The Holy Spirit
The theme of today’s message is God’s Heroes Have Power. For that, we will consider Acts 2, where something amazing is recorded.
To lead up to that, here is some background information.
At the start of Acts 1, we are reminded that Jesus, for 40 days after His resurrection, presented Himself to His apostles, presenting Himself alive.
In those presentations, Jesus continued to teach His disciples spiritual things. One of the things He taught was about the Kingdom of God. Another thing He taught was for the apostles to wait in Jerusalem.
Remember Jesus’ closest followers had been with Jesus for three years. During that time they had been taught by Him. They had also been sent out on kind of a training mission.
The apostles knew they were supposed to continue His message of love and salvation. However, now Jesus told them to wait, at least to the point of not speaking for Him or about Him anywhere but in Jerusalem. They were to wait to go elsewhere until they received the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had earlier told them about the Holy Spirit. That when Jesus was gone, the Holy Spirit would be with them to continue to teach them and remind them and encourage them. Now Jesus taught His apostles to wait until the Holy Spirit filled them before they expanded their ministry beyond Jerusalem. Expansion that, Jesus told them, would reach beyond the capital city to other places in Judea, which was the southern part of Israel, then into Samaria, which was the middle part of the country, and eventually to the ends of the earth.
Forty days following His resurrection, after continuing to teach His apostles, Jesus returned to Heaven. What a fantastic sight that must have been. Right after that, Peter began his preaching career in Jerusalem. The rest of the apostles no doubt preached as well, but it is one of Peter’s sermons that is recorded in Acts 1.
Then, Acts 2. “On the Day of Pentecost…” Pentecost is a Greek word meaning “50.” It refers to 5o days after the Jewish Passover celebration. That means this day was about seven weeks following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
There were a number of things the Jewish people celebrated on that day each year, including celebrating the recent spring harvest. It was also a time set aside to celebrate the giving of God’s law to Moses on Mount Sinai.
“On the Day of Pentecost, all the apostles were together.” By the way, the apostles, who had at one time been 12, had been reduced to 11 because of Judas’ killing himself after he betrayed Jesus. Toward the end of Acts 1, Matthias had been chosen to be the new twelfth apostle.
“On the Day of Pentecost, all the apostles were together.” So, too, were many, many other followers of God in Jerusalem.
Most were there for the celebration held each year on the Day of Pentecost. The wording is that the crowd was made up of “devout men from every nation.”
That likely refers to every civilized nation known at that time, but the point is there were many, many people there, representing much of the known world. The list of nationalities includes Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabians.
Followers of God were in Jerusalem that day. Followers from many different nations. Followers with many different languages.
“On the Day of Pentecost, as all the apostles were together” in one place, there was suddenly a sound. It came from Heaven. It sounded “like the rush of a mighty wind.” It filled the house where the apostles were.
Then there appeared “tongues as of fire.” The tongues went around the room, “resting on each one” of the apostles.
At that instant, each of the apostles was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” which makes the wind and the fire very significant.
Remember when Adam was created, God breathed the breath of life into him. That is what happened to the apostles spiritually. God breathed spiritual life into each of them.
Remember in the Old Testament, fire is associated with the presence and the purity of God. That is what happened to the apostles. That day they were assured of God’s presence. They were assured of the possibility of being and staying pure, at least spiritually.
Immediately each of the apostles gained a wonderful, important ability. Each one “began to speak in other tongues.”
There are, in the Christian world, differing opinions what the ability to speak in other tongues means. To me, it refers to the apostle’s sudden ability to speak other languages. Languages they had not studied and did not know, but languages others knew. Others like the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabians. The others who were in Jerusalem that day.
That is how I interpret what happened because - verses 6 and 7 - at the sound that filled the house, the others in the city - those from around the known world - went to the house. Right away they each heard the apostles speaking in languages they - the other people - understood. “How is it,” they asked, “that we are each hearing our own language?”
All the foreigners in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost were amazed. The wording is they were amazed and “perplexed.” They all asked, What does this mean?” But then some gave the miracle a negative twist. They accused the disciples of being “filled with new wine.”
That accusation was addressed right away by Peter, in a sermon. “Let this be known,” he began. “Give ear to my words.”
He continued, “These men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. [The third hour was 9:00 in the morning.] No, what you are hearing is the fulfillment of what the Old Testament prophet Joel predicted. ‘In the last days it shall be,’ God declares, ‘that I [God] will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams. Yea, and on My menservants and My maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.’”
Prophesying refers to preaching. That is what the people in Jerusalem were hearing. It was not wine that had filled the apostles. It was the Holy Spirit who filled them. It was the Holy Spirit who gave them to ability to speak in languages everyone could understand.
That was said by Peter so he could get the attention of the people back to spiritual things. He then said some more. Words designed to convict the people who followed God to also follow Jesus.
Quickly to summarize, Peter said, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord Jesus shall be saved. Hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God, with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst, was delivered up according to the plan of God. After being delivered, He was crucified and killed.” That had happened by the hands of lawless men, but Peter accused the ones in the crowd that they had been involved, probably because they had done nothing to stop what was happening.
“But,” Peter continued, “God raised Jesus up. Of that, we who are His apostles, are witnesses. Jesus is now exalted at the right hand of God. And,” Peter added, “having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which you see and hear.” As Peter explained, it was for Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, given by God, that we “are able to speak His message.”
When the people, all in their own languages, heard this, they were, it is worded, “cut to the heart.” They were greatly bothered - horribly sad - that they might have had something to do with Jesus’ death. They were afraid that because of that, they might miss out on Heaven.
