Joel 2:28-29, John 16:5-15, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:17-18, Acts 2:24-36
Summary: This message gives a survey of the events leading up to Pentecost and the command from the Lord Jesus to preach the Gospel to everyone. This is an adaptation of a message from the 1995 edition of the Zondervan’s Pastor’s Annual. It needed no update, for the Word of God is eternal.
The disciples were made up of men who had been called from their chosen professions to follow Jesus of Nazareth. Having left all, it must have seemed to them that, at the crucifixion of Jesus, they had lost all. Following the admonition of their Lord, whom they saw disappear into the clouds, they returned to the place of danger – Jerusalem. He had told them that they should tarry there until they received power from “on high.”
They made their way to the Upper Room, where not long before, they had heard Jesus say, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). It was the room where He had promised them the coming of another comforter, someone to stand alongside them (John 14:16). It was the room in which Jesus had promised them peace of which the world was totally ignorant (John 14:27). It was this very room where Jesus had appeared to His disciples after the event of the Resurrection in order to satisfy Thomas, the skeptic of the group, who proclaimed at that moment, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
So, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to receive power, but the question in their minds must have been, “Power to do what?” What was this gathering of believers, these “called out ones,” known as the “church,” to do? The LORD said they were to be witnesses, but in what sense were they to carry this out?
The Day of Pentecost was to be that Divinely appointed time when their answers would be supplied. Pentecost was a time in which the Hebrews gave thanks for the grain harvest and remembered the giving of the Law through Moses. Pentecost was a time of huge crowds because Jews living in other parts of the world chose to come to Pentecost rather than Passover due to better traveling weather that usually occurred at that time.
In many respects, Pentecost is the Tower of Babel in reverse. At Babel (Genesis 11), the pride of people brought the judgment of God, and tongues were confused. At Pentecost, the miracle seems reversed as the confusion of the world suddenly hears the message of God in the languages they understood. God performed a great miracle of communication that day. As the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke with “other tongues.” A literal translation (Acts 2:6) tells us that every person “heard them speak in his own dialect.” Here we see the church beginning its primary mission of proclamation.
The people of God in the Old Testament were a congregation that did not seek to convert outsiders. With the exception of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh, the Old Testament indicates that the Israelites felt that their position was to be an example to the world but not a converter of the world. Likewise, there are churches today that see themselves as social influencers yet shy away from preaching the Gospel that changes hearts and minds in order to be the godly influence Jesus expects.
The proclamation of God’s Word is the prime mission of the church. On the Day of Pentecost, it was Simon Peter who stood to explain that what was happening was the fulfillment of what had been declared by the prophet Joel centuries before, that the time would come when young and old alike would voice the message of God. Just as in the fullness of time, God created all things, and in the fullness of time, He sent His only Son, so also, in the fullness of time, the proclamation of salvation began.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit empowered the church to begin its mission. On a personal scale, the Holy Spirit came to empower and inspire a person’s witness.
Luke, the author of the book of Acts, described the coming of the Holy Spirit in terms of flames. Fire always purifies, and the message of the Gospel is the message that must be preached in truth by people whose hearts have had all falsehood burned out of them. The fact that everyone there heard in their own dialect was an indication that the Gospel was for all the world.
The coming of the Holy Spirit was to bring power primarily for witnessing. God did not give us the Spirit to make us feel good but to make us courageous in the battle for people’s souls. Those who have no desire to be a witness need not pray for any manifestation of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It is the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts the unsaved. Upon hearing Peter’s sermon, many were “pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). The word translated as “pricked” is the word that describes the sting of a hornet. They were stung in their hearts by the Holy Spirit’s power of conviction (John 16:8-10). Here we find the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit with regard to the unsaved world.
God has always been present in a spiritually unseen way in this world. However, before the work of Christ, there was not as clear a manifestation of God and of His love as there was after Christ’s coming.
Before Christ’s coming into the world, the primary method of God’s desire to deliver us was seen in the Exodus. The prophets constantly pointed the people back to the Exodus as proof of God’s power to save and His desire to save. With the coming of Christ, God’s revelation was complete and concrete (Hebrews 1:1-4). Christ was the final message of God, and the message had come with its final fullness, and God’s spiritual presence was there to convince the world that this was truly the message of God. No one nor any other message need apply (Revelation 22:19). The arrival of the Holy Spirit sealed the intent of God (Acts 2:21).
The next message in this series will be on what the church must preach, regardless of whether we or the world likes it or not (Romans 1:16-17, 3:4). In the meantime, I hope this caught your attention. Repent of your sins and give your life to Jesus Christ today (Romans 10:9-10, 13; 2 Corinthians 6:2).