Acts 2:1-21 The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Rev. Erik Veerman)
What is the best gift you’ve ever been given? a vacation, a ring or necklace, some sort of electronic device, a watch, tickets to your favorite sports team, a car? Have you seen those commercials with a big bow on top of the car. I’ve always wondered if that ever happens. And how does that conversation go… “honey, I spent all our savings, but I got you a car. I hope you like it?” Sometimes we receive gifts… and on the outside we say, “wow, that’s great. thank you.” But on the inside, we think… “hmm. I’m not sure I really need that.” Other times, we think, “I would have never thought of that” and then the gift becomes something we cherish and hold onto so dearly.
Well, the gift of the Holy Spirit is one of those. The more we grow in our faith, the more we realize just how precious the gift of the Holy Spirit is in our lives.
And this morning, we have come to the very place and time when God poured out this promised gift, the Holy Spirit, to his people. It is THE event in history that launched the church.
In one sense, this is the climax of the book of Acts. Everything from here on out connects back to this gift. The ministry of the apostles to the nations, the beginning and growth of the church, the gathering of souls to the kingdom, and Jesus ongoing ministry in the life of the church and his people. It all proceeds from and through the Holy Spirit.
In verse 1, we read that the day of “Pentecost” had arrived. Pentecost was the annual festival of first Fruits when the first fruits of the harvest were gathered. Pentecost means 50th because 50 days after the Passover, Pentecost was celebrated.
And exactly 50 days after THE Passover. After Jesus fulfilled the Passover. Dying on the cross as the lamb of God. Pentecost comes. And just like Jesus fulfilled the Passover, the Holy Spirit fulfills the Pentecost. We see this harvest of first fruits… not of wheat and grain, but of people to God. Really everything that happens in Acts 2 is a fulfillment of the promises and prophecies of Scripture.
3 points this morning about fulfillment… and you can see those on the back page of your order of service.
A Fulfilled Promise: from water to wind and fire
A Fulfilled People: from Jerusalem to the nations
A Fulfilled Prophecy: from the Holy Spirit to salvation
A fulfilled promise, people, and prophecy.
And let me just say… when it comes to Pentecost, I know there are more questions to answer than available time to work through them. Next week, we’ll get to the heart of Peter’s sermon about Pentecost. And I’m hopeful that over the next weeks and months we’ll grow in both our knowledge of the Holy Spirit… and his ministry in our life and church.
A Fulfilled Promise
So first, a fulfilled promise. From water to wind and fire.
If you remember, back in Acts 1 Jesus told them not to depart from Jerusalem… why? he said in verse 4 “wait for the promise of the Father…” and he went on in verse 5, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Does that sound familiar? Earlier in the service we read similar words. But we didn’t read them from Acts 1. No, rather, look in your bulletin, page 2. Luke 3:15-17… John the Baptist said “I baptize you with water …but He, [that is Jesus], will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
So this event. This Pentecost… it connects the outward sign of baptism, that is water, to the inward reality of baptism, the gift of Holy Spirit.
When we baptize someone. We baptize with water. It’s a sign of cleansing. And it points to the real baptism – Jesus gift of the Holy Spirit. For a child, we baptize with promise and hope, since the child is a member of the covenant community. For an adult who professes faith, we baptize as a testimony to God’s gift to them: faith which includes the inward reality of God’s Spirit given to them.
And so at Pentecost, that sign of water and its promise is fulfilled. Jesus, who is now exalted. He’s given His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. He pours it out on his people.
Now picture the scene. Jesus’ disciples and followers had waited patiently in Jerusalem. They were all together in a home, likely the same upper room… when all of a sudden, the house is filled with a mighty wind. It rushes in from heaven. This gust of wind filled the entire house. We’ve all experienced high winds outside. Tree tops bending sideways. The noise… and the wind pressing upon us... overwhelming our senses. But here this wind storm is on the inside. And not only wind, but fire. Flames of fire appearing above each of them. And the fire jumping from one to another. Imagine their trepidation and joy all at once. “this is it!” And they were filled, it says, with the Holy Spirit.
This is not the first time in the Bible that God’s presence is demonstrated by wind and fire. You may remember Moses in the wilderness. He comes across this burning bush and God, Yahweh, the I am, speaks to him out of the burning bush. A few years later when God leads his people out of Egypt, God’s presence accompanies them through the pillar of cloud and fire.
Add to that, God’s spirit is often represented by wind. In fact, both the Hebrew and Greek words for Spirit involve wind. Ruach in the Hebrew for breath… and pneuma in the Greek for wind.
So this fire and wind demonstrate that God’s very presence has come upon them. The Holy Spirit himself coming down from heaven and given to them. From water to wind and fire. From the outward sign to the inward reality of God’s Spirit in them.
As we think about Pentecost, we have to ask… Is Pentecost a pattern for life, or a promise fulfilled? In other words, should each believer look to or hope for a Pentecost event in their own life? Or, was Pentecost a one-time events in history?
