Chambersburg, PA
Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

“The Holy Spirit” Sermon Text

Acts 2:1-41

The Holy Spirit

The Spirit; The Sermon

  1. The Spirit is the powerful presence of God to empower His church
  2. The Spirit enables the communication of the Gospel to all people
  3. The Spirit democratizes the knowledge of God
  1. the Spirit is the powerful presence of God to empower his church:

We see this in the phenomena of wind & fire (the audible and visible signs that accompany the Spirit) – both of which symbolize the powerful presence of God in Scripture.

audible sign: v2 – “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.”

The Greek and Hebrew words for wind can also mean Spirit. And, if you remember from our Genesis series we see the Spirit of God present at his Creation of the universe;

The spirit is present to bring God’s power in creation; and the spirit is is present to bring God’s power at re-creation – redemption.

And, in Ezekiel 37 you see a similar description of the Spirit coming in wind, and that wind, brings life to dry dead bones – and that is a foreshadowing of the redemption and new life that would come to the Church in the age of the Spirit.

And just previously to that in Ezekiel 36 is the promise that God would turn his people’s hearts of stone into hearts of flesh – by putting a new Spirit in them to bring cleansing and renewal.

We were like that pile of dry dead bones, & the Spirit of God gives us new life.

We had hearts of stone, and the spirit of God gives us new hearts.

Fire – the visit sign in v3 “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”

Likewise fire in scripture symbolizes the presence of God – most memorably, the burning bush when God appears to Moses; and the pillar of fire by which God guided his people at night through the wilderness.

The wind and fire symbolize the presence of God with his people, to empower them – to lead them and guide them by the Spirit.

Fire adds the idea of God’s holiness, and his purifying presence which burns away all that is in conflict with it – which purifies the church from its sinfulness.

The Spirit set the church aflame, and it will never burn out. Though it may burn more brightly or more dimly, it will never burn out.

And, we need to fan it into flame – by living lives filled by the Spirit of God.

One of the main Distinctive characteristics of the New Covenant, is that it is the age of the Spirit:

we live in the age in which the Spirit of God has been poured out onto the Church of God – into the hearts of all believers.

Often in NT, life in the OC is represented as life under the law; and that is contrasted with life in the NC, which is represented as life in the Spirit

The NC church lives in, and by, and through, the Spirit. And while some of us may be wary of some of the modern pentecostal understandings of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, we can’t make the opposite error of forgetting about the Spirit, and living as though we are still in the OC – under the mosaic law which had no ability to grant life and power to those who would seek to live by it.

Church: don’t forget the Spirit of God. As surely as the Spirit was poured out on these people – in unmistakable fashion, so surely has the Spirit been poured out into your heart.

And as surely as the Spirit of God empowered those first disciples to be witnesses for Christ, even though they certainly had especially significant and foundational role in that, nevertheless, so surely can it empower us to be witnesses today.

  1. The Spirit is the powerful presence of God to empower His church
  2. The Spirit enables the communication of the Gospel to all people

The Specific form this fire takes is v3 – individual tongues of fire resting on each one.

And, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these tongues of fire enable them to speak in the tongues of all those present – from nations which cover all the places where the Jewish nation had been dispersed.

It’s important to note, that all those present are Jewish – some converts but primarily ethnic Jews who either were living, or had lived, in these foreign lands;

There are none who would be considered Gentiles – it’s still fulfilling the first part of that outline of 1:8 – the gospel going to Jerusalem first, before it goes out to the Gentiles.

Foreshadowing that it will go to the ends of the earth; but also looking back to judgment at Babel.

And if you are familiar with the story of the tower of Babel from Genesis 11,  you’ll recognize that what happens in Acts 2 is sort of a reversal of what happened at Babel.

At Babel, sinful humanity – at that point all speaking the same language – came together in opposition of God, trying to make a name for themselves, by building a tower to reach heaven.

And, God comes down in judgment of their pursuit of self-glory— and confuses them through the introduction of different languages, and then scatters them, to cease their joint-opposition to him.

At Babel, God put obstacles in the way to prevent humanity from building their kingdom & seeking their glory.

At Pentecost, God removes obstacles so that the gospel can go forth and build God’s kingdom & spread his glory.

God enables the church is enabled to fulfill their mission of serving God and building a name for him – spreading his glory to the ends of the earth through the preaching of the Gospel.

but not an exact reversal: a reversal of the confusion and resulting frustration from different languages; but, not a return to one common language; but rather, communication at pentecost came about through the diversity of the languages present there.

This looks ahead to God’s ultimate intention to build his church from peoples spreading all across the ends of the earth – Rev 5:9-10
“from every tribe and language and people and nation”.

And, that preaching of the gospel – the gospel never changes, but the gospel message is always translated – such that it is preached in the language of those who are listening.

Gospel message is universal – it transcends culture, not bound to 1 culture/language/ethnicity/people/place)

it transcends culture, so that it can speak into every culture.

the only reason we can read the bible and hear the gospel is because it’s been translated. The bible wasn’t originally written in old english.

