Whenever I read this passage, I am awestruck by the awesomeness of the early church or better yet, the awesomeness of God as he plants the early church within a yard of hell. Think about the things that you and I call awesome. What experiences have you had that you would call awesome?

As many of you know, I and a small group of men and women started a motorcycle ministry over the last couple of years. That kind of ministry requires many things but one of the main things it requires is that you own and ride a motorcycle. My motorcycle has the smallest of Harley Davidson motors in it (it is an 88ci motor). Whenever I see a Harley with a 131ci motor in it, I am awestruck! And it is not just that I want to have the fastest bike, there is a respect factor in the motorcycle club community for anyone who not only owns but can also ride a motorcycle with large motor in it and respect in that community can give you many opportunities for the gospel.

I also get a sense of awe whenever I see a 30oz ribeye on the menu or I see a lifted 4×4 truck with loud exhaust rolling down the street and the same is true whenever I see a souped-up hotrod like a 1969 Dodge Charger as featured in the Dukes of Hazzard or a 1977 Firebird as featured in Smokey and the Bandit. Yes, in many ways, I am a typical dude; I am awed by typical dude stuff!

Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, so many of you may remember that awesome feeling you experienced when you met your spouse or when you saw them walking down the aisle on your wedding day. On the other hand, for you singles, you may dream about what seems to be the awesomeness of marriage.

So, there are many things that bring us a sense of awesomeness. Fourth of July fireworks are awesome and so is the Grand Canyon and so are the Rocky Mountains and so are the Black Hills and so is the ocean. This kind of awesomeness is what I sense whenever I read this portion of the book of Acts. The God we serve is awesome and the church he is planting is totally awesome too! Look at some of the awesome things Luke tells us about the early church in the text:

38And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

42And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.


When I think about three thousand people getting saved because of a single sermon preached, I get really excited, and I feel a sense of fear thinking about what it will take to disciple those three thousand new believers.

You may remember that Peter has just preached his heart out (2:14 – 37). He refuted the notion that the disciples were drunk in the early morning hours (vv. 14 – 15), he preached Christ crucified, risen, and returning, from the book of Joel (vv. 16 – 24), he confronted some people in his audience, from Psalms 16 and 110, for their unlawful murder of Jesus who was resurrected, ascended into heaven, ruling over all creation, returning to vanquish his enemies and to save those who have trusted in him (vv. 25 – 36); and the response of many, was the question, “What do we do now, Peter?” (v. 37).2 This is the best question anyone can ask after hearing a sermon.

In answer to that question, Peter tells them to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” and he promises that if you do this “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). Repentance here, simply means to “change your mind” about Jesus as the gift of the Holy Spirit gives you the ability.3 There cannot be any legitimate salvation without repentance – namely changing one’s mind about Jesus by the power of the Spirit – because it is the Spirit – who is the gift – that transforms what we think (Rom. 12:1 – 2; John 16:12 – 15).

In reference to the Holy Spirit, Peter says that this “gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38) is for everyone, both young and old, “whom the Lord our God calls to himself” by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ for salvation “from this crooked generation” and for every generation to come (vv. 39 – 40). In response to Peter’s call to trust in Christ for salvation, Luke tells us that “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (v. 41). So, repentance and salvation are tightly tied to the act of baptism, here.

Baptism is a key component of discipleship. It does not save you, but it is an outward symbol of obedience that reflects the inward transformation that takes place when someone receives salvation. The pattern we see all throughout the book of Acts (in 8 separate episodes) is baptism by submersion in water for people who are old enough to profess a genuine faith in Christ to save them from the presence, the power, and the penalty of their sin (Acts 8:5 – 13, 36 – 38; 9:10 – 19; 10:47 – 48; 16:13 – 15, 27 – 34; 18:5 – 8; 19:1 – 5; 22:14 – 17).

All of these instances are in obedience to Jesus’ command to make disciples by baptizing them and then teaching them to obey his commands (Matt. 28:18 – 20). This would have been an awesome day to experience as three thousand people repented, got saved, and were baptized in obedience to Jesus’ commands in the Great Commission!


One of the most discouraging things in the modern church today is the lack of commitment among so-called believers. The list of things that compete for our commitment is very lengthy – time constraints, busyness, family responsibilities, vocational pursuits, hobbies, you name it, commitment to the regular rhythms of the church (studying the Bible, fellowship, eating food together, and prayer) can often take the back seat or become an add on to an all-ready hectic lifestyle.

