The Birth of the Church
How will the church accomplish this work, even today? The birth of the early church gives us the answer to this vital question.
Main Thought: The Church of the LORD Jesus Christ is ignited and empowered by the Holy Spirit of promise, conducting a four-fold program of witnessing, teaching, fellowship and prayer.
1. The coming of the Holy Spirit ignited the witness of the disciples because He came to dwell in their hearts. (Acts 2:1-4)
1 Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4, NKJV)The disciples had gathered in Jerusalem to wait for the gift promised by Christ. They were engaged in intense prayer. In this setting, this group of 120 disciples had:
The Holy Spirit as a gift to believers is spoken of by the prophet Isaiah to a rebellious nation of Israelites:
2...'Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring; 4 They will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses.' 5 One will say, 'I am the LORD'S'; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; another will write with his hand, 'The LORD'S,' and name himself by the name of Israel. 6 "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God. (Isaiah 44:2-6, NKJV)Note the obvious reference to the Trinity in this passage where those who call themselves "the LORD'S" are those with His Spirit. The LORD (the Father) and His Redeemer (the Son) both say, "I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God." The outpouring of the Spirit of God is God coming to dwell in the hearts of men and women who believe. This echoes the words of Christ as He spoke to the crowds at the Feast of Booths:
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39, NKJV)So the Holy Spirit was promised to believers in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and would well up within them to the point of overflow. The water was living water, life-giving water. Eternal life is the gift to those who believe in the LORD Jesus Christ. (John 5:24; Romans 6:23) The Spirit of God baptizes you into the church, the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:13) The Spirit of God becomes your well of living water that never runs dry, never runs out, and never gets polluted. But He is always available to ignite your witness before the world, just as He did with the first disciples.
Is your flame lit?
2. The work of the Holy Spirit empowered the witness of the disciples to reach the lost. (Acts 2:5-13)
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:5-6, NKJV)Devout men were drawn to the work of the Holy Spirit. But they came from all the surrounding areas, each speaking different languages and dialects. How would the disciples be able to share with them? How would they know this was something the LORD God was doing in their presence?
The Holy Spirit removed this obstacle to accomplishing the work He desired. The "sound from Heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind" (Acts 2:2, NKJV) was a clarion call to those devout Jews who were seeking to worship the one true and living God. The Bible says the words spoken by the disciples, described as "other tongues"(Acts 2:4, NKJV), were heard by each person in their own language. It describes a remarkable scene where 120 disciples were uttering words that were prompted by the Holy Spirit. These words declared "the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11, NKJV). Simultaneously, thousands of people in this place heard them speaking in their own particular language or dialect. Eighteen different languages or dialects are mentioned -- yet there may have been more. The point of all this was to draw them to the gospel of Jesus Christ for they said, "Whatever could this mean?" (Acts 2:12, NKJV) The Holy Spirit prepared their hearts for the message Peter was about to deliver.
The Holy Spirit works inside the hearts of believers to ignite their witness and outside the church to remove obstacles to sharing the gospel. This is His mighty work to perform. What were the disciple doing but following as He led them!
Are you also declaring the wonderful works of God?
This event at Pentecost was unique in the life of the church because it marked the birth of the church. Yet what happened at Pentecost is a microcosm of what God wants to do through the church through the ages to reach people of every tongue from every nation. As Jesus declared, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me ... to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
3. The move of the Holy Spirit inspired Peter's first sermon and cut through the hearts of "devout" men. (Acts 2:14-39)
22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. (Acts 2:22-24, NKJV)These devout men were given the revelation that the Messiah, the Christ they longed for had been rejected by Israel.
32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear." (Acts 2:32-33, NKJV)Yet Jesus did rise from the dead and now reigns in the seat of power, "at the right hand of God". As a result, He poured out the Holy Spirit of promise which is the great miracle these devout men observed.
36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:36-39, NKJV)These devout men were brought to the full realization that the crucificion of Christ is laid on their shoulders because of their sin. "This Jesus, whom you crucified." (Acts 2:36, NKJV) They were cut right through the very core of their being. It hurt because they knew it was true. All they could say in reply was, "what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37, NKJV)
Peter declares the need to REPENT (turn from your sin and change your mind and heart concerning the LORD Jesus Christ -- believe in Him). They had been devout believers in God and His promised Redeemer. Now they had to turn from their sins and trust in the work of God's Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who died for their sins and resurrected victoriously from the grave. Doing this, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the same for you and I today. This is what brings us into the church of our LORD Jesus Christ.
Have you repented of your sins and received the LORD Jesus Christ as your Savior?
4. The call of the Holy Spirit draws people every day to join the glorious fellowship in the church. (Acts 2:40-47)The early church continued steadfastly in a program designed to build up and grow the body of Christ. What was that program? Did it include "miracle" services with people falling on the ground and screaming like animals? Did they have well-known, well-polished speakers? Did they have a magnificent, beautiful facility in which to meet? No, it was a rather unusual program:
Does this describe you? Does this describe your church?
Reflect on YOUR life: A healthy, well-balanced church will continue steadfastly in this four-fold program of witnessing, teaching, fellowship, and prayer. Each of us is gifted in the body of Christ to be a part of this program. (1 Cor. 12:7) Are you engaging in these four essential activities? There are many fine programs which complement and add to this. But these four activities must be the foundation of any church for that church to truly accomplish the work of God. Invest your time and energy in those pursuits which are of the greatest long-term benefit to God's program.
Copyright 1999, Randy Lariscy.