Acts 1: 12-2:13
We are now about to read the account of the birth of the church. A phenomenon began over 2000 years ago that still continues in the 21st century. The church has been described by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians as two major figures. One is a building; the other is a body. In Ephesians 1:22-23, Paul describes Jesus Christ as the head over all things for the church which is His BODY, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. In Ephesians 2: 19-22, we read of the church being described as members of the household of God, BUILT upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole BUILDING is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. These two symbols- the BUILDING and the BODY help us understand as we see the foundation of the BUILDING laid and then we will read Lukes account of the BODY being born on the day of Pentecost.
After witnessing the ascension into heaven of the Lord Jesus, the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives to the upper room where they were staying. The distance from Mount of Olives to the upper room was described as being a Sabbaths Day Walk. This walk reflected the legalism of the Pharisees, as they had set a distance a person could walk on a Sabbath day without it being considered work. Tradition says it was 7 furloughs which are a little less than a mile. Those staying there were the 11 disciples. We read also that Mary, the mother of Jesus, His brothers along with the women continued in prayer. We know this period will last for 10 days- until the day of Pentecost.
In verse 15, we read of Peter, the official leader of the group stand and speak to the group of believers which numbered 120. For a long time- I thought this group was meeting in the Upper Room- but we read in Luke 24, they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. The size of the group dictated they meet in a larger space, probably in one of the courts of the temple, i.e. Solomons Porch, during the open hours of prayer. Who were these 120? We know the 11 disciples, Mary, the other women and Jesus 4 brothers and His sisters are there and more than likely the 72 disciples Jesus sent out to witness we read of in Luke 10. Others who were numbered we can only guess- but if I were guessing I would include in that list: Lazarus, Martha and Mary; Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimethia , the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and perhaps those who had been personally healed and/or touched in some way by Jesus. You might find Jarius there, the man whose 12 year-old daughter was restored to life by Jesus or perhaps the woman with the issue of blood.
What were they doing during these times? Praying. Studying scripture, obviously. Searching the scripture for directions, for Jesus had shown them how the scriptures revealed His coming, death, burial and resurrection. It also would have been natural for them to talk about the Lord Jesus and share what He had done in their lives. One can imagine it was here that John heard Nicodemus share the details of his conversation with Jesus recorded in John 3; or it was during this precious time- they heard of what Jesus said privately to Martha and Mary prior to the resurrection of Lazarus. Perhaps the woman with the issue of blood testified as to how desperate she was when she took hold of the hem of His robe.
But Peter is going to keep the group on task. He and the disciples had been pouring over the scriptures to see what was predicted for these days. They discovered the Scriptures had predicted the betrayal of Judas and that it was necessary for them to replace Judas. It was important that there be 12 apostles. Just as there are 12 tribes of Israel and 12 gates described in the City of God, John saw coming down out of heaven recorded in Revelations- there are 12 foundations and on those 12 foundations are the names of the apostles. Remember what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:20- built upon the foundation of the apostles. Peter quotes the verses in Psalms 69:25 and Psalms 109 that tell them Judas, the betrayer, must be replaced from among them.
Notice how Peter describes Judas as the one who served as a guide for those who arrested Jesus. Judas is probably the most notorious betrayer in all of history. His name is synonymous with traitor. Judas was the treasurer of the group and it was later discovered he was a thief and an embezzler. Now one ponders how it could be that Judas was prophesied as the one who would betray Christ could be held accountable for his deeds. Gods plan and Judas evil deed concurred perfectly. Judas did what he did of his own free will out of an evil, selfish heart. Gods divine will is worked out according to the counsel of His own will. In other words the perfect will of God and the wicked purpose of Judas concurred to bring about the death of Christ. Judas did it for evil, God meant it for good.
Judas was the typical person who attaches himself to a person whom he thinks can provide him with what he wants. He is a user. If that person he attaches himself to- does not prove to be the one who can get him what he wants which is money and power- he will desert them as we would say today- at the drop of a hat. In truth, the disciples thought Jesus was the Messiah and as such would take over the government. John and James even asked for chief seats of power in the kingdom. Judas was selfish, looking out for number one. He was a thief and a hypocrite. Remember when Mary anointed the Lord with the expensive jar of perfume. Judas complained this could have been sold for 300 denari and given to the poor. He didnt care a thing about the poor- he cared only to have that money in his control. And as we know the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Judas seeing that Jesus was not going to become what he thought he was- switched to the other team in order to gain favor with them.
