TEXT : Acts 2: 1- 41
DATE PREACHED : The Lord's Day , 12th June 2011
Over the last few years I have become increasingly aware of the significance of momentous events and interventions of God in history , particularly the birth , baptism, the death , the crucifixion , the resurrection , the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ . Now these great events at the may be compressed into a period of about 35 years. I now have an increased appreciation for the Christian calendar and the holy days which are associated with it . When you think about this , these are “spiritual earthquake events” . They are spiritual Tsunami’s which have changed our world forever !
Isn’t it strange then that the average evangelical church member in our country has little appreciation for these events ? Our teachers and preachers have failed to help our people to appreciate and remember these important memorials of the acts of God in history . They are now associated with ’long weekends’ and with time to get away. We speak about Christmas and Easter holidays .
We in Namibia are one of the few privileged nations in the world to still have Ascension day as a memorial day , and so we as a church have had a time of worship on that day . Now today , 10 days later, we remember the next significant event on the church calendar : Pentecost - the coming of the Holy Spirit !
You will remember that after His resurrection the Lord Jesus had instructed the disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father … the Holy Spirit ! What precisely was the promise ? “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you , and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth .” ( Acts 1:8) . Let us be reminded that the next major event will be the Decension (or 2nd coming) of our Lord Jesus Christ . The angels who were present at Christ’s ascension told the disciples , “ This Jesus , who was taken up from you into heaven , will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven .” ( Acts 1:11)
And now in Acts 2 :1 we read , “ When the day of Pentecost arrived…” . It was that day of which Jesus, and the prophets before Him e.g. Joel 2:28-32 and John the Baptist - Lk 3:16 had spoken . John the Baptist's prophesied that Christ would baptize His disciples with the Spirit and with Fire . Fire is a symbol of both cleansing and judgment .That day ( which we remember today) had now finally and fully arrived .
I think that it is important that we speak about the significance of this event . Unfortunately, ‘Pentecost’ had become a source of major confusion and division for Christians in the 20th century . A major grouping of Christians in this world , the ‘Pentecostals’ have taken their name from this major event. The name ‘Pentecost’ is taken from the Greek word for "50", because this feast occurred fifty days after the Passover. Let us consider the historical event a little closer . Pentecost, in Jewish circles was known as the Feast of the Firstfruits, ( or Feast of weeks ) , marking the completion of the barley harvest .
It was therefore a fitting time for the Holy Spirit to come at this time to gather in the first fruits from the nations gathered presently in Jerusalem for this feast . It would be the start of a missionary movement which would bring in a great world wide harvest of believers and thus a people for God’s own glory !
The Manifestation :
The disciples who have been commanded by Christ to wait until the Father had given them the promise of the Holy Spirit , were together in prayerful unity. (Acts 2:1). Suddenly He is there ! There is sound ( a rushing wind) and sight ( divided tongues of fire) . The words for wind and spirit are the same in the Greek language – Pneuma . The wind is the Spirit . He is the third person of the Trinity . His appearance is like the wind – universal and invisible , but undeniably present and powerful .
The Effect :
The Effect :
(i) Those on whom the tongues of fire rested “ were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance “ ( 2:3,4) . "Filled with the Spirit" is the same as being “baptized with the Spirit” ( cf. 1:5) . The tongues are clear and discernible human languages . The miracle is that they are able to speak another language without having previously learned it .
(ii) The sound of the mighty rushing wind and speaking of these many languages attracts a crowd in Jerusalem . Jews from every nation were gathered here providentially for the Feast . A list of various people groups is given in vv 9-11 . The list contains nations east and west, north and south of Judea and is clearly meant to indicate the people from all the known world were there, hearing the message in their own vernacular languages. As they are hearing this they are at first bewildered and then astonished that each person is able to hear the declaration of God's mighty works in his or her native language .
(iii) "What does this mean?" is the logical question to this . Some simply assume that these people are drunk ! Obviously there were many people in the crowd who knew none of the languages spoken; it would have sounded like gibberish to them.
The Explanation :
The Explanation :
In vv 14- 21 Peter explains to the crowd that what they were seeing here was actually the fulfillment of prophecy. In support he cites Joel 2:28-32 . This is a prophecy of the eventual vindication of the people of God in the world and Peter clearly sees Pentecost as the next decisive step toward that final great day of the Lord (v.20)
So far for the text . Now what does all this have to say too us ? What is the message – what is the significance of Pentecost for us today ?
1. Pentecost is another confirmation that God has acted and is acting in this world . God is always at work . God , yet again, takes the initiative in this world . Yet again … In the beginning God ! Why do we need to hear this ? Because our major tendency is to look at a God centered event like this and turn it into a man centered event . Think about it . What have all these debates in recent years about Pentecost and tongues and baptism in the Spirit produced , if not a horrible division in the church of God ? In our current exposition of 1 Corinthians and as we are now getting to Chapters 12 – 14 , we shall see that the work and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Corinthian church have been turned into man manipulated fiasco ! The gifts from the Spirit became abused for self centered ends rather than used for the glory of God .
