Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pentecost and the Radical Jesus People Community - Acts 2

Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)
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.

That mixed multitude waiting in the upper room were together for only a few days before the feast of Pentecost arrived. As they prepared together to celebrate the giving of the law at Sinai, the first covenant God made with his people, God prepared to visit them again, in fire, to write the New Covenant on their hearts.

It is necessary for us to consider and remember this event and its consequences on all that follows. Jesus had preached and lived the Kingdom of God, wherein a Great Reversal was going to turn the entire world back to justice as God intended. The corruption and striving that marked the culture of the empires would be replaced by humility and generosity. In the New Kingdom, all would live and love equally, for all were equally saved from sin, corruption, oppression, and death.

And the expression of the first followers did, indeed look like an outpost of this Kingdom. But their practice was not based on simply following Jesus' example or teaching alone. They lived in Holy Spirit power. The Kingdom of God set every authority on its head. A utopian commune can share all things in common, but only a Holy Spirit filled, Gospel believing community can raise the dead and heal the sick. And that's exactly what they did.

This divine event at the beginning of Acts 2 is the initial seed that precipitates all that comes after it. Jesus is no longer among his people. But Holy Spirit, the third member of the Godhead, is now among them, dwelling within them, empowering them to truly live the life of the Kingdom of which Jesus preached. The Kingdom is among them. The mustard seed has fallen. The living yeast is added to the dough.

It has begun, the beginning of the end of the age of empire.

Acts 2:5-6 (ESV)
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.

Pentecost brought Jewish travelers from all over the known world. The religious faithful traveled to their holy city, Jerusalem, to worship at the rebuilt temple, the same impressive fifteen-story structure Jesus and his followers had occupied in the week before his death. This diaspora had lived apart long enough that they'd learned the language of the lands where they had settled. Though still one faith, they now represented many cultures, languages, and histories.

Appropriate, then, that on this day the power of the Holy Spirit would gift the waiting disciples with the ability to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in every language unknown to them. God's message would not be confined to their limited abilities. They were now clothed with power to live and share wherever, however, with whomever God wished.

This Good News was for everyone, everywhere. This first Jewish mixed multitude was a good reflection of the gospel's eventual universality.

As the excited and empowered disciples left the building, an international crowd drew in to see. They each heard the people speaking about God in their own language. As one would imagine anyone doing when witnessing such a miracle, some of the crowd assumed the disciples were drunk.

At this, Peter, the disciple that denied Jesus at his trial only a few chapters before, stood up and began to preach. This, the very first Christian sermon, ever, began with an hilarious but necessary introduction.

Acts 2:14-21 (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:

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 vapour 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.’

The very first gospel sermon begins with the end. Jesus is coming back, and the world will be forever changed.

Peter goes on to explain how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the scriptures. His life and death and resurrection has changed the entire order, setting us free from all bondage, even the bondage of religious legalism.

This man who had been afraid to identify with Jesus in the dark around a campfire now stood before thousands and preached boldly that this Jesus had changed the order, and was now the new King. He told the people to repent, get in the right side of the Kingdom, be baptized in the name of Jesus and they would also receive the Holy Spirit, the seed of the Kingdom that would change the world.

3000 joined the church that day, by the power of the conviction of the gospel preached in the anointing of Holy Spirit. And this was just the beginning.

Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

And this is the beautiful beginning of the church, the signposts of the Kingdom of Heaven, alive in the world, and actively loving all people everywhere, while resisting the corrupt systems that kept those people bound.

The principle of radical, voluntary, generosity without coercion shown in Acts 2:42-47 (and Acts 4 - see notes) does not stop with the early church. Later, Paul writes to a church of means about a church of less means, and says it is their responsibility as Kingdom family to meet their needs. Paul tells the church that it is Jesus' example and the Father's promise of provision that leads to this generosity.

2 Corinthians 8:9-15 (ESV)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgement: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

In the power of the Holy Spirit, the following are the marks of the church when it first began in Acts 2.

1) The local church was made up of regenerated, Holy Spirit filled believers in Jesus (context– vv36-41).

2) The local church accepted and submitted to the authority of the apostles and scripture (v42).

3) The local church (literally “ecclesia” in Greek, meaning “gathering”) met together regularly (v46).
When they gathered they
a. studied and learned scripture together (v42).
b. praised God together (v47). They probably shared stories of miracles (v43) and provision (v45).
c. worshiped God and were in awe of his miracles together (v43).
d. participated in God’s Kingdom by sharing and being generous together (vv44,5).

4) The local church broke bread together (vv42,46) and baptized people (context v38. implied v47.) as visible symbols to remember the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

5) The local church was in unity (v44) and they shared real life together (v46).
The unity of the church in Christ was expressed by the members in a diversity of God given gifts through faith.

6) The local church was an agent of God’s demonstrative love on Earth. (v43,44,45. v47 – favour – evidence of their love)
The church loved
a. God (Mt 22:37).
b. each other (Jn 3:14;13:34-35).
c. their neighbours (Mt 22:39; Rm 13:9-10).
d. strangers (Hb 13:1-2).
e. their enemies (Mt 5:43-45).

7) The local church shared the GOSPEL of the Kingdom of God with the world.
(v47, context – Ax 1:8, Jn 3:16-17)
This is God’s mission to the world.

Jesus inaugurated his ministry in his hometown of Galilee (Luke 4). He traveled across the land from his hometown to Jerusalem, the centre of cultural influence in his world, gathering disciples and preaching to the crowds. It is from here in Jerusalem that these disciples will now launch their ministry.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, like Jesus did in Galilee, they will remain first in Jerusalem, then move beyond it as the message of the Kingdom travels toward Rome, the centre of the world's political and military power, establishing Kingdom Outpost communities like this one along the way, more seeds of the Kingdom whose roots find their way into the cracks of the empire's very foundation.


v4 – Every one of them, including women, and those not designated “apostles” began to speak in other unknown languages. This should be considered when we discuss the significance and purpose of tongues.
v6 – Because they were all speaking different languages, or because that’s what they heard? Bewilderment – reminds me of the town of Babel when languages were confused, but in this case, it brings everyone from every nation into one place.
v7 – Galileans – uneducated people with a “hillbilly” rep.
v11 – Arabs are called Jews here.
v15 – A great intro to history’s first recorded gospel sermon.
v17 – ALL PEOPLE – significant. He’s still only preaching to Jews.
v21 – EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord.
v33 – The Godhead
v36 – The crux of the matter.
vv42-47 – The first church
Dedicated to teaching
Moving of the Holy Spirit
Common ownership
Meeting daily in churches and homes
See 4:32-37

(Click here to read Acts 2)

No comments:

Post a Comment