The Promise Fulfilled
The Promise Fulfilled
May 14, 2000 Acts 2:1-13
Has anyone ever made you a promise they didn't keep?
If you are like me, and most other people I know, broken promises are a fact of life.
Perhaps you've struggled with keeping your marriage vows, or you or your partner have actually broken them.
You may have found that breach of trust repairable and forgivable.
I hope that was possible for you.
But maybe you were a casualty of some things you couldn't control.
Maybe you were a casualty of some things about yourself.
Perhaps you had a good job that promised you regular increases and benefits only to find yourself taken advantage of over time.
Eventually they let you go without even a credit to your name.
Perhaps a good friend has let you down.
You trusted them with your life only to find it had little value.
Perhaps your family has denied your promised inheritance.
Perhaps a brother's greed took advantage.
What can we say about ourselves?
Is Jer. 17:9 correct that says the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?
Have you ever excused your own actions of expediency to those that trusted your ethics?
Have we always acted in the best interests of others, especially those that trusted us and our motives?
What can we learn from God about promises?
What can we learn about God from his promises?
In Num. 23:19 it says, "God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"
Our God is a God of promises.
But that statement sounds a bit empty doesn't it?
We have all known people who are full of promises.
But God is different than man.
Actually our God is a promise keeper.
You may be familiar with the popular Christian men's movement called Promise Keepers.
Promise Keepers desires to instill in men the integrity of God in keeping promises.
The seven promises that PK promoted among men were to:
1) Honor Jesus Christ
2) Pursue Vital Relationships with Other Men
3) Practice Personal Integrity
4) Build a Strong Marriage and Family
5) Support His Pastor and Church
6) Demonstrate Biblical Unity
7) Influence His Community for Christ
I'm sure that brings resounding praise from the wives of such men.
God has given us many promises, but he has established an excellent record among his people of keeping them.
The promise of God we have been focusing on as we left the gospels and now enter into the Acts of the Apostles in the early church was the coming of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1:4-5 & 7-8, we heard the last words of Jesus Christ before he ascended into heaven.
He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit in whom they would be baptized with power to proclaim the good news of salvation.
The disciples knew they would be able to do what Jesus gave them to do because he was alive, he would not leave them alone, and he was coming back to claim his own.
While the disciples were waiting, we saw that they applied the wise council of prayer, Scripture, and other believers to take action on replacing Judas.
And now that the church was prepared through prayer, and having the full complement of apostles, the Holy Spirit is sent as promised.
And what a gift he is!
So what can we learn about God or from God in this morning's passage in Acts 2:1-13 in addition to the fact that he keeps his promises?
We can learn more about God from the nature of the gift that he promised.
The Big Question: What is the nature of the Holy Spirit that Christ gave us? What does this gift do for us?
I. Cycle One
A. Narrative (2:1-4)
Pentecost: the word means "fiftieth".
It fell on the 50th day after Passover – that is, the 50th day from the first Sunday after Passover, since Passover ended on the Jewish Sabbath, which is on Saturday.
In other words, Pentecost is the 50th day after Easter for Christians, and it will always be on a Sunday, the first day of the week.
Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week and “became the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Christians assemble and worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, because on that day our Lord arose from the dead, but it was also appropriately the day on which the Holy Spirit would be given to the church.
This was called the "Feast of Weeks" because it came after a period of 7 weeks of harvesting that began with the offering of the first barley sheaf during the Passover celebration and ended with the beginning wheat harvest.
Another name for this one-day celebration is "the day of firstfruits" because on that day the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented to God.
It was one of the 3 great pilgrim festivals of Judaism.
Passover preceded it, and the Feast of Tabernacles followed it by 4 months.
In later times, it became associated with the anniversary of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai to Moses (as a deduction from Ex. 19:1) and became an annual renewal of the Mosaic covenant.
But for Christians, it would be the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new law written upon our hearts – a new covenant – a Christian counterpart to the giving of the law at Sinai.
We might also take note that it is after the 70 weeks of Daniel's prophecy in Dan. 9 that Christ will establish his kingdom upon the earth.
This will be when his own harvest is completed among those who are forgiven.
