A Promise Fulfilled
So where are we in our study of the early church in the book of Acts? So far, we’ve seen the ascension of Jesus and the command he gave to the disciples and to us, to be witnesses for him throughout the world. Then last week we saw the apostles replacing the betrayer, Judas with Matthias to fill out the number of the twelve apostles. This week we turn to the second chapter of Acts and to the fulfillment of Jesus’s promise to send the Holy Spirit after he ascended into heaven. So let’s start reading in verse 1 of chapter 2.
1 When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
Now one of the big questions that arises when we read this passage is, “How many people were there?” People want to know if it was just the 12 apostles who received the Holy Spirit or if there were more? Well, in looking at the answer to that one of the things you have to keep in mind is that when the books of the Bible were written they didn’t have the divisions that we see today. They weren’t broken up into chapters and verses. They were simply letters, or stories that flowed naturally to the ancient reader. So remember, in the previous section that we talked about last week Luke made it a point to note that there were about 120 people gathered together. Then this section begins by saying that “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.” I think that this section is simply flowing from the previous section so it’s saying that all 120 or so people were gathered together on this day. If that’s so, it can be assumed that this initial gift of the Holy Spirit was not limited to just the 12 apostles, but included everyone gathered in the room.
We see two things in the actual coming of the Holy Spirit. First there is, “a sound like a mighty rushing wind.” This was a common theme in the Old Testament for the Spirit of God. We see references to a mighty wind in connection with God in ; ; , . Now I won’t read through each of those, because we have quite a bit to read just in today, but you can write down these scripture references and look them up for yourselves during the week. Something that I found interesting: It’s entirely fitting that the Spirit of God be heralded by the sound of a mighty wind here. The Greek word pnuema that is used here has a double meaning. It’s both wind or breath and spirit. And that fits because the Holy Spirit is the breath of God which brings life to the church, just as it brought life to a field of dry bones in the book of Ezekiel. The second thing we see is “divided tongues as of fire” appearing and resting on each of them. Again, this idea of fire heralding the presence of God is common in the Old Testament. It is seen in and throughout the book of Exodus in the pillar of fire that led the children of Israel after their escape from Egypt.
And that brings us to the final verse of this section that we just read, verse 4 tells us “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Another one of the big questions in this passage is about this speaking in tongues. Was this speaking in an unknown worship language like what Paul describes later in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians? Or were the apostles actually speaking in other earthly languages? Well, to answer that question I think we need to read on a little further in the scripture. Let’s continue reading with verse 5,
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Soci
5 Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 They were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.” 12 They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re drunk on new wine.”
So the believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and begin speaking in other tongues and they obviously don’t keep it to themselves. They go out of the room where they were gathered and they start telling people about Jesus. These verses we’ve just read tell us not necessarily the languages, but all the different countries and regions that the people listening to them were from. And it’s quite the list. Parthians, Medes, Elamites. People who spoke Greek, Hebrew, Arabic. People from all over the known world, and they all heard the believers speaking in their own languages. Now some people will argue that this was a supernatural hearing. That the disciples were speaking in tongues and the listeners all heard it in their own language regardless of what the believers were actually saying. And with God, anything is possible, but let me tell you why I don’t think this is the case. We just read that the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’s followers and that is what caused them to speak in different tongues. So logically we must think that since the Holy Spirit is the cause, then for all the people in the crowd to miraculously hear in their own language, even though their language is not being spoken, then the Holy Spirit would have to have filled them also. But that’s not what the scripture says. It says that the disciples, the 12 or the 120, or however many who were followers of Jesus and were gathered together that day were filled. And we’ll see later on as we read that many of those in the crowd were filled by the Holy Spirit at a later time. So I believe that this passage is telling us that these 120 or so believers were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak languages that they had never learned.
But what was it they heard exactly? Well, the Bible doesn’t give us the words that were being spoken by everyone when the crowd gathered, but it does tell us what Peter said once they were there. So let’s look at Peter’s sermon that day.
14 Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning. 16 On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy. 19 I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
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. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘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; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Peter starts off by showing them from the Old Testament, from the only scriptures that they knew that what they were seeing had been talked about. This wasn’t a bunch of drunkards. This was the fulfillment of a prophecy. This was the Spirit being poured out on his servants just as God had promised. This was scriptural proof of what they were witnessing, of the Pentecost experience itself. But the most important part of this passage to Peter was most probably verse 21 “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” To Peter he new that this Lord was Jesus. He’s wanting the crowd to make that connection so that they can call upon his name and be saved. So Peter goes on here beginning in verse 22.
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him. 24 God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death. 25 For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay. 28 You have revealed the paths of life to me; you will fill me with gladness in your presence. 29 “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay. 32 “God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says: The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
“Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him. God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death. For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay. You have revealed the paths of life to me; you will fill me with gladness in your presence.
This section, beginning with verse 22 and ending with verse 36, is the heart of Peter’s sermon. He gives a summary of the ministry of Christ, along with his death, and resurrection. Then he goes back to the scriptures to show from that Christ is indeed the promised Messiah. The key here, as Peter explains, is the idea that God will not “allow your holy one to see decay.” Jesus died, but never experienced the decay of death because he was raised back to life on the third day. And here Peter also focuses attention on what we talked about last week, the fact that the apostles were eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus, including the resurrection. He says, “God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this.” He’s telling the people, “Look, here’s the proof that Jesus is the Messiah. He conquered death. And this isn’t just some story. We were there. We actually saw it.” He finishes by saying, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” So he’s giving them the proof that Jesus is the Messiah they’ve been waiting for, but then he’s throwing a little bit of a guilt trip on them as well. They’ve been waiting for centuries for this Messiah, this savior, and what did they do once he finally came. Peter says, “You crucified him.”
That brings us to the last section we’ll cover this morning. Let’s continue reading with verse 37.
37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each 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, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.
I know I said that the previous section we read was the heart of Peter’s sermon, and it is because it gives the proofs of Jesus being the Messiah. But this section, speaks more to me, because it is here that we get the application of this sermon to us today. The people listening believe what Peter is telling them so they ask, what do we need to do? And Peter says, “Repent and be baptized each 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, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
Now I want us to see two things here in this short statement by Peter. First, he promises that all who repent and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is what I referred to earlier in the message. This is why I said earlier that I didn’t think it was the people hearing in their own language no matter what was being spoken, because they had not yet received the gift of the Spirit. But Peter promises that they will. And he promises something else too. In verse 39 Peter says, “For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” That’s us. That’s Peter saying, “This gift of the Holy Spirit isn’t just for the Jews but for everyone; for anyone who repents and believes.”
And then finally verse 41 tells us “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.” What an awesome picture. This new church, this small group of believers, remember, there were only about 120 of them, got fired up for God when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and they started witnessing. They started telling people about Jesus and in one day the church went from 120 to over 3000. That’s a 2400% increase. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit. They received the Spirit and they were set aflame, and over 3000 people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in just one day. Oh, that we would catch that spark in the church today. This is a world that is lost and dying and crying out for a savior, and we know who that Savior is, and we who believe, have the power of the Holy Spirit in us just as those 120 did on that Pentecost day 2000 years ago. Who is the Holy Spirit leading you to share the good news of the gospel with? Who is the Holy Spirit leading you to witness to? Who is the Holy Spirit leading you to invite to church? I pray that the Spirit of God would set us all aflame to reach this base, to reach this generation, for Christ.
Would you pray with me?