Series: Being The Church - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 5, 2016
This morning we’re going on with our study of the first two chapters of the Book of Acts - looking at what took place in the lives of the disciples after the resurrection as they’re learning to be the church. What were crucial - foundational - days for where God took the church in the next 30 or so years of church history. The church learning what it means to be the church - being the church. We have been processing that for ourselves as we’re learning what it means to be the church.
As a congregation we’ve been talking about where God may be taking us and what that might look like: Love God, Love Others, Serve the Church, Serve the World. What does it mean for us to be the church. The church in process - “Being the Church.”
We are at Acts 2:1-13. Which we are going to look at in two sections. Section one is verses 1 to 4. Let’s read these verses together and then we’ll make some observations and application.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
3 Sunday’s ago was… Pentecost. Rob Wertheim was with us from Jews For Jesus sharing with us about Pentecost. These are pretty familiar verses. Soooo... to make sure we’re all on the same page and this being Graduation Sunday we’re going to take a quiz. Yeah!!!
Question #1: Where does the name Pentecost come from?
Answer: It comes from the Greek number “pente” meaning 50 because it falls 50 days after the Passover Sabbath. Pentecost being the Greek name for Shavout or The Feast of Weeks which is the Jewish Festival that takes place 50 days after Passover.
Question #2: What was Pentecost, Shavout, or The Feast of Weeks?
Answer: It was a harvest festival. It was also a pilgrim festival. Jewish people were required to come from wherever they were - all over the world - to come to the Temple in Jerusalem. Bringing their first fruits from their harvest - to bring that to the Temple as an offering to God.
Which is impossible today because there’s no… Temple in Jerusalem.
Which was also true - back in Leviticus 23 - when God gave the instructions for Shavout. Back in Leviticus - God’s people were camped at Mount Sinai - just after being freed from Egypt. Possessing Jerusalem wasn’t even on the radar.
God’s instructions are a significant prophetic statement by God. God promising His people that one day they’d possess the promised land. Raise crops there. First fruits that they’d be able to bring to a Temple yet to be built in Jerusalem. Which God did. God gave His people the land, crops, and the Temple.
Which is about our having faith in God. Faith in the God who always does what God says God will do. God’s people had to have faith in God when they brought their first fruits to God - like when we tithe of our finances - or give of our God given time and abilities - they’re trusting that God will take care of their needs. If God doesn’t come through with second fruits - the next harvest - or our next pay check - we’re going hungry. But we have faith in God. What God says God will do God will do.
Pentecost or shavout is about faithfully and obediently trusting the God Who supplies everything His people need.
Question #3: What are the other 2 great annual festivals?
Answer: Passover and… Tabernacles.
The first - in the order of how these festivals were celebrated during the year - the first festival on the calendar was Passover. What Jesus had celebrated with His disciples.
The second festival was Pentecost which comes... 50 days after Passover. Which we celebrated on May 15th. But according to the Jewish lunar calendar this year comes on… June 12th. Jewish calendar being lunar.
The third festival was Tabernacles that came at the end of the harvest approximately 4 months after Pentecost. In the fall - in September or October - depending on how it falls on the calendar.
Which is an important link for us to follow. Hang on to something.
On one hand, Pentecost was connected with faith and obedience and first fruits and the harvest. What was taking place about now.
On the other hand - Pentecost - in the time of Jesus - Pentecost in traditional Judaism is also tied to the giving of the Ten Commandments. Israel camp at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses on the mountain. Which - according to Exodus 19 - which took place 50 days after the Exodus. Exodus meaning Passover. Pentecost - Moses on Mount Sinai - 50 days later.
Passover being the festival that celebrated God’s redeeming Israel - buying them out of their bondage in Egypt. Think bondage to the sin of this world. God delivering them - saving them from all that - through the shedding and application of the blood of the Passover lamb.
Israel’s first born live. Right? Because... the lamb’s blood is applied to the door posts and lintels. God passes over His people. Egypt’s first born get dead. And God’s people get out of Egypt free.
Us hearing in that the cross and our redemption from bondage to this world and our sin - and our deliverance - our salvation - by the blood of the Lamb of God - Jesus - us hearing all that in Passover is intentional. We get this. Yes?
