Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why It All Began...

Recently I had the privilege of studying the beginning of Acts chapter two and seeing the start of the church on the day of Pentecost.  So many things were packed into those first four verses of the chapter that I spent my entire time teaching on them.  Let's face it that day with those 120 gathered in the upper room was a miracle.  This was the event when God's promise of the Holy Spirit coming in full power was seen and felt.  Jesus made it crystal clear in John 16 that it was too the advantage of his followers that he go back to the Father so they could receive the Holy Spirit.  Does this mean the Spirit was not working prior to this moment in Acts 2?  No.  We can clearly the see the Spirit working right at the beginning of Scripture in Genesis 1:2, "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."  But at Pentecost we see the Spirit coming in full power upon his people.

These 120 had just seen the resurrected Christ ascend into heaven 10 days prior to this event in the upper room.  Not only had Christ promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples in John 14 and 16 but at his ascension he spoke to all 120 saying, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).  In those 10 days I wonder if they sat there starting to wonder what that promise would like to them or even wondering if they had missed it somehow.  They were to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth yet they were gathered picking a replacement for Judas. Then suddenly a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the entire house were they were sitting (2:2).  This word for wind in Hebrew is the same word for breathe or Spirit.  The comparison of wind and breathing is one we are familiar.  Wind and breathing are very similar besides the fact wind can last longer and be stronger.  But we can also understand why the Spirit would be translated with the same word as well.  Think back to John 3 when Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about being born again.  Jesus and Nicodemus go back and forth for a time but than Jesus says, "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" (8).  Jesus compares the work of the Spirit with that of the wind.

At Pentecost we know where this mighty rushing wind came from because the text tells us it came from heaven.  Whether this was an actual mighty rushing wind or Luke is giving us the best description of what took place I am not for sure.  The important part is seeing God's faithfulness to keep his promises to his people.  He had promised to not leave his people but to send his Spirit to them.  He had promised this would be to their advantage and as you read and understand the history of the church it is clear that Jesus was not blowing smoke.  Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about and as his followers we need to be grateful for this day when his Spirit came upon the church in full power.  Because of his promises and the fulfillment of this promise all who are in Christ are his bride.  His bride is the church which is an unstoppable reality because the head of the church is the infinite God who sustains all things. 

As God breathed physical life into man which he formed from the dust of the ground back in Genesis 2 so he breathed spiritual life into his church this day at Pentecost.  This is the work of God in the life of his bride.  What's so great is that he has chosen to use sinners like us as his means of grace in the lives of those who do not know Christ.  We, as his church, get to be heralds of the gospel so others can be adopted into his family.  If your local expression of the church exists to promote itself then you have the wrong idea of church.  The local expression of the church exists to promote Jesus Christ and proclaim his message so people will be added to the church universal.  In Acts 2 we see the beginning of this reality at Pentecost.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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