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Be filled with the Spirit

Back to all sermons Living the mission of God: the book of Acts

Date: June 24, 2018

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: Living the mission of God: the book of Acts

Scripture: Acts 2:1–2:13

Last week, I began a new sermon series going through the book of Acts. This morning we’ll be in Acts 2, looking at what is known as the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 1, we saw Jesus, after rising from the dead, spend 40 days in Jerusalem teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God before He ascended to heaven. The ascension is significant for three primary reasons, I said. The first is that Jesus now has divine authority, and so we can trust Him, no matter what is going on in our lives, knowing that He is working all things together for good, as it says in Romans 8:28-29. The second is that Jesus is exercising a divine advocacy on our behalf before the Father, so that we know we are accepted forever as the Father’s beloved child. Romans 8:33-34 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

 

And the third reason the ascension of Jesus is significant is that we can have divine intimacy with God. If Jesus were to remain on earth, he would only be in one location, but because he has ascended, he now sends His Holy Spirit to live inside of every believer, so that we can have God living in us at all times. That is what this morning and Acts 2 is all about. The disciples are in Jerusalem praying and waiting for God to send the Holy Spirit. John 14:16-17 - And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--  17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you

 

Let’s read Acts 2:1-13:

 

Acts 2:1-13 - When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?  8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?  9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-- we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"  12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"  13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."

 

Acts 2 is a pivotal moment in world history. Christmas is big, Easter is bigger, but Pentecost has to be up there with those two. I know that when I talk of salvation, I so often focus on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And sometimes I add his second coming, where he will save us from the presence of sin. But that is not the totality of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Yes, He lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we deserved to die, and rose again to conquer sin and death, but after that He ascended to heaven, and gave to us his Holy Spirit to work out in us the victory which He had won for us. This morning, I want to look at the significance of Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit. In v. 12, the crowd asks “What does this mean?” I want to answer that question this morning. I don’t plan to teach everything about the Holy Spirit this morning, but I will start the conversation.

 

First of all, you can’t understand the giving of the Holy Spirit without understanding Pentecost, the day on which God gave His Holy Spirit. What was Pentecost? In the Old Testament, it was also called the Feast of Weeks –

 

Exodus 34:22 - Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest

 

Leviticus 23:15-17 - "'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.  17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD

 

The Feast of Weeks, Pentecost, was the 50th Day after Passover, a one-day agricultural festival, where farmers brought the first sheaf of wheat from the crop and offered it to God, partly as a sign of gratitude, and partly as a prayer that all the rest of the crop would be safely gathered in.  Pentecost was the celebration of the firstfruits of the Harvest.

 

Secondly, Pentecost was also a reminder of the giving of the Law, which happened at Mt. Sinai, 50 days after the first Passover. At Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses the law, giving his redeemed people the way of life by which they must now carry out his purposes.

 

So the crowds have gathered on Pentecost for this agricultural festival, and the 120 disciples are together praying. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  The Spirit comes in wind and fire and other languages, and the people who have come from all over hear in their own language. So what is Luke telling us about the coming of the Spirit?

 

  • The Spirit is the firstfruits of the harvest

 

Romans 8:22-23 -We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

 

We have the firstfruits of the Spirit. We have the first taste of what it will be like to know God, to have Him with us, to know His love, to have His power. And those who are converted at Pentecost are the firstfruits of the great harvest of souls that is to come.

 

  • Secondly, the Spirit writes the law on their hearts

 

At Mt. Sinai, Moses goes up the mountain and comes down with law for the people to know what it means to know and follow God and to be His people. And now, Jesus goes up to heaven, and the Spirit comes down to write God’s law not on tablets of stones, but on their hearts. It fulfills the prophecies about the new covenant, the new spirit that God will give:

 

Jeremiah 31:31-33 - "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.  33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

 

Ezekiel 36:26-27 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

 

So on Pentecost, the people of God are given the Spirit of God as the firstfruits of the harvest that is to come, and as a new law, written on their hearts.

