Receiving The Promise-Part I
The first chapter of the letter of Acts provides a very powerful promise. The promise is one which was actually provided in the Hebrew Scriptures and affirmed by Jesus to His disciples that it would come about very soon. The disciples in the meantime had to stay and wait on the promise. Now they didn’t just do nothing while they waited, they spent time in prayer and they also made sure there number was complete. This morning we will see that the wait is over. The men and women who were waiting on the promise will now receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit as I have said is not an it He is a He, He is the third person of the trinity and He has a special function in the start of the church and the continuation of the church as well. I have to say that through out the years this passage has been misinterpreted and misapplied in may different ways, so what we will do this morning and next week is look at this passage and dig into what is actually happening here and what this means for you and I today.
As we look at verses 1-4 this morning what I want us to see is what is actually happening here which is “God releases His Spirit to Purify and Enable His Servants.”
God Releases His Spirit to Purify and Enable His Servants
God Releases His Spirit to Purify and Enable His Servants
Let’s go ahead and look at this in Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Luke gives us the time and the setting in verse 1. We see here the day of Pentecost has arrived and the disciples of Jesus are all gathered in one place. Pentecost is the Greek for a Jewish festival that occured fifty days after Passover. The Passover was a commemoration within the Israelite culture and still is of the day God delivered the nation of Israel out of Egypt. So every year the nation of Israel would and still does commemorate this event. Fifty days after the Passover they are to celebrate a harvest festival called the feast of Weeks. It is a one day celebration of God’s provisions. By this day, however, Pentecost has become a different celebration which ties very neatly into receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit. Fifty days after the very first passover is the day Moses presented the two stone tablets to the nation of Israel. It is the day they recieved the law. Now on the day commemorating this day we find the nation of Israel now receives not the law but the law written on the hearts, they receive the Holy Spirit.
Now I want to make very clear the Holy Spirit has been active through out all of history. From creation, the Spirit of the Lord hovers above the Earth. David recognized it was God’s Spirit who guided and protected him. Ezekiel saw in a vision the Spirit bring the dry bones to life. So He is very active in the Hebrew Scripture but one thing is very different about the Holy Spirits activity in the Hebrew Scriptures as opposed to His activity today, in the Hebrew Scriptures He would come and go but as we will see today He now comes and is permanently indwelling the believer.
First we will see the Promised Spirit is released,
The Spirit is Released
The Spirit is Released
If you look with me at verse 2 Luke writes for us, “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Now notice this occured out of nowhere, it was sudden and this event is very unique to this particular passage. There was a noise that comes from heaven, the noise is described as sounding like a violent rushing wind. Notice where it is coming from. The noise is coming from heaven. The idea here is of God coming out of heaven which would be in His Spirit. This is the release of His Spirit to indwell all those who trust in Jesus as Savior.
It is no accident Luke describes this event as the sound of a “violent rushing wind.” The word for wind is also attributed to the Holy Spirit. In fact Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as wind in John’s gospel.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus is compare the power of the Holy Spirit to the wind. No one can see the wind but you can see the effects of the wind and what the wind is doing. No one can see the Holy Spirit but you can see His effects and here as the Holy Spirit is being released from Heaven to permanently indwell believers they don’t see His coming but they hear Him coming.
You know the word used for wind can also be used for the word breath and even the word for Spirit. It is interesting here God is releasing His Spirit on His servants to bring about in them life, true life, the life Jesus mentions in John. He is causing them to be “born again” this time of the Spirit not just of the flesh. This is true life. God just as He did for Adam in the garden of Eden when He breathed life into Adam’s nostrils is now from heaven send His life giving breath once again this time in His Spirit.
Through out Scripture there are some miraculous things God does. One of the coolest things He dose is found in Ezekiel 37
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.’ ” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.” ’ ” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
This is so awesome. God bringing back to life dry bones and yes I know this is a prophecy for Isreal and this is what God will do for His nation Isreal but the picture of this is what is going on here in Acts. We are all dry bones that need to be brought to life. God is releasing His Spirit here to bring these men and women to life. This sound of the wind they are hearing is the sound of the life giving power of God coming down on them.
This sound fills the whole house. They are engulfed with the Spirit of God as they are sitting in the house as God releases His Spirit on the earth with power and majesty.