Pentecost - the giving of the Ten Commandments - what unites God’s people together in what it means to be God’s people to live as God’s people in faithful obedience to God - is tied to that. If we can hear in that God giving the Holy Spirit to form the Church - the body of Christ - and to empower us to live as God’s people - to be God’s people witnessing of Jesus - there’s intention in that as well.
The third festival is... Tabernacles. Which is the harvest festival that takes place in the fall. Four months later. Meaning between Pentecost and Tabernacles seeds are planted - raised - and in the fall… crops are harvested.
We need to hear in that what Jesus told His disciples: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest… I sowed. You reap.” (John 4:35-38)
Luke specifically records Jesus saying, “Pray earnestly for harvesters.” (Luke 10:2)
The work of the Church - saved by the blood of the Lamb - Passover - united and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - harvesting - until the return of Jesus - Tabernacles - when we - His harvest - are gathered in and up to heaven.
We’re together? How these festivals fit - where Pentecost - and the coming of the Holy Spirit - is all part of what God has been intentionally doing since before Adam. The significance of Pentecost for us today.
So it’s Pentecost. Jerusalem is packed with people. In the midst of this large crowd gathered for Pentecost and the festival - are about 120 disciples that we talked about last Sunday - a pretty diverse group. Gathered together in one place. In an upper room in a house probably near the Temple. Disciples - faithfully and obediently - doing what Jesus instructed them to do. Waiting together in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them so they can move out as witnesses of Jesus - harvesters.
Question #4: Why a mighty rushing wind?
Answer: The Greek word “pneuma” is used for both wind and spirit. Wind being a demonstration of God the Holy Spirit at work.
Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
Ezekiel prophesied of the wind as the breath of God blowing over dry bones in a valley and filling them with new life. Something that the Jews were looking forward to as what would usher in the Messianic age. (Ezekiel 37:9-14)
This sound of wind rushing and filling the entire house displays the coming of the almighty God powerfully, intimately, personally blowing into the disciples - all of them - renewing them - empowering them as witnesses of the Messiah Jesus.
Question #5: Why what appears to be divided tongues of fire?
Answer: In the Old Testament fire is often a symbol of God’s presence - Moses at the burning bush - the consuming fire on Mount Sinai - the fire hovering over the Tabernacle in the wilderness. (Exodus 3:2-6; 24:17; 40:38)
John prophesied that the Messiah’s disciples would be baptized “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16). The fire appears like little tongues. Individual tongues resting on each individual disciple.
Meaning what was - in the Old Covenant - the dwelling of God with the nation of Israel - now with the New Covenant established by Jesus - the presence of God rests on each believer.
“Tongues as of fire” - verse 3 - and “other tongues” - verse 4 - are the same word in Greek “glossa” - which can either mean the tongue - meaning our physical tongue - or a tongue - meaning a language. “Other” means… “other.” A language different - other than - what they were speaking.
“Utterance” isn’t whispering quietly. Shhh… It’s bold. Out there - declaring by the power and working of the Holy Spirit - the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation!!! Life!!! Mighty rushing wind - hurricane force - history altering witnessing.
The emphasis of wind and fire and tongues is the personal relationship the disciples have with God through the work of Jesus on the cross. Their individual redemption and witnessing of that redemption by the power and working of the Holy Spirit.
Which is a tremendous reality for us to grab on to for ourselves.
Some backfill from chapter 1. The disciples are where? Upper room in a house in Jerusalem. They’re there, why? Because Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem so that when the Holy Spirit came upon them - wind and fire and tongues - they would be His - Jesus’ - witnesses from Jerusalem outward.
The disciples were totally focused with one mind on why they’re there. We’re going to be witnesses. That’s what the church does. Serve the world - witness of Jesus. We get to be harvesters in God’s field.
While waiting they’re in prayer. They’re studying and discussing the Scriptures. Taking stock of what God has blessed them with and enabled them to do. Making decisions based on why God has called them together - getting ready for God to move them forward.
Grab the faithfulness and obedience of the disciples while they’re waiting. What is essential to what Pentecost - Shavout - is all about.
