The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | June 8, 2014


Notes:

  • This sermon is based on a sermon by Derek Thomas, entitled “Pentecostal Fire!”
  • Pentecost is one of those pivotal moments in history, along with creation, the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, ascension, and the second coming of Christ.
  • Its connection with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is crucial if we are to understand its significance and uniqueness.
  • What happened at Pentecost happened in direct relationship to the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Acts 1:11).
  • Jesus’ ascension signaled a series of significant events:
    • signaled the glorification of Jesus’ body from its previous condition of both humiliation and resurrection;
    • signaled his entrance into the exalted position promised by his Father – “Therefore God has highly exalted him (Philippians 2:9); from which he now
      • distributes gifts to the church– Eph 4; and
      • intercedes on our behalf – Hebrews 4:14.
    • Jesus’ going away to a particular place indicates where his people will eventually be taken.
    • The Ascension shows that this existence on earth is temporary and that his redemptive work on the cross promises a new physical order of existence at his coming again at the end of the age – Acts 1:11.
  • Thus, Pentecost was an important milepost in biblical history.

  • It signaled that something had been accomplished – the atoning work of Messiah.
  • And it signaled that something else had not yet been fully accomplished – the gathering of the people of God into the church of Jesus Christ.
  • So the coming of the Holy Spirit was both: a result of the atoning work of Christ, and for the enabling of the gathering of the people of God into the church.
  • Thus, Pentecost was a part of the continuing work and ministry of Christ.
  • Remember what Jesus said in the upper room on the evening of his betrayal
    • – the Holy Spirit would be sent by him – John 14 verse 26,
    • and the Holy Spirit would give witness of him – John 15 verse 26.
    • so the purpose of the Spirit is to point to Christ.

Let’s look at what happened that day, what it meant and how the people responded.