The church has wrestled with this question over the centuries. You may have grown up at a Pentecostal church or know someone who goes to one. Just like the name indicates, that church believes that Pentecost is something that every believer should aspire to experience. A filling of the Spirit. They may even ask you, “have you been baptized in the Spirit?” Well, my answer to that question would be, “yes, I’m a Christian. I believe in Christ as my savior and therefore have his Spirit given to me.”
What I want to argue this morning is that Pentecost is a one-time event. It’s in the category of the incarnation – Jesus becoming man, and the death of Jesus on the cross, and the resurrection, and the ascension. Pentecost is part of God accomplishing Salvation in history. And just like these other one-time events…. Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension, the one-time event of Pentecost brings blessings and benefits to believers in Christ.
A couple weeks ago I shared the story of my ancestors. They immigrated from the Netherlands in the late 1800s and settled in the United States. A new home, a new life, new friends, a new church. Well, that move had an impact on generations to come. 6 generations now. But the thing is… when a new child is born in the family… we don’t have to take that child back to holland, get on a boat and set sail to the US. No, that sounds silly. That child was born here. He or she is already here, is born a citizen.
Well, it’s similar to Pentecost. If you are a believer in Christ, you have the benefits and blessings of Pentecost, God has already poured out his Spirit upon his people, the church. And when you profess faith in Christ, when you are “born again” …you have the blessing of the Holy Spirit. You are “born of the spirit” That’s what it says in John 3:6. In other words, when you profess faith in Christ, you have the benefits that come from the one-time events of the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and Pentecost…
Now, you probably have a lot more questions. And honestly, it would take a couple more sermons to work everything out in more details. But, nonetheless… as we work through Pentecost this week and next week, and the impact of Pentecost throughout Acts, I think you’ll see how this is the catalytic event in the launching of God’s church.
A Fulfilled People
Ok, that brings us to the next fulfillment… a fulfilled people… from Jerusalem to the nations. Remember Jesus promise back in Acts 1:8? Once they received the power of the Holy Spirit… the disciples would be Jesus witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
And look what happens next. Verses 5-13. They began to each speak in different languages. They didn’t know these languages, but God gave them the ability to speak them. And down in verse 11, we learn that their words declared the mighty works of God. They were not uttering undiscernible sounds. Sometimes the Bible refers to “speaking in tongues” as utterances of sound but not human language. But here, these disciples and followers were speaking actual languages. Verse 8. Testifying to God’s work.
And gathered in Jerusalem were people from all over the world, who spoke different languages. They weren’t just anyone, no they were devout Jewish people. It says that in verse 5. They had left Israel years or generations ago either by their own accord or because of a forced exile.
But they had come back for the annual festival of first fruits – of Pentecost. And they heard the wind of the Holy Spirit being poured out. And so they rushed to find out what was going on. At this point Jesus disciples and followers began to speak in other languages… in their languages. And these Jews were amazed. They heard about the mighty works of God in their own native language. Verses 9-11 give us that representative list of where they came from all through out the world.
God is beginning to fulfill his Acts 1:8 promise. Through the Holy Spirit, they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Well, that promise is being fulfilled right before their very eyes! And it happens first in Jerusalem and Judea. Notice that Peter addresses the crowd in verse 14 “Men of Judea and all that dwell in Jerusalem.” Even though they were from all over the world, they were Judeans. Either originally from Judea or their ancestors were from Judea… Judea or Judah was the region in central Israel with Jerusalem as the center.
So what we’re witnessing here is the first part of the Acts 1:8 promise… God’s Spirit being poured out on Jerusalem and Judea…. Then a few chapters later in Acts, we’ll see this fulfillment realized in Samaria, and then a couple chapters after that to the gentiles. There will be an expansion of Pentecost as the Gospel goes forth to the nations.
Let me say it this way: Acts chapter 2 is Pentecost part 1 – The giving of the Holy Spirit to Jerusalem and Judea… stay tuned for part 2 and 3.
Just to be clear, God’s promises had always included people from all nations. That goes back to early in Genesis and to God’s covenant promise to Abraham. But up until now, until Pentecost, God had been focusing his revelation to first a specific family, Abraham and his descendants…. and then a people as that family grew into people, and then a specific nation as God established the nation of Israel.
Well, here at Pentecost… God yet again expanded the scope of his people. This time, He opens wide the door to the nations. A people from every tribe and tongue and nation. His church. That’s what happened at Pentecost. That’s why it’s THE event that launches the church. That expands God’s kingdom from a family, to a people, to a nation, now to the world. Next week we’ll read that on that day, 3,000 believed in Christ… Truly the first fruits of the spiritual harvest as the Holy Spirit moved.
Earlier in the service we read Genesis 11…. the tower of Babel. Before that point in history, the people on earth had one language. But unfortunately, in their sin and godlessness they sought their own glory. They had rejected the Creator. As judgment, God dispersed the people and confused their language. They could no longer understand each other.
Well, we get to Pentecost, and we see a reversal of Babel… or the beginning of a reversal of Babel. Where people from all over can understand. And not just that, but instead of a prideful exalting of mankind… “look what we can do” …instead, the God of the universe is lifted up… His name, and his truth, and his mighty works are declared.
