************ Sermon on Acts 2:1-4a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 20, 2018
"The Holy Spirit Comes on Pentecost (1)" Visalia
The story of Acts 2 is our story. Our history. The story and history or those who joined the church this morning -- either through profession or by baptism.
Acts 1 was all about waiting; in Acts 2 the waiting is finished. In Acts 1, the disciples were waiting for the power, they were waiting for the Spirit; in Acts 2, He arrives. In Acts 1, they were commissioned for ministry; in Acts 2, they are empowered for ministry. In Acts 1, the believers are held back; in Acts 2, they are sent out. In Acts 1, they are given the promise; in Acts 2, they have the fulfilment.
(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.
Today, we celebrate the fulfilment of Christ’s promise. Let’s go through our short Bible reading one verse at a time.
I Verse 1
A "When the day of Pentecost came ..." Pentecost is a Greek word meaning 50.
Maybe you know this: Pentecost is not just a Christian holiday; it is also a Jewish holiday. In the Jewish calendar, Pentecost is the name of a feast that takes place 50 days after Passover. The Old Testament gives it several names: the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16), the Feast of Weeks (Ex 34:22), and the day of firstfruits (Num 28:26). On this day, the farmers of Israel would harvest some wheat, grind it into flour, bake two loaves of bread with leaven or yeast, and offer them to God. What does it mean? The crop is not yet fully in, but this anticipates a full harvest.
After the Exile, the Jewish Pentecost also celebrated the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. Why, you might wonder. Because -- get this -- the Law was given about 50 days after the Exodus from Egypt.
B The coming of the Spirit was not God's response to the prayers of the 120 disciples and followers of Jesus (cf Acts 1:14). The coming of the Spirit was not the result of the 120 coming together. The coming of the Spirit was not conditional upon the acts or faith of the 120. The coming of the Spirit was set by God, determined by God, because God is sovereign.
There are some Pentecostal churches that say the Spirit is only given to those who ask for it. They are wrong in saying this. The Spirit is not something you ask for. It is not something you can ask for. It is not something God gives when you meet a certain standard. It is a sovereign act of God, at the time and in the place and by the way God has deemed it to happen. Remember the story of Simon the Sorcerer? He thought he could buy the Spirit and control the Spirit (Acts 8). Peter condemned him because he thought he could get the gift of God with money.
The coming of the Spirit is by grace because it is an essential component of salvation.
C According to God's timetable, the Spirit came on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. This is so significant for two reasons.
First, this tells us that the Holy Spirit is the firstfruits God gives to those chosen to believe (cf Rom 8:23). Meaning there is more to come -- a bigger harvest, a full harvest, a wonderful harvest. Or, to use another image, the Spirit is a deposit, a down-payment, a promise of more to come (2 Cor 1:21; 5:5; Eph 1:14; 2 Tim 1:14). The Spirit is the engagement ring, God's promise to unite us more fully with Himself.
Second, the coming of the Spirit also points us to the Law. The farmers of Israel brought loaves with leaven. Why? What did leaven represent? Sin (cf 1 Cor 5:6-8). There is sin in the church. And it is the work of the Spirit to fight that sin and start the process whereby we are pure and holy like Christ Himself. The Spirit works in us so we make a beginning in keeping the Law.
D "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place" (Acts 2:1). This was the pattern of the early church. They made a habit of coming together. They were together after Good Friday. They were together on Easter. They were together for the Ascension. They were together as they waited for the coming of the Spirit. They were together as they chose a replacement for Judas. And, on the day of Pentecost, they were together again.
After Pentecost they continued to meet together every day. They ate together. They praised God together. They prayed together. They shared with each other (cf Acts 2:44-46). Together they chose the first deacons (Acts 6).
But, it was not God's design that they stay together. Later in Acts we read that they were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria because of a great persecution. And, by the plan of God they preached the word wherever they went (Acts 8:1-4).
Like the early church, we come together for worship and prayer, for the sacraments. But we don't stay huddled together. We get our spiritual batteries recharged and -- like the early church -- we scatter into the world to do the Lord's work and to promote His Kingdom as we go about our daily business.
II Verses 2 & 3
A "Suddenly a sound ... filled the whole house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2). Suddenly. It was unexpected. Instantaneous. Miraculous. Divine. From heaven. From God. Its source is God. Its origin is God.
B How do we know the Spirit came? How did the early church know the Spirit came? There were two signs of the Spirit's coming. There was an audible sign. And, there was a visible sign.
The audible sign was "a sound like the blowing of violent wind." It wasn't wind. Nothing was blowing around. There was no physical wind. There was no motion in the air. It was not something you could feel. It was a sound, a noise, like a wind. We are talking about a loud noise. A hurricane-type noise. A roaring noise. A violent wind. A blast. Maybe even an explosion. Louder than a rock concert or football stadium.
This sound was heard all over Jerusalem. The sound gathered together the massive crowd to whom Peter preached (Acts 2:6). The crowd heard the violent wind.
The sound was mysterious. It was a hurricane-type blast from heaven. It was the blast of God's breath, God's Spirit. It reached down from heaven to earth.
