The Promise of the Holy Spirit

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:1-8; Acts 2:22–41

During the last few sermons and through reading the Pray & Go Challenge, we’ve been studying how to become a Great Commission Christian and a Great Commission Church.

A Great Commission Christian is someone who shares the gospel of Christ with unbelievers, shares what God has done in their lives, then helps those who commit their lives to Christ to grow as His disciples. If you are a Christian, a Christ follower, then you are called to be an instrument of outreach and ministry for God. God has given us powerful news that He does not intend for us to keep to ourselves.

God designed us to be bearers of the truth about His son, Jesus, and He intends for us to carry out the Great Commission mostly in the context of a local church. That’s why from Acts 2 to Revelation 3, almost the entire the New Testament is all about the local church. It is the story of local churches, who are full of sinners repenting and working to be more like Christ, making a difference in the world as they share the Good News.

That means you are on the front line of God’s ministry. But you don’t stand on that front line by yourself. Yes, you are in the context of a church, but the church will not be able to accomplish its mission if it isn’t plugged into the power source. Jesus Himself said we must have the power of the Holy Spirit for the church to function as it’s designed to. (Luke 24:29, John 14:26, Acts. 1:8, 4:31)

Today, we are going to start looking through the book of Acts and at the birth of the Church. Throughout the coming weeks, we are going to take a look at things the early church did, and hopefully learn a thing or two from them of how to be Great Commission Christians. We’ll look at how they had such faith and courage, how they prayed, who they saw as their audience, and the big opportunities they took.

I don’t know what comes to mind or what you feel when you hear the word church, but chances are it is a far cry from what the first Church people thought or experienced. I say that because in the first century, from the very beginning the Church has been a movement launched around one event in history. It didn’t begin as an institution. It didn’t begin with liturgy or tradition. There weren’t any bibles or bands or buildings, pews, or hymnals.

The church was simply a gathering of people who came together around one belief: that Jesus is the Risen Christ, the Son of the living God. It was the event, that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, and along with the Holy Spirit, it was the testimony by eyewitnesses to that event that launched the Church. That was all they had, and that was more than enough. The Church was a movement. It still is and will always be a movement.
After Jesus rose from the dead, and spent about forty days with His followers, He gathered them on a hillside and gave them, and us, His final instructions. This is recorded in Matthew and Acts. In both accounts, Jesus predicts the beginning of the Church and says we won’t be doing what He asks us to do by ourselves.

Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:6-8 NIV
6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

They were not thinking in terms of a growing gathering that we would call the Church. They were thinking that Jesus was going to restore the kingdom back to the way it was, which will happen but not yet. Jesus needed them to put their focus in a different direction.

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will (as a result of this new power) be my witnesses in Jerusalem, (which was where they were) in all of Judea, (which was the broader area) and Samaria, (which was an area they didn’t like to go) and to the ends of the earth.”

Now, we don’t know what they thought, but if we can just try to imagine, you’re standing with a man who the religious leaders hated and Rome crucified, and He says, “Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to take the message of me, my teaching, the fact that you are eyewitnesses of the resurrection all over Jerusalem.”

And they probably thought, okay Jerusalem. We can do Jerusalem. Judea. Okay. Samaria. Okay, even though we don’t like to go there. But the rest of the world. No doubt they looked at each other and thought, “The rest of the world? Jesus—timeout— do you know how big the world is?” To which Jesus could have said, “You don’t even have a clue. All you know is the Roman world, but this message, this movement, this gathering, this momentum that we’re creating is going to touch every single part of the world.”

Which is exactly what happened. Two thousand years later, we are all witnesses of it. This is one of the most significant prophecies in the entire Bible. Then Jesus departed, and the disciples went back into the city of Jerusalem where they prayed and waited for the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised. Two weeks go by and something amazing happens.
It was time for the Jewish celebration of Pentecost, which was a bit like Passover where Jewish people from over a dozen different regions of the world basically all of the known world at that time, had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this Jewish holiday.

The Scripture tells us that while Jesus’ followers were meeting on the day of Pentecost—that would have been the disciples, Jesus’ mother Mary, Jesus’ brothers, maybe a few other men and women—they were praying together, when suddenly the Holy Spirit showed up in their midst in a powerful way just as Jesus had predicted.

Acts 2:1-4 NLT
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.

Suddenly the apostles were able to speak the language of all these different people who had gathered in Jerusalem; over 12 different languages. The Jews in the city heard the loud noise and came running and were stunned to hear a Galilean speaking in their language. Then they realized another Galilean was speaking to someone else from a different region of the world in their own language, and another and another.

