The Church Begin to Move
Have you ever received a gift that was far greater than you ever imagined? Think back to your childhood. Every birthday and Christmas, people would ask you what you wanted. You would spend time thinking about what you wanted, what toys you didn’t have, or maybe a trip you wanted to go on. You would spend time imagining what it would be each present would be like and anticipated how each gift would be used. Hopefully each of us have received a gift that delivered far beyond our imagination or anticipation. For me, that I that was a gift I received for my birthday in sixth grade. That year for my birthday, my parents bought a basketball goal for our house. I was excited for this gift, but I used it far beyond what I thought I would. Most presents children will get excited about for a moment, but fast-forward a week, month, or year and most gifts will find themselves in the back of the closet forgotten. But for me, the basketball hoop was something I used for many, many years. Throughout high school and even during the summers of college, I would go outside and spend time shooting baskets. That hoop was a gift that was used far more often then I had anticipated. I can’t even imagine the hours spent playing basketball with friends, parents, and family. It was truly a great gift.
As much as I enjoyed that present my parents gave me, the gift of the Holy Spirit goes far beyond any earthly gift. Nothing we could get would come close to matching the generosity and provision of the Lord. The Holy Spirit arrived in the upper room with authority and in ways far beyond anything the disciples would have imagined and now that the Spirit has arrived, the early church begins to move beyond the walls of the upper room and out into the community.
Acts 2:14-21 contains a portion of Peter’s sermon that occurs immediately after the arrive of the Holy Spirit. So if you have your Bible’s please follow allow as I read beginning in Acts 2:14
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. 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’s sermon in Acts 2 is a blend of old testament passages and prophcies and new teaching and clarity. When the Spirit arrives there is several grand specticles. All the disciples speaking in tongues, large crowds begin to gather, and individuals hearing the glories of God in their own personal language. One of the earliest aspects of the church moving beyond the walls of the upper is the communication of the Gospel.
1. Communication of the Gospel
We don’t see the church gathering together, forming committees, deciding what denomination they will belong to, and then drawing up governing documents. No, we see the church directly interaction with the world. Now there is nothing wrong with drawing up governing documents for the church. No, in fact I would say it is of great importance. People will know how the church functions, what they believe, and will help guide people as the church carries out the mission of Christ in their local context, but all of this is secondary to the communication of the Gospel. Our own plans, governing ideas, or traditions cannot impede the interactions with the lost around us. In Acts 2, almost immediately after the spirit arrives, the spirit leads Peter to beginning teaching to the crowd gathered.
a. Spirit leads Peter to teach
All the disciples are present at this event. All of them are speaking in tongues and experiencing the gift of the Holy Spirit, but Peter is the one who begin to address the crowd. Now the Scripture does not say directly that Peter was called to address this crowd, but I think we can see how Peter responds and asks. He is experiencing the Spirit of God directly for the first time. The connect each disciple must have had was intense for each to speak in tongues, even to the point that the crowd around accused them of being drunk. And as Peter is in this moment, he begins to teach. I have a hard time imagining that Peter did so under his own idea or guidance. How could he have been overcome by the Spirit to speak in tongues in one moment and then teach through his own power the next. I don’t think that is what occured. I believe, in this moment, the Spirit of God leads Peter to teach to this crowd. The crows is confused and doesn’t understand what is going on and Peter is the one who is tasked to teach. Out of the confusion of the crowd, God is providing the opportunity for clarity. God is a God of order, not a God of chaos
b. A God of order, not chaos
God provides for this crowd of people. We see the first statements of Paul addressing the false assumptions of the crowd. He says “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:” Through the Spirit, Peter is connecting the events of the day to the prophecies in the old testament. This is an opportunity for the lost to listen to the Scriptures and look to God. Peter is declaring how the crowd is now a witness to the plans of God being carried out among them and He is declaring the Gospel message in the process. God is bring order and clarity and an opportunity for the lost to come to Him.
If we look at the moments of creation, God is bringing everyone thing to be. He speaks the world into being. These words don’t result in a world put together by chance, no but a world carefully crafted. Each day is dedicated to the next step, each day progressing to the next in an orderly fashion. The result is a world full of natural and scientific laws, functioning in ways that can be explored, discovered, and explained. Even in the beginning, God was establishing order. Now of course there are things outside of our understand. We don’t see the full picture, we have limited sight and knowledge, but there is nothing outside of God’s knowledge of control. He is a God who give order, reason, and purpose amongst the chaos.
Peter’s teaching is providing order amongst the chaos; an opportunity for the lost. As Peter, explains the prophecy with Joel, we learn about the Spirit of God and who the Spirit is available for.
