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Jan 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 17, 2016 – Acts Chapter 2

The Church Catches Fire

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we we were born?” 
Acts 2:1-8

Intro: In 1965 Harvey Cox published The Secular City

As if reporting confirmed facts, he declared the end of religion
– explored possibilities for theology in a godless world
• in the not to distant future, churches would no longer exist
– in 1995, Cox published Fire From Heaven
• in this work he reported the vitality of Pentecostal religion
◦ his research included visiting churches, “revival” meetings and interviews
• it is a warm, thoughtful and insightful work
◦ in the preface, Cox reflects on his earlier sociological and theological influences

“Perhaps I was too young and impressionable when the scholars made those sobering projections. In any case I had swallowed them all too easily and had tried to think about what their theological consequences might be. But it had now become clear that the predictions themselves had been wrong.”

◦ the vitality of Pentecostal faith was evidence of how wrong they were

Pentecostal religion doesn’t prove God exists
– it proves that religious beliefs and fervent devotion are still alive for some people
• but to me it makes sense God’s light would radiate from this corner of Christendom
– the modern Pentecostal movement was all about fire and and heat
• it grew out of a strong belief that Acts 2:
◦ is a record of literal history
◦ and the phenomena reported still occurs in the lives of believers

The Event

We’re not told where this occurred, but it was a large enough space for celebration
– it was also large enough to accommodate onlookers
• though it’s likely that the crowd spilled out into the streets

(Notice how the repeated use of “and” links each statement in the first four verses, speeding up the action and intensifying the drama. The text does not slow down until the crowd really begins to wonder what is happening and then moves very slowly when they list the various regions associated with the “dialects” they heard.)

it began with the sound of a violent storm
• there was no gale force wind, just the sound
• the sound was followed by fire–or what looked like fire
• then whatever was happening hit the apostles and others who were there

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

◦ that is when they started speaking in tongues
◦ and this has been the hallmark of Pentecostal religion

I don’t want to get distracted by speaking in tongues (it’s been a big distraction)
– either they spoke languages they had never learned
• or they spoke gibberish that was (miraculously) understood by bystanders
– an act of God, like tower of Babel, but reversal of it
• instead of many languages resulting in confusion, they communicated one message
• “the magnificent things of God”

The Effect

Luke leaves no room for guess-work regarding the response of onlookers
– they were “bewildered” (v. 6), “amazed & astonished” (v. 7)
• and “continued in amazement and great perplexity” (v. 12)
– some in the crowd were asking, “What does this mean?”
• as if to say, “What’s the significance of this strange event?”
• others were making fun of them, “They’re full of sweet wine”
◦ that is, wine with a high alcohol content

The Explanation

Peter first dismissed the ridicule, “these men are not drunk, as you suppose”
– then he addressed the other and more serious question–what it meant
• this is what the prophet Joel was talking about
• that is, a rare phenomenon in which God acted directly through human agent
– until then, this only happened with very special people (see handout)
• now it was poured out on everyone
• this is what John the Baptist meant when he said

As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Lk. 3:16)

◦ it was also what Jesus had told them to wait for (Acts 1:4-5)

At the heart of Peter’s explanation was Jesus
– the Spirit made the commotion, but Jesus was proclaimed
• the crucifixion was still recent and well known to this audience
• but God had raised Jesus
◦ an act that was anticipated in scripture and witnessed by disciples
◦ God made him “both Lord and Christ”
– the crowd’s immediate question, “what shall we do?”
• how should we take this? Respond? Make it right?
• first, repent; then, be baptized in the name of Jesus for forgiveness

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself. (vv. 38-39)

There were more speeches
– apostles, urging them to dissociate from “this perverse generation”
• “generation” refers to a specific social system
• “perverse” translates the Greek word skolias; “twisted”

The Outcome

Regarding the crowd: many received the word and joined Jesus’ followers
Regarding the apostles: they stepped up to the ministry for which Jesus trained them
Regarding the community: they began and continued growing
vertically: toward God, “feeling a sense of awe” and praising God
horizontally: the ties between them deepened

And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (v. 47)

Typically, Evangelicals have been skeptical of Pentecostals

A few Evangelical leaders have asked, “What we can learn from charismatics?”
– as a rule they mention things like their vibrant faith and energetic worship
• and their remarks are usually made in a condescending fashion
• but I think the most important lesson to learn from Pentecostals and Charismatics
◦ this stuff is real and it actually happens
◦ not that we see miracles all the time, but we are frequently filled with the Spirit

The power of God sometimes surges through a believer
– I suppose it is not unlike the time a woman touched Jesus and was healed

But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me. (Lk. 8:46)

• when the Spirit fills a believer, something dynamic happens
◦ it is greater than what that person is physically or mentally capable of doing
• the Spirit inspires speech, amplifies the volume of the event, and enhances its effect

Caveat: Know what being “filled with the Spirit” is not

It is not what changes a Christian’s life from within
– that is inner the Spirit’s inner work and it is both cooperative and a process
• there is no personal benefit to being “filled”
◦ it doesn’t heal mood disorders, cause a person to prosper, etc.
• a Christian who has experienced this is not more mature, moral, or nearer to God
◦ in fact, the beauty of it is that the disciples’ weaknesses did not disqualify them

It is not an experience to seek for its own sake
– whatever ecstasy or heightened feelings may accompany it
• some churches hold meetings to seek “highs” in God’s Spirit
• they mostly experience the exhilaration of their own amped up emotions

It is not without dangers:

  1. Wise spiritual advice from the monastic tradition: “Beware the big”
    – it requires greater spiritual sensitivity to see God’s work in the small
  2. Inflated egos (1 Co. 4:7)
  3. The rice of false apostles, teachers and so on
  4. We have seen instances of empowered personality disorders
    – not that the Spirit of God has empowered them
    • rather the concepts of the Spirit’s filling and spiritual gifts sets them off
    • they make claims to being prophetic and lure simple minds into their web

Conc: What you need to realize is that you’ve been inducted into ministry

God is going to use you; count on it
– so ask that he fill you with his Spirit as needed (see Luke 11:13)
• talking about being filled with the Spirit cannot make it happen
• we can at least take the steps Peter recommended (reminder: verses 37-39)

I would hope that we could also keep feeling “a sense of awe”
– wonder and reverence evoked by contact with the sacred
• this kind of fear was an important ingredient in the formation of the church
• imagine sharing in common a sensitivity to everything that evokes awe

I would pray that God makes us to be aware of what inspires awe

Blessed are those who point out awe
until we can easily see it for ourselves

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