Pastor Chuck’s Message
Sunday, June 14, 2020
Promise Delivered – Characteristics of the Church
Acts 2:1-12, 42-47
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ … They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Prior to last week we had finished a series of messages on Jesus’ 40 days of post resurrection appearances to not only show Himself alive but to instruct His disciples. On the day of His ascension back to the Father, Jesus gave His final instructions to the disciples.
Luke records Jesus' words of instruction and promise in Luke 24:46-49 (ESV), “…. repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem … And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:8 (ESV) “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 ends of the earth.”
Jesus’ promise was astonishing! This extraordinary power was for sustaining the witness and power of Christ in His Church, life in the Spirit, which is the Christian life, the ability to walk in the Spirit in a manner worthy of the Lord and His kingdom (Thessalonians 2:12; Colossians 1:10; Philippians 1:27; Ephesians 4:1; 3 John 1:16) and to carry on the work of God’s kingdom into the world (John 14:12).
As you may remember, the word “power” that Jesus uses here is “dunamis” or “dynamis” in the Greek from which we get the word “dynamite.” Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come with power, a power that was able to produce power, might and strength. It was to be a supernatural manifestation of miracles, wonder and powerful deeds. When the Bible uses the word “dunamis,” it never refers to our strength or ability but rather to God’s power “dunamis” in and through us. (Lexicon of the Greek New Testament).
Unless we know and understand the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we are helpless to even think we can do the will of God. The work of God can only be made powerful through the Spirit of God (John 15:1-8).
On the day of Pentecost, Jesus delivered on His promise to send the Holy Spirit into the world.
On the day of His ascension, Jesus promised the disciples extraordinary power, power beyond that of being born again but that of being born of the Spirit through the manifestation of God’s Spirit. But what was that power for?
As you know, Jesus said, “… I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18 NLT). It was on the Day of Pentecost, ten days after Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven, that the Church Jesus promised to build was founded, it came to be, and it not only came with power as we shared two weeks ago but it was established with the indelible characteristics of what Christ designed His Church to be. That is what the power was and is for, to change the world with the mission of Christ. Paul calls the “Church” “the body of Christ, and each one of you are a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
The Message of the Church
The church is to reflect its birthmarks and its birthright. Jesus promises an essential and special power that is necessary for the building of His Church and expanding our witness to the world. It is a special power that takes us to another dimension beyond the power of salvation and into the world of God’s miraculous. It had to be a special power to penetrate the very strongholds of Satan and the world of unbelief. This is the essential power that came on Pentecost.
On the Day of Pentecost, the meek became strong with the message of the Church. In Acts 2:14, 22-24, 36-41, “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem … listen carefully to what I have to say … “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 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 … ‘Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’”
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
The Characteristics of the Church at Pentecost
1. A United Church
Acts 2:1 “And when the day of Pentecost had been fulfilled, they were all together in one place.” Luke actually uses a word which means to be of unanimous purpose. It was his favorite word to describe the early church. It means to have your hearts and minds joined together. The King James says, “They were all together with one accord.” We’re being told that the first Characteristic of the church at Pentecost was unity—physical unity, spiritual unity, emotional unity and doctrinal unity.
In case we miss it, he explains that unity in Acts 2:44-46:
"And the believers were together and had all things in common. Selling their possessions and their goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts."
This is a wonderful picture of what the early Church was like. They were together so much that they took their money and brought it together. They sold their possessions and brought the money and put it together. They took the things they owned and everybody had things jointly owned together. It’s an amazing picture. But did you notice what else they did? In the early Church, one of the characteristics of their unity was that they ate together. They cooked their meals together.
Did you notice verse 47? It shows what happens when the people of God live in this kind of unity: “The Lord was adding to their number day by day people who were being saved.” So great was the unity of the early church that when people looked at them, they were amazed and astounded. There is no substitute for Christian community! They were together praying for the promise of God!
2. A Praying Church
I want to go back to Acts 1 to pick up this point because it explains why the believers were united. Acts 1:14 says that “they all joined together constantly in prayer,” “they” here are the 120 disciples gathered in the upper room, including the apostles, Mary the mother of Jesus and Jesus’ brothers. This prayer meeting comes after the Ascension and before the descent of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They prayed together for 10 days, and it was out of that prayer meeting that unity came. That of course is the point, the glue of the church is prayer, dedicated and concentrated prayer. Acts 2:42-43, 46; Acts 4:32, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles … Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts … All the believers were one in heart and mind.”
3. A Spirit-Filled Church
This is the part we all know about. The third Characteristic of the church at Pentecost is that it was Spirit-filled. Acts 2:4 reads this way, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Underline that phrase “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” The word “them” refers not just to the apostles but to all the disciples who were there.
Here is the secret of the power of the early church: They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
It is so easy to go to extremes on this. It’s easy to get all wrapped up in the outward signs; it’s also easy to ignore the Holy Spirit all together. One extreme is to look at the spectacular phenomena that happened that day and to focus on them—on the sound of the mighty rushing wind, on the cloven tongues of fire, on the speaking in tongues. Some people even build an entire theology around those things. But it is just as dangerous on the other extreme. We may easily ignore the work of the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Spirit was the important event.
It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that transformed Peter the denier into Peter the preacher.
