Promise of God, and because it is the promise of God poured out upon God’s people, it gives them boldness to speak the truth and to work for the truth. Having the Promise of God filling you, gives you confidence in the future. It gives you confidence in the story that you are part of. Having the Promise of God gives you confidence as you carry out your mission, your goals, your plans because you know that they line up with God’s plans and goals and mission. You know this because you have His Promise, His Spirit.
The Promise for our Children
Peter says this in 2:33. He says that the “promise” is specifically the Holy Spirit (2:33). The Spirit is the Promise of God in person, and it is by the working of the Spirit that all of the content of God’s promises are being fulfilled. But the obedient response to all of God’s promises is always faith, believing the promise: Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Faith, believing God’s promise, God’s word, is our justice, our righteousness – faith makes us right. So what is the promise of the Spirit that we are called to believe specifically? What is the Promise of God in the Spirit to us and for us? Peter says that the “promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off.” This means that one of the central missions that God gives to people is children. The Holy Spirit is for you and for your children. Your own children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and in the church, we are all godparents to all of the children. We have all taken vows to assist parents in their training and nurture in the Lord. To believe the Promise means believing that the promise of the Spirit has been given to you and to your children, and you make this confession of faith most explicitly by bringing your children to baptism. And while some Christians object to baptizing babies, we point to the promises: God promised to be the God of Abraham, to establish His covenant with him and his descendents in their generations after him (Gen. 17:7). God says, ‘I will be their God’ (Gen. 17:8). Though the world may be shaken, God’s steadfast mercy is changeless, and this will be proven in the children of His servants (Ps. 102:25-28). And the covenant promises that included Canaan as an inheritance have grown up to include the whole world in Christ (Rom. 4:13). Ezekiel foresaw this in his prophecy: A new David would arise to be King for them and for their children forever (Ez. 37:24-28). Isaiah likewise says that in the new era, God’s people will not bring forth children for trouble but for blessing (Is. 65:23). Peter says this new era has begun (Acts 2:39). God promises to be the God of your children. He promises that His steadfast mercy will be proven to you in the lives of your children. He promises to give this world to His people and their children as you trust Him. God promises that His King has been enthroned and therefore you and your children will serve Him forever. God has given you your children not for trouble but for blessing. These are the promises of God to you. And these promises come to you in the person of the Holy Spirit, who is for you and your children.
The Promise for the World
But what is really striking is that in the same breath, Peter includes the rest of the world, “all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (2:39). In other words, the same Promise is made to your children and to the rest of the world. But this should hardly be surprising since this too was promised: in Abraham, God promised to bless all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). “All ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You” (Ps. 22:27). “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). And Jesus said that this would begin in His own death (Jn. 12:32). He said that when He was lifted up, He would draw all peoples to Himself. Paul says this will happen in Phil. 2:9-11. Jesus was raised to glory at the right hand of the Father and given a name above every name so that at that name every knew should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. John saw a vision of this happening in Rev. 5:11 where he saw an innumerable host praising the Lamb that was slain, and again in Revelation 21:22-22:2 where he saw the glory of the nations being brought into the New Jerusalem and the trees of life for the healing of the nations. And Peter here insists that this has begun, that the Spirit has been poured out for all who are afar off: he declares the promise to the nations with as much certainty as the promise is to our children (Acts 2:39).
Conclusions & Applications
It can be very tempting to doubt. It can be tempting to worry. It can be tempting to feel unsure, lost, confused, aimless, insecure. What am I doing with my life? What is my calling? Am I being a good parent? Will our children turn out? What are we doing as a church? What is our mission? And we do sometimes need to review and refresh on our calling, our mission, our goals, our purpose. And frequently God does refine our understanding of our mission, our goals, our callings. But the promises of God are true, and in Jesus they are “yes” and “amen.” And this is because the Promise of God is a person, the person of the Holy Spirit. He is the Promise of God for you, for your children, and for the world. So your mission is three fold: believe the Promise of God for you, for your children, and for the world.
