Skip to main content
Feature Article

The Sermon that Changed the World

Why a single day over 2,000 years ago is profoundly relevant today

Charles F. Stanley

Can you think back to the most important announcement you ever heard—to the moment someone said something that changed your life forever? The Bible is filled with transformational moments of that sort, when the people of earth heard from God and knew nothing would be the same. Captured in the pages of Scripture, those moments and messages continue to shape our lives today.

Illustration by Clay Rodery

Who can forget the angelic proclamation to the shepherds: “Today in the city of David  there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11)? Or how about the one given to the grieving women at Jesus’ tomb: “He is not here, but He has risen” (Luke 24:6)? These two announcements are the reason that we celebrate Christmas and Easter.

But there’s another very important day on the Christian calendar—one that is often overlooked. I’m talking about the day of Pentecost, when the church of Jesus Christ was birthed (Acts 2:1-13). As Jesus’ followers gathered in an upper room after His ascension, the Holy Spirit came down to dwell within them in fulfillment of His promise in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter delivered a revolutionary sermon about what happened on Pentecost—it was an event that permanently changed the world (Acts 2:14-36).

THE REVELATION. Pentecost was a harvest feast for the Jews, and people from various nations had come to Jerusalem for the celebration. When they heard their languages spoken by ordinary Galileans, some were bewildered, but others mocked. That’s when Peter stood up to explain they were witnessing fulfillment of a prophecy in the book of Joel and to give them a concise portrayal of the One who poured forth this miracle (Acts 2:33). 

Peter identified Him as “Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Acts 2:22). Peter’s listeners could not plead ignorance, because these signs had been performed in their midst. Every time the Lord healed someone, raised the dead, or exercised miraculous power, God was confirming that Jesus was His Son. Yet despite all the evidence, the people did not acknowledge Him as their Messiah. In fact, Peter accused his audience of murdering the Savior. Yet at the same time, the apostle affirmed that Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan for mankind’s redemption.

In verse 23, Peter identified three parties who were involved in Christ’s crucifixion. First of all, Jesus was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” Christ’s role as the substitutionary sacrifice for mankind’s sin was ordained before creation (1 Peter 1:20). Because of their love for mankind, the Father willingly gave His Son, and the Son voluntarily surrendered His life to rescue us from the effects of our sin—eternal separation from God. However, even though the crucifixion was part of God’s redemptive plan, Peter also placed responsibility and guilt on his audience for nailing Jesus to a cross (Acts 2:23).

At this point in his sermon, Peter made a startling announcement to those listening—that although they had killed Jesus, God raised Him to life (Acts 2:24). The once lowly Nazarene was now exalted in heaven as Lord and Christ, seated at God’s right hand (Acts 2:36).

THE VERIFICATION. Since such a bold claim could be readily dismissed as untrue, Peter provided three witnesses to back up his statement.

  • David (Acts 2:25-31, Acts 2:34-35). Israel’s most respected and beloved king was also a prophet who wrote about God’s promise that his descendant would rule from the throne eternally. Looking ahead, David spoke of the Messiah’s resurrection, saying that His body would not undergo decay and He would sit at the Lord’s right hand.

  • Jesus’ followers (Acts 2:32). Peter and the other disciples were eyewitnesses of Christ’s  resurrection and ascension into heaven.

  • The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).  The final witness was God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. The foreign languages heard in Jerusalem were a manifestation of the Spirit’s power. God had authenticated the Messiah with signs and wonders and confirmed the apostles’ message with this miracle.

THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING NEW. On that day of Pentecost, God visited mankind in a completely different way. Instead of being physically present with only a few, Christ now dwelled within each one of His followers through the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus had told the disciples it was to their advantage that He go away, because only then could He send the Spirit (John 16:7).

The Holy Spirit revolutionized believers’ individual lives. Peter, who once denied Jesus, now boldly proclaimed Him as Messiah and Lord. And the people who had rejected Christ were filled with remorse for killing the One who’d come to save them. After they repented and were baptized, their priorities changed. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, prayer, and fellowship. Some even sold their property in order to share with the needy in the congregation (Acts 2:41-47). The transformation was remarkable, but it didn’t stop there.

Over time, the culture was affected. The Christians realized their rigid social hierarchy had no place in the church. Slaves and masters were of equal worth, Gentiles and Jews were no longer enemies, and both men and women were recognized as co-heirs with Christ (Gal. 3:28). As the gospel spread, Christianity replaced idolatry in some areas, causing economic turmoil for the craftsmen (Acts 19:23-27). Although Satan tried to destroy the church with persecution, the blood of the martyrs only caused it to grow. Gradually Christianity affected the entire Roman Empire and, with time, even crossed the Atlantic Ocean to shape society in the New World.

Today, the effects of Pentecost are still reverberating around the world as Christians influence not just individuals but also cultures. Once the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, our eternal destiny is radically changed, as is everything else in our lives. God’s Spirit gives us victory over sin, guidance for decisions, comfort in hardship, and the power to obey His will. Now it’s our responsibility to tell others about our Savior, who broke the shackles of death and offers eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Explore Other Articles