Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Thanks to Josiah Smith and his band for filling in for Zach today while he’s leading worship for hundreds of high school kids up at Camp Shamineau
We are continuing our book of Acts series this morning
ACTS is the book in the Bible that occurs right after Jesus ascends into heaven, and it chronicles how the early Christian church got started 2,000 years ago
For the last two weeks we’ve been talking about waiting (because the disciples were told by Jesus to WAIT for the Holy Spirit to come down and empower them
And we’ve been talking about how we all hate waiting.
And if you don’t hate waiting, you’re either a really amazing person or really weird
But fear not, the waiting is over, because today in chapter 2, the Holy Spirit arrives in grand fashion and the ministry of the early church is about to begin
Today’s passage is probably the most well-known passage from the book of Acts, or at least top 3.
It’s also been a passage that has been the dividing line of a lot of denominations.
So, we’ll take a look at some of that today as well
Let me set the stage for you…
As we talk about often here, context is always important.
Just like it’s important in life.
If I tell you, “And then the person next to me said, “This has been the single greatest day of my life!”
Well, context to the story is important.
Who was the person?
Were they 4 or were they 84. Because that kind of matters.
So, if you haven’t been here the last two weeks, or if you’re visiting for the first time today, here’s what has happened in ACTS so far
Jesus told the disciples that they were to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and all the way to the ends of the earth, but they must first wait for the Holy Spirit to come down and empower them
And then after that, he rose into the air and vanished
Which someone in my small group brilliantly pointed out, “What did other people think when they saw that?”
“Um, Miriam, did you just see that man levitating out there?”
So, the disciples then are in a waiting period.
Jesus appeared to them for a period of 40 days after he was resurrected, and then they wait for TEN more days until the Spirit finally arrives.
Which happens today.
We are going to be reading in Acts chapter 2 today, but before we do so, let me say something about reading the Bible in church
Let’s do a short historical rewind and go back 15-20 years ago.
15-20 years ago, in the vast majority of evangelical churches, everyone brought their Bible to church.
And then something happened: The projector was invented.
Okay, not really. “The projector” is obviously more than 15 years old, but churches (especially back then) are notorious for being a good 10-20 years behind.
Anyway, once churches started putting verses on the screen, we were all like, “Seriously, why would I bring my Bible?” IT’S on the screen!!
And different churches have fought tooth and nail to get people to still bring their Bibles and others have just given up
I’ve always fallen in the “Given up” category because I think it’s a tough battle to win.
HOWEVER, let me say this. It is helpful to have the Bible in front of you.
For a number of reasons:
1) Pretend I say (two minutes after I read the passage), “Like we saw in verse 2.” Well, if you have your Bible, you can look at verse 2 again.
If you don’t, it’s not like you can stand up and say, “Hey Jared! Put verse 2 up there again!”
2) Maybe you want to keep studying it as the message goes on. Or I get boring or something.
3) Maybe you want to remember the context if I fail to bring it up. “Wait, what was last week about?” If you have your Bible, you can look it up
4) Maybe it makes you think of another verse, or your Bible cross references another verse, with a Bible, you can look it up. Again, you can’t ask Jared to cross reference a passage in 1 Timothy for you
Yet, even though there are all these positive things to bringing a Bible, most of us still won’t bring one.
“It looks awkward.” “It doesn’t fit in my purse” “I might lose it”
And listen, although I think it’s worth it, I think most of you still won’t.
HOWEVER, technology has now afforded us another option.
I was visiting our Thursday night House Group once, and as we were reading the passage, I think Pat Vesperman (one of our House Leaders) and I were the only ones who weren’t reading our Bibles on the phone.
The number of people with Smartphones is growing exponentially in this country, and with almost every smartphone, you can get a Bible app.
And I guess, I just wanted to make it officially socially acceptable in this church to read the passage on your phone when we study it on a Sunday morning.
Because you might not bring your Bible, but you will bring your phone
And on your phone, you can: Look back at the verse, keep studying it, look up the chapter before, and cross reference a verse if you want.
I’m all about getting people in the Word of God, and quite frankly I don’t care the method in which we are doing it
So, if you come here next Sunday, and you look out and 25 people have their phones out, it’s not because they’re texting, it’s because they’re studying God’s word in a deeper way.
Or, they’re pretending to study, but they’re actually just making some last minute changes to their fantasy football lineup.
But let’s all assume they’re studying God’s word.
