When COVID entered our everyday vocabulary, people began to question their personal priorities. Mandates were communicated with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders from the state and county government. The terms “essential” and “non-essential” identified organizations and businesses that were allowed to continue their work and mission. Essential services were obviously healthcare, but also agriculture & food production, critical retail (grocery, hardware, convenience & gas stations), trades (construction, electrician, plumbers, auto mechanics), transportation. Even liquor stores were considered essential. Many other organizations were deemed non-essential: dine-in restaurants, fitness centers, movie theatres, sport stadiums, museums, playgrounds, barber shops (grow that hair!). Even churches were considered non-essential.
In just 1-2 generations ago (50-100 years – think parents and grandparents), churches were central to a local community’s morale and the national morality. Yet, now church has become viewed not only as irrelevant but unwelcomed in society.
Almost 70 years ago, MLKJr said, “[The church needs] to recapture the gospel glow of the early Christians, who were nonconformists in the truest sense of the word and refused to shape their witness according to the mundane patterns of the world. Willingly they sacrificed fame, fortune, and life itself in behalf of a cause they knew to be right. Quantitatively small, they were qualitatively giants. Their powerful gospel put an end to such barbaric evils as infanticide and bloody gladiatorial contests. Finally, they captured the Roman Empire for Jesus Christ. Gradually, however, the church became so entrenched in wealth and prestige that it began to dilute the strong demands of the gospel and to conform to the ways of the world. And ever since the church has been a weak and ineffectual trumpet making uncertain sounds.
If the church of Jesus Christ is to regain once more its power, message, and authentic ring, it must conform only to the demands of the gospel.”
The reasons church in the West is viewed as unnecessary is complex and varied. Yet, a review of how the Christian church began can aid in refreshing the heart and hope of churches today. Let’s continue our series in ACTS with ch.2.
EXAMINE Acts 2 Realities of Spirit Filled Church
Acts 2:1-12 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.
2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
A Spirit-filled church enjoys uncommon unity.
I shared last week that the word “together” appears 32x in Acts. From chapter 1:15, their togetherness included 120 believers made up of men and women.
- When I speak about unity at spbc new people look at me strangely bc many churches speak about unity but few practice it. So, I speak frequently about it for at least two reasons:
1) Jesus prayed unity for us (Jn 17:21), and it was evidenced in the early church throughout Acts. Today’s Christians & churches should prioritize what Jesus prayed.
1A) It’s why I look strangely at supposed believers
who say they are a Christian but don’t think they have
to attend church. This was on Jesus’ mind and last
prayer before He willingly suffers and dies on a cross,
and we think church is optional?
1B) We cannot say we affirm Jesus but then be apathetic toward His bride.
2) Unity impacts mission. When Jesus prayed for our unity, the purpose was “so that the world may know the Father sent the Son.” The world knows we are disciples of Jesus by the way we live and love like Jesus did (cf Jn 13:34-35). A divided world pays attention to a united church – and also a divided one. When we fight over petty issues or portray hypocrisy, our disunity hinders our mission.
So – unity matters at SPBC. Thankfully, I/we can speak about unity with a smile and integrity that it’s true of us.
The disciples were together at Pentecost. Pentecost was 50 days after Passover, and is also known as the “Feast of Weeks” (Ex34:22; Lev 23:15-21; Nu 28:26-31; Dt 16:9-12). This feast offered to God the first fruits of grain with hope of God’s provision in the coming harvest. Likewise, God’s people received the first fruits of God’s salvation with the Law, and at Pentecost had God’s Law written on their hearts with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Jer31:33; Heb8:10; Rom8:1-8). Where OT people of faith had infrequent and limited encounters with God’s Spirit, now the fullness of God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – dwells in every believer permanently (1Cor 6:19-20; Ep1:13).
Further, the biblical authors describe the nature and ministry of the Holy Spirit with three common metaphors: wind, water, and fire.
In terms of the last metaphor, the Spirit is associated with fire sometimes to purify (Mt 3:11-12), and other times to empower
(Acts 2:1-4; 1 Thes 5:19-20; 2 Tim 1:6-7). Here in Acts 2, the Spirit empowers the believers to speak “the mighty works of God” (2:11) in different languages. In OT times, a regular reflection of a person’s possession by the Spirit of God was prophecy (Nu 11:26–29; 1 Sa. 10:9–10; 2 Sa. 23:2; Isa 61:1–3), and this was the specific outcome of the Spirit’s filling believers and inaugurating the church.
- These ordinary fishermen and faithful Jewish families were not educated to be multi-lingual translators and professionals. It would be something like viewing a SP teen boy band and them suddenly speaking fluent Korean and Mandarin! It seems impossible but is supernatural.
- This supernatural gift of tongues (glw~ssai used in 2:3, 4, 11; 10:46) are prophetic utterances (ajpofqe>ggesqai used only in Acts 2:4, 14; 26:25) are known languages (as a foreign language), as evidenced of those referencing the language or dialect (diale>ktw used in 2:6, 8) and others having understanding (Ac 2:7-11). These tongues are noted as intelligible language also by the long list of nations listed by Luke in vv.9-11 – a list foreshadowing the worldwide Christian mission in Acts;
- Personally, I believe the gift of tongues in Acts is in contrast to the supernatural gift and prayer language that is described in 1 Corinthians 12-14, which is unrecognizable and requires interpretation.