Through Pentecost, God is fulfilling his promise of a people… a people from every tongue and nation, a people united together in Christ, not divided but united through the Holy Spirit. God’s fulfilled people.
A Fulfilled Prophecy
And that brings us to A Fulfilled Prophecy.
As many people observed this amazing phenomenon, some wondered what was happening, others were skeptical and mocked.
Then the apostle Peter lifted up his voice and addressed them all. By now, several thousand had gathered. Some out of curiosity… some drawn to know and understand what was going on.
And what does Peter do? He does the same thing he did in chapter 1. He goes right to Scripture. What you are witnessing is not drunkenness… no, rather, this was prophesied long ago. Peter then quotes from the prophet Joel chapter 2.
Next week, we’ll look at the rest of Peter’s sermon … where he explains the source and power of the Holy Spirit’s ministry.
But today, in Joel’s prophecy. We see the scope and effect of Pentecost.
Look at verses 17 and 18. They give us the broad picture of who the Holy Spirit will reach. Young and old, sons and daughters, and servants. There’s not a category of people, whom the Spirit will not reach.
This is a contrast to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Yes, God’s spirit was present and at work. Right in Acts chapter 1, Peter declared that the Holy Spirit worked through King David.
And also, God spoke through Moses, through the prophets. But before Pentecost, the ministry of the Spirit focused on Israel and specifically those whom God had given a special role. One commentator says it this way “before this new period, the Spirit had been distributed to a few people on special occasions for special enablement. This is a key sign that the new era has come.”
In the last days, it says, His Spirit will be poured out on All flesh. People from all nations, from all walks of life. It’s not limited to the prophets, rather, it says they all “shall prophecy.” It’s not saying that there will be new prophecy, new Scripture. No, rather, all who believe in Christ will have his Spirit, and will be given an understanding of God’s word, His prophecy.
Now remember to whom Peter is speaking. This crowd of now thousands were devout Jews. They’d been longing for a fulfillment of the prophecies. Longing for the messiah. And as Peter is quoting Joel, they knew the context. Joel prophesied while a locust invasion decimated Judah. The whole nation was on the brink of collapse. And Joel prophesied that things would get worse! Yet in the middle of the disaster, he told of a wonderful promise… God’s Spirit poured out to all people. And it will happen in the last days.
Well, things were bad. Judah was at the lowest point in its history – they weren’t even an independent nation. And when Peter proclaimed this prophecy fulfilled, it signaled a turning point. A fulfilled hope.
But it’s a hope that includes a warning of judgment. As part of this prophecy… Joel describes a future day of blood and fire and smoke…. This image connects us to Jesus future return… the “day of the lord” …verse 20. When the sun is darkened and the moon turns to blood.
I want to go back for a moment to the flame above each disciple and follower. Yes, the flame signified God’s presence. But part of that presence involves justice… involves a coming judgment. When John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He continued, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So both in the Joel’s prophecy and the Pentecost flame we’re reminded of God’s justice and the coming judgment.
And we’re left to ask, “who can escape that day?” – a day of judgment. But we get to verse 21… and God answers: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is the effect of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit’s work in drawing people to Christ.
It’s not saying that each and every person in the world will be saved. No, rather God’s redemptive work no longer focuses on Israel, but has expanded to all peoples, all languages, all nations. But salvation is for those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus.
This is not a contradiction… there is no person in the world who does not need the saving work of Christ. And there is no person in the world that God would not receive if they repent and believe in the saving work in Christ.
This is the focus of the Spirit’s work. Turning hearts to God… revealing sin and judgment and the salvation that comes through Christ. In fact, that’s what the “the mighty works of God” include. That phrase is back in verse 11. The mighty works of God through the redemption of Christ… his life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and now pentecost. How do I know that? Well, you don’t have verse 22 in your bulletin, but if you have a Bible, look down at verse 22… it’s through Jesus ministry that God accomplished mighty wonders. The rest of Peter’s Pentecost sermon focuses on Christ! That will be our focus for next week… how Pentecost connects to Jesus ongoing ministry.
In other words, Pentecost fulfills Joel’s prophecy… why? because at Pentecost God poured out his Spirit to people from all nations… And through His Spirit… the Lord revealed salvation from judgment. That everyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved.
A fulfilled promise, people, and prophecy
Beloved. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is not limited to a people a long time ago in a nation far far away.
No, this gift is for you. And if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and call on him for salvation… God has given you this gift. There’s no second blessing. No second baptism in the Holy Spirit. Everyone who professes Christ as Lord and savior… receives the great Pentecost blessing of the Holy Spirit.
This is the greatest gift ever. Because the Holy Spirit applies the salvation of Christ to you, opens your heart and mind to understand and apply His Word, He brings conviction, directs you on the path to righteousness, and encourages you in eternal hope.
And if you do not have this gift. In other words, if you have never come to Christ. Never turned from your sin, submitting your life to him. The day will come, when the justice and all consuming fire of the Lord will be poured out. If that’s you. come to him, receive this gift, and be saved.