  1. Come Holy Spirit.: Let’s look first at WHAT HAPPENED that day
  • Pentecost in Greek means 50th and comes 50 days after the day of Passover.
  • It was originally the Old Testament feast of harvest (Exo 23:16), or feast of weeks (Exo 34:22).
  • It celebrated the first-fruits of wheat harvest (Exo 34:22), anticipating the harvest to come.
  • The NT day of Pentecost in Acts 2 – the coming of the Holy Spirit and the conversion of 3000 souls – was also an anticipation of a greater harvest to come, the harvest of the church, which will be finally completed when Jesus’ returns.
  • On that day, something happened that was extraordinary in both sight and sound.
  • First, there was the sound of a rushing mighty wind – 2.1.
  • The sound of wind, was a reminder of creation, a hint that a new creation was beginning. The old was giving way to the new.
  • The word for spirit, wind, and breath is the same word in both Hebrew (ruach) and Greek (pneuma).
  • In creation, the Spirit, the breath of God, hovered over the face of the waters in Gen. 1:2.
  • In a prophesy of the new creation in Ezek. 37:9, God summons the four winds, to “breathe on these slain, that they may live.”
  • On the NT day of Pentecost, the breath or wind of God was experienced in a mighty way.
  • Second, there were divided tongues as of fire that rested on each one of them – 2:3.
  • Fire, like wind, was a symbol of the presence of God.
  • A pillar of fire led the church through the wilderness (Exo 13:1–22),
    • and a burning bush symbolized God’s presence to Moses (Exo 3:2–5).
  • That the tongues were divided, rather than singular,
    • suggests that though the presence of God in the old covenant was singular and localized in the temple,
    • it was now to be divided, so that every believer will be a temple of the Holy Spirit )1 Cor 6:19; 1 Peter 4:14).
  • Fire was not only a symbol of God’s presence but also a symbol of judgment.
  • Luke recorded the words of John the Baptist in 3:16 (referring to Jesus); “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
  • John, in his final days in prison had been confused about this fire – 7:18–23.
  • It did not seem that fire had come at all.
  • Later, Jesus would say that he had indeed come to bring fire – Luke 12:49-50, but this was a reference to the cross.
  • The fire of judgment would come down upon himself.
  • Those who trust in him would be spared the fire, just as the Pentecost believers were not harmed by the vision of fire that fell on them.
  • But those who do not trust in him will suffer the fire – forever – Rev 21:8.
  • So the Gospel divides: “To one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (2 Cor 2:16).
  • Third, all the disciples present were filled with the Holy Spirit – v4.
  • It’s important to note the interchangeability of terms in Acts 1 and 2.
  • The Holy Spirit baptizes – 1:5; comes upon – 1:8; is received – 2:38; and fills – here in 2:4.
  • Holy Spirit filling or baptism is one of several names in Scripture that describe the initiatory experience by which the Spirit takes up residence in the believer as Christ’s representative at the moment of conversion.
  • All who have received the Holy Spirit are therefore baptized in (or with) the Holy Spirit, or filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • It is what the prophet Joel had promised in chapter 2:28–32: that male and female, young and old, bond and free will experience this together – Acts 2:17–18.
  • What Moses longed for – that all the Lord’s people would be prophets – has come true at last – Num 11:29.
  • What Paul wrote about, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… and all… made to drink maybe to drink of one Spirit” (1Cor 12:13).
  • It may be argued that these very disciples who were already believers received the Spirit after they were converted.
  • But that was a necessity in the period in which they lived, while the new covenant was passing away and the new covenant was dawning.
  • Fourth, those present began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance – v. 4.
  • The barrier of human languages – Babel’s curse – was, for a moment at least, broken down.
  • The revelation of God was being heard in a language capable of being understood by devout Jews, previously dispersed to many nations who had returned to Jerusalem for the festival.
  • This is first testimony of the Spirit in fulfillment of the Father’s promise to his Son in Ps. 2:8 – to give him the uttermost parts of the earth as his inheritance.
  • This is first evidence of the Spirit’s work through the apostles to fulfill Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations (Mat 28:19).
  • Already, on this first day of the Spirit’s coming, residents of over a dozen nations heard the word of God in their own native language, as in vv. 9–11.
  • What appears as a blessing to the nations of the world was also, by contrast a sign of covenant rejection to the Jews.
  • The phenomenon of tongues speaking – as Paul will expand in 1 Cor 14:21–22, citing Isaiah 28:11–12,
    • while a blessing to those who understood what was being said,
    • was equally a curse to those – God’s covenant people – who did not:
    • “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord – 1 Cor 14:21, quoting Isa 28:11–12.
  • This is, once again, an indicator of the historical uniqueness of Pentecost:
    • it marks the point at which the focus of God’s redemptive purposes is no longer upon one tiny race of people.
  1. The heart of Pentecost.: Let’s look second at WHAT IT MEANT.
  • Pentecost is a foundation stone in the development of the story of redemption.
  • It is unrepeatable.
  • What Christ did at Pentecost in pouring out the Holy Spirit, he did on behalf of the church.

What features constitute the heart of Pentecost?