Judas is a picture of one who comes so close but misses the opportunity. In the end- Judas was sorry for his betrayal. He was sorry- and remorseful for all of his maneuvering had not gotten him what he wanted. He was empty. He had betrayed innocent blood and it had not gotten him what he wanted. He was empty, he was sorry, remorseful- but he did not repent. Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation. Sadly he did not seek the forgiveness from God. He did not seek deliverance from satan who had entered into him, he sought relief from the pain of a guilty conscience. But being deceived- he took his life. Committed suicide by hanging himself. He ignored the light to which he had been exposed and as a result would find himself in eternal darkness. As Jesus said of him- it would have been better if he had never been born.
In their study of Scriptures, Peter and the disciples learned this betrayal was predicted and furthermore they were to replace Judas with another chosen disciple- for there must be 12 apostles. Here is an important lesson we must take note of: in the birth and forming of the church, the body of the Lord and the building of which He was the chief cornerstone- all the instructions for this work are clearly laid out . We must do today- what they did then_- search the Word for directions and wait for power of the Spirit.
In verses 21 and 22 of Acts 1, Peter says here must be the qualifications of the one chosen: the man had to be one who was there from the very beginning, from the baptism of John; and this man had to have accompanied Jesus all through His ministry. He also had to have been an eyewitness to the resurrection.
Why these requirements? Dr. Luke is underscoring as does the New Testament that our faith is not based on myths or legends but on the reliable facts, events which men have seen, heard and been involved in. Our faith therefore rests on the foundation of the apostles who were there, eyewitnesses to Our Lords resurrection, and witness to His miracles.
In the end there are only 2 men qualified out of the 120 gathered. One is named Joseph and the other named Matthias. They appear to be equally qualified. The group prayed the Lord would show them which was to be chosen. Then they cast lots trusting God through this to select the one to become the 12th Apostle. The lot fell on Matthias and he became the 12th apostle. Seems strange they cast lots- which sounds like flipping a coin to me. However Proverbs 16:33 tells us: The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Surely this was the case here and there is no other recorded decision like this in the New Testament.
So using Pauls two symbols for the church- the building and the body. The building is prepared. The foundation is laid. The 12th apostle selected and in place according to what needs to be done. Let us look at little closer at this unusual building. Let us become building inspectors so that we might duplicate the same pattern. These apostles- who laid the foundation had a three fold task- which has not changed since that time over 2000 years ago.
First this group were pioneers, as much as those who braved crossing the ocean to a new land or crossing the frontiers of America as the early pioneers did in this country. They went where the Gospel had never been proclaimed- to India, Europe, Africa and to the uttermost parts of the earth occupied at that time. They were church planters, laying the foundation and getting the Word of God out.
Second, this group were proclaimers. These men or close associates of these apostles would write the New Testament. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. They proclaimed the Word of God as we are to proclaim with boldness, power, passion and clarity.
Third this group serves as a pattern for us on how to build the church. How to penetrate a community and lay the foundation.
Now the BUILDING is prepared, the foundation is in place. It is prepared for the BODY about to be born. Like a new baby about to be born requires a nursery- the preparations have been made. Now for the birth of the baby- the Church, the BODY of Christ.
Acts 2:1-13. Peter and the 120 are all gathered in one place in the courts of the temple on the day of Pentecost ( 50th day after Passover- 10 days after the Lords ascension) when the event takes place. Suddenly it says there was a sound that came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Notice it was a sound like a rushing wind- like a tornado. Often we hear people describe the sound of a tornado sounding like a train rushing past. It was this sound that would attract the crowd to come see what was happening. This was that which Jesus had spoken of and John the Baptist spoke of when he said they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. All were filled with the Spirit at the same time and it says it appeared what seemed to tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Notice it does not say a mighty wind came- it was thesound like a violent wind. It does not say there were tongues of fire resting on the heads but seemed to be tongues of fire. These were the words they chose to describe what they experienced what they saw and heard. The sound of the wind was obviously heard by others who were there in the temple courts that day on the Day of Pentecost who it says they came in bewilderment.