They were so bothered and afraid - so cut to the heart - they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter’s answer was very simple. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.” Do that - accept Jesus as Savior and be baptized - and they, too, “shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter added one more thing. He said, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” Wow, that can be applied to our own day and age. Save yourselves by accepting Jesus.
The result? A total of 3000 people that day responded to what Peter said. They responded by accepting Jesus. Wow. I have never had that kind of response. But Peter did that day.
Right away, those who believed, not only in God, but now in Jesus as well, were baptized.
Listen to what else the new believers did. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship with them and with each other. Their fellowship included the breaking of bread and praying. All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. They had glad and generous hearts. They praised God. They found favor with all the people. And they grew numerically. The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
What a wonderful day was the Day of Pentecost. What wonderful heroes of God the apostles became because of the power they received from the Holy Spirit resting on them.
But you know what? Their Holy Spirit-given power was evident not only that day. It continued.
For instance, they performed miracles. Yes, it was the hand of God that did the miracles, but they were done through the Spirit-filled apostles.
Peter, John with him, met a man who had been lame all his life. Peter, in the name of Jesus, said to the man, “Walk.” Peter then took the man’s hand and raised him up. Immediately the man’s feet and ankles were strong. The man walked and jumped and praised, not Peter, but God. The Holy Spirit can keep us humble enough to make sure God gets the credit.
That healing gave Peter opportunities to preach some more, including some forceful words to Jewish religious leaders. That is amazing because remember, shortly before Jesus was crucified, Peter had been afraid to admit he even knew who Jesus was. Now he spoke very strongly.
Another time, Peter healed a man who had been paralyzed for eight years. That healing was done in the name of Jesus.
Peter healed a woman named Tabitha.
There were times when even the shadow of Peter, when it fell on someone who was sick, led to healing.
Peter was not the only one who had success. Philip achieved getting evil spirits out of people. He also healed people who were paralyzed or lame.
I am always impressed by something Jesus told His disciples when He said the works He did would be surpassed by those who believe in Him. That was certainly fulfilled by the apostles after they were filled by the Holy Spirit.
And there were other wonders.
Several times in the Book of Acts it is recorded the apostles, sometimes all together or in small groups, other times alone - including Paul, who was a later apostle, and Stephen, who was a great leader in the early church - were railed against by crowds of people. Sometimes they were threatened. Other times they were attacked. Each time, the apostles did not give up their faith. Instead, they many times preached even more strongly. They were able to do that after they received the Holy Spirit. They were able to do that because of the spiritual power they received from the Holy Spirit.
Another wonder - one that went beyond the apostles and affected others who believed in Jesus and were filled with the Holy Spirit - is this. Those who believed had great generosity.
One example of that has already been mentioned. Everyone shared what they had so no one was in need.
Another example was the willingness of Christians in many areas to contribute money for the needs of fellow Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering through a difficult time, at least in part because of persecution against anyone who was a Christian.
Power. That is one thing God’s heroes have. Power from God. Power available from Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Have you accepted Jesus? If not, you need to. Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? For some, that comes at the moment of accepting Jesus. For others, it may come through asking specifically for such a filling. That is the way it was for me.
Have you accepted Jesus? If not, do so. Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? If not, ask to be. It is the only way you can have spiritual power. The power needed to tell others about Jesus, to share, to be generous, to have a glad heart.
And one more thing. Do not ever say you are not worthy of salvation from Jesus or power from the Holy Spirit. Do not ever think they could not possibly use you. Over and over again in the Bible, God gives evidence He can use anyone.
Listen to this list. Many of them are Old Testament people, who did not receive the Holy Spirit as did the apostles in Acts 2, but listen to who God used. Who God used very effectively, despite their problems.
Noah - the one who built the ark - was a drunk, at least at one point of his life, yet he was used by God.
Abraham was too old. He said that, but God made him the father of a great nation.
Jacob was a liar.
Joseph was abused by his own brothers before being mistreated by others, but he rose to great power in a foreign land. Power that eventually allowed the people of God to survive a famine.
Moses had a stuttering problem. God still used him.
Samson was a womanizer.
David, who went from being a shepherd for his father to being the king of God’s people, was, at one time, an adulterer and a murderer, yet God blessed him, including after David repented of his sins.
Jonah ran from God before finally being persuaded to preach in the dangerous city of Nineveh. The preaching happened after Jonah spent three days in and then was rescued from the belly of a great fish. The result of his preaching was repentance by the Ninevites and a turning to God.
Job went bankrupt and felt misused by God.
On to the New Testament, as mentioned earlier, Peter denied Jesus, doing so three times after promising to never turn away from the Lord. We know Peter went on from that to become one of the major forces in the early Christian church.
Remember Paul,. He began his adult life as an enemy of Jesus and His followers. The Lord turned him into a very effective minister for the Lord.
Timothy. Earlier it was mentioned Abraham was too old to serve God. Timothy was apparently hindered because he was so young. Paul encouraged him to keep going in his ministry.
No matter what you have done in the past, no matter what problems you might still have, you can be used by God. You will be used when you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. You will be used most effectively when you are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Those two things - accepting Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit - will give you power. Spiritual power. Which will make you a hero for God.
We are going to have a closing song. Please, if you need to accept Jesus or ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you, do that instead of singing. Pray. Accept and ask. Please.
The closing song is Breathe on Me, Breath of God.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
God, help us to be Your heroes. To achieve that, help us to accept the power that is available from the Holy Spirit. Help us to use that power. Amen.