I made a statement a few weeks ago - I hate playing church. We want the passion, we want the mission, we want the fire. There is perhaps no more exciting moment in the historical imagination of the church, then Acts 2.
Acts 2:1 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.
The church on whom the fire fell. Acts 2 is the direct fulfillment of Jesus’ words in 1:4:
Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 2 is the moment when the church together is baptized with the Holy Spirit. Now what does that mean? and what does that mean for us?
Some see this moment as repeatable, they speak about the baptism of the Spirit as an experience that is available to us today. I want to be careful and precise in our understanding, which means we have to note that 1) nowhere in the Bible is the phrase “baptized in the Spirit” used except when speaking of this moment in Acts, 2) in not other time in the Bible does the Holy Spirit come upon the church in the same way as it does in Acts 2. There are other fillings of the Spirit both in Acts and elsewhere in the NewTestament, but there is no other fire. So what is the baptism of the spirit and what does it signify? What does it mean for us?
We’ve been given a pretty good picture of what is happening here just this past week. Think of transition of power - inauguration day. Five hours of chaos in the White House. Ceremonies that signify privately and publicly that a transition has been made, that a new administration has been inaugurated. There is a transition happening in this text, and I might say that it is the main point of what is happening in this chapter and the meaning of this Spirit Baptism.
Think of it like this. It’s Pentecost - otherwise known as the feast of weeks. Pentecost - as it was called by the greek-speaking Jews, or Shavuot, as by the Hebrew - was the second of three major feasts in the Jewish Calendar year that all able-bodied men were required to travel to Jerusalem to observe. It was also of the last of the major festivals observed in the spring, and so the population of Jerusalem swelled with pilgrims, all entering their activity around the Temple, for that is what you do if you’re Jewish. it’s what your fathers have done, and what their father’s have done and what there fathers have done. Why? Because you’re the people of God, Abraham’s children. Following in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God established His covenant with your people when he brought them out of Egypt and fire fell on the mountain upon which moses received the law. The fire on the mountain signified God’s presence and set your people apart as God’s covenant people, and since then your people have gathered together at festivals like these, filling Jerusalem, because that’s what you do. Gathered in Jerusalem is a mixed multitude, Jews from all over the Roman Empire have travelled here. Some because they are devout. Others to see the sights and join in the revelry. Others because they are expected to; others because it’s a great place to network and make business contacts. But all come, because they are Jewish and that’s what Jewish people do.
But not every Jewish person. For hidden from the crowded city, there is a group of men and women gathered in secret, shunning the crowds, completely detached from the festivities at the Temple. They gather in a secret house to pray, because Jesus told them to wait. no one in Jerusalem would have ever guessed that before noon that morning, there would be a major spiritual transition, a new people of God inaugurated, the church revealed to the world.
See that’s what this baptism of the Spirit is. It is God the Father, marking His Church, the Church of Jesus Christ His Son, by sending the Holy Spirit, visibly upon them. Here is where we ned to understand the difference between the two covenants and the nature of the covenant people those covenants established. In the first covenant, fire fell on the mountain and Moses face glowed, yet here the New Covenant people are inaugurated when the Spirit as fire falls on each one of them who are gathered in prayer. This is the new Sinai experience. See we sing songs like, “Fire, fall Down”, but this was the unrepeatable inauguration of the church. Suddenly there is a transition from what is happening outside at the temple, and what is happening in the room above.
The Inaugurated Church is United in the Spirit: The Holy Spirit came on all in verse 1-4:
Acts 2:1 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 hit 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.
You see what Luke’s pointing out here - this Pentecost event, this second Sinai, this New Covenant people that is inaugurated here is different from the old, because the Spirit falls on all. Every single member of the church - not just the apostles or the leaders - the Spirit fell on each and marked each and forms the community out of each.