 

But there is one other thing going on here. Notice the list of nations – it seems awkward in the passage. Why is that there? The last listing of the nations was in Genesis 10, culminating in Genesis 10:32 - From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood. And then in chapter 11, at Babel, the nations wanted to build a tower to heaven and be like God, and ended up creating disunity, as they were scattered and given different languages. Immediately afterward comes the promise from God to Abram that the curse will be reversed: Genesis 12:1-3 - The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.  2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Now, in Acts 2, we have Babel reversed by the Holy Spirit. We see the Spirit uniting people across all barriers. The nations are united by the Spirit, who cuts across all cultural and linguistic barriers to unite a new people of God in the Spirit. In doing so, it looks forward to that final gathering of all nations in 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 were holding palm branches in their hands.  10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

 

So why does it matter that the Spirit was given on Pentecost? The Spirit is the firstfruits of the Harvest. It is the new law of God, written on their hearts. And it unites a new people of God across all barriers.

 

Now, all of that may be fascinating to you. But the coming of the Holy Spirit is so much more than that. Look at the imagery here. Violent wind, tongues of fire, speaking in other languages. The Spirit is the sound of a violent wind, symbolizing power. The Spirit is tongues of fire, symbolizing purity. The Spirit empower and purifies at the same time. The Spirit transforms someone from a lifeless believer into someone whose heart is on fire with the love of God. And the Spirit causes them to speak in other tongues, uniting people across cultures and languages.

 

There is a limit to what I can do. I can teach you what Pentecost means, but I can’t teach you what Pentecost means. I can teach you about the Holy Spirit, but I can’t teach you about the Holy Spirit. He needs to do that. He is looking for men and women who want to know Him, who desire His power and purity in their lives. God wants to pour out His Spirit in greater abundance in your life and on this church. He is looking for a people who will go after him, who will submit themselves to him, who want to be holy, who want to be used for service. Pray, fast, ask Him to pour out His Spirit. So I want to talk about how the Spirit empower and purifies. But first let me address the speaking in tongues part.

 

One of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament, as well as at Pentecost, is speaking in tongues, or glossolalia. I’d like to talk about that a little this morning. Is what you see in Acts at Pentecost the norm, what is to be expected? Are tongues for today? If so, how are they to be exercised?

 

When it comes to tongues, there is a spectrum in the church, from cessationist to those who believe that all Christians who have the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues. This is a secondary issue, one that should not divide Christians. There is room for both in the body of Christ.

 

The cessationist view is this: Tongues was speaking in a known language in the book of Acts, with a specific purpose in redemptive history, and is not needed today. It was a sign that the Spirit had come, that God was speaking truth from heaven, and a sign of judgment to unbelieving Israel, that because they would not listen, he would speak in a language they could not understand to others. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is a correction to a church doing something pagan that was not representative of the work of the Holy Spirit. It affirmed that those who spoke spoke God’s truth; but now that the Bible is finished, we don’t need tongues any longer.

 

The opposite end of the spectrum is the Pentecostal view: What we see in Acts 2 is to be the norm, that all Christians should be baptized in the Spirit as a second experience after salvation, and that the initial evidence that you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit will be that you speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a gift to be sought by every Christian who wants the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of God’s blessing.

 

From the elders’ understanding of Scripture, I want to share our perspective on the gift of tongues. Remember what I said in the first sermon about how to read Acts – take what is written as descriptive, not prescriptive; look for commands, whether in Acts or in other places in the New Testament. Pentecost was not repeatable – it was a specific moment in salvation history, complete with tongues of fire, speaking in other languages – unifying the nations, foretaste of heaven, sign against the Jews. And speaking in tongues does not always accompany the giving of the Spirit in Acts.