And Christ has forgiven those who come to him in faith even as he told Peter in Mt. 18:22 that we should forgive our brother up to seventy times seven.
The Holy Spirit is about to come to the church at Pentecost to begin this present Age of Grace.
All together – one place: Luke places his emphasis mostly upon the "when" rather than the "where" of this event.
He is not specific about where except to say that they were all together in one place.
Who was it that were all together? Probably the 120 mentioned in 1:15 and not just the reconstituted 12 apostles.
Where was the place? Probably the upper room where they were staying in 1:13 and 2:2 where prayer was so much apart of the waiting that Jesus told them to do.
Wind: we see here the first of 3 signs of the Spirit's coming that are reported – wind, fire and inspired speech.
All of these are considered in Jewish tradition to be signs of God's presence.
Recall that it was a wind as the breath of God that blew over the dry bones in the valley of Ezekiel's vision in Ez. 37:9-14 to fill them with new life.
It was this wind of God's Spirit that Jews looked forward to as ushering in the final Age of the Messiah.
Note also that Jesus spoke of the wind of the Spirit to Nicodemus in Jn. 3:8, saying, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
It is the mysterious operation of the Spirit that effects new birth.
This wind of God regenerates.
Note that Luke emphasizes the sound of blowing like a wind rather than the wind itself.
This is a supernatural occurrence.
This might well be connected to the sound of inspired speech that this wind of the Spirit will immediately impart.
We know that it was from God because it was from heaven.
We know that it was powerful because it was a violent, rushing sound.
We know that it was all encompassing because it filled the whole house.
God had just sent his Spirit to them in a way more intimate, personal, and powerful than they had ever before experienced.
Fire: combine wind and fire and you have a blaze.
Los Alamos, NM, is a present case in point.
Fire is the next sign of the Spirit that Luke mentions for us.
But again, it is analogy.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that rested on each of them.
But whatever this meant, the manifestation of the Spirit's advent was visible as well as audible.
Fire was a symbol of the divine presence well known among the Jews.
Recall how God got Moses attention on Mt. Horeb in the Midian desert with the divine fire of his presence in the burning bush that did not burn up?
How about the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites through their wanderings in the desert wilderness?
There was the consuming fire on Mt. Sinai, and the fire that hovered over the wilderness tabernacle.
Also recall in Lk. 3:16-17 the words of John the Baptist who said that the One who would come would carry out a baptism of wind and fire.
We see in his words the picture of a wind that blows away the chaff and the fire that consumes it.
There is cleansing power in this Spirit of God that now rests upon the disciples.
Each of them: note that the fire came to rest upon each of them.
That would be each of the 120 – both men and women.
Under the old covenant, the divine presence rested primarily upon Israel as a corporate entity, as an entire body or nation.
It is true that in the past, some individuals were individually chosen for special purposes.
But here we see the Spirit resting upon each individually.
And we begin a new age of personal relationship of the believer to God through the Spirit, and our corporate relationship to God now flows out of the many individual relationships we have in God together.
The image of "tongues of fire" no doubt is intended to draw us toward the gift that this divine presence would impart.
It would be a gift of inspired speech.
Not only did the sound of the wind fill the house, but the presence of the fire filled the disciples.
And we are told that this fire is the presence of the Holy Spirit.
And the disciples began to speak in other tongues.
Now what about this "filling?"
Is there more than one filling?
Luke uses the word "fill" to describe the experience.
Here it is used to describe the initial giving of the Spirit to fit them for service.
If we look up several other references in the NT to filling, we can see that a person already filled with the Spirit can receive a fresh filling for a specific task, or a continuous filling.
But this first filling of the Spirit we have here it is also called a "baptizing" if we look in Acts 11:1, or a "pouring out" in 2:17 or 10:45, or a "receiving" in 10:47.
The basic act of receiving the Spirit can be described as being baptized or filled, but the word "baptize" is not used for subsequent experiences.
The point is that a person upon conversion experiences his own "Pentecost", at least as far as receiving the H.S., if not the gift of tongues.
We do not need to seek a second baptism of the Spirit.
The baptism is final; but the fullness is repeated as we trust God for new power to witness.