It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that took Thomas the doubter and turned him into Thomas the missionary.
It was the coming of God’s mighty Holy Spirit which took those cowardly, fearful, doubting, hesitant disciples and made them flaming evangelists for Jesus Christ who were ready to lay down their lives for him.
It was that and nothing else. It was the work of the Holy Spirit coming into ordinary men and women who transformed them from ordinary men and women into evangelists for Jesus Christ.
Drop down with me to Acts 2:16. Peter is preaching now and he says, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. ’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’” What follows is the first great sermon of the Church. But the first phrase is the key. Peter is saying, “don’t you understand? Joel was talking about this day. This is the day in which the Holy Spirit would come down and mighty things would happen.” In other words, “This is it, folks. This is the Age of the Holy Spirit.”
We need this truth in our churches today. In the Old Testament, God sent rain from heaven to bring in the wheat harvest. In the New Testament, God sends the Holy Spirit from heaven to bring in the human harvest of men and women into His Kingdom. That’s the biblical significance of Pentecost.
4. A Gospel-Preaching Church
In Acts 2:11, Luke writes that as the disciples spoke the word of God boldly, Jews from across the world said, “.... we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’... The disciples were proclaiming “the wonders of God.” And in verse Acts 2:22 Peter begins to preach the first great gospel sermon, at the end of which 3000 people were saved.
When you are truly filled with the Spirit, you will have boldness to speak about the gospel.
Look at Acts 4:31, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” The early church grew because they prayed, and then went out to sow the seed of God’s word. That’s a pattern you find repeated throughout the book of Acts. As the believers are filled with the Spirit, they begin to share Christ openly. It happens in Acts 2, in Acts 4, it happens to Stephen in Acts 6, and to Paul in Acts 13.
Let me state it very clearly: When the Holy Spirit fills your life, He also opens your mouth with the truth!
Sometimes we get it all backwards. We talk as if the filling of the Holy Spirit is primarily to help us feel better about ourselves. And we pray to be filled so that we will live more obediently or walk with God more closely. Those things are noble and good, but they are by-products of the Spirit-filled life. God fills you with the Holy Spirit so that you will open your mouth to speak of Christ! The Holy Spirit gives holy boldness so that God’s holy people will take the holy Word of God and speak it boldly to an unholy generation.
The Holy Spirit is given to the Church to empower it to preach the gospel. That’s what the believers did in Acts 2.
5. A Harvesting Church
Look with me at Acts 2:9-11. They tell us who showed up in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Meso-potamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Luke makes a circular list starting from the east and going north, then west, then southwest, then southeast. He is trying to show us that on the Day of Pentecost people were in Jerusalem from everywhere. Why? Because it was a pilgrim feast. Jewish men came from everywhere.
What happened next in Acts 2 was not a coincidence. It happened on the Day of Pentecost for a purpose. We read in verse 41, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand people were added to their number that day.” On the birthday of the church, on the day the church was formed, 3000 people joined. How would you like that? A church membership class of 3000. Then notice verse 47, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Who were the first missionaries in the Christian church? They were those people I just talked about a second ago. Those Parthians, those Medes, those Cappadocians, those Romans, those Cretans, those Arabs, those Mesopotamians, those men who had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost. They were the ones who heard the preaching of the gospel by Peter. They were the 3000 who were saved. After they were saved, they went back to Crete, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Rome, and all points of the compass, and through them the seeds of Pentecost were sewn all over the Roman Empire so that within one generation the early church had evangelized the whole Roman Empire.
This is not a coincidence. The church was born in a worldwide harvest. But it wasn’t a harvest of wheat. What started on the day of Pentecost was a worldwide harvest of people. Those brand-new believers were lay missionaries and as they went back to their home countries, they spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
If you look at church history, that’s exactly what happened. Within one generation, the church exploded throughout the Roman Empire. The seed from Pentecost was sown in thousands of cities, towns and villages as men and women moved from place to place.
It all fits perfectly. Pentecost was originally The Harvest Festival. It was the beginning of the grain harvest.
It is no coincidence that the church was born on Pentecost—in the midst of a worldwide harvest. That’s the way the story begins. Revelation 7 tells us how it ends. The events of this chapter, though prophesied 2000 years ago, are yet future to us today.
Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and they were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ’Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
Here we see a great multitude which no one can number. We also are called to be harvesters.
Jesus has called His Church to demonstrate all five of characteristics He established for it on the day of Pentecost. It is to be A United Church, A Praying Church, A Spirit-Filled Church, A Gospel-Preaching Church and A Harvesting Church. Jesus said, “I will build My Church …”
Prayer: “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me, empowering me and us to be and do all you dream of us being and doing!”
The New Readers Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Michael H. Burer, Jeffrey E. Miller
The Wonderful Holy Spirit: What His ‘Dunamis” Power Can Do in Your Life by Jared Laskey
Does God Still Speak to Us Today? By Dave Jenkins
Pentecost: Receiving God’s Power by John A. Huffman, Jr.
The Book of Acts – A Commentary by C. Peter Wagner
The Church – What We Are Meant to Be by Ken Hutcherson
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Revised by Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland
The NIV Application Commentary by Frank Thielman
Matthew Henry Commentary by Matthew Henry
Acts 2 by Ray Pritchard