The sovereignty of God in all that took place in Acts is a major theme running through the book. Nothing takes place that God has not ordained. As we move forward we will see how the church developed, how God used all kinds of flawed people to bring about his plan. Please pray each week for our study!
THE PENTECOST INCIDENT
Something special and spectacular took place in the 2nd chapter of Acts. It was an event, the like of which had never before taken place. These Christians are living at the very time when the Holy Sprit is being sent down from heaven. Luke wants us to see as he uses various terms that receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized with the Holy Spirit is the same thing. And Luke says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit—not just some.
Pentecost was not a new concept to Jews. It was something from antiquity, going back over a thousand years. Pentecost was one of the festivals which was established by the Lord in Leviticus 23. It took place 50 days after the Passover. The Jews had come to associate the Feast of Pentecost with the giving of the Law.
God is setting into motion events that He planned from the foundation of the world. This tells us something about the church. The church is a part of a plan that started a long time before the first century.
Those in attendance at Pentecost saw what appeared to be tongues of fire. These tongues distributed themselves over each of the believers. Notice that the passage does not say that they FELT anything. The experience on that day was not based on feelings.
When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they were led in their travels by a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex.13:21). When they were not traveling, this smoke and fire would position itself over the Tabernacle. This was the place where God manifested His presence. It was the Tent of Meeting. It served as the dwelling place of God. The smoke and the fire were a sign that God was there.
Now it is happening again. But this time there is a difference. This time the manifestation of the flaming presence of God is not positioned over a tent. This time it is over PEOPLE. Why? Because they (we) are the new tabernacle and the temple of God. From now on, the spirit of God would come and reside in His LIVING temple – the church.
We see in Mark 16:17 that Christ told them they would speak with new tongues. Isaiah 28:11 predicted this would occur during the times of the Messiah. This would have enabled the apostles in their work to go forth to preach to all nations. Note in verse 8 that it says that they each heard in his own language. This was one of the miracles that was promised in John 14:12.
Half the book of Acts is about the exploits of Peter, his preaching and the power that God bestowed on this flawed man. God can restore, and God can forgive, and God can take a broken vessel like Peter and remake him, and refashion him. When Peter stands and speaks, he goes to scripture and shows the listeners that Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) has been fulfilled. Peter is interpreting the words of Joel. He tells us what Joel’s words mean. He says that these are the last days. The Jews took the “last days” to refer to the Messianic Age.
Peter wants the listeners to understand how God was sovereign in Christ’s crucifixion as well as his resurrection. The cross was planned by God. As was the betrayal by Judas, the complicity of the high priest and the role played by the Roman government. These things did not happen by chance. God both FOREKNEW and he also PREDETERMINED this plan. This means that God’s plan includes the sinful acts of men. God IS in control of all things. This includes all things that come into your life.
Having stated the fact of the resurrection, Peter now shows that this event was one which had been promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. He quotes from one of the Psalms of David, Psalm 16:10. It is a Psalm of prayer in which David prays for deliverance. In the midst of that Psalm, he thanks the Lord and announces the source of his confidence. Peter is not preaching the teachings of Jesus. He is preaching the PERSON of Jesus and the fact of His death, burial and resurrection.
Up to this point he has been giving them information. He has been telling them the facts of the gospel. Now he calls for a response on their behalf (Acts 2:38-39). The gospel demands a response on my part. That response is seen in repentance and baptism. Peter notes baptism to be the outward sign of an inward heart of repentance.
We see in Acts 2:40-41 a tremendous response. Luke reports that 3000 were called that day, those that the Lord called to himself. The church became their life. This was not merely a one-day-a-week activity. This was a whole new way of living. Acts 2:42-47.
Next week we see the apostles step out in their new role as witnesses of the Gospel, preaching and performing miracles. This will not be without a cost and we will be encouraged by their willingness to follow the Messiah no matter what!
As we read though Acts and learn about the beginning days of the church, we need to understand the relationship of Israel and the church in the New Testament. Keith Mathison of Ligonier ministries has a great article that will answer most questions and give us a very clear understanding of this subject. You can access it here:
by Keith Mathison