Study 3: The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost – Acts 2
The day began like any other. How often do we wake up in the morning and consider that today is just like so many that have gone in the past? What is so different about today compared to the last seven days? If we were honest, probably not a lot!
It’s amazing how we take things for granted. We even take our Christianity for granted, and if we are Christians, we take the fact of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives for granted. The Holy Spirit is a Person, He longs for us to talk with Him. He has been sent here for us. He is called our Comforter. Counsellor; Helper; Advocate; Intercessor; Strengthener; and Standby, what more do we need?
Jesus warned all His disciples near the end of His life how He was going to send the Holy Spirit to them, and how powerful He would be in the world in convincing them of sin, righteousness and judgement. He also explained how the Holy Spirit would lead them into all Truth and tell them about the future and point them towards Him, and remind them of all He had taught them, John 16:5-15; John 14:25-26.
The day did begin like any other – probably bright blue skies – but when the believers awoke they didn’t expect anything more than any other day, Acts 2:1-4. The Bible is actually quite explicit about what happened, the sound like a windstorm, and the tongues of fire, and all believers speaking in other tongues, with all those who are watching hearing the believers declaring the wonders of God in their own language Acts 2:5-6.
There is another example of God appearing like this to Elijah when he was running scared of King Ahab and had run to Mount Horeb from Mount Carmel, where he had prayed for rain after a three-year drought (1 Kings 17:1). He was in fear of his life because Jezebel (Ahab’s wife) had threatened to kill him. At that time, there was a mighty wind, sufficient to break the stones, an earthquake and fire, but God was not in any of those. Instead He spoke in a ‘still, small voice’, 1 Kings 19:1-3; 1 Kings 19:11-13
But this time God the Holy Spirit was in the events. The sound of the mighty windstorm conveys the presence of God and the content of Power in what was happening. The tongues of fire convey the strength of it and the individual application of authority. This event excluded none of those present, and as the Bible states that all the believers were in one place at the time, it included the entire Church. No person missed out, but no person outside the Upper room received this power, and no person who is not a Christian has ever received this power to this day.
When the Church begins to move in power, the world will sit up and start to notice. When it catches fire, people will come to watch it burn! Some will attempt to douse it with cold water and will find it unquenchable, but many, many others will join it. When God spoke to Moses at the Burning Bush, the exceptional thing that attracted Moses was that the bush was not consumed. It caught Moses’ attention and God was able to speak to him and to commission him to set His people free, Exodus 3:1-10.
When the Church begins to burn in Revival, it will not be consumed either, but will go from strength to strength empowered by the Holy Spirit as He prepares the Bride of Christ, the Church. Its commission will also be to set God’s people free. Just as man did not and could not engineer the burning bush, neither will any man or any church be able to engineer or corral the move of God that we will call Revival. Perhaps revival is the wrong term as it implies a re-awakening of something which was once alive but has gone to sleep or has died. It will certainly do that, but it will be much more encompassing, and people who have never given God the time of day will become Christians and catch the fire of God as it sweeps through our land.
These people experienced God. It is not wrong to experience God. He knows that we are human and that we need to have a heart-knowledge as well as a head-knowledge. Those who were present at the Day of Pentecost would never forget it. Not just those who were filled with the Holy Spirit, but those who heard His arrival together with the ability of the disciples to speak in tongues. The speaking was not the most amazing thing; it was that those who listened heard these people speak in their own languages. In no time at all a massive crowd had gathered – certainly more than 3,000.
What had happened had been prophesied by the prophet Joel hundreds of years earlier, Joel 2:28-32. These men were Godly Jews from every nation under heaven; the audience was one which was worldwide. When God does something, He chooses His timing perfectly. What better way to announce the fulfilment of something promised than to do it to all nations at the same time? Be assured that the Jews who had been present would have taken the message back home very quickly!
