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The Gentile Pentecost

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The Holy Spirit falls for the first time on Gentiles

The Gentile Pentecost Acts 10:42-46 Some time earlier in Jerusalem at the Temple an extraordinary event had happened. The believers in Jesus were gathered together in an upper room, probably called Solomon’s Porch to attend to the morning prayer and sacrifice which occurred every day at 9AM. The Holy Spirit had come down upon the followers of Jesus, and about 12o of them started speaking in different languages after the Spirit had come down as fire and had divided upon the tongues of the believers. It had been since the dedication of the first Temple in Solomon’s day that such a display of God’s presence had been seen. Before that, we would have to go back to the days of the wilderness Tabernacle to see such glory. This was a day of great glory and the birthday of the church’s mission. What was important is that the audience heard the gospel, the great things of God in their native tongue. These people were either Jews or proselytes to the Jewish religion. Somehow they knew that these people were for the most part Galilean peasants who had not learned these languages in the university. Peter and the fisherman probably knew enough Greek to conduct business in the buying and selling of fish, but none of those who spoke had fluency in the tongue. One of the purposes of this first Pentecost is to make the works and words of the God of Israel known clearly to those in attendance. Outside of the Middle East, few knew Aramaic. Jewish boys would learn a little Hebrew perhaps, but many in the crowd simply would not have understood the gospel except it was in their tongue. The purpose then was not to show some interesting phenomena for the people to muse about but had the very practical purpose of making the gospel understood. Tongues were not to hide the gospel from the outsiders for the benefit of the believers but to reveal. Another aspect of the first Pentecost was to launch the gospel mission which would eventually spread out through the entire world. By speaking in tongues, the disciples were learning that the gospel was to be proclaimed everywhere, even to the remotest lands with strange speech. The language confusion of Babel which was done by God so that the inhabitants of the earth could conspire against God. Now the barrier of language needed to be overcome to tell the world the mighty acts of God in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit came down again in the mission to the Samaritans by Philip and later Peter as a confirmation that the gospel was for them too, just as Jesus had said. We don’t know here what the speaking of tongues might have been, but obviously it was not Aramaic or Syriac. But Peter and Phillip knew this sign as conforming that they were to be reached, and that the Gospel was for the Samaritans. In chapter 10 of Acts, the Spirit falls again in a Pentecostal matter after Peter has finished his sermon in Cornelius’ house. The message ended with the resurrected Jesus being appointed the judge of the living and the dead. The sermons we see in Acts confront the listeners with this reality. Peter just relates the facts about Jesus. It is possible that Luke records just a summary of the sermon. He says elsewhere that Peter in another sermon exhorted the people with many more words than recorded. But summary or just a short sermon, one needs to look at the Acts’ sermons as examples of how we should preach. Do we preach Jesus as judge of the living and the dead? If not, why? Do we know better than the Spirit-filled Apostles? We might claim that today we live ina different world, and that message is offensive. It was OK then, they say, but not now. We have to adapt the gospel to the times. But I would invite you to read the response of these sermons. There are many who received the word with joy and were saved. But we also see many who were deeply offended by it and acted in anger. Maybe by softening the gospel we might reduce the angry reaction, but I also say that we will also reduce genuine responses to the gospel. It cuts both ways. In today’s preaching, we emphasize the altar call where the preacher tries to cajole the listeners to making a free-will response by trying to impose their will on them. We use psychological manipulation tactics to try to get conversions and then wonder why so many fall away. Repentance is a matter of changing one’s way of thinking permanently and not some sort of emotional catharsis. There are others who try to stir up emotions in an attempt to get a pseudo-Pentecostal response. They call this the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Is this what we see here? No! The Holy Spirit is part of the Triune Godhead As such, He is sovereign and not subject to human manipulation. The Holy Spirit falls in a matter such as we see here, when He wills, not when we will. Notice that Peter does not preach the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. He does mention John’s baptism, and if this sermon is a summary of what Peter said, He might have mentioned that the Holy Spirit fell upon them even as He came upon us. It is not impossible that Peter mentioned Pentecost, but what we have here does not indicate it. If a summary, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was