September 20/21, 2014
We are sent. In our series so far, we have learned:
- The Church of Jesus is sent.
- We have learned that individually and corporately we are sent.
- We have been sent by Jesus – Matthew 28:16-20
- We have been sent with the Holy Spirit – Acts 1:1-9
Today we focus on the fact that we are sent in power.
A major theme of Acts is that the Church of Jesus Christ is God's instrument to glorify Himself in the present age – for us that is 2014.
After His ascension, Christ poured out His Holy Spirit on what is now called, the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is the Greek word for 50th. It marked the annual Jewish festival scheduled 50 days after the Passover. It was called both Feast of Weeks and Feast of Harvest. Jewish people would present their first fruits of annual wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22) and give thanks for the Harvest.
A whole new reality
Pentecost is considered the birthday of the church. This outpouring of the Spirit coming upon these early disciples did something God had never done before in history. This revelation of God’s love empowered them to be witnesses. They became first-hand witnesses to the realities of Christ’s love. It also united believers with Christ in a new relationship: as fellow members of the spiritual body of Christ . Jesus said in John 14:17:
“You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you”.
Believers under this empowerment now shared the life of Christ in a way never before experienced. God united them with Him. The same Spirit of God that dwelt in Christ and raised Him from the dead now dwells in us. The unity of the church is not external: what we believe (creeds), how we organize ourselves (polity), or where and how we meet (culture). It is internal: through the Spirit of Jesus that dwells in us. The basis of our unity in the church goes back to the origin of the church. It began when the Holy Spirit first immersed believers on the day of Pentecost (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:9).
This was the advantage Christ spoke of
Jesus said that it would be to their advantage that the Holy Spirit would come. When the Holy Spirit arrived with power in our text, there is no doubt that this was a special occasion. Nothing like this had happened when Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, was on earth with His disciples. God was showing them clearly what Jesus had meant in John 16:7:
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
There were three tangible signs that indicated that he Holy Spirit had come in power in our text.
First Sign: Audible
The first sign was audible: wind. This public and external sound had possible significance. In John 3:8 Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Second Sign: Visual
The second sign was visual: fire. Presumably at the same time that the disciples heard the wind, they actually saw 120 separate fires shaped like tongues resting on one another. At that moment, few would have to be reminded of John the Baptist’s prophecy regarding Jesus,
“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)
In the Old Testament, God often used fire to give tangible evidence of His power. Some examples are: Elijah & Baal prophets (1 Kings 18:38); Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:2): the prophets Isaiah’s lips were touched with the burning coal of holiness (Isaiah 6). Nothing could be more indicative of the need for each person who is used by God to evangelize the world than to experience His power, live in His presence, and be characterized by holiness.
Third Sign: Oral
The third sign was oral: Tongues. Few things could be more surprising to human beings than speaking in a language that they had never learned. In John 14:12 Jesus said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father”.
The same power by which Jesus performed His miracles was the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit, who is God Himself, can do works of any magnitude at any time He wishes. If we rely solely on our own human power to do our works, none of us could even approach the works of Jesus. We are sent to do our works that can only be done with superhuman power, provided by God Himself.
The first miracle (speaking in known but unlearned languages) after Jesus’ ascension is a work that, as far as we know from Scripture, the Holy Spirit never did through Jesus. Jesus never spoke in a language that He didn’t understand. Is this a greater work? It arguably is. Nevertheless, it is for sure vastly different from anything that had happened before.
The result of this empowerment was huge. Unbelievers were amazed. The gospel message of Jesus was contextualized and boldly proclaimed, some resisted, but others responded with open hearts (Acts 2:37, 40-41).
Three challenges to us that come from Acts
Three challenges grow out of the emphases of the book of Acts and this reality of being sent.
- What is your motivation as a Christian?
- What is your method as a Christian?
- What is your emphasis as a Christian?
We are sent in power!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section as an aid in discussions that may be planned or unplanned during your week. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
Read Acts 2:1-13
As you read this passage, what is the most profound thing that occurred in your opinion?
How did this moment fulfill what Jesus promised to them in Acts 1:8?
Why do you think they received tongues or languages as a gift at this moment?
Does the Holy Spirit still give these types of gifts today, or have these gifts fulfilled their purpose and are no longer needed today?
What does Paul say is the reason that these powerful gifts are given to the church? Why is it important that we “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that [we] may prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1)? Why is intelligibility important for us to pursue in relation to the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives?
How is love the stabilizing force that grounds these gifts in their proper place? What happens when gifts are pursued without love? What does that look like? How do we earnestly desire to be used by the Holy Spirit with love?
In what ways do the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the church remind us of the grace that we’ve received through the work of Jesus? How do they draw our attention to our inability and utter dependence on God?