2. Spirit availibility
The day of pentacost, when the Spirit arrives, signifies a great change for how the Spirit functions. Prior to this day, the Holy Spirit still was at work, just in a different fashion. In the Old Testament, people would have to trust in prophets to provide insight from God. God’s spirit would come and rest on certain individuals, who would then declare the word of God to the people. For myself, I find it difficult to picture what this must have been like. We have been a great gift of God. The Holy spirit now dwells in each believer. We can hear from God directly through prayer, His Scriptures, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is no longer isolated to a few select individuals, but is available to all.
a. Available to all
The Holy Spirit is available to each and every person. We see this message declared to people of various nations, both genders, of different social stations. Our experience with the Spirit of God is not dependent on our nationality, gender, age, power influence, or financial situation. No, the Spirit of God works in all who will believe. Look at these groups included in Joel; Sons and Daughters, Young and Old, Male Servants and Female Servants. The work of the Holy Spirit is not based upon an earthly label or region. God desires that all should come to know Him. The world seeks to label people based upon what they look like, but the ground at the cross is truly level. We do not earn the gift of salvation or the Gift of the Spirit, but simply accept the gift that God provides.
So while the gift of Spirit is available to everyone, not everyone will experience the gift of the spirit. While no earthly label is required for the Spirit, there is a identity label required. Acts 2:18 uses the words my male and female servants. That world my is the limiting factor. The word my communicates a tone of ownership or identity of the individuals. God’s Spirit is not gained by everyone, but only those who are His servants. The Spirit works in the lives of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The Spirit is available to everyone, but not everyone will accept. So we see the Spirit will work through those who believe and this work is a fulfillment of prophecy.
b. Fulfillment of prophecy
The prophet Joel teaches that God’s people will begin to prophecy, see visions, have dreams. Throughout the Old Testament, we see people having dreams, interpreting dreams, and prophesing, but it is on a smaller scale. On the day of pentacost, the prophecy of Joel has come true. As the Spirit of God is poured out the these events now begin occuring on a larger scale.
But let’s take a moment to think about the word prophecy. What do you think of when you hear the word prophecy? Perhaps you think about telling the future, maybe Old Testament prophets, maybe people who have predicted things that haven’t come to pass. The word prophecy can mean supernatural insight given by God to foretell future events. However, that is not all Biblical prophecy is about. It is also about gaining truth and insight from the Lord. This could come about through the reading of the Bible as people share Godly insight and application. It could be Godly interpretation of current events or life. Prophecy is so much more than just telling the future. As so even today, the events of Joel are unfolding. Christians around the world continue to prophesy about the truth of God and the Spirit continues to give insight through the Word of God, dreams, and circumstances. The first half of Joel’s prophecy has come true, but there is a second part, the promise of the second coming
3. Promise of the Second Coming
Over the course of the last couple of weeks, we have seen how God has provided the Gift of the Holy Spirit and can see how the first half of Joel’s prophecy has already come true. God’s promises and prophesy always come true. With this knowledge and proof, we have now reason to doubt the second half of the prophecy and we can know that Jesus is coming a second time
a. Jesus is coming a Second Time
Acts 2:19-21 tell of events that are still to come. A day of the Lord, a time where God will show His wonders in heaven and earth. Mighty signs. Look at the magnitude of the signs God will perform; blood, fire, vapors of smoke, darkness, moon to blood. In fact when we go to the book of Revelation, we can see to even greater degrees of how God is going to fulfill this prophecy. As we read through these events, they are scary, powerful events. Events that go beyond humanities ability to control or comprehend. These are not events that are to be taken lightly, but is actually the wrath of God manifested upon a sinful world. So with the magnitude of these events a natural would be to respond with fear and trepidaiton. However, this is not how Joel describes it. He describes the day of the Lord as a great and magnificent day.
b. Great and magnificent day
Why would Joel use the words great and magnificent to describe events that are so painful and fear inducing? The reason for his description is Jesus Christ. These events are ushering Christ’s physical kingdom here on earth. A day when Christ returns and defeats the forces of sinfulness once and for all. A day where Christ returns as a warrior in victory. As Christian people, we should pray for this day. We should long for God to physically reunite His world to His perfection and His purpose. While there are a lot of terrifying events in Revelation, believers should rejoice in God bringing His plans to completion and yearn to live in His Kingdom.
For the lost however, these days should induce fear. There is no salvation for those who do not trust in Jesus Christ. As these events unfold, they will experience God’s wrath. But even these events God’s grace exists. We might ask God why these events must occur? Why doesn’t Jesus just return now and skip the pain and the events that are to come? For what purpose do these events have to occur?
4. For What Purpose?
Scripture tells us that God desires that no one should be lost. He wants each and every person on earth to have a personal saving relationship with Him. The events that occur prior to the return of Jesus Christ are a final warning and opportunity for salvation for the lost
a. Salvation for the Lost
Believers have no reason to fear, God’s plans will come to pass and we will live with Christ in paradise for all of eternity. But for the lost, there is only suffering as they endure God’s full wrath. The blood, fire, smoke, darkness, etc. each event is a declaration of the power of God. There will be no earthly explanation, no earthly escape. But God will use these events to pour out His wrath, but to also give people a chance to respond. Acts 2:21 provides a promise contained in Joel’s prophecy. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Just like the gift of the Spirit is available to everyone, so is the grace of God. God’s plans are going to come to pass, Jesus is going to return, and the events of Revelation will come to pass. Now is the time to respond to the call of Holy Spirit and begin that relationship with God. God loves you and wants to begin a personal relationship with you.