So now, not only had access to God been made open to all who want to come to Him at the Cross, but now the Holy Spirit had been poured out on all who had become Christians and would continue to be from that Pentecost onwards. Of course if we don’t want Him, then God will respect our decision – the only problem is that the power and authority that we require to fully operate in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and walk as Jesus walked will not be there for us. The Godly Jews from every nation under heaven wondered what was going on thinking that some were even drunk on such a religious occasion, Acts 2:7-13.
The most disturbing thing was that the disciples were speaking in languages the listeners could understand, but the disciples themselves were Galileans. People from Galilee were not thought of very highly in those days and were not educated.
There will always be those who want to destroy and demean the work of God. In fact it was Satan’s plan to do so. He knew that if these people got hold of what the disciples had, his days of controlling power were numbered. Whenever there is a work of God, there will always be mockers at work. Satan will be damping down the fires wherever and whenever and in whatever ways he can. But he will not succeed. Revivals have occurred in the past, but they have been extinguished after a short period – in some cases three years for example, the Welsh Revival (early 1900’s) and the Hebridean Revival (early 1950’s), but Satan knows that we expect a new one and this time he will not snuff it out.
The Holy Spirit has been sent for our benefit. He is here to help us today, so we can’t afford to ignore Him.
Peter preaches to the crowd Acts 2:14-41
What occurred on that Day of Pentecost required some explanation from a person who knew what was happening. On that day, Peter had the answers and he was prepared to share them with all who would listen. It was no time at all – a little over seven weeks – since this man Peter had denied Jesus three times in His hour of need. In fact all of the disciples turned tail and ran when the soldiers arrested Jesus. They had been living in fear of the Jews, locked in an upper room waiting and praying. Jesus had come to see them, and had spent time with them; they had seen Him ascend into Heaven and now the Holy Spirit had come to this room and had filled them all with Himself. They had been empowered for works of service to the world.
Not everything mentioned in Joel 2:28,29 happened on that particular morning. The “last days” include all the days between Christ’s first and second comings, and is another way of saying “from now on”. “The great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20) denotes the whole Christian age. Even Moses yearned for the Lord to put his Spirit on everyone (Numbers 11:29). At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was released throughout the entire world – to men, women, slaves, Jews, Gentiles, Galatians 3:28. Now everyone can receive the Spirit. This was a revolutionary and challenging thought for first-century Jews. Until then, they had been very introspective, only looking at themselves, trusting in the fact that they were God’s people and missing the fact that the time was going to come when all people would be enabled to have access to God (Joel 2:21).
Jesus is going to return for His Bride, the Church. She is going to be beautiful, complete, and above all, prepared. She is expecting the return of her bridegroom Matthew 25:1-13. In those days, and in that country, courtship went something like this: The man would find the woman who would be his wife. They would meet and see each other over a period of time and he would be engaged to her, then the future bridegroom would leave his bride-to-be, having given her presents to help her prepare herself for the wedding day, and go back to his father’s house. There he would find and prepare a house for her. When all was complete, the bridegroom would return for his bride, who would have made herself ready for the marriage. She would have used all the gifts that her husband-to-be had left her, and when he returned, she would be dressed beautifully in her wedding garments, her attendants would be ready, and as soon as her bridegroom returned, the wedding ceremony and feast would begin. Now parallel that with the things that Jesus taught about His first and second coming. He came the first time, lived amongst His people and got to know His Bride. He then went away at His ascension to prepare a place, John 14:1-3. He left behind presents for her (the Holy Spirit and His Gifts) so that she could prepare and make herself ready for His return. He has not yet done so, but this time is fixed – His Father knows the date and time. As we see in the story of the ten bridesmaids we must be found preparing and ready when Jesus comes back for us. When He does return (and at that point it will be too late to accept the invitation), it will be to the wedding ceremony and the Wedding Feast.
Peter who had up to this time been volatile and unreliable, stood up to the Israelites. He had, until this point feared them and had been afraid of their misplaced power. Now he was prepared to tell them the truth. He explained it to them truthfully and powerfully, but he didn’t shrink from the reality of telling them what had happened as the Holy Spirit gave him the words to say. It is time that you and I became bold in our stance for Jesus and for what He has done for us. Often when we become Christians, it seems that we try to become stereotypes of what we think Christians should be, and we do not let God have control of our lives; we do not stand up for what God has done for us in front of others. Peter here uses the Word of God to show them what they had done and had permitted to be done. He showed them how Jesus was the Messiah whereas David was a prophet speaking ahead of time about the Messiah.