Then we see as the Spirit manifests Himself that the Spirit is Purifying
The Spirit is Purifying
The Spirit is Purifying
Verse 3 Luke writes, “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.”Notice the figure of speech here. Luke didn’t quite know how to explain the manifestation of the Holy Spirit coming on the people. So he describes Him as being ‘tongues as of fire.’ The word here for tongue is the picture of the actual organ of the mouth. There is a picture here of unity of bringing things back. The picture of a repair of the confusion brought about at the tower of Babel. The tower of Babel is found in Genesis 11. In Genesis 11 we have the account of the people of the world who all spoke one language coming together and building a enormous tower so that can be like God and reach God. There are a lot of issues with what they were doing there but what they were not to build a tower they were to spread out across the world. They refused to do that and instead they worked together to build a tower they shouldn’t have been building.
Well God saw this and God didn’t let it happen.
Genesis 11:6-9 says this,
The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.
So the tongues being the organ of speech which was confused at the tower of Babel and now Luke picture the fire as a tongue. This is one tongue of fire which split up and distributed itself over all those there. Now demonstrating unity within this group. A unity the Holy Spirit is bringing about.
Fire is also a very important picture through out Scripture. The fire is the picture of purification. The physical manifestation of fire appeared and split and distributed Himself on each of those people who were there. They were being purified by the Spirit’s power. Not just their mouths but their hearts also. Man is unclean and the only One who can make man fit for serving God is God Himself and this is what God is doing making them fit for service and it is done with fire. A purging of the uncleaness.
Look with me at Isaiah;
Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
Isaiah understood his own condition and position before a Holy and Just and Righteous God and Isaiah knew God had called Him into service. He was unfit for service and he confesses this. So in order for him to be fit for service an angel comes and touch his mouth with a hot coal and it purges his uncleaness and cause him to be fit for service. Only God can purge the lips and the heart of mankind and this is the purification power of the Holy Spirit at work in the book of Acts.
Look at Malachi’s description of the power and majesty of Jesus Christ.
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.
God is the One who purifies mankind and He purifies us by refining us. Heating us up and taking out the unclean stuff. Here in Acts on the day of Pentecost that is exactly what God is doing by sending the Holy Spirit He is refining those He has chosen to be His apostles and His disciples, those who will continue to spread the message of Salvation. The message of purification.
This exact event never happens again. There is no other time when the Holy Spirit comes on a group of people in this way. This is because God is doing something new here with the nation of Israel. It is powerful. The Holy Spirit is bringing life to these people. This is the picture of what happens to people when they trust in the Lord but it only manifests itself here.
This is a partial fulfillment of Jeremiah 31;
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
With the Holy Spirit now indwelling and purifying man God’s law can now be written on our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the One who cleanses us and who leads us to an understanding of God’s Word and how to live it out.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Here is God sending His Spirit into those who believe in Jesus Christ. He is being sent from heaven as promised and He is purifying those who have trusted in Jesus and now we will how the Spirit enables them for service.
The Spirit is Enabling
The Spirit is Enabling
In verse 4 we read, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
These people were filled. Dr. Charles Ryrie provides an excellent definition of being filled.
Spirit filling is both God’s sovereign empowering us by the Spirit for special activity and the Spirit’s filling us with His own character.
Charles Caldwell Ryrie
, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 435.
That is exactly what is going on here these men are being filled by the Spirit. This was promised by Jesus. At the end of Luke’s gospel Luke writes for us this.
You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
This is what is happening here they are being filled with the Spirit, being enabled to serve God with a special task of being witnesses for Jesus Christ. they are also being filled with the character of Jesus. There is something amazing that happens at the moment of conversion. The Holy Spirit opens our minds and our eyes to our own sinful condition. He moves in us to realize our depravity and our hopelessness. He also gives us the understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done on the cross. He being our perfect and righteous substitute died to take our penalty on the cross. What we deserved He took for us. He was raised and sits at the right hand of God and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and minds and hearts to this truth. Once we believe in this truth and confess our sin before the Father the Holy Spirit then fills us. He indwells us. He takes up permanent residence within us. This is God dwell in us. His desire fulfilled. Once this happens then we can truly praise God. We can’t praise God prior to this.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
This filling of the Holy Spirit is His full and complete control over every part of your life. And the utterances these people were expressing here were utterances of praise to their God. Praise that only the Spirit can provide.
There is only one step to salvation. The one step to salvation is trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, King, Judge and God. When you trust in Him the Spirit will fill you and He will bring about praise in you. And He will enable you to serve Him. With the Holy Spirit no one can do anything for the sake of God.
Even the Psalmist understood this;
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,” They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good. God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
The only way we can do anything good is if we are indwelt, filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is pure and righteous and He is the One who comes on us to purify us with Jesus’ Rigtheousness. We don’t want to go through this life on our own power and we can’t be witnesses for Jesus with out the Holy Spirit’s enablement.