C There was also a visible sign of the Spirit's coming. We read about it in verse 3:
(Acts 2:3) They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.What appeared were little tongues. Tongues that looked like fire. But it wasn't real fire. They moved like flames. They flickered up and down like flames. But they weren't real flames.
The flames were mysterious and supernatural. The flames were from God.
D It wasn't a real wind. And, it wasn't a real fire. It was a sound like the blowing of a violent wind. And, it was the appearance like a fire. It isn't a physical wind. It isn't a physical fire.
Why do I say this? Because there are people who say they can feel the presence of God. This is what I heard in a church we attended:
"I can feel the presence of God in this place. Do you feel the presence of God? I pray we all feel His presence!"So what did she feel? Did she feel wind? It wasn't a real wind! Did she feel fire? It wasn't a real fire. God is Spirit. You can't feel God. You can't feel the presence of God. You can't feel God with your physical being. I have never felt God and you have never felt God. So what did she feel? Some kind of emotion. Some kind of feeling. But whatever it was, it wasn't God.
And, by the way, unless you were present in the Upper Room you will not hear or see the two signs of the Spirit's coming either. That happened once. Some 2000 years ago. The Spirit was poured out then. And this particular experience -- with the wind and the fire -- will not happen again.
III Verse 4a
A Our Bible reading concludes with verse 4a: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ..."
Let's go back to verse 2. The sound like the wind "filled the whole house where they were sitting." The whole house. Not just part of the house. The whole house was completely engulfed, surrounded, enveloped with sound. This was surround-sound times two. There was not a single space or room of that house where the sound was not heard.
Now go back to verse 3. The tongues like fire separated and what? And "came to rest on each of them." On who? On each of them.
The violent rushing wind tells us the Spirit came on all of that house in Jerusalem. The individual tongues of fire tells us the Spirit came on everyone in that house -- and not just on Peter, James, John, and the rest of the apostles. Not just the leaders. Not just the men. Not just the grownups. All the women and not just those who went to the tomb. Something happened at that house and it happened to every single believer in that house. To all of the believers. "All of them," says verse 4. All of them. None excepted. All of them were given the Spirit.
Likewise, every single believer here this morning has the Spirit. Elder, deacon, and pastor. Young and old. Male and female. Adult and child and infant. Rich and poor. Regardless of race or skin color or ethnic background. All of them, all of us, have the Spirit.
B The Spirit is mentioned 64 times in the book of Acts. Amazing things happen because of the Spirit:
-Acts 4:8 - filled with the Spirit, Peter speaks to the Sanhedrin
-Acts 4:31 - filled with the Spirit, the believers prayed and the place where they were meeting was shaken
-Acts 6:5 - Stephen was chosen to be a deacon as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit
-Acts 7:55 - Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God
-Acts 9:17 - Ananias was sent to Saul so that he could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit
-Acts 11:24 - Barnabas, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, encouraged the believers at Antioch
What is true for the early church is also true for us. Let me mention what happens because of the Spirit:
-It is because of the Holy Spirit we believe the Bible is God's Word.
-It is because of the Holy Spirit we believe Jesus is God and Savior.
-It is because of the Holy Spirit we repent of our sin and have faith.
-It is from the Holy Spirit we get the strength to live the Christian life.
-It is because of the Holy Spirit that we join the church.
-It is because of the Holy Spirit that we grow in the faith as we hear the Word, participate in the sacraments, spend time in prayer, and practice the communion of saints.
-It is because of the Holy Spirit that we witness to others about Jesus through VBS and Love Your Neighbor Day.
To sum up, it is the Spirit that joins us to Christ and all His blessings. Do you see how important it is to have the Spirit?
C "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit." Believers don't just have the Spirit. Believers are filled with the Spirit. Filled. Engulfed. Immersed. Saturated. Think of a river filling up and overflowing its banks. That's a picture of a Spirit-filled Christian.
"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit." They are being controlled from heaven. The presence of the Spirit dominates them.
Yet, we don't always act like this is the case, do we? It is not always obvious that the Spirit is in us. We don't always yield to the Spirit's power and control. This is the challenge I want to put before every believer this morning: make it your goal to yield to the Spirit's power; make it your goal to let the Spirit dominate you and control you; make it your goal to live like you are filled with the Spirit.
Now, this isn't something mystical. It isn't a feeling I am asking you to have. It isn't a ceremony or a sacrament I am asking you to undergo. Listen to the instruction of Ephesians 5:
(Eph 5:18-19) ... be filled with the Spirit. (19) [and then what happens?] Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.Now listen to almost the exact same instruction in Colossians 3:
(Col 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly [and then what happens?] as you ... sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.In Ephesians 5, God's people sing to the Lord because they are dominated by the Spirit. In Colossians 3, God's people sing to the Lord because they are dominated by the Word. What does it mean to be filled with Spirit? These two verses tell us it means to be dominated by the Word. It means to be obedient to the Word of God as we find it in the Bible.
Today we celebrate the Christian Pentecost. Today we celebrate the firstfruits. Today we celebrate that Christians filled with the Spirit are able to make a beginning in keeping God's Law.
But, congregation, don't just have the Spirit in you. Don't ever be content with that. Rather, let the Spirit dominate and control every part of your life.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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