The 120 gathered with Peter, who had been meeting and praying continuously for the last 10 days begin to praise the Lord and declare the wonders of God, which is what we are called to do as witnesses. But now because they were filled and empowered by the Spirit, their words are heard in different languages- that is different dialects. This meant each person there heard this witness, the declaration in their own native language and dialect. Luke tells us the reaction of the crowd was : utter amazement.
How can this be, they asked? Luke lists the many places and countries these people had come from. A word here about the uniqueness of Jerusalem. Josephus, the historian, tells us Jerusalem at this time had a population of approximately 150,000. However, during times of Jewish feasts and special days, the population in Jerusalem could swell to close to a million people. These pilgrims from all of these different countries listed in Acts 2 were Jews or converted Jews who came to celebrate these special days. Always every year at these gatherings there would be talk of the promised Messiah. This year, many welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and hailed Him as the Messiah. Could this be the One, many wondered? After His death and burial, the news of His resurrection spread and many probably stayed on to celebrate the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost. For this reason many were gathered in Jerusalem and the temple.
Let us take note of the two symbols used to described this event and the miracle that occurred with the speaking in different languages. First the sound of the mighty wind- which drew the crowd. What did Jesus tell Nicodemus in John 3? He told Nicodemus he must be born again of the Spirit and the water. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it came from or where it is going. So it will be with everyone born of the Spirit. ( John 3) The Spirit, symbolized by the sound of a mighty rushing wind represents the invisible power of the Holy Spirit.
Fire in the Scriptures represents purity and passion. So here is the sequence- the power comes which is the Spirit and it produces purity and passion. And when we proclaim the Gospel, when we witness in the power of the Spirit and with a pure passion- the Gospel and our witness will be heard with clarity. We need the wind of the Holy Spirit to fan the flames of passion as the disciples on the road to Emmaus proclaimed- didnt our hearts burn within us when He opened the word to us. Our Lord deserves a fiery love, does He not? We can cheer until we are hoarse for our favorite sports team- but get excited about the Lord and what he has done and show some passion and people will look at you funny.
Notice these tongues they spoke in were not gibberish- but were real languages and real dialects that people understood in their own language. Their reaction is described as amazed and perplexed that led them to question what does this mean?
This was a miracle that is the exact opposite of what happened at the Tower of Babel. There they were separated by languages which they could not understand. Now they were joined by tongues, language they could understand as the Spirits power enabled the now filled believers to do.
Watch what happens- for in the two different reactions we will see what is still the two responses to when we witness in the power of the Spirit today.
Verse 13 of Acts 2 tells us some belittled and made fun of the 120 and said these people are drunk and had too much new wine. Interesting choice of words- filled with new wine. Remember what Jesus said- you do not put new wine in old wineskins- for it requires room to expand. These people who laughed and belittled these passionate believers were old wineskins who did not want anything to do with something new. Some will be turned toward the Savior and seek Him with all their hearts- others will harden their hearts and laugh at our passion.
Now we are about to study Peters sermon on Pentecost that gave birth to the church and added 3,000 new believers that day. The foundation for the building had been laid- now the body would be born that would inhabit that building on the foundation of the apostles and the chief cornerstone- the Lord Jesus Christ. On Christ the Solid Rock we stand- all other ground is sinking sand.
We will see a pattern for the spreading of the Gospel, for effective witnessing:
- An explanation of the events that had taken place. The Story of Jesus.
- The Gospel- the good news in regard to Jesusbirth, death, resurrection and exaltation.
- A call for repentance- which is necessary for salvation. For God is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance. You cannot be saved without being baptized with the Spirit, you cannot be baptized with the Spirit except you repent.
We are to be filled with the Spirit to enable us to speak with boldness, with passion, with power and clarity.
May we each set our sails of our life- so they can be filled with the Spirit and blow us to wherever He would take us to be His witnesses and tell the Greatest Story ever told about a Savior who came from Glory! Be My Witnesses. So Help Me God to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the Truth!