The Power of Two

This morning my fast from coffee ends.  I’m a coffee purist, so to me black is the only way to enjoy this delectable delight.  I know that some find it quite repulsive on its own and so they add flavored creamer.  Coffee and creamer, what a combination!  There are a lot of things in life that go better together.  For example, you wouldn’t have as much fun with a baseball bat if you didn’t have a baseball.  Or consider owning a lock without the key.  As the old country western music song goes, “like a hammer and a nail. like socks and shoes … like rhythm and blues.”  Even some words are more powerful together.  Consider the word I for a moment.  I defines you and differentiates you from others.  The word do is often used to evaluate your worth, “So, what do you do for a living?”  But if you put them together, “I do,” your life could be changed forever.  Some things are just better together.  That’s the power two.

In the Apostle Peter’s first sermon he lists no less than four powerful combinations, each important on their own, but unbelievably powerful when combined.  That’s the power of two.

 Fellow Israelites, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene was a man whose credentials God proved to you through miracles, wonders, and signs, which God performed through him among you. You yourselves know this.  (Acts 2:22 CEB)

Peter is explaining to the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost that Jesus is the Messiah.  Peter is clear to state that Jesus was a man.  However, we wasn’t merely a man, he was fully a man.  We are merely human because of the fall, but by the grace of God we are becoming fully human like Jesus.  The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was man like us, tempted in every way, yet without sin.  That Jesus was without sin is important because that is what qualifies him to be the passover lamb of God.

Jesus’ life was proved by God through miracles, wonders, and signs.  The nature of Jesus’ miracles were to demonstrate the power of God.  The nature of his wonders were to arouse astonishment.  The nature of his signs were to point to spiritual truth.

In accordance with God’s established plan and foreknowledge, he was betrayed. You, with the help of wicked men, had Jesus killed by nailing him to a cross.  God raised him up! God freed him from death’s dreadful grip, since it was impossible for death to hang on to him.  (Acts 2:23-24 CEB)

Death is a powerful event.  Death has the power to move us deeply and affect us in ways that are unpredictable.  Death, being the last enemy, is a powerful adversary.  Death is also powerful in another way.  Death means blood, and blood means atonement.  The death of Jesus provides the atonement necessary for the forgiveness of sin.  His death is a mystery.  It comes in part because God had determined to hand over his only son and in part because of the wickedness of the Jewish and Roman leaders.  Through the death of Jesus, God’s saving purposes were being worked out.  By itself, the death of Jesus is a powerful event, but it is insufficient for abundant living and eternal life.  For that God had to combine the death of Jesus with the resurrection of Jesus.

Life is a powerful event.  At the birth of my children I was overwhelmed with joy, love, awe, and fear.  Nothing is more precious than life.  Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life to the fullest!”  If Jesus had died only, then we would would live forgiven, but death would still be the final answer.  However, God raised him from the dead.  He was dead indeed, for, “Death had its painful grip on him,” but God released him and raised him up.  Jesus truly died and truly rose thereby conquering death forever!  Death and resurrection – that’s the power of two!

 25   David says about him, “I foresaw that the Lord was always with me; because he is at my right hand I won’t be shaken. 26 Therefore, my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover, my body will live in hope, 27 because you won’t abandon me to the grave, nor permit your holy one to experience decay. 28 You have shown me the paths of life; your presence will fill me with happiness. 

29 “Brothers and sisters, I can speak confidently about the patriarch David. He died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this very day. 30 Because he was a prophet, he knew that God promised him with a solemn pledge to seat one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Having seen this beforehand, David spoke about the resurrection of Christ, that he wasn’t abandoned to the grave, nor did his body experience decay. 32 This Jesus, God raised up. We are all witnesses to that fact. 33 He was exalted to God’s right side and received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. He poured out this Spirit, and you are seeing and hearing the results of his having done so.

34 David didn’t ascend into heaven. Yet he says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right side, 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” 36 Therefore, let all Israel know beyond question that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:25–36 CEB)

Peter has made some bold claims – that Jesus was put to death and raised to life.  But no claim has any validity without a witness.  In fact, according to the Law, no testimony could be heard from a single witness.  For there to be any credibility there must always be at least two witnesses.  Just another example of the power of two.  Peter’s claim that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead is no exception.  Therefore, Peter’s first witness is King David.

Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11, in which, he claims, the death and resurrection of the Messiah was foretold.  King David wasn’t speaking of himself for his body still remains in his tomb to this day.  He was speaking of God’s anointed one, Israel’s Messiah.  This makes sense if one understands that all scripture points to Jesus.

That’s one witness, but what about the other witness?  For this Peter reminds the crowd, “This Jesus, God raised up.  We are all witnesses to that fact.”  With two witnesses established Peter is now free to speak of the implications of these events, “Therefore, let all Israel know beyond question that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

37  When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.”

40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.  (Acts 2:37–41 CEB)

At these the words the crowd is cut to the heart; they are convicted and cry out, “What should we do?!”  Peter responds with two more sets of powerful twos – two promises and two conditions.

The first of the promises is that this Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, can forgive sins.  He doesn’t simply forget all the harm you have done to yourself and to others, he forgives it.  He offers a full pardon, a full re-start on life.  No more guilt.  No more baggage.  No more trauma.  He takes it all away.  What an amazing offer!  However, this offer would only be momentarily enjoyed if we were left unchanged.  For each of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and without some kind of empowerment we would soon return to our wretched ways, like a dog returning to its vomit.  Fortunately, forgiveness does not come all by its lonesome.

The second promise is the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit, transforming those who believe and making them whole and holy.  Jesus offers to all – “you, your children, and for all who are far away; as many as the Lord our God invites” – forgiveness and empowerment.  No more “prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.”  Forgiveness and empowerment – that’s the power of two!

These promises, though, are based on two conditions.  The crowd, after hearing Peter’s sermon, cried out, “What should we do?”  First, “Change your hearts and lives.”  The first condition is to repent of a life that rejects God’s Son.  Stop doing harm.  Start doing all the good you can.  Learn to stay in love with Jesus.  Second, “Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  In other words, by faith, receive Jesus into your lives and be baptized as an outward sign of this inward condition.  Repentance and faith go hand in hand and are the conditions upon which the two promises are made.  Repentance is impossible without faith, for without faith one cannot turn from sin and turn to God.  Repentance and faith – that’s the power of two!

There are two little words that will change your life.  Each word on their own is powerful, but together they will transform you and change you for all eternity – Yes, Jesus.

He is risen.  He is risen indeed!

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