Pentecost: The Birth of the Church
June 5, 2022 | Pentecost: The Birth of the Church| Acts 2:1-21
Today is known as Pentecost Sunday, where we commemorate the events at Pentecost after Jesus ascended into heaven. The events of that Pentecost some 2000 years ago, signaled the end of the disciples' waiting period and the beginning, or the birth, of the church. Apart from the resurrection of Christ, it is the single most important moment for the church.
Much like physical birth, it was expected, the disciples knew it was coming; they waited for it, and then suddenly it happened. All the waiting and anticipation is over and something new has been brought into the world.
Historical- Jewish festival, meaning and practice
In early Summer (or sometimes still in late Spring), all of Israel celebrates
Shavuot– Feast of Weeks. It is the second pilgrimage holiday and it opens the season of harvest in Israel. Called also the Feast of Weeks, it is celebrated after seven weeks after Passover. The seven weeks or 50 days is also the reason why it is called Pentecost, meaning fifty in Greek and Latin. On Shavuot, God gave Moses and the people of Israel His law.
This feast is the second of the three harvest feasts. It occurs exactly seven weeks after the Feast of First Fruits, where the priest brought a wave offering of the first sheaves harvested. Traditionally, people were expected to bring the first harvest of grain to the Lord including two leavened loaves of bread.
This is the backdrop for the events in our text today. The disciples are in Jerusalem celebrating Pentecost, but they are also waiting.
Disciples- waiting on the promise of the Lord
Luke 24:45-49 (ESV) 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:4-5 (ESV) 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:8 (ESV) 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Can you imagine the building anticipation? Stay until you are clothed with power from on high, wait for the promise- to be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…
‘You have witnessed Jesus come back from the grave, he has given you the mission to be his witnesses in all the world, to proclaim salvation in his name. However, with this seemingly monumental task before you, he has promised to not leave you alone, but to send the Helper in his place.’
This is where we pick up this morning. 120 disciples, followers of Jesus, together in one accord, in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, gathered near or in the temple, waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. Let’s dig in.
Miracle of Pentecost 2:1-11
Acts 2:1-11 (ESV) 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
Sound- whether there was wind or not is not overly clear, but what we know is that a great sound filled the house where they were gathered.
I find an interesting correlation between what Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3:8 when he says John 3:8 (ESV) 8 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 is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Here Jesus is talking about the effects of being born again being visible even though the experience of being born again is a mystery worked by God. The application for me is that here in this moment, where God pours out his spirit and these disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit is a moment where although they could not identify with their eyes the source of the sound, they could hear it nonetheless. Just like you cannot see the work of the Spirit, but you can identify its effects.
Tongues of fire- literally flames that spread like divided arms throughout the room, resting on each man and woman’s heads. It seems like fire appeared and then spread out and divided onto each one’s head.
Matthew 3:11 (ESV) 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
There are a couple of ways to understand this passage. The sound and the fire were the visible manifestations of the baptism of the Spirit, which is an understandable interpretation. However, neither of these things are repeated as more and more people are baptized in the Spirit. This is the only time that it happens.
My opinion is that both of these events preceded the baptism of the Spirit which is described in verse 3, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. If that is the case, what did they mean? This is what we will look at in the next division, for now, let’s move to the final miraculous event.
God filled them with his Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other tongues (or languages) as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Gift of tongues- Here are 120 disciples, many of them Galilean, all speaking various languages that they did not previously know, seemingly without even a hint of their natural accent.
At this sound, a great crowd gathered to see what was happening. The bible goes to specific details about the various languages the disciples spoke and the language used is that the people heard the language of their childhood, indicating the familiarity and understanding of the languages spoken.
What each one heard is included as well, the disciples were declaring the mighty works of God.
This eliminates this passage from supporting any claim that says that speaking in tongues is a mystery language, or heavenly language, that accompanies salvation. This was a miraculous, Spirit led and empowered display of God’s glory, not a self-serving display of nonsensical words.
Miraculous manifestations of sound and fire, and a miraculous display of God’s presence in causing these men and women to declare his works in a way that every person present could undeniably hear the message.
All of this leads to the crowd asking a significant question, both for them and for us.
What does this mean?
Meaning of Pentecost 2:12; 2:13-16; 2:17-21
Before we get to the question, let’s recap what has led us to this point. The sound, the fire, and the tongues.
