Date: May 31, 1998 Where: SHMC Words: 2192
Sermon Title: God’s startling intervention in Salvation History
Text: Acts 2:1-12
Event: Pentecost & Baptism Service
W. L: HK Invocation/Einleitung:
Today we have come together as a congregation to celebrate. We celebrate Pentecost – the beginning of the age of the Holy Ghost. Our baptismal candidates remind us of the special place of baptism in the life of the Church.
Let’s turn our attention to the Word of God, and let us explore a little bit the meaning of Pentecost. If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Acts 2 (NIV)
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native dialect? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs -- we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"
Ten days ago we celebrated the Ascencion of our Lord Jesus. We remember how he instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem, because God would send the Comforter. The disciples also asked about the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.
As a Historian, the writer of Acts gives us some crucial information for understanding the social, political and religious setting of the New Testament world. “The only historical data about the first twenty years or so of the early Christian church is found in the book of Acts. Here we find a history of the church from its beginning until the arrival of the Good News of Jesus Christ in Rome through Paul”
As a Theologian, Luke puts the events that occured in the early church in the light of God’s Grand Scheme of Salvation for Humanity – that is, God’s work in the Heilsgeschichte of His people.
The author of Luke-Acts divided the history of salvation into three main periods. The first was the time of the Law and the Prophets, which came to an end with John the Baptist. The second period was the time of Jesus, when he worked through the power of the Spirit. The third period was the time of the church when the activity of the Spirit worked through the Christian community and its leaders.
Allow me expand a little bit on that:
First, the Promises made by the prophets of the Old Testament set the stage for God’s redemptive work. For generations God’s people had awaited the promised Messiah, who would restore the Kingdom of Israel. During the troubled years of the Kingship and the Exile (922 BCE – 538 BCE) the people had longed to see the Day of the Lord’s Salvation. And the Prophets had kept Israel’s hopes alive by upholding God’s promises. For example, the prophet Joel 2:28ff: 28`And [it will come to pass, that] I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
In the eyes of the writer of Acts the day of Pentecost was the fulfillment of this prophesy. Acts 2 leaves no doubt that the Spirit of God was poured out on all flesh as Joel had foretold.
Secondly, in Luke 3 the writer continues to set the stage for the Pentecost experience. In a time where the Romans and their own religious leaders oppressed the people of Israel, they longed to see the Salvation of the Lord. They also had a keen interest in any public figure that would raise their Messianic hopes. Many were following John, the Baptist, on his preaching tours. And we read, that 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Pentecost was the fulfillment of this saying: The “rushing of the violent wind” refers to the same “creative breath of God” that was there from Creation.
And, Luke 3:21 When all the people were being baptized (by John), Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Then shortly after the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Luke reports that Jesus began his ministry with the words from the Prophet Isaiah (61:1-3). Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Certainly, those who had followed Jesus during his life would know what Luke was talking about. They had seen the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. They had heard his opening speech in the synagogue. They had seen how he had healed the sick and cast out demons.
But they had also been disappointed when they laid him in the tomb. They had been puzzled by stories of his resurrection that were told to them by the women.
In the time between Easter and Pentecost, after the Ascension, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem, as the Lord had commanded them. Their lives on hold, they did the only thing that was left for them to do: they prayed for the coming of the comforter.
Then it happened! in the Third Period of God’s History of Salvation. When the day of Pentecost came...
The Day of Pentecost fell on the fiftieth day after Passover, at the end of the harvesting season, when all the wheat and barley had been cut and gathered. The Jewish day of Pentecost marked the end of the wheat harvest. The Law prescribed that everyone must present a cereal offering of new grain to the Lord. Thousands of god-fearing Jews who lived in the diaspora (dispersion) come to Jerusalem at this time of year to fulfill their religious obligations at the Temple. So, we have a whole list of people from different Cities and Territories and Islands, who came to Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebrations.
And, here is the amazing message that the writer of Acts wants to leave with us. This massive seasonal migration to Jerusalem from all corners of the world was the opportunity that God used for His plan of salvation. As the pilgrims returned to their respective homes, they would tell of the great acts of God in the lives of the Apostles.
We notice a similar theme already earlier in the story of Jesus’ Birth in the Gospel of Luke. God takes advantage of the political maneuvers set in motion by the decree of Caesar Augustus and the census under Quirinius (Luke 2:1-2), to bring His Son into the world for our salvation.
And here again, God is at work through the traditions and religious celebrations of the Jewish people. In the words of the writer of Acts (6:7) the word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly... in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Including Winnipeg!
The Age of the Holy Spirit is upon us, and we are here to celbrate it with the baptism of these candidates. God continues to work through ordinary events and experiences in the life cycle of His Church.
There are many forms of baptism, practised by different faith traditions. As most of you know, our church practices baptism by pouring. Other’s baptise by sprinkling, and still others baptise by immersion. The different forms of baptism are based on different theological understandings.
Charles Foster, (Author of Celebration of Discipline), tells the following story about a child’s view of baptism. “My denomination baptises in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. One Sunday, my family and I went to a friend's home in the country. Our children went outside to play with the others. After a short while, we heard only silence and wondered what the children were up to. We found them behind a barn quietly playing "church." Our 4-year-old daughter was conducting the baptismal service. She held a cat over a barrel of water. Trying to be as serious as her father (the minister), she repeated the phrase she had heard many times: "I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son, and in the hole you go!"
We could think that the poor child was somewhat confused about the meaning of baptism. But then again, in Baptism we go in the hole with Christ – we die to our old sinful self, and are restored to new life in Jesus Christ.
The Bible uses two Greek words for baptism: bapto (to dip) and baptizo (to baptize or submerge). “The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptism is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 BC. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptized' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change.”
The point I want to make is that many people have had a foretaste (bapto) of Christianity. However, their essential flavor has not changed much. But those who have been baptized in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost, their flavor is changed forever. In the NT, baptism refers to a transformation into the essence of Christ in the fullest sense.” In our union with Christ in baptism our flavor is changed, like the vegetable in the pickling vinegar.
(Now, before our baptismal candidates run out screaming, let me assure you that we don’t practice dipping people in boiling water or in pickling vinegar).
Allow me to offer a few words to you, our baptismal candidates: By your public confession in baptism you are telling everyone here today that the love of God has transformed your life. The mysterious in-breaking of God’s Spirit has touched you all in a unique and special way.
Like the Apostles at Pentecost, you have spoken of the mighty acts that God has done for you. And, I’m convinced that your testimony today will provoke the curiosity of some unsuspecting bystander, who will be led to ask: “What does all of this mean?”
Your testimony will challenge some who have not yet made a commitment to Christ, to consider what Jesus’ death on the Cross means for them. And we pray that they too will respond to God’s invitation to new Life.
Your testimony also challenges those of us who have already been “pickled” for some time, first of all, to become ever more connected with the source of our salvation; to continue to explore the wonders of God’s grace; and, to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us in the lives of others.
May the Glory of God fill our congregation as we share the mighty acts of God in our midst, and as we trust in the Holy Spirit to bring His work on earth to fulfillment.
 (John H. Hayes, Introduction to the Bible. 370).
 (Hayes 371)
 Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989. (See Logos Software – Strong's #s – “baptism”).