not important enough to make the summary. We are to preach Jesus, not some kind of experience.. Those “of the circumcision believers” were utterly amazed that the Holy Spirit fell upon these uncircumcised and even unbaptized believers. What at least some of them believed is that Peter should have commanded them to convert to Judaism, accept circumcision and a pledge to keep the Law of Moses in addition to believing in Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit might fall upon them as it had on them. How could God shortcut their preconceived notions. This is proof that the Spirit-filled believer does not knows it all. We still need to learn much. We are not infallible. The Jewish Christians should not have been besides themselves which is what the Greek says here. I was for many years in the Church of God which claims to be a “Pentecostal” church. But even the Pentecostals have an order of how God should work, First conversion, then water baptism, then sanctification, then Spirit Baptism demonstrated by speaking in tongues. But here we have Spirit baptism first or at least concurrent with conversion. There was no time for one to clean up his or her life so that the Spirit might come in. We could never get our house clean enough. It is the work of the Spirit to clean His house. There are others who say that the Baptism of the Spirit is not for today. It ended with the Apostolic age. Signs and wonders were needed to establish the church, but now that we have Scripture, we have no further need of this experience. They will admit that the Holy Spirit is in the believer as the Bible says that they can not be a Christian without it. This Spirit has to work imperceptibly though. Demonstrations of the Spirit are quite out of order. But as Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes in his book called “Revival” that there have been times of revival in which the gift of tongues and other manifestations of the Spirit were powerfully present. The deadened church is once again brought to life again. Such is sorely needed today. We cannot work up revival, it is the sovereign work of God. Instead the church needs to be busy proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ following the pattern of the sermons we find in the Book of Acts. The gifts of the Spirit which Peter, quoting Joel on the first Pentecost, says the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for man and women, old and young, Jews and them who are far off (Gentiles) and as many as the Lord shall call. That means this is available by Gods will for people today as well. It seems hard to claim that an imperceptible Spirit is all there is. The Jews who experienced the miracle of the Holy Spirit falling on the Gentiles had now to think upon the implications. God had broken into their hermeneutical circle and set new presuppositions that the Gentiles were to be accepted by profession of their faith plus nothing. Water baptism, the replacement of circumcision was the sign and seal of this saving faith. Theis was available to men, women, and eunuchs as well. A new reality was born in their mind. Even Peter was startled by what He saw. He did respond properly by saying that it would be wrong to affirm that these uncircumcised were now believer by telling the Jewish witnesses that they could not forbid the water of baptism which is the confirmation of saving faith. These thunderstruck Jewish disciples would have to go home and explain what they had seen. But because the Holy Spirit had fallen on these uncircumcised even as it had fallen on them, they could not deny the experience. This would become the source of debate and friction within church, but no one of honest faith could deny that this is the genuine work of God. We in the church at large debate the work of the Holy Spirit in our churches today. There are certainly many fraudulent manifestations today. We need to test these manifestations of the Spirit by the Word of God. John says that the true Spirit leads them to Christ and reminds them of what Jesus did. Secondly, the Spirit leads people to confess that Jesus is Yahweh. Thirdly, the Spirit testifies to the Father AND the Son. There are antichrist spirits out there. There are many false prophets. But this does not negate that there are legitimate manifestations of the Spirt. We must stop trying to exercise sovereignty over the Holy Spirit and say what He can or cannot do as far as manifesting Himself, whether quietly or in power as we see here. What is the condition of the churches who say that the Spirit is not for today? This is what many “mainline” churches believe today. The mainline churches are dying. They are Ichabod. The glory has long departed. When we consider that Jonathan Edwards had a profound experience of the Holy Spirit as did many Puritans, we have to realize that even these great Reformed theologians were not deadly orthodox. One really cannot be orthodox and deny the power of the Spirit by making it work behind the scenes, subject to the believer. The Reformed faith confesses the Sovereignty of God in their confessions. In fact, it is the central confession about God from which all else flows. Maybe we should humble ourselves in prayer and ask God to direct us and make us open to change our presuppositions, even as God did that day of the Gentile Pentecost.
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