This is a huge point and marks a major difference between the Old and New Covenant people. Israel was a spiritual nation, but they were not united in the Spirit. Paul puts it this way in Romans 9:6: “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” that is, there were the who called themselves Jews, descendants of Israel by birth, but they were not of the faith of Abraham and thus were not really of Israel. They all received the sign of circumcision, but not all experienced the reality that the sign was supposed to point, namely, circumcision of the heart. And so Israel was never united in Spirit. There were times of national repentance, when perhaps the majority of the nation of Israel truly sought the Lord, and there were times of rebellion when the prophets of old wondered if any faithful were left. Even when the Spirit came upon people in the Old Covenant, it was here and there, upon leaders or prophets, but never upon all the people at once. Therefore, though they collectively were the people of God, they were never altogether the people of God. And they longed for that unity of the Spirit in their community. At one point in Numbers 11:29, the spirit tangibly comes upon the elders of Israel, and Moses laments “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” Moses lamented the weakness of the Old Covenant as he saw the hard hearts of the people, circumcised in body but not in heart. But God promised a day when he would make a new covenant with the House of Israel, not like:
“the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
This new Covenant would be characterized by unity in the Spirit. They will all know me, says the Lord” This is echoed in Joel 2, the passage Peter quotes to the people of Jerusalem, we’ll let Peter read it in Acts 2:
Acts 2:17 “‘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.
The New Covenant would be marked by the pouring out of the Spirit upon all people, sons and daughter, men and women, male and female servants. The Spirit would be poured out on all. This age of Spiritual unity has come, and it has come in the inauguration of the Church. You do not become a member of the church by belonging to a nation. You do not become a member of the church by being born into it. You must be born again by the Spirit. And everyone who is born of the Spirit is part of this inaugurated church.
The Inaugurated Church is Unleashed in the City:
What starts privately in the inner room spills out into the streets. And now we have a potentially explosive situation in which the former people of God come into contact with the New. The inauguration cannot remain private. God had told them to wait for the Spirit, and now that it has come the church is unleashed in the city. This is a public sign to Israel that the promises have been fulfilled and the New Age has been inaugurated. Now, and I want you to be careful, though I have talked about this being a transition, an inaugeration, God does not leave any of the faithful behind. Luke tells us that there:
Acts 2:5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. Acts 2:5 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. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
These men and women are God’s people, they are devout, but they are still under the old administration and have to be brought into the new. So the church is unleashed in the city with a sign, the tongues and the prophesy and the sign draws them near and inspires curiosity within them - what is this think? are these men drunk?
The Inaugurated Church is Unashamed in its Proclamation:
They didn’t just go out into the city and let their presence be a sign. They didn’t just hope that people would see their goodness and be pointed to the saviour. No, the mark of the new covenant people was the Spirit, and the spirit filled them with boldness to proclaim clearly what it was that was had occured. We’re going to look more into Peter’s sermon next week. But look at the end of this section in Joel that Peter quotes: 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ And then he names him -2:36:
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
- Repent and find life! Do you not know that every single one of us has God's blood on our hands for we crucified the Lord of glory? God in his righteousness and wrath surely would destroy each one of us, except that it was He himself who willingly went to the cross to taste death for us so that we might be forgiven and live. Turn from your former ways and run to Christ your saviour. Pray today that he might forgive you and save you from your sins. And He will pour his Spirit upon you and welcome you into his body. We do not enter this body by being born into it. We are born again by the Spirit and therefore Christ brings us into his body.
- Be baptized into Christ! See before, the external sign of circumcision marked the community of promise, and only the men at that, but it did not set apart those who by faith believed. Yet now, in the new community, the body of Christ, we who by faith believe are marked internally by the Spirit, everyone of us, and therefore take on the symbol of our new faith, water baptism. This is precisely what happens in Acts chapter 10, when Peter observes the Spirit come upon a household of Gentiles as they believe in Christ and demands that they be baptized. If you haven't yet been baptized, yet believe in Christ and know his Spirit, be baptized. If you once received something that people called baptism, but know that you had not yet believed and were in no way a member of his body, be baptized now as a believer, for the Spirit has set you apart.
- Pray! Pray that we might once again experience the corporate blessing of being filled together with the Spirit. We are still the church. The same Spirit that inaugurated them, still fills us. The Baptism of the spirit was a one time-thing, but the filling of the spirit is available to us all. That we might know what is our inheritance in the saints. That we might be filled with love for one another, seek to build string ties to one another, that we consider how we might build each other up and spur each other on to love and good deeds. That we would recommit ourselves one to another, forgive one another, carry one another, that we would together be his witnesses to the neighbourhoods and to the nations.