But we are naïve to think that believers in the first century did not face similar and even worse things that competed with their ability to consistently commit to the regular spiritual rhythms of being the church. On top of the normal everyday pressures that we all deal with, the early church also dealt with a heavy dose of the threat of death for anyone who practiced Christianity; not to mention the public ridicule and dismissive attitude of a culture that believed Christians were stupid, naïve, and gullible.

Yet even in the midst of that cultural atmosphere, Luke tells us that the disciples were truly committed to the regular rhythms of the church family when he says that they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42). The early disciples were willing to risk life and limb to be taught from the Bible, to share in the fellowship of the gospel, to eat food together, and to pray together.

There are even stories throughout the history of the church, in the first couple of centuries after the day of Pentecost, of believers competing with one another to be martyred for their religious practices. How awesome and amazing would it be if 100% of a church’s membership was radically committed to studying the Bible together, sharing in the gospel together, eating food together, and praying together?

Maybe this vision of what it means to be the church does not excite you enough to consider some kind of lifestyle change. If this is you, I wonder why. Why does this vision of radical commitment not compel you to make the necessary changes in your lifestyle? I’ll tell you something, it is hard for me to contain my enthusiasm and excitement and amazement when I see the Spirit of God changing people’s hearts in this regard.

I spent far too many years listening to the excuses of nominal believers who parade around from church to church every few years with no visible signs of true commitment in their lives. I refuse to allow those experiences to diminish the awesomeness of the Spirit at work in one or two believers at a time who are experiencing the kind of radical transformation that produces disciples who are truly committed, because that experience is truly awesome! When someone moves from the inconsistent, half-hearted commitment, that the western church is ripe with, I get excited because I know that the Spirit of God is still doing an awesome work among his people.


Luke tells us that “awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles” (v. 43). If you read through the rest of the book of Acts, you will see all sorts of awesome things being done through the apostles as the Spirit continues to help them witness to the power of our crucified, risen, and returning Savior.

While Jesus was walking this earth, the lame walked, the sick were healed, the blind were given new eyesight, and the dead were raised to new life (read the Gospels). In the book of Acts, Jesus continues this same ministry of miraculous wonders and signs so that people would notice the power of God at work and surrender to him for salvation.

In our day there are many who try to duplicate this kind of ministry in the health, wealth, and prosperity ministries we see on the T.V. or the internet. I honestly have not found any of those ministries to be valid. They typically operate outside the bounds of a faithful, gospel preaching, Bible believing church, and they often promote lifestyles for their ministers that would make all of the apostles blush with embarrassment and they probably would confront them in anger for exploiting the flock of God that has been purchased by the broken body and shed blood of Jesus.

Those ministries distract us from the real ongoing work of the Spirit among God’s people as he does wonders and signs in our day to day lives. Every time someone gets saved it is a wonder or a sign. Every time someone receives an answer to prayer it is a wonder or a sign. Every time a marriage is healed, or an addiction is overcome, or a financial burden is lifted, or a passage of Scripture is understood, it is a wonder or a sign. I am convinced that all too often, we are so enamored with the T.V. or internet version (false as it may be) that we totally miss the real miraculous work that is taking place among us.


Can you imagine a church where all of its members’ material needs are being cared for by the rest of the membership? This would be awesome! This is exactly what was happening in the early church as they united to generously care for one another. Luke tells us that “all who believed were together and had all things in common” – they were a solid united front in the face of evil, oppression, and extreme poverty – because “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (vv. 44 – 45).

I have personally witnessed the lack of this in the western church, but I have also had a front row seat to many who practice this very thing. I have seen single men caring financially for widow-like women. I have witnessed wealthy businessmen and women giving cars to families who did not have one and paying for formal education for children who cannot. I have seen front porches loaded with groceries and gifts from members of this church to families in need.

I have watched this church grow, from a small group of six adults where Christy and I’s monthly financial giving was all that this church had to pay the bills, to the church we are today where ¾ of my salary and benefits and the rest of the monthly ministry budgets are being met by the giving of this church family. When the church grows up and unites in generosity, people notice, and it is a really awesome thing to see!


There are roughly 2 – 3 gatherings per week in our church: Sunday morning gatherings, midweek Bible studies for men and women, and biweekly community groups for everyone. The range of involvement in these gatherings is quite interesting and I do dream and pray for greater involvement from people who call this church their church home.

