Thursday, April 4, 2013

Acts 2 - Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, and Gathering of the Church

LINK: Acts 2


BACKGROUND

You might remember that we studied the feasts in our first year of the Bible Book Club and the post is HERE. It might be helpful to review it.

Pentecost means "fiftieth" in Greek. It is held fifty days after the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:15-22).  


This chart will help you understand the feasts:


The Feasts of Israel

These are the pictures of Jesus the following feasts represent: 


1) Passover pictures Jesus' death as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7). 
2) Firstfruits pictures His resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). 
3) Pentecost pictures the formation of the church by the giving of the promised Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:11-22).
Here is a link to dates of Pentecost from year to year:  http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/pentecost

For the Jews, it celebrated the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai. It was one of three feasts in which Jews of the "diaspora" (dispersion) would be gathered in Jerusalem (the other two being Passover and Tabernacles). God used this gathering to expose people from all nations to the wonderful message of salvation!



The word for "Spirit" (pneuma) comes from a root word translated as "wind" or "breath."  The blowing of the wind in this passage signified the Holy Spirit coming. 


In the Old Testament, the presence of God was also represented by fire (Genesis 15:17; Exodus 3:2-6; 13:21-22; 19:18; 40:38; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). The tongues of fire represented the presence of God. 


The Spirit baptized (Acts 1:5) and filled (2:4, literally "swelled up") the believers. What is significant about this is the change in the role of the Holy Spirit. Prior to this day, the Spirit was present throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 1:1-2; Judges 6:34; 1 Samuel 16:13) and in the life of Jesus (Luke 1:30-37; 4:1, 14; Acts 10:38), but now the Spirit would dwell IN believers and not just come on them for temporary reasons (Numbers 11:28-29). Jesus had promised this in the Upper Room discourse (John 14:16-17; 16:7). He said that the Spirit would not come until He had been glorified through His death for our sins (Passover), His resurrection (Firstfruits), and return to glory (Ascension, John 7:37-39).  Pentecost was the appointed time for the promised Holy Spirit!


Warren Wiersbe gives a succinct expression of the difference between "baptism" and "filling" of the Spirit:
The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to His body; the fullness of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Him. The baptism is final; the fullness is repeated as we trust God for new power to witness. The baptism involves all other believers, for it makes us one in the body of Christ  (Eph. 4:1–6); while the fullness is personal and individual.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Ac 2:2)
After the Spirit came, the "Galileans" spoke in the various known languages (dialektos) of the Jews from "every nation under heaven" gathered for Pentecost.  Then, the Spirit empowered Peter (Jesus first mentioned the church in connection with Peter in Matthew 16:18) to preach and 3,000 listeners were convicted ("wounded in conscience"), repented, believed in Jesus as the Christ, and saved because, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  

By the way, "be baptized" is also thrown in there and implies that it is necessary for salvation, but the Greek is constructed in 2:38 in such a way that it is a parenthetical comment meaning that baptism will be a visible seal of your repentance but not essential for salvation.  



It is important to notice that Peter relied on Old Testament prophecies to speak to the multi-ethnic Jewish audience. Watch for this pattern throughout the book of Acts. 


Gathering of the Believers


This group of 3,000 converts immediately formed the first church. There were two important activities that they "attended constantly upon" or, in other words, were persistent in:
  • The Apostles' teaching - God's teaching through Jesus. 
  • Fellowship - This included the "breaking of bread" which means a common meal that probably concluded with the Lord's Supper, prayer, and voluntarily holding things in common. The word for fellowship (koinōnía) comes from the Greek word, koinōnós, which means "having in common, partakers of, participants in" something.
The church is off to a roaring start. Hold on to your hats. The book of Acts is going to be a wild ride! 


REFLECTION


In looking at the origins of the Greek word for fellowship, I was struck by how far our current practice of "fellowship" has strayed from its original meaning in the early church. Fellowship meant more than just "being together." It meant everyone was participating in life and service and not just merely observing others serve. Also, being a believer meant fully participating on a daily basis rather than just enjoying the passive act of sitting and listening to a sermon every Sunday and going home to do your own thing for the rest of the week. 
"The Christians you meet in the Book of Acts were not content to meet once a week for "services as usual." They met daily (Acts 2:46), cared daily (Acts 6:1), won souls daily (Acts 2:47), searched the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), and increased in number daily (Acts 16:5).  Their Christian faith was a day-to-day reality, not a once-a-week routine. Why? Because the risen Christ was a living reality to them, and His resurrection power was at work in their lives through the Spirit" (ibid, Acts 2:42). (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Ac 2:42)
Fellowship meant to "give a share of something" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Abridged in One Volume, p. 449). Everyone contributed voluntarily to the collective whole both spiritually and materially. It was motivated by love. An overflow of that was a witness to the lost around them. 


What would happen if we encouraged new believers to enter into the life of Koinōnía fellowship from the first day they come to Christ? How would our churches change?  


APPLICATION


It is providential that I am studying Acts 2 as I have been correcting Lesson 14 of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement for a class here in Corvallis. Lesson 14 is about what the church should look like once it is planted. 


A possible application for Acts 2 might be to evaluate your church in light of the Acts 2:42 model. I am not suggesting being critical but simply evaluating and praying for God's light on the subject of how you "do" church. 


PRAYER


Lord, help us to think deeply and with a sanctified imagination about how You would have us do church. May our fellowship be Spirit-led rather than out of habit. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 
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