All of a sudden there’s all this energy and excitement and conversation of how these Galileans are able to speak the languages, and this strange and mysterious thing they’re talking about—that the Messiah has come, that He was crucified, that He was raised from the dead. And suddenly there’s a huge stir in Jerusalem. The significance of it all though, was not that they could speak their languages, but that it was just as Jesus had predicted.

As things ramped up and people began to gather and talk and wonder—some people thought they were drunk, and others pondered what all this could mean as the disciplines were speaking clearing and certainly not just babbling.

And at this point, Peter decided it was time for the very first sermon in the Church, and he begins to preach. He draws back to an Old Testament context that many of these Jews could understand, from Joel 2:28-32, to say this thing that’s happening amongst you was predicted long ago.

Acts 2:17-21 NLT
17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.
19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below—
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20 The sun will become dark,
and the moon will turn blood red
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.’

He’s saying, you shouldn’t be surprised by what’s happening and by what we are telling you, that one day the message that had been given to the Jews would be expanded and would be a message for the entire world. He continues…

Acts 2:22-23 NLT
22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.

Peter is recalling some very recent history here. This moment is only about two months after the crucifixion, so when he says Jesus of Nazareth, many people in that audience said, “Oh yeah, I saw him drag his cross down the middle of the city. Oh yeah, I was on the outskirts of the crowd during one of his sermons. Oh yeah, he healed a friend of mine; I know who you’re talking about.”

Acts 2:24 NIV
24 “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

He’s sharing the Gospel. Then he refers back to the Old Testament again, this time telling of what King David said about the coming of Jesus. Then he continues.

Acts 2:32-33 NLT
32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.

These first century believers were not simply teaching what Jesus taught. Christianity has never been about embracing a teaching. Christianity, from the very beginning, has always been about embracing an event in history. And these people are eyewitnesses of that event. And now, the people hearing the message are witnesses of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:36 NIV
“Therefore, let all of Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, [and now it’s getting personal] whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.

He’s pointing his finger at the Jews in Jerusalem. Some of you were there, some of you accused him, and some of you walked away and didn’t defend him. And a hush fell over the crowd.

Acts 2:37 NLT
37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

Acts 2:38-39 NIV
38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. [Here’s the promise.] And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise [this gift of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far off— for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Do you know who the “all who are far off” is? It’s you, and it’s me, and it’s our children, it’s our grandchildren, it is for everyone before and after us who embrace Christianity. This was Peter’s way of saying this isn’t just a Jerusalem thing, this isn’t just an us here and now thing. This thing that has begun in our midst, the excitement and momentum, and all the supernatural power that we’re experiencing here and now, is something that’s going to reach way beyond us.

This generation will die, but the movement will continue. This is a movement that’s going to touch people who are far off, people who haven’t even been born yet, in places that we don’t even know about yet.

And then they had their first altar call. There was so much conviction and passion from seeing all these miracles and hearing the prophesies again and knowing what had happened to Jesus that the crowd had to respond, and here’s how they did.

Acts 2:41 NIV
41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

In the very city where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, over three thousand people said, we believe, and three thousand people joined the church on day one and were baptized. Do you know how long it would take to baptize three thousand people? I imagine every body of water they could find had disciples baptizing people for repentance of their sins. Can you imagine the stir?

This wasn’t a huge city— in those days ancient cities were not huge. But the message was. It was dynamic and powerful. And the momentum of the message has continued to be huge.

Just like Jesus predicted, two thousand years later, here we are. Do you know what connects people from every culture around the world in the name of Jesus? It’s not the way we worship, or the way we think in terms of liturgy, or our customs.

It’s that we believe Jesus is the Son of the living God, that He rose from the dead, and His death paid for the sins of the entire world. The movement was not about a location because there was no location. It wasn’t just for church people, because there weren’t any! And it wasn’t about a tradition or a style or a way of doing anything, because there was none of that. But there was a powerful, dynamic momentum, a movement lead by the Holy Spirit, and the world would never, ever be the same.

Since day one, there has always been a remnant who gets that. There has always been a group of people who have understood from the New Testament that when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, God dwells in you giving you the power to fulfill the Great Commission.

The Great Commission is not a spiritual sales pitch designed for someone to buy. It’s an offer from God to receive forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternity. It cannot be regarded lightly, and it cannot be accomplished in our own power.

When you have the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, He will open your eyes to opportunities every day. Remember what Jesus said about opportunities? “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into the fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

The opportunities are great. The harvest is great, and when we have the power of the Spirit, which is promised to us when we know the Lord as our Savior, we see those opportunities and have the courage and all the words we need to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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