We live in an instant society. Instant communication. Instant gratification. Instant information. Instant food. Instant recognition. Instant results. We don’t do patient well. Waiting…
We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t move. Why certain things don’t happen - maybe in our lives or in our family or our kids - or the community or here at Creekside. People coming to Jesus being one result we wait for. We’re grinding away at grinding away. Hanging on and hanging in. Looking for results that don’t seem to be happening.
Sometimes we wonder why we don’t seem to be experiencing the abundant life that Jesus was talking about. Where is the powerful working of the Spirit? The transformation of our lives? The circumstances that we’re in. The upper room can sometimes seem more like a jail cell. Detention.
Which is hard because our waiting - being faithful and obedient - that doesn’t come with an expiration date that we get to put on the label. 10 days or 50 or whatever. The moving of the Spirit and the timing of that is a God thing.
Which should be encouraging. Hard. But encouraging. Waiting with expectation for God to move. The Holy Spirit will come. God in His time will blow through us. Fire will come. Witnessing will commence. The power and presence of God working in and through us.
In His time and His way - God will do what is way beyond our imagining. The abundant amazing reality of life with the living God is there waiting as promised. Sometimes God gives us glimpses of Him at work while we’re waiting. Because He is working.
Which is hugely exciting to thing about. And also challenging.
How clear are we on God’s purpose for us? How committed are we to that purpose? With our time, talent, and treasure. How’s our commitment to prayer? To the study of God’s word? Are we really preparing and prepared for God to move? Would God describe our commitment as faithful and obedient?
We’re together? Great astounding promises. Faithful and obedient while waiting.
Let’s go on to verses 5 to 13. We’ll read and then come back and make some observations and application.
Verse 5: Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
The Greek word translated “language” is “dialektos” which is where we get our English word… “dialect.”
According to Wikipedia - the source of all knowledge and truth - based on accents and grammar and vocabulary - English is divided into 3 main dialects: British, Australasia, and North American. Those three main divisions get subdivided down into an amazing number of local really diverse dialects to the point where people speaking one dialect of English are almost unintelligible to someone speaking another dialect of English. Meaning - basically you gots to be from there to understand what’s being said.
Point being: These are uneducated fisherman - from Galilee - which has its own dialect. And they’re speaking using the local dialects of the people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the place. The disciples not only have the different dialects right - all the local vocabulary and idioms - they’ve even got the accent down. They’re speaking like they were natives - born and raised in all those different places.
The word for “bewildered” has the idea of brain freeze. “Amazed” meaning totally confused. “Astonished” meaning totally at a loss for words - speechless.
These pilgrims from all these different places were hearing this and their brains locked up - overloaded - by trying to process all that.
Looking at the map makes what the Holy Spirit is doing here so much more brain freezing.
“Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia - are all to the east of Jerusalem - then to the north - Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phyrgia and Pamphylia - Roman provinces of Asia Minor - then south and west to - Egypt and the parts of Lybia belonging to Cyrene - in northern Africa - then west - visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and - lastly southeast - Arabs.
Pilgrims from all over the known world - from every nation they’d come to Jerusalem for Pentecost - with the sound of the rushing wind this huge crowd had been attracted to these 120 disciples - and now they said, “we hear them telling in our own tongues - our own languages - the mighty works of God.”
Notice the two responses. Verse 12: “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Meaning, they’re drunk.
That question resonates - question number 6: “What does this mean?” For us as a congregation? As individuals? To where we live our lives today?
If we were to keep reading in chapter 2 Peter gets up and gives the answer to the question. This is what this means. Rather than read through Peter’s whole sermon - which we’re going to come to later in June - here in a nutshell is his answer.
The reason for the wind and the little fires and all these people speaking in different languages - your dialects - the reason for Pentecost - shaout - isn’t because they’re drunk. It’s because each of them is a Holy Spirit empowered witness to each of you. This is about God at work. God doing what God promised He would do. God who’s been working through-out our history. God who raised up from the dead the Jesus whom you crucified. Jesus who is both the Lord and the Messiah - the Savior. You need to choose how you’re going to respond to God at work.
Peter who’s waited in Jerusalem. Peter who’s been empowered by the Holy Spirit. Peter who answers the question - witnessing of Jesus. And about 3,000 people repent of their sins. Become followers of Jesus. They become Holy Spirit empowered witnesses of Jesus.