Sometimes when a person becomes a Christian, he or she is content to let other people define the boundaries of their Christian life and experience. God does not look for or want automatons. If He did, He would have made them. He would not have given them minds or decision-making capabilities, and He most certainly would not have given us the Bible that we have. God wants us to follow Him; that’s why He gave us the Holy Spirit and the Bible. We need to check every word that we hear from someone else about Christianity against what Jesus has taught us in the Word, and if we think what is said is wrong, we need to explain to them why we believe they are wrong, allowing them to further explain their point. The ultimate arbiter in Christianity is Jesus, the Head of the Church, and we have access to Him, day and night. So Peter spoke clearly and truthfully: “Therefore I clearly state to everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus you crucified to be the Lord, the Messiah!” Acts 2:36
Whenever we speak to others about Jesus, provided what we say is true, God will back up His Word, and signs and wonders will follow, Mark 16:17. This was just such a time. The effect on the crowd was palpable. The Bible states that they were ‘cut to the heart’, and their only response as they saw the horrific truth of what they had been party to in the crucifixion of the Messiah was to ask what to do, Acts 2:37. Peter was ready with the answer, just as you and I must be, for as we too go out and give testimony to what God has done for us, we must expect that God will have gone before, and as people respond, our answer should not be, ‘Well come to church on Sunday’. No, we like Peter must be ready to lead them to Jesus there and then. People need the Lord. Leading people to Jesus is simple. We share Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God. We cannot make people Christians, only God can, but we can tell them exactly how to become one. There are a number of tracts to help us as we explain to them how to be saved (eg: Best News). Use them, practice on our friend, or family, then go out into the world and share our faith. We will be amazed at the results as God Himself goes with us, and leads us by the power of His Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 3:9-10.
God does not want any to perish. However, people die every day either expectedly or unexpectedly. We have the responsibility to drag some of them back from the brink of an eternity without Christ in hell, Acts 2:38-39. Peter preached, we may not have to do that, but the result was something beyond their wildest expectations:
‘Then Peter preached a long sermon, telling about Jesus and strongly urging all his listeners to save themselves from the evils of their nation. 41 And those who believed Peter were baptized – about three thousand in all!’ Acts 2:40-41. These people were saved and made up the first Church!
What a turnaround both individually and as a group of no hopers, they had lost all sense of direction or belonging and yet one word from God along with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and everything has changed.
Study 3: The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost – Challenge Questions
Read the Notes and the Bible Verses referred to in them.
1. Share the points that ‘speak’ to you and why.
2. Many godly Jews were in Jerusalem that day. Where did they come from? Even though they were godly, were they saved?
3. From what is written in the notes, describe what you think of the picture of the Jewish Bride and how this points towards Jesus.
4. What do you think of the amazing change in Peter? How do you feel it happened and what do you think he will feel about it himself? How would the others relate to him?
Read Acts 2:42–47
5. List the four things that the new followers did after Pentecost according to these few verses?
6. What in your opinion is the most important activity for these new followers?
7. 2 Chronicles 16:9 states that ‘For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.’ Why would He choose you as such a person?
8. Do you think this passage is relevant to our modern society? Give reasons for your answer.
9. Can you say what ‘they devoted themselves’ means to you?
10. In which two places did they meet?
11. How could you interpret this description of how believers met together into our modern lifestyle?
12. What points may be difficult for us today? Why?
13. What does it mean in our everyday life ‘they had everything in common’?
14. How often did they meet? How do you think they managed to fit this round family and work schedule?
15. What do you believe to be the key to this great success? Who showed the disciples favour?
16. What was the result of this activity?
17. What changes will you make in your thinking as a result of studying this passage? Which Word will you choose to remember?