And that’s why the church continues the task of bible translation today;

And, that’s why Christians ought to give some thought to how they speak about the gospel. Some christians sound like they are speaking a foreign language to those who speak their language by failing to consider the people around them and how those people might hear, or understand, or misunderstand, their message – and so, without ever compromising the message, we nevertheless speak it in a way that is intelligible to those who we are speaking it to.

Spirit is removing obstacles; we should put up obstacles; Spirit overcomes obstacles of difference, to enable the Church to bring the gospel to those who are different.

  1. The Spirit is the powerful presence of God to empower His church
  2. The Spirit enables the communication of the Gospel to all people
  3. The Spirit democratizes the knowledge of God

this is seen in how this event fulfills the Joel prophesy.

The out-pouring of the Spirit marks the “last days (v17)

Stott: out-pouring of Spirit emphasizes:

it’s abundance (not a drop or drizzle but “pouring out” – more like a down-pour; it’s finality (wont’ be taken back or gathered back up; it’s universality (all flesh – not everyone irrespective of internal faith; but everyone irrespective of outward status. No distinctions of sex (sons/daughters); age (young men/old men); rank (even on my servants, both men and women).

In the OT, the Spirit seems to have been poured out in small bits, only on certain people for a certain time to accomplish certain tasks; and usually on only the most important people;

but now, it is poured out abundantly, with finality, on all of God’s people.

Even those lowly in the sight of the world – servants – God calls “my servants” – they belong to him and they are not exempt from the gift of the Spirit of God being poured out into their hearts.

And, as it is poured out on all, it would enable all to be prophets (vv17-18). Now, this is interesting because in the NT it is clear that only some are called and gifted to be prophets; here it says all will prophesy.

And, so, I think that it is best understood in the general, broad sense of prophesy: that prophets, made known God and his will.

At the heart of prophecy, is the knowledge of God.

And, so, this prophecy of Joel brings about the promise of the NC prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:34 –

[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.

It would democratize the knowledge of God, so that rather than only a few meditating that knowledge to the people of God, all people would be prophets because they, through Christ and his spirit being in them, could know God directly.

And, that’s why “all who call on the Lord” v21 – can enjoy his salvation”

And, as Peter explains, the Lord whom they must call on for salvation, is the Lord Jesus Christ – crucified for their sins, but raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God.

Pentecost was the Jewish festival “Feast of Weeks”, that got the Greek name “pentecost” for the fact that it in NT times it was celebrated 50 days from the passover.

And Christians historically have celebrated it as the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church – similar to the way we celebrate Christmas or Easter – the events of Christmas and Easter were one-of-a-kind, accompanied with dramatic signs and supernatural occurrences.

we celebrate those events as having continued significance, but we don’t expect those events to happen again.

Similarly, Pentecost dramatic, supernatural occurrences with this event that are not repeated in the same way in any of the book of Acts or in rest of NT.

Because, like the incarnation, death resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, this is a one-time “redemptive-historical” action – not to be repeated – it is the once-for-all promised outpouring of the Spirit upon the Church.

Pentecost – just like incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection; is a unique, one-of-a-kind event and advancement in God’s plan of redemption, that isn’t intended to be repeated. Just like those, it is a once-for-all kind of event.

And, so, here in Acts 2, we see that the Spirit is poured out on the church to empower the church to fulfill it’s mission in bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.

And, it’s because of this once-for-all gift of the Spirit poured out on the church, that we know that the the Spirit of God is poured out into our hearts at our conversion. (not because we look inward to some mystical experience – which can leave us in perpetual doubt; but because we look to Scripture and see that the Spirit has been poured out in a final & abundant way)

you see, for a believer, the filling of the Spirit is not a separate event from conversion

Romans 8:8-10

[8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

[9] You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Ephesians 1:13-14

[13] In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In NC age, There is no such thing as a believer who doesn’t have the Spirit of God in him.

And this is important to get right off the bat because there are a few scenes in Acts, including I think this one in chapter 2, where the Spirit comes in a dramatic fashion after conversion – and some understand this to be prescribing a normal experience that all believers should expect;

And that can have the dangerous effect either of causing people to seriously doubt their salvation if they haven’t had this experience that they’re told they should have;

Or, it can have the dangerous effect of creating a two-tier church (in which some have the Spirit but some don’t – resulting in sort of a 1st-class/2nd-class division within what ought to be the one body of Christ that is united in the 1 Spirit of Christ);

but, in this and those other few scenes in Acts, there are specific reasons that the Spirit is delayed until after conversion rather than simultaneous with conversion – suggesting that it’s not normative, but exceptional. And here in Acts 2, the reason is that it is the outpouring of the Spirit, which is the promised-in-the-old-testament sign of the “last days” (as Peter calls it in v 17), marking the beginning of the New Covenant period.

