Just two weeks ago we celebrated together the fifty-seventh anniversary of our church. This morning we want to look an even more important birthday or anniversary. We want to take a look at the beginnings of THE church. When we take a look at the disciples in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we discover that they are fallible men and women. Peter had all kinds of issues; one of them was foot-in-mouth disease. He spoke and then asked questions. Peter was impetuous. The other disciples were not without their faults. James and John were constantly competing for the privilege of being right next to Jesus in the new kingdom. Thomas was a doubter. The list continues. This is amazing considering that they had Jesus himself with them.
As we’ve been reading through John this week, Jesus tells his disciples that he is about to leave them, but at that time he also promises a helper; a comforter; and advocate. They don’t understand it at the time. Let’s fast forward a few weeks. Just before he leaves, he gives them instruction to stay in Jerusalem. He tells them to wait for the helper that has been promised. His disciples asked Jesus in verse 6 of Acts 1, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus made many promises of his return to get those who followed after him. In several places he tells us to be watchful and pray for his return, which makes this interchange interesting. Jesus tells them, “You don’t need to know the time, but here’s what is important. You will received power from the Holy Spirit and you are to be my witnesses throughout the world.”
In the next paragraph, Jesus is taken up to heaven. The disciples were looking into the sky wondering where he went. As they are doing that two men dressed in white show up and ask, “What are you doing, just looking up into the sky. It’s time for you to get busy doing the work Jesus has commanded.” Now those words aren’t in there, but they could be. Jesus had just finished saying that the disciples didn’t need to know the time of his return, that was for God to know. One of Jesus’ last commands is known as his great commission, “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Sometimes we want to get caught up in watching and praying. We do a very good job at that, but Jesus also told us that He is going to prepare a place for us. That place is heaven. I’ve heard it several times since I have been here. Our chief aim in life is to go to heaven and take as many as we can along with us. We need to be about the Father’s business of changing lives. Yes, it is hard work, but that is what Jesus has commissioned us to do. So let’s get busy, time is getting shorter.
Just after that, the disciples return to Jerusalem. They gather in an upper room (a guest house as it was). Luke records the names of the eleven that are left, but he also mentions that “14They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” In my studies and if we look a little further on in chapter one, we will discover that there were more gathered around Jesus than just the twelve named disciples. Peter suggests that they need to pick Judas’ replacement. The qualifications are that they had to have been with them since Jesus was baptized and also witnessed the resurrection. This is not the first time that Luke records more than the twelve being disciples of Jesus. It’s also not the first time that women are included among the disciples. There were about 120 men and women disciples gathered in the upper room that day waiting for the coming gift that Jesus promised. Jesus told them that they were to be witnesses, but they had to wait until the gift that He promised was given to them. That’s where we pick up the story in the 2nd chapter of Acts.
Acts 2:1When the day of Pentecost came; they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia 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!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
We’ll continue in just a moment. The early church was all together in one place, praying for God’s gift. Sometimes we’re so interested in getting God’s work done, that we forget to ask for the enablement of his Holy Spirit. Here they were unified in task and the Holy Spirit comes. What was the first thing that happened after they received the Holy Spirit? They began to speak in other languages that they did not know. That’s quite a gift. These eleven were not educated men. They hadn’t taken other languages in school. These were fishermen. They were common men and women. Notice what happens when the Holy Spirit is released among us. In verse 5, there were God-fearing Jews from all over the world in Jerusalem and they came together to see what was happening. What they found was men and women speaking about the wonders of God. And each person who had gathered heard about the wonders of God in their own language. I think that is pretty cool. Look at the power that is available to us when we get connected to the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder that the church seems powerless today? We need the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. So what else happened that day? Let’s continue…
14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘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. 18Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’
36 Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Wait a second. Is this the same Peter who denied Jesus because He feared for his life? Yes, it is. This would not be the last time that Peter would be so bold. The Holy Spirit coming into our lives changes us and changes us completely. We don’t hear much about transformation anymore. No, we hear things like, “We sin in thought, word and deed everyday.” When this is said, it’s not talking about those who haven’t received Christ into their lives. This is Christians talking. “If sin remains in us,” John writes, “then we do not have fellowship with the Father.” When Jesus comes into our life we are radically transformed. Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…the old has gone, the new has come.” This transformation comes about as a result of Christ’s transforming work in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Look what happens now…
37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
We further believe that there comes a time in each Christian’s life when God calls them to a deeper life. God calls us into deeper water so to speak. We can only do that through the working of the Holy Spirit. Remember last week I said that there is nothing we can do to clean ourselves up for God? Jesus wants us just as we are and he will do the cleaning up. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The people gathered in Jerusalem were cut by Peter’s words and wondered what to do. When the Holy Spirit is living and active in our lives there will be conviction in the unbeliever’s life. The Holy Spirit came and the church was never the same. Let’s finish this morning with some familiar words.
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Today, we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to the early followers of Jesus. The same Holy Spirit that came to them is available to us. Are you plugged into the power that the early church was plugged into? Look at all the miraculous things that the early church did. This same power is available to us today. Will you grab hold of it?