1. Believe the Promise of God for you. Have you repented? Have you been baptized? Then the Promise of the Holy Spirit is for you. What does this mean? The Spirit is your comforter, your helper, your down payment of your inheritance. And what is that inheritance? You have been chosen for glory – “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). You have been accepted in the Beloved Son “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). In Adam, you were an enemy of God, you were a traitor, you rejected the love of God, and you deserved death. “The wages of sin is death…” And all of your righteousness, all the good works, all of your best efforts amount to “filthy rags” and “rubbish” before His holiness, but the gift of God is eternal life. The wages of sin is death. You deserved to die under the curse of sin, but in Christ, God took away your guilt. He took away your treachery. And He has freely given you life. You are forgiven, washed clean, and He has done this by the riches of His grace. His grace is plentiful, bounteous, overflowing. There is plenty; there is no shortage. But He not only took away the guilt you had before you met Him, His grace reaches throughout your life: the grace of the cross reaches into the past, the present, and the future burning away the dross, forgiving the sin, and giving life. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (1:13). You have been sealed by the Spirit: the Spirit is your confirmation of forgiveness, your guarantee of inheriting life. And that life begins now: it means that you are right with the God of the whole universe, and all of your gifts, your loves, your dreams, your abilities are at the service of King Jesus. And if Jesus is King and enthroned in heaven, you are called to boldness, the boldness of the Spirit, doing whatever you do for the King in confidence and joy.
2. Believe the Promise of God for your children and the world. We’ve reviewed them today. You’ve heard them before, but you are called to believe them. Your children belong to God. He has claimed them in baptism, and the promise of the Spirit is for them. But it’s striking that Peter connects the Promise of the Spirit to three distinct entities: you, your children, and the world. This is not accidental or coincidental. While leaving room for different gifts and different personalities, it is nevertheless the case that the Promise of the Spirit is for all three: you, your children, the world. This means that they are connected. And our faith in the promise of the Spirit cannot be disconnected from the mission of the Spirit. If the mission of the Spirit is to save you, your children, and this world, then reception of that Spirit, receiving that Promise in faith means believing with equal certainty in that mission. You cannot receive the Promise without receiving the Mission. And you cannot carry out the Mission without the Promise. It is the Spirit that is driving this story forward. It is the Spirit that is determined to conform you into the image of Christ. It is the Spirit that is determined to conform your children to that same image, and it is the Spirit that is determined to remake this whole world and conform every family on the face of this planet to the image of the Son. God’s mission in your life is to see this mission carried out in your children and in your neighbors and all who are afar off. That’s what the Promise of the Spirit is for; that’s what the Promise of the Spirit is up to. That is the Mission, and the Promise is for the carrying out of that Mission.
And if the Promise is true, then the word must go forth with boldness and power. The Spirit is always proof that Jesus is Risen and Reigning. That’s how the world knows it’s true. The Spirit gives boldness to believe the truth, to teach the truth, to proclaim the truth. That means boldly applying the word to your lives, boldly applying the word to your children, and boldly declaring the word with your neighbors and friends and coworkers. And we cannot disconnect these things. Either Jesus is Lord or He isn’t. Either Easter is true or it isn’t. Either the Spirit has been poured out or He hasn’t. There is no middle way. There is no half way. But here is the word before us. Here is the Promise before us. Here is the Promise in our midst for us, for our children, for the world.
What are we doing here? What is our mission? Why does Trinity Reformed Church exist? We exist as a community of witnesses. We are witnesses of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. We confess that Jesus is Lord of all, King of all, and He is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. We declare that He deserves all glory and honor and majesty, and our Mission is to see every knee bow, every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And we have God’s express Promise that this will happen. Our children belong to our King and they will serve Him after us. Our neighbors, our city, our nation, this world will come and bow before Christ. That’s what the Holy Spirit means. That’s what the Holy Spirit is for. He is the Promise of God to fulfill the Mission of God. And if God has promised, then it is sure. It is certain. God never breaks His promises. If God is saving us, if God is saving our children, if God is saving this world, then the only response can be confidence, boldness, and courage. God sends you to your families, to your work places, to your neighborhoods and says those belong to Me. Those belong to Christ. And if they belong to Christ, then we should have no qualms with saying so. If Christ deserves all glory and honor and praise, then we should have no trouble telling people so. Jesus is Lord and there is no other. Jesus is King, and we have His Promise to prove it.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.