Once again, the biblical vision is set before us and all you have to do is ask yourself “why is this vision not compelling enough for me to make the changes necessary to participate?” Luke tells us that the early church attended “the temple together” and broke “bread in their homes” on a daily basis and that “they received their food with glad and generous hearts” as they were “praising God and having favor with all people” (vv. 46 – 47). Christians gathering daily was a discipline that was expected, enjoyed, and looked forward to. 

The vision here is simple: the members of the early church were together daily in a combination of large group gatherings at the temple and small group gatherings in homes. In those gatherings, they no doubt continued to practice the disciplines we saw earlier – Bible study, sharing in the gospel, eating food, praying – and here we see that they also praised God when they were together and that their gatherings were gaining favor among everyone they met. This is simply amazing because it is unheard of in our western culture. But it is awesome to experience – for the few that choose to participate!


Luke tells us in the last part of verse 47 that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”. Luke does not tell us that hordes of people were pouring through the doors to see the smoke show; he tells us that new believers were becoming members of the church as God “added to their number day by day”.

The Lord did the adding but you can rest assured that the members of the church did the evangelizing and the discipling. This was not primarily the work of the apostles or the pastors. This was an entire church membership project with God at the helm of the ship by the power and the presence of his very own Spirit.

Can you imagine the awesome sense of excitement we would experience if every one of us was responsible for sharing the gospel with someone this week and if God blessed our obedience in gospel proclamation by doubling our numbers next Sunday? Can you imagine being responsible for not only leading someone to Jesus, but also being responsible for their baptism, as well as being responsible for their ongoing spiritual formation and training in the Bible?

We have a tendency to shrink back from the word responsibility when it pertains to things of a spiritual matter – truth be told, it is hard for us to imagine being responsible for someone else’s spiritual journey because we trust that our pastor will take care of that and I suspect that we cringe a little over the prospect of being held accountable to doing something like this because it is a high responsibility with eternity on the line.

This sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? It is a little intimidating to think about being responsible for someone else’s spiritual journey. I would argue that this is exactly where we need to be, and this is exactly what we need to feel as we come to the end of this sermon.


When you step back and you think about this awesome description of the early church and all of the awesome ways Luke describes it: three thousand people get saved, the church is full of disciples who were committed to the regular spiritual rhythms of the church, wonders and signs were being done, the church was united in generosity, believers were gathering together daily, and new believers were becoming members.

When you think about how awesome it would be to be part of a church like this, you have to ask what it is that stops you from being the church like this. What stops you from being like the early believers?The church is not a building; it is a people. So, what stops people like you and I from being an awesome church like this? The answer, according to one scholar, is that we have lost our awe for God.4 When verse 43 says that “awe came upon every soul” Luke is referring to the awesome, reverent, fear of God as the motivator for being the awesome church of God. All of the things that described the early church will never describe us if we do not have a robust awesome, reverent, fear of God. How is your awe of God lately?

Oftentimes, we are awed by the preacher, or the music, or the friendships, or the food at a gathering, but we are not awed by the God who rescued us, therefore we are not motivated to participate in the normal disciplines of being the church and therefore the church is no longer awesome.

Think about how you would feel right now if twenty-five Hells Angels suddenly marched through those doors and took a seat in the front row. How afraid would you feel or how uncomfortable would you feel? Or how afraid would you feel if you knew that armed militia were prowling around town looking for Christians to persecute after Sunday gatherings? Would you stay home and watch the gathering on the internet or even better yet, maybe you would find a different online church to watch that has better production.

That fear and uncomfortable feeling in either of those scenarios, pales in comparison to the awesome fear we would experience if we were at the foot of the cross as Jesus was being crucified or if we looked through the doorway of the empty tomb on Easter morning and found Jesus’ body missing or if we were present when the resurrected Jesus walked into the room through a wall or if we saw him ascending into heaven and promising to return very soon.

It is this very awesome fear that the disciples felt that motivated a complete lifestyle change and an all-in attitude when it came to the regular rhythms of evangelism and discipleship. If you need any motivation to consider a lifestyle change, or if you need any encouragement to continue living into the vision of this text for this church – spend some time contemplating the awesome fear of the Lord at the bloody cross, in the doorway of the empty tomb, in light of the promise of heaven. That just might change your awe for the Lord and the fruit of that is that the Spirit will do awesome things in our church today just as he did in the early church. – Amen!

Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).

2 Joe Marino, Acts 2:14 – 37 | Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon, (The Well Church, February 5, 2023), https://joemarino.org/acts-214-37-peters-pentecostal-sermon/#more-1941.

3 Derek W. H. Thomas, Acts, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2011), 49.

4 Ibid., 64 – 65.