Responding to all that for ourselves… Processing Pentecost.
We can get so distracted by so many peripheral issues. Too often when we hear about Pentecost we end up in a discussion about being “Pentecostal.” Discussions about people drooling and rolling on floors and running around sanctuaries. Sometimes even Christians can mock Christians. Just saying.
We get locked up in debates about if these are known languages or a heavenly language? Some special prayer language? Is everyone suppose to speak in tongues? Did this just happen back then? Can it happen today? What about being baptized in the Spirit? What about prophecy and visions and dreams? The debate goes on and on endlessly creating division and distraction from the purpose of the Church.
Please hear this. If we’re believers in Jesus Christ - then we are pentecostal. The Church of Jesus Christ was born on Pentecost. We shouldn’t let the abuse or misuse, by some, of being pentecostal, keep us from trusting the Holy Spirit in our lives and experiencing the blessing and joy of being pentecostal. God has a work that He desires to do in us and through us. There is huge potential and opportunity in that for us.
There’s a day of judgment coming - a harvest - and the church needs to be about the work of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Serve the world.
When eternity comes the Church - those of us who are in Jesus - the saving blood of the Lamb having been applied to our lives - the Church will enter into eternity with God. The opportunity to invite others to join us in eternity will be gone forever. Language - signs - spiritual gifting - these are all tools - means - to accomplish the great purpose of the Church on earth - which is to proclaim the salvation of God - to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. Amen!
Today our world is moving farther away from God. Which its been doing since Adam and Eve. We’re not living in a Christian nation. We need to come to grips with that reality.
Too many churches today spend time and energy endlessly debating issues that lead no one to salvation. Issues that have very little impact on where people really live their lives. Many churches sleep in a religious stupor or traditions dreaming about the past. Our own little religious bubble worlds.
Too many Christians live in a self-indulgent complacent comfort zone - wasting God’s resources - while the time to share Jesus with our neighbors grows shorter - their bondage grows stronger - their desperation grows greater.
There is a great need today - perhaps greater than there has ever been - a tremendous need for men and women - for churches - to be where God wants us to be - faithful and obedient - waiting upon Him - to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit - to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Serve the world.
Reality check: Hearing all that and processing all that is kind of like listening to some of the speeches given at a graduation. “I’d like to thank my parents, my teachers…” “We’ve changed so much.” “After all the hard work we finally made it.” “Go class of 2016!” And this scary thought: “It’s our turn to make our mark in the world.”
It’s hard - knowing where most of us live our lives - its hard to get a grip on Pentecost - on pentecostal living. God empowering His people to transform the world of men - compelling us to move beyond the familiar - the ordinary. Most of us are just trying to reach ordinary.
We hear the wake up call. The alarm goes off. But we hesitate. We often see ourselves as inadequate for what we know we’re called to. Which nags at us.
We can compare ourselves to others: “They’re more educated. They’re more gifted at sharing. They’ve got more time or more experience.”
Or looking at Creekside we can compare ourselves to other churches: “Such-and-such a church has X number of people attending. They have this ministry or that staff.”
Who cares? What God may do through others isn’t the issue. Our feelings of inadequacy - what often are excuses we hide behind - all that isn’t the issue. Faithful and obedient is.
Processing Pentecost the question is: How does God desire to use us to impact the places where we do life with His gospel? What does that mean?
Here’s the spiritual truth: We need to die in order live. We need to first come to the Passover. To let go of our idea that life is about us and what we do for God. To trust God with our lives.
Which is the bottom line of living the Christian life. Of being the church. To die to ourselves so that the only thing living in us is of God. So that when people look at our lives they see only God at work. The witness is of God.
Jesus said, “Don’t be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19,20)
Which is Pentecost. The world-wide witness of the Church - living the Christian life - it’s impossible without the indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. But by the Spirit it is possible. Dying leaves us wide open to the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. Amazing - astonishing potential.
The Holy Spirit came. He took these 120 disciples - gathered together - held together only by a mutual experience with Jesus Christ - He baptizes them into one Body - infills them - empowers them - transforms them into the Church of Jesus Christ - to boldly proclaim the gospel - beginning with that crowd in Jerusalem - and transforming the world of men.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.