Pentecost , like everything else begins with the act of God and is sustained by the acts of God . Therefore our faith does not so much concern what we are to do, as to recognize and see what God has already done for us in the world. Let us then learn to focus on what God is doing first , before we throw ourselves into endless man centered activity that does nothing but to clutter our lives and leave us exhausted !
2. Pentecost is a powerful reminder that God has acted in this world is by sending His Son into this world to redeem a people for Himself . The person of Jesus Christ is the main point of Peter's Pentecost sermon. ( see v. 22ff) .The climactic event is Christ's exaltation (vv. 33-36). It is this story about Jesus and His saving work that needed to be told (Acts 1:8) . It was for this reason that the disciples needed power for witnessing . So Pentecost is the amplified testimony of the Holy Spirit working in and through people , testifying to the Lord Jesus Christ . The power of Peter’s preaching (3,000 converted by that single message (v. 41) showed that the Holy Spirit was here to accelerate the work of God in the world now . Pentecost is not primarily about the Holy Spirit . It is about Jesus! (John 16:13,14) . That is, after all, what we would expect, for Jesus said that the Spirit would speak not about himself but about the Lord Jesus Christ.
3.Pentecost is the inauguration of the church's gospel witness to the whole world. The effect of the Spirit's coming would be that they would be His witnesses to the end of the earth. This happened when the people from the nations present in Jerusalem at the Feast/ Pentecost heard the gospel in their own language and were converted and in turn took this gospel out into the world .
4. Pentecost has led to the formation of the church ( the ekklesia ) in the world . Those that are converted through the gospel witness join the church . The true church is the assembly of God’s saved people from among the Jews and the gentiles . ( Eph 3:1-11) The church , indwelt by the Spirit of God is God’ s plan , God’s missionary movement to bring this gospel about Jesus to the nations . He inspires and drives the church to do the work in the world .
It is all God’s wonderful work ! Which is why I want to spend my last words on getting a false idea out of us concerning Pentecost .
5. Pentecost is not a franchise – not a monopoly of the Holy Spirit . Many have spent endless time trying to get hold of the Spirit’s power and to monopolize Him, like Simon Magus - Acts 8:19 . We have somehow been led to believe that living in the days of the outpoured Spirit brings for us an intensification of spiritual experience, some deepening of spiritual insight, some heightening of spiritual power.
The Pentecostals have for this reason taught a second work of the Holy Spirit – or a so called ‘ baptism in the Spirit ‘ of which the evidence is speaking in tongues . This, they claim , propels a Christian into a new realm of spiritual experience . But we have been around long enough now to see and say that Pentecostals have not been able to convince the rest of us that they are indeed moving on a higher spiritual plane . Though they do undoubtedly have godly men and women among them , they do not have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit .
It is because this kind of thinking that we also have thought wrongly about the spirituality of the OT saints . We somehow think that we are better than they . Yes , we do have more revelation than the OT saints , since Jesus has come to open our understanding about many things , but no – we do not necessarily possess more spiritual power .
The plain observation is that the church in the NT is not better than the assembly of the OT saints. It has the same sins, faces the same danger of apostasy and of grieving the Holy Spirit; it is not obvious that Christian history shows an improved spiritual standard to the days of Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, or Jeremiah. We note that Peter will struggle with cowardice after Pentecost as before; Ananias and Sapphira will deceive and false doctrine will trouble the church in Corinth , Galatia and throughout history !
I am afraid that many explanations and theories of superior sanctification and accelerated holiness as a result of a second experience of the Holy Spirit have confused Christians and have drawn us away from focusing on God’s work in the world .
So, what was Pentecost?
It is , what Peter said in his sermon . It was the promised fulfillment of the word of God which He had spoken in the beginning to Abraham : “ You will be a father of many nations” ( Gen 12:1-3). But it could not have happened without the Lamb of God . Pentecost was a great sign miracle authenticating the birth , death , resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. People were freed to speak about the mighty acts of God .
It was an equipping and empowering of the church for its work of bearing witness to the Lord Jesus Christ in the world . (Acts 1:8) . This was a work that had never been done before . Before Pentecost the church was largely confined to the Jews . Today, because of Pentecost the church spans the world. This work continues . The Holy Spirit wants you and I to do the work of proclaiming the mighty acts of God in this world . You will never have to worry about spiritual power . If you are born again , you do God’s work which is to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ and you may be assured that you have all God’s authority and power with you to do this work. You speak . He does the rest . Sometimes 3000 converts in a day , sometimes one a year ! The angels rejoice when a single sinner comes home ! Amen