And, in those other few passages later in Acts, those reasons are that in those cases, the gospel had gotten ahead of the Apostles in spreading to new people and new places; and since the apostles regularly needed convincing of the legitimacy of that (even though it’s exactly what Jesus said would happen); the delay of the baptism of the Spirit was to wait for the apostles to catch up to the spread of the gospel, to convince them of the legitimacy of its spreading to those new peoples and new places.

It’s not to suggest that the Spirit normally should follow conversion in some dramatic fashion, because those are the exceptions, for specific reasons, to the consistent example and teaching of the NT that the Spirit comes simultaneously with conversion.

Just as Jesus was baptized by the Spirit at the beginning of his ministry – so that he was full of the Spirit and Led by the Spirit in all he did;

so, here in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, so the Church is baptized by the Spirit at it’s beginning – so that it could be full of the Spirit and led by the Spirit.

The Spirit is poured out on the church to empower the church to fulfill it’s mission in bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.

The Spirit; The Speech

What prompts the sermon, is the need for the supernatural occurrence to be explained – because some misunderstand it.

Even miracles; even good deeds; not self-attesting; they need interpretation and explanation.

That’s why Jesus though he did miracles which were displays of the power of the kingdom and foretastes of the eternal future kingdom, he considered his primary job to be the preaching and proclaiming of the kingdom – such that people would have faith.

And, the reason the Spirit comes in tongues is because the gospel needs to be spoken. It needs to be proclaimed, because it is good news.

The Gospel is primarily news; not primarily command. Which means, the Gospel isn’t something we do, it’s something we believe, and then something we proclaim. You can’t do the gospel; you can only announce, share, tell of, witness to, and believe the gospel.

Now, of course, it implies command: it brings with it the command to repent and believe; and to live out its necessary implications; but the implications of the gospel have to follow the proclamation of the gospel:

if you sever the implications of the gospel from the gospel you weaken the gospel’s transformative power; if you put the implications of the gospel before the proclamation of the gospel you risk losing the gospel;

And we have a responsibility in living out the implications of the gospel, but in terms of the saving, redeeming power of the gospel in our lives, we are totally passive.

William Temple: “The only thing of my very own which I contribute to my redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed.”

Core of Peter’s message:

“(1) A proclamation of the death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, seen as the fulfillment of prophecy and involving man’s responsibility (22-35). (2) The resultant evaluation of Jesus as both Lord and Christ (36) (3) A summons to repent and receive forgiveness of sins (38-40).”

Proclamation & Appeal

proclamation: death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ for the forgiveness of sins;

appeal: appeals to them to change their evaluation of Jesus, and repent and believe.

And they do – they are cut to the heart.

All they do is receive the good news – receive what Christ has done on their behalf. And, as we’ll see next week – receiving this good news releases the transformative & redeeming power of God in their lives and in the new community formed by their lives lived together – the church.

And, when you want to share the gospel, you need, at least to some degree, both of those things.

You can’t have appeal without proclamation:

You can have preaching that is comprised nearly exclusively of “appeal” – and that rightly reacted against because it attempts to get people to make a decision for Jesus without telling them who or what the Jesus they’re making a decision for is all about. And, often, in the desire to get people to decide their is involved quite a lot of emotional manipulation or psychological pressure; which may in the short-term gain a “decision”, but it won’t in the long-term build the church with disciples who know the Jesus they’re supposedly following.

The content of Jesus’ person and work, even if it’s as brief as the summary of Apostle’s preaching, has to be made central because if people are going to be saved they need to know that Jesus is the savior, that they need saving, and they need to know at least something about how he saves them!

You can’t have appeal without proclamation; but you can’t have proclamation without appeal:

When I say that the gospel is good news to be proclaimed, that doesn’t mean that we simply speak it dispassionately, unconcerned with connecting with and impacting those who hear it; it’s not like a classroom lecture in which we simply put out information and don’t care if people are sleeping through it;

Like, Well, I did my job and you can take it or leave it and I don’t care.

We appeal to people; we plead with people; we try to persuade people;

We share the gospel, and put before people the most urgent and necessary and important question of human existence: how are you going to respond to Jesus?

we don’t just tell people that Jesus is King; but we are willing to confront people with the demand of the gospel to repent before King Jesus.

And, they listen to Peter’s proclamation, and they are persuaded by Peter’s appeal – they are cut to the heart; and they repent and believe.

They listen to God’s word; the word, by the Spirit, penetrates their hearts.

And they respond. And, we’ll see next week that it transformed their hearts; and it transformed their lives; and it created a beautiful, attractive new community of Jesus.

And, it can do the same to us today.

My sermons aren’t as good as Peter’s, but that’s not where the power of a sermon is – not in the speaker, not in the polished or impressive nature of the sermon, but in the Spirit working through the truth of God’s word.

And, it can transform us into a beautiful, attractive community of Jesus.

And, you won’t share the gospel in as an impressive way as Peter did; and you probably won’t have 3,000 converts in a single go of sharing your faith in Christ.

But, the Spirit of God can still work through you – maybe in a smaller way but not in a less significant way – because God is making Christ and his good news known through his church – through us – through you.