The baptism involves all other believers, for it makes us one in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-6); but the fullness is personal and individual.
These are two distinct experiences and they must not be confused.
Now this is not the same kind of speech that Paul instructs us about in 1Cor. 12-14.
The gift of tongues there seems to speak more of an unintelligible prayer language of praise that needed an interpreter, whereas here the language was readily understandable as the native tongues of the various peoples of that time and place.
Those who heard it were eager to hear the gospel as we see in the speech of Peter that follows in v. 14.
"Prophetic utterances" were not uncommon in the OT when the Spirit of God came upon someone.
We can look up many examples – even King Saul prophesied.
Then, as here, the words were partially or completely beyond the person's conscious control, but here alone they are uttered in languages of which the disciples have no previous knowledge.
How do we know such words are from God?
Both Paul (1Cor. 12:3) and John (1Jn. 4:2) give criteria that if the words confess Christ as Lord and that he has come in the flesh, then it is from God.
But we must note that the matter of what is said is more important than the manner of what is said – the medium of tongues is not the message.
If we look ahead to verse 12, we see that what is proclaimed are the wonders of God.
We need not be consumed by the gift of tongues – but we must be consumed about proclaiming the mighty deeds of God.
This sign gift fit well with Jesus last command to the church to witness to the entire world about him.
Was this giving of the Spirit the beginning of the church?
Not if we consider that the body of Christ was already in existence.
The believers were already meeting and praying and making corporate decisions.
But this was the power the church needed to carry out its task in the Last Days (S. 2:17).
From the standpoint of empowerment, then it could be considered the birthday of the church.
The church was being called and empowered by God to take up the task formerly entrusted to Israel.
The nature of the Holy Spirit that Christ gave us is that he is personal and powerful. He gives us intimacy and immediacy with God that fills us and fuels us.
II. Cycle Two
A. Narrative (2:5-12)
Now at that time of Pentecost, there were Jews from every nation under heaven present in Jerusalem.
They had come because they were "God-fearing" in keeping the pilgrimage festivals.
But we must also understand that many of these could have been those who had returned for permanent residency under the unity of the Roman government.
We see the resurgence of this today as Jews return to Israel from everywhere.
And in fact there are Jews still today in almost every nation on earth.
I even read recently about a Jewish cemetery in far NE Siberia where they stayed at the end of the line after building a railroad across that remote land.
There is a history even of Jews in China that I have recently come across.
It was a crowd of these same people, a multinational Jewish multitude, that heard the sound of the wind and the loud praises coming from the house.
It must have been a significant attraction for 120 people to be praising God all at the same time – or mostly all at the same time as the Spirit enabled them.
We are not told, but the disciples must have moved from the house to the street – again as the Spirit prompted them.
And with wonder and amazement the people rushed to meet them.
Each one heard the native tongue of the country he came from.
Perhaps they moved then from the street to the temple courts where Peter addressed them, since that is the later reference to where they continued meeting (2:46).
The crowd was bewildered and amazed because such a thing was so unlikely.
It was especially so because it was obvious to the crowd that these men who spoke to them in their own languages were Galileans.
They could tell this because of the distinct accent of those from this region.
Recall Peter's denial of Jesus after a servant girl noticed his Galilean accent?
And Galileans were viewed as somewhat backward and too simple to have such learning or ability.
This was obviously from God.
God had the attention of the crowd.
Once again God had broken earthly stereotypes of greatness and chosen people not held in high esteem to do his marvelous works.
These verses give us a list of the languages spoken by the disciples.
We must imagine that this list indicates for us that many of these people who heard the disciples returned to their own countries to witness about what happened.
Luke lists 15 nations in the known world around Jerusalem.
They are generally listed from east to west and north to south, with some exceptions.
There seems to be no real rationale to the list other than that it is of a comprehensive nature.
Judea is listed in the wider prophetic sense as "the land of the Jews, including Syria and other dialects not native to Jerusalem.
Otherwise it makes little sense to include Judea as an area of foreign language.
Rome is singled out and listed as including both Jews and converts since this city, as capitol of the empire, is the place where Luke is ultimately taking us in Acts.
It was in Rome where Jews worked hardest at making converts.