Anyway, I just wanted to say, “That’s ok”
Because it’s not a social norm to whip your phone out in church. But it’s okay here.
Now to the passage
We’ll be in Acts chapter 2 today if you want to look at that on your phone, or in your Bible, or simply on the screen
(Acts 2:1-6) – NLT
1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. 5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
Ok, so the Holy Spirit doesn’t just come down and say, “Hi, you’re empowered now.” He comes down and some pretty miraculous things happen.
For one, it said in verse two that there was a sound from heaven that sounded like the roaring of a mighty windstorm
This make sense for the Spirit’s arrival.
In Greek, the language of the new testament, the word for Spirit is pneuma, which is often synonymous with the word “wind.”
If you read in the OT, in Ezekiel 37, it is the wind, that brings life to the dry bones.
We also see that tongues of fire come down on the believers
I have no idea what that would look like.
But again, the symbolism makes sense because God often moves as fire.
Also in the OT, in the story of Exodus when God’s people, the Israelites are freed from slavery from Egypt, God shows up a number of times in the fire.
He speaks to Moses through a fire (the burning bush)
He also leads the Israelites on their journey as a pillar of fire by night
So, these symbols of wind and fire aren’t just because God wants to put on a sweet pyrotechnics show to get everyone’s attention. They mean something to the believers.
They would have known that this is God.
And then we see that the tongues of fire actually split and settle on each of the believers (by the way, it’s not completely clear if this is happening to the 12 disciples or the 120 believers at this point) Most people assume the 120.
But the splitting of the tongues to individually rest of each believer seems to show that God is now putting his Holy Spirit individually into each person who believes in Him
In the past, the Holy Spirit was present, but in a more general sense.
The Holy Spirit is present in the OT by the way.
A lot of people look at this text, and they’re like, “Oh, Happy Birthday Holy Spirit! You made it to earth!”
But, the Spirit is present in the OT (Psalm 51, David says, “Do not cast me from your presence of take your Holy Spirit from me”
But before Christ, the Holy Spirit would kind of pop in from here to there, or be present in more of a corporate sense for Israel
But now, in this new age, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you give your life to Him, the Holy Spirit will come and live inside of you forever.
That oughta blow your mind more than it just did.
This passage is often divisive in churches because of what the Holy Spirit has the believers do.
Notice that not only did the wind and fire come, but the believers started speaking in different languages.
In older translations, it simply says, “Different tongues.”
And here’s where everything starts to get confusing:
It really does mean different languages. We’ll see this in the next few verses in a moment.
They were speaking literal languages from other geographic locations.
The only reason it was translated tongues is because in the King James Bible, 399 years ago, tongues was synonymous with language.
We still hear that in English somewhat. People will say, “What’s your native tongue?” Meaning, what language did you first speak.
However, here’s where this hot button issue gets a little more confusing
When the rest of the New Testament talks about speaking in tongues, it assumes that people can’t understand what you’re saying (unless they have the gift of interpretation)
But in Acts chapter 2, everyone heard them speaking their own language
Not a miracle of hearing, but a miracle of speaking.
The believers were literally speaking other languages.
But this isn’t the case in the rest of the New Testament
“Tongues” in the rest of the NT seems to be a whole different sort of language
(1 Corinthians 14:2) – NIV
2For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.
So, this is quite different than from what happened in Acts 2. Paul writes that people are speaking “tongues” and no one understands them.
Which is why it was important to have an interpreter if one was going to speak in that sort of “tongue” out loud in the NT
(1 Corinthians 14:27-28) – NLT
27 No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. 28But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.
So, really they would look at tongues in two different ways in the New Testament.
One: Someone would get up in front of the church: Deliver something in some sort of language that no one understood and then someone else would have the miracle of interpretation
TWO: It was a prayer language
Paul says at the end of verse 28 that we just read, if no one is there to interpret the person should continue speaking to God privately that way. It was a manner of worship.
But, in ACTS 2, the scenario is different. They weren’t just praying to themselves, and no interpreter was needed. It was just there was a miracle of languages that happened.
Some of the modern translations do a really good job of calling it languages in ACTS 2, and calling them “tongues” later on in the New Testament because they really are two separate issues.
The purpose of the language miracle in Acts 2 was to keep the people’s attention for what was about to happen.
It was used as a miracle to draw a crowd (sort of like a healing miracle might)
For those of you that are incredibly more curious about tongues and that issue, I’ll just say this for now.
