************ Sermon on Acts 1:8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 11, 2008
"Pentecost and Missions"
As we read through the book of Acts, one thing becomes crystal clear about the early church: namely, that it was a "mission minded church." The early church proclaimed the Gospel starting in Jerusalem (Pentecost - Acts 2), then to Judea (Philip - Acts 8) and Samaria (Philip and Peter - Acts 8 & 10), and from there to the ends of the earth (Paul, Barnabas, Mark - Acts 13ff).
Why was the early church such a "mission minded church"? Was it because the early Christians took so seriously the Great Commission that Christ gave them just before He ascended into heaven; was it because they wanted to obey Jesus' command to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:18ff)? If this was really the case then one would reasonably expect the apostles and other disciples of Jesus to start evangelizing in Jerusalem right after Christ's ascension. That's what we might expect, but that is not what actually happened.
What did happen right after the Ascension of our Lord into heaven? Did the disciples of Christ eagerly start evangelizing Jerusalem, and from there the nations? No! Rather, they joined together constantly in prayer and they chose a replacement for Judas. That's all! No missions, no evangelism, no witnessing.
Look at those followers of Christ during the days following His ascension from a worldly point-of-view. Meeting in an upper room – in other words, meeting secretly out of fear of the Jews. Meeting constantly for prayer – in other words, sitting around doing nothing. They certainly give the impression of being discouraged, disillusioned, scared, and leaderless. They could only be seen as uneducated, common, ordinary people with no outstanding abilities or traits.
One day, however, all this changed. Suddenly the disciples were self-confident and gifted in many areas: they were able to speak in public and in many different languages; they became a well organized army; they were no longer leaderless, disorganized, and disillusioned; they had power, courage, strength; they engaged in evangelism and on their first day of outreach they gained 3000 souls.
Why? What happened? What caused this remarkable transformation?
I The Holy Spirit's Power
A It was Pentecost, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, which made the difference. It was the Spirit's power which enabled and compelled the disciples to do such miraculous things. It was the Spirit's power which made the Christian church, within a couple of hundred years, the dominant religion of the ancient world's greatest empire.
In our text Jesus promises the Spirit's power: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8). With the fulfillment of this promise the disciples and followers of Jesus became alive and active in the Christian faith.
Look at the difference the power of the Holy Spirit made in the life of Peter. Peter was a rather impulsive, impetuous character who said and did whatever came to mind without first considering the consequences. It was Peter, for instance, who struck off the ear of a servant, who fled in fright when Christ was arrested, who denied Christ three times. It was Peter who temperamentally insisted that Jesus wash not only his feet, but his hands and head as well. It was Peter who rebuked Christ when Jesus predicted His death. But then came Pentecost. On Pentecost it was Peter who gave that stirring sermon which led 3000 souls to be converted. He finally understood and declared that Christ died according to God's set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23). It was Peter who first went to the Gentiles with the Gospel (Acts 10). It was Peter who stopped running away and went to prison for his faith. This fantastic change in Peter, and in the other disciples, has to be attributed to the power of the Spirit – a power Christ promised at the time of His Ascension; a power Christ gave at Pentecost.
B Power is fascinating. Many lust and thirst for it. That's why Senators Obama and Clinton and McCain are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars in order to become president.
Today's Bible text tells us that when we think of power we should also think of the church and Christian believers. With the pouring out of the Spirit, God's children have been granted power: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you," says our text (Acts 1:8). And, according to Luke's gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, "stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Lk 24:48f). What the Christian and the church gets on Pentecost is real power, everlasting power.
The power that Jesus promised and poured out on His disciples and the church on Pentecost is the power of His Spirit. And, what a marvelous power this is. By this power Jesus was conceived and born of the virgin Mary. It was by this same power that Jesus conducted His earthly ministry; by this power He threw out demons (Lk 4:36), healed the sick, calmed the storm, multiplied the loaves and fish, turned water into wine, and triumphed over Satan's temptations. By this power Jesus triumphed over sin, death, and Satan when He arose from the grave; in fact, says Peter in his Pentecost Day sermon, because of the Spirit's power "it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:24).
It is this marvelous, almighty power that Jesus promises and gives to His church. Jesus promises us nothing less than His wondrous, marvelous, almighty resurrection power – a power that is ours through the Spirit.
II The Spirit's Power Enables & Compels Missions
A Notice the connection in our text between the reception of the Spirit's power and missions, evangelism, outreach:
(Acts 1:8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.A Spirit-filled church is a mission-minded church. And, a Spirit-filled Christian is a mission-minded Christian.
