And this is why we wear red on Pentecost. What is somewhat more challenging in Acts than what we found as we made our way through the Gospels is that there is so much more movement in every chapter than what we found in Jesus’ life. We could touch upon the first part of this chapter which describes the power of God in the Holy Spirit. We could analyze Peter’s sermon or the effects of that sermon in the verses that follow. We could talk about the life of the early church and how they lived with everything in common. To be honest the latter is my preference. I could spend and entire 90 days just on verses 43-47. The effect of the Holy Spirit on our lives and the impact that a devotion and dedication to Jesus ought to create is revolutionary. There is no other way to state it. It does not come softly to gradually change us to be more like Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit is such that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) and our lives are lived in such a way that this transformation takes root. But let’s look at the earlier verses in this chapter.
What is absolutely crucial to understand as we make our way through Acts is that at this stage of the game the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of his salvation is almost, I said almost, exclusively a Jewish thing. It was a message proclaimed by Jews and, this is critical, it was a message received by Jews. The setting that we have before us is another Jewish festival where Jerusalem would have been packed with devout Jews who had come to the temple to worship. Remember last chapter the disciples headed back to Jerusalem after Jesus left them in the ascension. The Jewish festival of Pentecost was a celebration that had nothing to do with the Christian festival that we celebrate. It had nothing to do with the Spirit of God descending upon his people. Pentecost, in Hebrew it would be transliterated as Shavuot, was a celebration of God giving the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai 50 days after the Exodus. It was a big deal, so Jewish pilgrims made their way into Jerusalem to celebrate that day. I’ve added a picture of our family walking down Mt. Sinai just to whet some of your appetites for our next trip to the Holy Land. I would love to include Sinai if it is not cost prohibitive. Keep April of 2019 on your calendar open.
Back to this Scripture in Acts 2. Taking advantage of this situation God sends his Holy Spirit, sends himself, upon the disciples who are gathered and he gives them the power to speak in the languages of the Jews who were gathered there. So why the red? Because just as the Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove when Jesus was baptized, so the Holy Spirit came this time in the form of tongues of flame descending upon those who were believers of Jesus Christ.
The pilgrims had no idea what was going on so Peter explains it to them. But notice that he addresses his fellow “Israelites”. He is speaking to the Jewish people who were gathered there. Why am I stressing this so much. Because it is not until later that the gentiles, the non-Jews, were welcome to hear the Gospel in a transformative way. When that happens, and it hasn’t happened yet in chapter 2, then the Christian movement dramatically becomes something different. So Peter is able to speak to those gathered in a way that he knew they would understand. He speaks about King David and how Jesus was the Messiah that he had predicted. He is able to speak about their ancestors, who were his ancestors, and how they had waited for generations for Jesus to come. He ends the sermon with this phrase: “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (vs.36)
The reaction was immediate. People approach Peter and ask him, what do we have to do now that we have blown it? Repent and be baptized, Peter responds, it is not too late. Peter tells them that this promise is for them but also for their families, their children included. Do we need to say something more about the baptism of infants? I don’t think so especially after this past Sunday when we had 8 baptisms in church and when we were able to see the tangible effects of infant baptism, where we were able to understand what it means when we say that God chooses us way, way, way before we even understand to choose God. I think I said enough in the enews and on Sunday. Suffice it to say that this Scripture is another in the arsenal of baptism of infants.
Now to my favorite concept in all of Scripture, this whole communal living thing. So, when we were pastors in Italy one of the aspects of the ministry was that every single pastor was paid the same throughout the country. We were about 120 Waldensian and Methodist pastors (we were Presbyterians who are Waldensian in theology but the Methodist church and the Waldensians had joined in their governance which included the payment of pastors). We were paid about $900 a month and our rent and our transportation were covered. It was awesome! Fundamentally I felt so in touch with this Scripture in Acts 2 where we had to live by faith and so it was not a far step to ask the churches that we served to do the same. That has stayed with me to this day. In all the churches that I have served we have never taken the approach that we do nothing until the finances are there. No, rather, we do that which the Holy Spirit demands of us, and then the finances will be there. They don’t magically appear, but God warms the hearts of those men and women in the congregation to catch the fire of the vision that is being put forward. I feel so strongly that the more a church is able to live out the ideal of Acts 2 then the more room the Holy Spirit has to work in order to perform acts that can only be described as miracles. We’ll have another opportunity to see this concept later in Acts.
One side note, if you are new to this 90 Day Challenge II and did not do the first 90 Day Challenge you can simply scroll down and you will see the first 90 Day Challenge, but it will be backward. The point is that you read one chapter a day and it will cover the 4 Gospels, that was the first part. The second part is that you read another 90 days, we are now in day 2, and that will cover from Acts through Colossians. Again, enjoy the journey.