It is commonly believed that the church in Rome began solely by converts from this outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost without any apostolic involvement.
With this list of nations and their languages, we can also envision the dispersion that God caused at the Tower of Babel, and see that this power of the Spirit displayed at Pentecost reverses that curse into a blessing for his glory in the church.
Indeed, Pentecost is dependent upon Babel.
If there weren't Babel, there would be no need for Pentecost.
The curse that God put upon mankind's self-exaltation is being reversed as our unity in the Spirit now exalts God himself in the church.
A one-world order under man was not God's will, but a one-world unity in Christ is God's will.
Unlike the imperialism of men, the Spirit has no ambition to homogenize the peoples of the world into a uniform Christian culture.
Indeed, the nations of man will continue to exist even in Christ's millennial kingdom.
God is glorified in our diversity that we couldn't get together, but he could in Christ.
Pentecost signals the breaking of barriers that have separated the human race since Babel, with the formation of a new humanity in Christ.
Acts envisions one church in diverse cultures.
All this looks forward to the day when there will be a "great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:9)
From now on, people would not need to come back to some central place to worship God, and they would not need to do it in the Hebrew tongue at that.
Rather, they could go to the far corners of the earth and worship God in their own languages.
And people would no longer need to try to reach the heavens in search of the significance they lost when they were shut out from the Garden of Eden.
God has now sent down his Spirit to lift us up to a new level of significance.
Babel and Eden are not so much undone as they are redeemed, and their negative effects nullified.
With the Spirit, we have power in ministry and effectiveness in witness.
The nature of the Holy Spirit Christ gave us is that he is understandable and unifying. He brings us together to understand God's message as well as to make it understood.
III. Cycle Three
A. Narrative (2:12-13)
It is the God-fearing Jews that are amazed and perplexed, asking "What does this mean?"
Their religious heritage gave them some appreciation for what they were witnessing, even if they couldn't comprehend it.
Others were spiritually insensitive.
They mocked the disciples and blamed what they saw on drunkenness.
The word used is for new wine that is more intoxicating.
We are now prepared for the sermon that Peter will deliver to the people in v. 14.
It will be a gospel message for a prepared people.
Just like John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of Jesus, the disciples will prepare the people for the coming of the Spirit into their hearts.
When people can come to the place of serious inquiry about spiritual matters, God has their attention and is able to save them.
Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
In my life as a pastor, I have had several occasions to witness to those whom God has forced to give him attention (jail, hospital, trouble).
More often than not, it is productive.
A choice is demanded, and a right choice is taken because the alternative isn't pretty.
Something has happened by the hand of God to open their eyes.
But others choose to remain in blindness.
In the face of unmistakable evidence of God's power, some attribute it to wine.
The gospel and God's truth are so radically different to the thinking of the world that those who follow God should expect some opposition.
But those who oppose the witness of the H.S. commit the unforgivable sin (Mk. 3:23-30).
Those who are rebellious will increase in their rebellion.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. (Revelation 16:8-11 NIVUS)
The nature of the Holy Spirit Christ gave us is that he is elective. He offers us a choice because God wants willing worshippers.
The Big Answer: The nature of the Holy Spirit that Christ gave us is that he is personal, he is understandable, and he is elective. He gives us intimacy, and unity, and choice in God.
Timeless Truth: The nature of God is revealed in the gift that he gave us.
Revere and worship this most precious gift - the Holy Spirit that God has given us.
He is the promise of God fulfilled.
He is trustworthy.
He is the wisdom of God.
He will convict you of sin and righteousness and judgement.
He is God with us.
He is God in us.
He is God for us.
He is the Person of God that overcomes this present age.
He is the life of the church.
He is the power of worship.
He is the inspiration of prayer.
He is the essence of love.
He is the witness of Christ.
He is your Sustainer, Guide, and Friend.
Seek him out at all times and listen to him.
He has much to tell you.
He speaks your language.
What does all this have to do with Mother's Day?
It has nothing to do with Mother's Day, and yet it has everything to do with it.
What mother can do the task God has assigned to her unless she brings herself and her children into the promise of the Holy Spirit?
It is through the Holy Spirit that she speaks the language of God to her children.