 

In order to understand speaking in tongues, we need to go to 1 Corinthians 14. The Corinthian church was full of gifts, but not maturity. Paul writes chapter 14 in order to address the use of tongues in the church. Here are seven things we learn about this gift:

 

It is spiritual language to God (as opposed to prophecy, which is language from God to people); as such it is a foretaste of our ultimate fellowship with God. 1 Corinthians 14:2 - For 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. 1 Corinthians 14:13-14 - For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.  14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

It is a good gift of God that can build up your faith - 1 Corinthians 14:4 - He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 1 Corinthians 14:5 - I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. 1 Corinthians 14:18-19 - I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

It is not given to all - 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 - Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

It is not a mark of greater spiritual maturity (the Corinthian church had the gift but was not mature - 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 - Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-- mere infants in Christ.  2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.) - 1 Corinthians 13:1 - If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

In the church, it is not edifying to the congregation unless there is an interpretation - 1 Corinthians 14:6 - Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 1 Corinthians 14:18-19 - I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:23-28 - So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?  24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all,  25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"  26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.  27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-- or at the most three-- should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.  28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

Tongues without interpretation can harm the witness of the church, especially to unbelievers; it is a sign of God’s judgment - (Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:11-12, where the Assyrian army comes as agents of God’s judgment) – if an outsider comes in and hears speaking in tongues, he will conclude you are mad, and it will function as a sign of God’s judgment. 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 - In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord.  22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.

Don’t forbid it, but do it in an orderly way - 1 Corinthians 14:39-40 - Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

 

If you read Acts & 1 Corinthians and think differently about this subject, please speak to myself or one of the elders, as we are open to discussion.

 

The Spirit empowers. Remember Acts 1:8 - But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

 

What would have happened if the disciples had gone ahead to preach without waiting? If they had gone ahead without waiting, they would have been able to do nothing of eternal significance. You may think it’s different today, but truly it is not. If the enemy can keep you busy believing that the answer to your problems is found in trying harder, and not in accessing the power of the Holy Spirit, he’s won. If the enemy can get us believing as a church that the way to reach the world is through better programs and plans and not through prayerfully depending on the Spirit and walking according to the Spirit, we’re sunk. Our power comes from the Spirit:

 

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 - When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power,  5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

 

Or consider Acts 4:13 - When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

 

The Spirit gives us gifts with spiritual power to transform lives:

 

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 - There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,  9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

 

Why do you want the power of the Spirit? Why do you want spiritual gifts? It has to be for the common good. The Spirit gives a supernatural gifting that is beyond any physical gifts. One great modern example is of DL Moody:

 

In the summer of 1871 two women of Dwight L. Moody's congregation felt an unusual burden to pray for Moody "that the Lord would give him the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire." Moody would see them praying in the front row of his church and he was irritated. But soon he gave in and in September began to pray with them every Friday afternoon. He felt like his ministry was becoming a sounding brass with little power. On November 24, 1871, Moody's church building was destroyed in the great Chicago fire. He went to New York to seek financial help. Day and night he would walk the streets desperate for the touch of God's power in his life. Then suddenly,

 

One day, in the city of New York—oh, what a day!—I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name . . . I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world—it would be small dust in the balance. (W. R. Moody, The Life of D. L. Moody, New York: 1900, p. 149)

 

The Spirit empowers for ministry. He gives gifts for the edification of the body. Should we not look different with the power of God within us? Pray for greater power for service. With the Holy Spirit empowering you, your life should look differently, unexplainable apart from the power of God.

 

The Spirit also purifies, like fire burning away the dross and leaving pure gold. The Spirit convicts you of sin and lifts up Jesus so that you will desire Him more and become more like Him. Why does purity matter?

 

Matthew 5:8 - Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Purity of heart is to desire one thing. The Holy Spirit purifies us so that we would want Jesus above all other things. I want to know you, follow you, and be like you – that is the cry of the heart that is pure.

 

Galatians 5:22-25 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

To be pure is not to become some self-righteous, uptight person. No – it is becoming a person of Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. That should get you on your knees asking for more of the Spirit. That is what someone purified by the Spirit looks like.

 

2 Timothy 2:20-21 - In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

 

The Spirit purifies not just for yourself, but so that you might be an instrument for noble purposes, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. He wants to make you a vessel that He can use, an instrument for his purpose. He has good works for you to do.

 

1 John 1:8-10 - But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 

Finally, listen to Paul’s words in Romans 12:1-2 - Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship.  2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

Offer yourselves to him as living sacrifices, pure vessels to be used. Don’t be like the world. Let His Holy Spirit purify you as you give yourself to Him. Pray that He would empower you and our church today.