- Again, Luke’s intent with highlighting the gift of tongues is not the manner of language but the message content of the mighty acts of God – specifically in the gospel – spoken to all nations.
- Cf. Also the prophecy concerning the Spirit being poured out on “all flesh” for Jews & Gentiles (Ac 1:17). Christianity started in Israel and moved outward to Iraq, Iran, Asia, Africa, and Rome. We should never believe Christianity started or is presently a Caucasian only religion.
In sum, their uncommon unity resulted in others hearing the gospel. Should there be any less aim for our church?
- Theological Unity: Doctrine is valuable.
- Relational Unity: Forgiving vs grudges / Repenting vs Stubborn
- The only way to gain unity is through courageous conversations willing to confront division. It’s one of the reasons I preach every week 🙂
- Philosophical Unity: Ministry aligned not competing/contrasting.
- How many are on the sidelines: attenders not members / members but not gathering/groups or much more serving.
These all work together to help or hinder our effectiveness. If something stands out as a challenge to us, it is the last element of unity. As a smaller church, we are tempted to add events/ministries/missions instead of improving what we have. As pastor – saying “no” is the tricky but necessary guidance I must share. Please know it’s not personal but aspired stewardship.
Acts 2 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on 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 on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all 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 yourselves are seeing and hearing. 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 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And 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. 39 For 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.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
A Spirit-filled church expresses an unfiltered Jesus.
In our intro last week to Acts 1, I noted two types of people study history: academic scholars who learn about past and ambassador soldiers who learn about past for what remains to be accomplished. Historians are confused why Christianity spread so rapidly
- Jesus’ followers were small in number and short on influence. They were carpenters, fishermen, and ordinary individuals.
- For the first 400+ years, Jesus’ early followers didn’t advance through military force but by compassion and invitations to faith, hope, and love.
- These followers didn’t become rich and famous but hated and persecuted. They lost family, homes, and most lost their lives for their faith in the unfiltered Jesus.
Early Christians and churches declared their faith publicly and devoted their faith personally.
Peter declared his faith by preaching a sermon to 3K people. His speaks of the unfiltered Jesus.
- 2:14 lifts voice and tells them to listen carefully
- 2:15 dismisses appetite for breakfast alcohol
- 2:16-21 quotes OT scripture with contemporary application.
- 2:22 references “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God with mighty works and wonders and signs.” Every sermon and every relationship should have the aim of pointing others to know Jesus as our human advocate and divine Savior.
- 2:23-36 references “Jesus delivered … you crucified and killed… and God raised him up… and He’s on heaven’s throne.” Peter’s relationships, regrets, his failures, and hopes – his entire life and legacy were transformed by the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection assures us that all the negative circumstances will not just result in an eventual positive, but that it will eventually make sense. Before Resurrection Sunday, crucifixion Friday was a dark tragedy but God transformed it into triumph. And since Christ was raised and is reigning on the throne – you too can have the confidence that God is working all things together for good
Peter preaches this publicly. And the early Christians and churches were devoted to their faith personally (2:42-47). The word devoted (προσκαρτεροῦντες) implies single-minded about bringing a course of action, which is also in the imperfect tense indicating ongoing activity. These Christians’ faith was personal but never private. They immersed themselves into: apostolic teaching (Scripture), fellowship (compassion care), breaking bread (table fellowship & membership), and the prayers. Each of these four includes a definite article, indicating distinctive objects – specifically “the fellowship” implies meaningful gatherings.
We see faith in and following the unfiltered Jesus declared faith publicly and was devoted to faith personally. Church was not expendable but essential.
- Speaking with Christians from another church and they indicated they wanted to invite their unbelieving friends to their church but they were worried. They weren’t sure if their pastor would speak more about politics than the gospel. Another was more concerned that the members would invade them with insincere religious speak instead of sincere friendship. What is the reason you choose not to invite people to church? We sincerely want to hear the feedback. But also realize you are accountable to share the gospel personally and publicly. #whosyour1
The final response of the 3K crowd was “they were cut to the heart… and asked what should we do?” (2:37)
The phrase refers to probing of the mind and penetrating emotion. They realized their views about Jesus were filtered by their bias and they owned responsibility for the death of Jesus. The emotions were guilt and shame.
Peter responds, “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. For 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” (2:38-39).
Salvation involves saving from sin but also salvation to the Holy Spirit. Baptism is the initial step of faith and obedience, declaring faith in Jesus, following the Spirit, and active participation in the family of God.
When someone asks you a question, they expect a response.
When someone calls you on phone, they expect you to answer.
When someone knocks on your door, they expect you to open the door.
When someone emails you on computer, they expect a reply.
When God’s word is read or shared, God expects a response.
There is never a time when God does not expect His people to respond.
- Grace to receive
- Opportunity to obey
- Sin to repent
- Promise to keep
- Example to follow
- Lesson to learn
 Strength to Love, 1954.
 Sam Storms, Practicing The Presence, pp.176, ff.
 David J. Williams, Acts, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), 49.
 Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1977), 118.
 Polhill, NAC: Acts, p. 106.