  • First, Pentecost signaled the presence of God’s glory.
  • Just as the thunder and lightning of Sinai Mount Sinai had signaled the presence of the mighty God of Israel on the mountain,
    • so, too, the wind-like, fire-like phenomenon at Pentecost also declared that the Lord of glory had come near.
  • The first thing we see at Pentecost was not what happened to the disciples, but the presence of God himself in all his glory
    • moving among his people,
    • coming to his people,
    • dwelling in his people, and
    • filling his people.
  • Second, Pentecost signaled the intent of the great commissionworld evangelism.
  • Those who do not have a heart for missions do not have the heart of Jesus Christ.
  • Pentecost signals to us the sinfulness of racism and ethnic superiority.
  • Pentecost says that the church of Jesus Christ is composed of people from every tribe, tongue and nation –
    • as the covenant with Abraham made clear when God said to him:
    • in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed – Genesis 12:3.
  • Pentecost tells us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus – Gal 3:28.
  • Third, the power seen at Pentecost signals the resources God will employ to accomplish his mission in and through the church.
  • The bride of Jesus Christ will be gathered and adorned by the power of God, not the power and ingenuity of man.
  • “I will build my church,” Jesus said, “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it – Mat 16:18.
  • Pentecost, though unique, was also a reminder that the church is always in need of the Spirit’s power to defend against the forces of Satan.
  • What’s the difference between the way believers experienced the Holy Spirit before and after Pentecost?
  • Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan Dam on the Nile, 375 feet high and 11,000 feet across.
  • Egypt’s Pres. Nasser commissioned it the year before I was born in 1953.
  • After completion nearly 20 years later, all 12 turbines, with their 10 billion kilowatt hour capacity, were unleashed with enough power to like every city in Egypt.
  • The point is that during the lengthy period of construction, the Nile River wasn’t completely stopped.
  • Even as the reservoir was filling, part of the river was allowed to flow past.
  • The countryfolk downstream depended on it.
  • They drank it, washed in it, watered their crops and turned their mill wheels.
  • But on the day when the reservoir poured through the turbines, a power was unleashed that spread far beyond the few folks down river and brought possibilities they had only dreamed of.
  • Pentecost was like that.
  • Before Pentecost, the river of God’s Spirit blessed the people of Israel and was their very life.
  • But after Pentecost, the power of the Spirit spread out to light the whole world.
  • Fourth, what happened at Pentecost restored what was broken.
  • God was and is re-creating his broken world.
  • What began at Pentecost will continue until the day when Jesus returns.
  • Pentecost is a small foretaste of what we can expect in the end.
  • The Holy Spirit, who comes at regeneration,
    • came at Pentecost to indicate the temporary nature of our existence,
    • causing us to look forward to the coming of the kingdom in all its fullness.
  • “And we all…are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2Cor 3:18).
  1. Drunk in the morning: Third, let’s look at HOW THE PEOPLE RESPONDED.
  • There were two different kinds of response that day:
    • one response was great perplexity
    • the other response was hostile mocking.
  • As the apostles preached, a crowd gathered.
  • What got their attention was that these men and women were now speaking in languages they could understand.
  • In vv 6,7,12 Luke uses several words to describe the reaction of some:
    • they were bewildered, amazed, marveled, and greatly perplexed
  • “What does this mean?” they asked in verse 12.
  • Some were curious, but their ignorance didn’t lead to skepticism.
  • They wanted to know more.
  • When we truly experience the presence of God, reacting in awe is appropriate.
  • God was in their midst, and they were aware of the unusual nature of it, even if initially they were not, persuaded to do much else.
  • Following the sermon that Peter preached, many were converted.
  • But now all that they were aware of was a sense of the holy in their midst.
  • In a worship service, when reading his word, or in prayer, God is the transcendent one, and we are right to acknowledge him with godly awe.
  • Sadly, others mocked.
  • They believed the men were merely drunk, v13.
  • Miracles, in and of themselves, don’t convert.
  • We might be tempted to say, “If only we had the Spirit as they did at Pentecost,” “then everybody would be saved.”
  • But just as Judas could live in Jesus’ presence for three years and not be converted, so those present at Pentecost could witness the outpouring of the Spirit and not respond in repentance and faith.
  • It’s further proof of man’s hardness of heart:
    • from our birth we are dead in trespasses and sins, unable to respond to the signs of God’s presence and power (Eph 2:1,5).

So how can we respond?

  • We can pray for the Spirit’s work to be made clear in our own lives.

Prayer

  • “Holy Spirit. Come into our hearts and dispel the unbelief and coldness that so often mar our relationship with our Father in heaven.
  • “Reveal to us through the Scriptures how much our Savior loves us.
  • You are the same Spirit who dwelt in him while he was on earth.
  • You know him better than anyone else knows him.
  • Draw us to his feet that we may once more fall before him in adoration and love. Amen.”

 

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