Thursday, 27 January 2011

Notes on Acts 2: The Festival of Pentecost and the Giving of the Spirit

Was asked to speak at the RUCU meeting recently on Acts 2. Here are my notes. See if you can decipher them... (I figure the fact that they are the academic hope of the nation, they should be able to cope on something a little more meaty.)

1. The OT Festival of Pentecost/Weeks (Lev 23:15-22)
  • The Israelites were commanded (Deut 16:16) to be in Jerusalem for this festival (2nd of 3 obligatory appearances each year). They would participate in a prophetic rehearsal for ≈1500yrs until the Spirit was finally given in Acts 2, so that, in theory, when he came they would be ready.
  • The first Pentecost, 50 days after the first Passover, was at Mt Sinai – Law was given and 3000 people die (Ex 32).
  • They would offer two leavened loaves – symbolic of the fact that through Christ, God would one day welcome both Jew and Gentile and give them the Spirit. (Eph 2:11-22).
  • Due to their rejection of Christ and their hardness of heart, the Jews had lost the significance of this festival, (2 Cor 4:14-16).
2. The New Humanity and the Great Commission
  • Adam and Eve were the first humanity, created in Genesis in the image of God, but not God. They were told to fill the earth and subdue it (i.e. have lots of babies: Gen 1:28). This prophetically announced the work of Christ and the Church, who through the power of the Spirit would fill the earth with a new (second) humanity, filled with the Spirit – the divine nature of God. (2 Peter 1:3-4, 1 Cor 15:45-49, 2 Cor 5:17)
  • Adam was to God what a glove is to a hand. Christ was the hand-filled glove. This new (hand in glove) Spirit-filled humanity spreading across the globe is what Jesus is talking about when he gives the great commission (Matt 28:19-20. Acts 1:8). Acts is the beginning of that Kingdom Expansion: Jerusalem → Judea → Samaria → World.
  • Christ has finished his work of redemption and now he sends the Spirit to fetch and prepare for him a beautiful bride on whom he can lavish his love for ever. Through the Church, the world will meet Christ, (Eph. 1:22-23) just as through Christ the world meets the Father (John 1:18).
  • The Old Testament Church (Israel) was marked by distinction and separation through the Law (Deut 4:6). The New Testament Church is marked by the transformational expansion of the Spirit (2 Cor 5:17).

2. Let’s walk through Acts 2...
  • v1. About 2.5 million Jews from all over the “known” world were gathered to celebrate Pentecost.
  • v2 All the believers are gathered at the temple with all their fellow Jews for the ceremony when suddenly…
  • v3 a great wind rushes and fire descends. Wind/Breath symbolic of the Spirit (Gen 1:2). Fire symbolic of God’s presence, (2 Chron 7:1) which has moved house from a temple made of stone to human hearts. In OT the fire was given by God and cultivated only at the temple (Lev. 6:12) Now the fire sent from heaven is on the sacrifice of human hearts (Rom 12:1) and cultivated / spread wherever God's people are active.
  • v4-12 Multiple tongues: everyone from the whole world hears the wonders of God in their own language. What does this mean?? God is graciously redeeming the judgement of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). It's also a fulfilment of prophecy: God is done with the exclusivity of the Jews as a people (Isa 28:10-13)
  • v13 People deny what they have just seen happen and instead slander the believers (classic Satanic tactics). They spoke better than they knew. (Mark 2:22)
  • v14 Peter tells the crowd that:
    • v17-21 This is the fulfilment of prophecy: Joel 2:28-32 marking the beginning of the end – the final phase. Everyone, not just Jew, who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved.
    • v22-36 He then tells them about Christ who they would have seen crucified during Passover nearly two months before; that he was raised and given all authority in the universe. Notice that this is prophesied by David (v30) before it happens. David is not speaking stuff about his own life that oh so happens to conveniently apply to Christ.
  • v37 The Spirit brings conviction of guilt – they are at the mercy of the apostles, 
  • v38 do not manipulate the situation to their own advantage, but tell them to be baptised so that they might receive forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit 
    • Baptism (death and resurrection into the new life of the Spirit who both cleanses and anoints) is the new covenant sign replacing 
    • Circumcision (waiting for the offspring of promise and the shedding of his blood)
  • v39 Grace is available for all who will hear and obey – for all those whom God calls
  • v40 All generations were corrupt, but this one was particularly so, because it not only crucified Christ, but after this gracious and miraculous testimony at Pentecost, would refuse to repent and carry on the now abominable religious system of sacrifice.
  • v41 3000 were saved – contrast with the giving of the law, Ex 32

Well, so what…?
  • Do you believe the Spirit of God is a person to be known and loved? (John 14:16-17) Sadly, many think he is merely either a power to be manipulated (Matt 7:21-23) or a souped up version of their own conscious thought. (Col 2:18)
  • Our greatest responsibility in life before all else is not to grieve (Eph 4:30) or quench him (1 Thess 5:19), but rather to keep in step with him (Gal. 5:25) in all things, not just “religious matters.”
  • He leads you to follow Jesus (John 14:12), just as Jesus followed the Father (John 5:19)
  • Put fruits (Gal 5:22-23) before gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11). Right heart leads to right action. (Matt 7:15-20)
  • He wants to show you Jesus and his Father (John 16:14-15) and bring them both to you (John 14:23)
  • Mission week is nearly here many excellent events no doubt, but in truth it's simply a matter of business as usual: sowing seeds boldly, gratuitously and indiscriminately (Matt 13) as you live life with the Spirit.

1 comment:

John Marcham said...

Good exposition. Trouble is there are a lot of churches that don't preach the Holy Spirit as we do, and although they say you receive the HS when you believe it's left at that. Maybe the all generations are the same, it wasn't until I heard someone speak in tongues that I started asking questions. Perhaps the status quo for some is enough or they expect to told about about things in a handout.