14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ 22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 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 both see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ 36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Reading the Bible
Reading the Bible
I still remember it. I had never worn glasses my entire life. Suddenly I had trouble reading my Bible. I kept thinking something was in my eye. Far away things were fine but I was holding things away to read them. Yep I was 41 and realized I needed reading glasses. I couldn’t see what I needed to see to be able to make sense of the words on the page. I needed a lens to bring things into focus.
How does it go when you try to read the Bible? Does it all make sense to you? We call it the Good Book, but it’s really a collection of 66 Books. Some of them go together you need to read that whole section to make full sense of any one part. Almost all the parts of the Bible are in conversation with each other. The Psalms harken back to some of the stories of old and look forward to Messianic prophecies yet to be fulfilled. But the Psalms are mainly the prayer book of God’s people. A history of how God’s people prayed together and alone across the years. But also a helpful guide to how we can pray today.
So it helps to know what is going on in each part of the Bible so you can make the most of it. Don’t go looking in Ecclesiastes for the best reasons to believe. Go there when you’re struggling and need to hold on to faith in trying times.
Also remember the story is being told in a later time that looks back on the events. So keep that in mind. Some places it will say things like: that altar still stands to this day. That doesn’t mean today, that means at the point in the past when the story was written down about events that were already in the past. So God’s people have always been remembering God’s mighty deeds from the past in their own time. They write it down for their kids and it gets handed down for the next generation.
But you need something to help you pull it all together when you read it. And it helps when Jesus is the one who does it for you...
25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Wow, isn’t that what we need? To have our minds opened to understand the Scriptures?
Look what was going on: first, they realized they had no answers on their own. They truly came seeking. Second, they opened up about their need. Man they were depressed and desperate and they owned it. No fake Christianity here. “I got nothin’” was their story.
To Best Understand the Bible you have to really need to know it.
To Best Understand the Bible you have to really need to know it.
How many people really pay attention to the airline crash instructions? How many people read the software user license agreement when they download updates? How about that mattress warning tag? Or the IKEA furniture instructions? Don’t get me started there...
But when you get halfway through that FUGUE night stand and have no idea what to do with all these screws and an extra leg. Suddenly it matters and you pull out those instructions and read them with care.
If you want to understand the Bible you have to want, no need to understand the Bible. That’s the human side. If you’re just curious or like debates, go ahead and skim on the surface for what fits easily into life. Study a little more so you can win some religious arguments. That’ll help a lot, NO IT WON’T!
But see for these disciples in our story, it happened—their eyes were opened and they got the best kind of heart burn. The kind that fills you with fire and sends you on your way to tell someone else what you’ve learned. That’s how it works.
You get into the Word and the Word gets into you and suddenly Jesus is in charge and things are happening all around.
These guys went back to Jerusalem to the other believers and told them about their experience. Their friends shared that Peter had seen the risen Jesus also. Now with everyone sharing what they had been taught and what they had experienced, the church began to be transformed by a better way to read the Bible.
How to Read the Bible
How to Read the Bible
The static way says: everything important happened long ago in faintly recorded stories to people really different from us. So just study it, catalogue it, put it on a timeline and go back to your normal life.
The dynamic way says: Jesus is alive! This is the single event that changed history! Everything good that happened back there was pointing to this! The best is yet to come and its best understood from Jesus.
So keep Jesus in mind as you read, always...
So read everything in the Old Testament while remembering that Jesus was always going to come and see what you learn. Read everything remembering Jesus has already come and see what you learn. Finally, read everything remembering that Jesus is coming again and see what you learn!
Jesus is at the core of it all. It begins, unfolds, and gets resolved in him.
But this was sooooo new!
Peter had to relearn some things, unlearn some things, and learn some really cool things. All that got him ready to preach this sermon.
Suddenly the Hebrew Bible was the road map that led to Jesus. Passage after passage came alive because Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures through him.
There was extra power in it because the Holy Spirit was unleashed. Peter was alive with a fresh reading of the Word and people were blown away and more ready than they realized…ready for change. Ready for Jesus.
Peter shows us the way and we can’t stop now. We can’t turn this thing into a static photo album we look at every now and then. This shows us the recipe for how to read the Bible in every age. Jesus at the center. It leads up to him, then explodes out of him into the future. We should be continuing to ride that wave in our lives today.
Jesus was coming all along. Jesus came. Jesus is coming again. That’s how you read the Bible.
It’s stuff you need to know to make it through. I’ve got some special training but my goal is to help you get good at reading it and get good at helping others to read it and share it. It’s definitely not just for Pastors. Peter was a fisherman. But he learned, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him, but he learned. Well enough to stand up and tell a rough crowd life changing truth. Hard truth. But good good news.
Friends, this book we are reading is taking you through Acts and helping you learn to open your heart and read the Bible well. The book of Acts is taking you through some Old Testament passages and showing you cool stuff about Jesus and then showing you how that was lived out in real time by the early church—along with the hope of Jesus’ return.
Don’t ever think you have mastered this book: the Bible. Let its wisdom master you. Let Jesus guide your reading through the Holy Spirit. But come together with the community of faith, just like they did in the early church.
Look for Jesus, not just on the page, not just deep down in your heart, but on the gps map of your daily journey. Let him be your guide as you live out of Scripture and live into the promises that Jesus fulfilled as you live into the community of faith blessing the larger community.
That’s how you read the Bible.
Peter was reading something written a long time ago about days yet to come. Jesus helped him see that the age of the Spirit had come. God was moving in a big way just as it had been promised.
We are still living in that age. This is still the age where God pours out his Spirit. Don’t let yourself get jaded. This is the age where God is still opening our eyes, so don’t give in to fear and doubt. Don’t look away or you’ll miss the real action.
God is pouring out his Spirit. Visions. Dreams. Old men and young men. Old women and younger women. Adults and teens and children and babies.
God is doing it again in a new generation, maybe it looks a little different. But don’t miss it. It’s still the Holy Spirit. It’s still Jesus. Even over zoom or facebook. Let it unfold and be a part of it.
That’s how Peter read the Bible. That’s how we can read it, too… It’s the story of Jesus. The one who was always on his way. The one who came and changed everything. The one who is coming again… The one to give our lives to as we serve the world in love...