The principle at work here is that of life begetting life.
The power of the Spirit gives life to the church. The church derives its life from the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit there would be no church. It was at Pentecost that the New Testament form of the church was born. And, through the power of the Spirit this little baby quickly gained maturity.
All of life by its very nature tries to propagate new life. We see this in the animal world, the plant world, and even with man. All reproduce their own kind. And the same is true with the new life in the Spirit that the church has. The new life that the church and all believers receive through the Spirit tries to reproduce itself by witnessing to others about Christ.
For years it was believed that the formation of a snowflake begins with a microscopic speck of dust. As the particle is frosted with droplets of supercooled water, it becomes heavier and begins its plunge to earth. But in the past few years scientists have discovered that very few snowflakes contain a speck of dust! So how are flakes formed? Dr. John Hallett, a physicist at the University of Nevada, has discovered the answer. As snowflakes are being formed, extremely dry or cold air cause them to break up into smaller parts. The small fragments then act as seeds for new flakes to develop. In other words, it takes snow to make snow! Because of Pentecost we see the same principle operating in the church: Christ uses Christians to make Christians!
B When it comes right down to it, the Spirit is a witnessing Spirit. And, having that Spirit, the church is a witnessing church. Thanks to the presence of the indwelling Spirit, missions, evangelism, and outreach is part of the church's very nature, her essence, her character.
Within our Reformed tradition we talk of the pure preaching of the Word, the right administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of discipline as being marks of the true church; these are all part of the church's nature, essence, character. The absence of any or all of these means the church is no longer church, that she has cast away her God-given identity. Acts 1 & 2 tells us these marks need to be exercised within the context of missions and outreach.
Missions, evangelism, outreach should come as natural to the Spirit-filled church as breathing or eating comes to our bodies. Outreach follows the presence of the Spirit as naturally as two follows one.
C I am sure you all realize that it is wrong, then, for the church to focus so much of her attention and energies on issues and the defense of the faith that she no longer has any time or place for outreach. As it was in the days of Nehemiah, there is a place today for both defenders and builders; but they are to work together and not at the expense of or independently of each other. The Spirit-given identity of the church includes builders and defenders working together for the glory of God and the proclamation of the Name above every name.
D The same Spirit which compels the church to do missions also enables the church to do missions. The Spirit gives the church the gifts she needs to bear witness to the Christ. On Pentecost Sunday, for instance, it was the Spirit Who enabled the apostles to speak in the native languages of all those visitors who were in Jerusalem, whether they were Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamyphylia, Egypt, Libya; visitors from Rome; Cretans, or Arabs. It was the Spirit which made it possible for them all to hear the apostles declaring the wonders of God in their own language (Acts 2:8-11). It was the Spirit Who inspired Peter's Pentecost sermon. It was the Spirit Who convicted the hearts of so many so that "about three thousand were added to their number that day" (Acts 2:41).
III Witnesses to Christ
A According to Christ, on Pentecost "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8).
Spirit-filled Christian are witnesses to Christ. This means the Gospel – the Gospel in front of us this morning in the Lord's Supper.
"You will be my witnesses." We don't make vague offers to people of peace, love, and hope. We don't speak only with our deeds. We don't invite people merely to come and try my church. We witness to Christ Who died, Christ Who arose, Christ Who ascended into heaven. We witness to Christ Who bore the wrath of God against our sin. We witness to Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
B Take a look at the witness of Peter on Pentecost. What did Peter say? Whom did Peter talk about? Peter talked about Jesus.
(Acts 2:22-24) Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. (23) This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (24) But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.Peter talks about Jesus. Peter is a witness to Jesus.
(Acts 2:32-33) God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. (33) Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Then what happened? Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). To be a witness to Christ means we don't stop with Christ. It means we call people to repent and believe. It means we call people to confess their sins, to admit their guilt, and to cast themselves on Jesus alone as their only salvation.
Listen again to the words of Jesus in our text for this morning:
(Acts 1:8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.These are the words of Jesus to all the church: the church in Corinth, the church in Ephesus, Trinity here in Visalia.
If we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led – and I believe we are – then it is our nature, our task, our calling, to witness to Christ and the Gospel!
Let us make sure, my brothers and sisters, that we never stop being church. Let us make sure we continually reach out to the lost with the glorious message of salvation in Christ.
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