I previously said, I do not believe the sound and the fire were indicators of the baptism of the Spirit, so what were they?
One commentator interprets them in this way. The sound of wind indicated that God was about to manifest himself by His Spirit in a special way and the fire signified God’s acceptance of the church body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
I particularly like this understanding because it coincides with what is happening here.
God is about to pour out his Spirit onto these men and women who will become his manifestation on Earth, the birth of the church and the beginning of the church age is about to happen. God’s promises are about to be fulfilled.
When the tabernacle was completed, God displayed his manifest presence in the form of a cloud that hung over the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34-38 (ESV) 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.
Similarly, when Solomon finished the temple, God manifested his presence.
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV) 1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
The pattern is established that, after the people of God meet God in obedience to his command, he displays his acceptance in a visible manifestation of his glory. Having obediently waited for God to pour out his spirit on the consecrated church, God now manifests his presence in a spectacular way, but where until now, his presence was external and the people could not approach, God now imparts his Spirit and presence in each Christian.
That is the backdrop for the question this Jewish crowd asks. What does this mean?
The question vs 12
Acts 2:12 (ESV) 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
The misunderstanding vs 13
Acts 2:13 (ESV) 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
The answer vs 14-16
Acts 2:14-16 (ESV) 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. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
Peter sets the record straight…
What is happening vs 17-21
Acts 2:17-21 (ESV) 17 “‘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; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Can we just stop for a minute and process what's happening here? The Holy Spirit, through Peter, is applying prophecy that he inspired through the prophet Joel some 600 to 900 years before!
So, according to the spirit, through Peter, what is happening?
First, this tells us that Pentecost signals the last days. (last days)
Second, in this time, God’s spirit is not reserved for the religious or priestly class, not just for kings and prophets, but both sons and daughters, young and old, servants or free. As the book of acts progresses we will see that it is available to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike.
Third, salvation has been made available for anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.
That is what it means, salvation has come to man through the supernatural work of the Spirit, because of the work of Christ, which is where Peter turns now.
Peter essentially says "Now that you have seen the miraculous, now that you understand what is happening, and what it means, let me share with you why it is happening."
Message of Pentecost (2:38-41)
Peter’s Sermon Summary
"Jesus, the one you saw do mighty works, signs and wonders, who you delivered up to be crucified, is alive. Death could not hold him. Then he shares with them how King David’s psalm was about Jesus. You see it had to be, when David says you will not abandon my soul to Hades, he couldn't have been talking about himself, because he is still dead and buried, but he was actually looking forward to the resurrection of Christ and the fulfillment of God’s promise to him to establish his throne forever. God did just that and we are witnesses that have seen the risen Jesus. Not only is he risen, he has ascended into heaven and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit, has poured it out on his people. That is what you are seeing and hearing. Let it be settled, this Jesus, whom you crucified was and is both Lord and Christ."
In summary, Peter says, this Jesus, whom you thought you had put to death, is the Lord and the Messiah we have been waiting for. God’s plan was not only for him to be delivered over to death for your sins but that he would be raised again in order that men and women might be saved.
Having heard this message in the power of the spirit and in the presence of God’s miraculous work, the crowd is left with one question?
Acts 2:37 (ESV) 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
They essentially say, we acted in ignorance, we are as guilty as you say, what should we do to be a part of what God is doing here?
Acts 2:38-41 (ESV) 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
The message of Pentecost is the same for you and I today.
Jesus of Nazareth, was the Messiah, the anointed one, God in the flesh. He came and lived, fully displaying the power of God, he died on a Roman cross, handed over by his own people, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and three days later rose from the grave.
He then ascended into heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit onto his people, establishing the church and ushering in the last days of God’s redemptive plan. Salvation is now available to every man, woman, and child, no matter ethnicity, social class, or background.
If you would be saved, repent of your sins, or turn from your own way, and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, God’s means of redemption and salvation. Publicly declare your trust in him for the forgiveness of your sins, signified by baptism, and you will be saved and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This promise is to you, and your children, and your children’s children, and on and on until Jesus returns to end these final days.
Pentecost ushered in a new age and changed everything. We who were guilty in our sin, we who were separated from God, who were headed for an eternity separated from God, because of Jesus can now experience everlasting life, the firstfruits of which is the gift of the Holy Spirit if we will respond to God’s call to repent and believe.