Acts 02a - The Spirit Comes To Set Us Free
The Spirit Comes To Set Us Free
ð In recent years the church has focused at Pentecost on the phenomena which accompanied the Holy Spirit as He came to the apostles. Now while this focus is perfectly understandable, it’s a bit like a child who is given a present concentrating on the wrapping paper and the box rather than the present which they contain.
ð So, why, if there was a danger that the church would make this mistake did God the Holy Spirit, come in this way, rather than just as that ‘still, small voice’ working in ordinary ways.
ð Well, it was important that what happened that day should be understood as, uniquely, a work of God. And that required clear signs that God was unmistakably at work.
Ä God was coming in grace and power to establish His Church by reversing the penalties of sin in people’s lives.
· Babel reversed
ð As you’ll recall from Genesis 11, after the Flood humanity started out working together to construct the tower of Babel, not to glorify God but in competition against God. The Lord used the confusion of many languages to thwart human efforts to equal Him, as Genesis 11:7 tells us: "The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”"
ð What happens at Pentecost is that God graciously and miraculously reverses the curse of Babel to demonstrate by the sign of tongues that humanity is being brought together into the church to work together with God.
ð You see, contrary to popular belief, speaking in tongues by the apostles was not so that their message would be understood by the many peoples gathered in Jerusalem at that time. No, the apostles could have addressed the crowd in Greek, or even in Hebrew, and they would have been understood.
µ In fact, the speaking in other languages was symbolic of the unity that the Holy Spirit brings to people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds. Indeed, when we come together as Christians we realise that we do have a universal language. And the universal language of the church is love.
· The Holy Spirit poured out
ð But God’s grace goes even further. Where previously He limited His personal relationship to a few people whom He chose to work through, now, in fulfilment of His promise through the prophet Joel, He extends His presence into the lives of all His people
ð In verse 17 Peter tells the crowd, "‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’"
µ The Holy Spirit is no longer in the background of God’s involvement with people; He is in the foreground, freely available to every Christian.
· Salvation for all who call to God
ð And the Spirit is there first and foremost to bring people to saving faith. That’s what Jesus means when He says in John 16:8-13, "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come."
ð At Pentecost Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spells out the implication of that. The Spirit comes to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and into a living relationship with Him. So, Peter can say categorically in verse 21, "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
ð It is wonderful news delivered in a spectacular way and yet it is clear from the passage that people have great difficulty in comprehending God’s mercy and grace, let alone His power. Though they had each heard God speaking through the apostles to them in their own native languages, they just could not grasp what was going on. "Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”"
ð So Peter has to explain by preaching the Church’s first sermon. And people still need that explanation from the Church. They just will not get the message unless it is proclaimed and explained to them.
ð However, as on that first Pentecost, there will always be those who will scoff at it. "Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”"
ð Some things never change! There will always be people who think that Christians are out of their minds and that their message is laughable.
ð But the promise, thank the Lord, is still there: "… everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’" (Acts 2:21, NIV)