We’re going to come back to it multiple times throughout Acts. It’s hard to avoid. We’ll also talk about the debate of when a person gets the Holy Spirit which will also come up later in Acts as well.
But I guess know this, Tongues is a Biblical thing. It’s mentioned quite often in Scripture.
Has it been incredibly abused by the Church? You bet. But is it in the Bible? You bet.
So this miracle finally happens (The H.S. comes down), and one might ask themselves, why then? Why 10 days after Jesus left? Why not 5 days? Or 15 days? Why 10?
Verse 1 mentions to us that it’s on the day of Pentecost.
Pentecost was one of three Jewish festivals when all individuals were to appear before the Lord with gifts and offerings
We see this commanded for the Israelites in Exodus 23:14-17
(Exodus 23:14-17) – NIV
14 "Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me. 15 "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt. "No one is to appear before me empty-handed. 16 "Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. 17 "Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD.
So, three times a year, all faithful Jews would journey to Jerusalem
The first festival, the Feast of the Unleavened Bread (day after Passover) commemorates when the Israelites left Egypt (also the weekend Jesus dies
The second festival is the Feast of the Harvest (also includes the day of Pentecost)
They were to show thanks and joy for the end of the barley harvest and beginning of the wheat harvest
And the third festival was Feast of the ingathering (feast of the tabernacles) (Feast of the booths)
Booths were temporary shelters. So on this feast, the people live in temporary shelters for 7 days (they still do this today) to remember for how they lived in a temporary place while coming out of Egypt before God brought them to the promised land.
So, during Acts 2, because it’s during the Feat of the Harvest (Pentecost), the city of Jerusalem is FULL of people from ALL over
And God sovereignly picks this time to start the movement of Christianity
Let’s look at the rest of our passage for today
(ACTS 2:7-13) – NLT
They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. 13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”
(SHOW NATIONS AT PENTECOST MAP)
This is a map of all of the regions of the people listed who saw God’s miracle and heard it in their own language
And thus, we have to believe that so many of these people are going to take this miracle back to their homelands, and thus the message of Christianity is going to spread like wildfire.
It truly is the reversal of the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament
(Genesis 11:1-9) – NIV
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." 5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 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. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
And now finally the time has come for humanity to stop being so selfish, and to start changing the world.
In Babel, the people came together and their languages were confused, but now in Acts, they come together and their languages are one.
In Babel, the people were scattered because of their selfishness, but now they will scatter throughout the earth with selflessness
In Babel, they tried to unite to serve themselves, and now, God united His people to serve His purpose
THEY’RE PROBABLY DRUNK
And despite all of these miracles, in the very last verse, some people look on and say, “They’re just drunk, that’s all.”
Pretty amazing. Think about what these people just saw (wind, fire, people speaking in their native language), and yet they tried to write it off as the people being drunk.
Humans have an unbelievable ability to write off the miraculous as something completely different and non-miraculous. “They’re just drunk.”
Even often when it’s right in front of them.
Think about the religious people who killed Jesus after all the miracles that they had seem Him do.
When God is moving in you, and He will, people look at it differently
(2 Corinthians 2:15-16) – NLT
15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
To some people, your life is the smell of death.
It’s true. I’ve been there. Christians were the “smell of death” to me before I became a follower of Jesus. They were unfortunate reminders that eternity was coming and God was real.
But don’t let that stop you.
Don’t let the fear of rejection or the fear of people thinking you’re crazy, or the fear of people thinking you’re a little too loving, or a little too nice, or little too passionate, or the fear of them thinking you’re drunk…don’t let that stop you.
Because the Holy Spirit is going to give you (just like we’re going to see him do with the disciples), the Holy Spirit is going to give you an incredible power to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.
Let me repeat the shocking thing I said earlier: If you believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit (that power, the wind, that fire) lives inside of YOU!
As you think of reaching some of the unreachable people in your life, God is with you
As you think of breaking free of that sin that has almost nailed you to the ground, God is with you!
As you think of fixing that relationship that has been shattered in so many ways, “God is With you!”
He’s with you. He’s in you. The same power, the wind, the strength that changed the world, is now in you.
Listen, God is real. You can experience Him. You can encounter Him. Do so this morning. Do so this week. He’s not just something you rationally ascent to. He’s a real Being that is interested in loving you, forgiving you, and showing you His power.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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