What Does This Mean? (Acts 2:1-21)

August 11, 2013

Book: Acts

What Does This Mean? (Acts 2:1-21)
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Scripture: Acts 2:1-21


Sermon Notes

Pentecost = from Greek (Pentecostas = 50th)

This was the only OT festival determined by counting days. On the day after Passover, the Israelites selected a sheif of grain that became an offering to the Lord (Leviticus). They then counted 50 days after that day, and THAT day became the day of Pentecost. It was also called the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34) – because it took 7 weeks after Passover for this event. They then harvested the wheat at that time. This was also called Feast of the Harvest, Day of First Fruits. They all describe this particular feast.

In Judaism, Pentecost came to be regarded as the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. So, Pentecost came to have symbolic meaning for the church – God would manifest himself in a unique way. 50 days after the Exodus Passover, the Law/Covenant was given. For Luke, this is also significant in that Pentecost (the giving of the NEW Covenant/Holy Spirit) for Christians was 50 days after the Passover (Passion) when Jesus was crucified.

Remember the Transfiguration? Elijah and Moses and Jesus were there talking about Jesus’ “exodus” from this earth when he would die/be crucified. They were likely encouraging him. Moses represented the Law.

  • Elijah represented the Prophets.
  • Jesus represented the Fulfillment of the Law & Prophets.

For Luke, this Pentecost was fulfilled in the giving of the Holy Spirit – the giving of the Law of the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit replaces the Torah. The Law of the Spirit gives life – which comes through the new righteousness in Christ (Romans 8:1-2).

The new church continued to exist with some continuity with the Jewish church. They kept with some traditions, but there is a distinct difference between the Torah and Grace – the Torah had no power to bring anyone into communion with God because it couldn’t be followed by faith. Now, the Law of Grace of Christ can be followed by faith by sinners. “A righteousness apart from Law has been made known – to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”

Many lambs were sacrificed for sins.

Jesus = THE lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

In the OT, the best the sacrifices could do was temporarily cover up the sins of the people. It took a divine sacrifice to cover up all sins for all people for all time.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus opened their eyes, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer and die?” He opened their eyes (and the other disciples) so that they could understand that ALL Scriptures point to Jesus. ALL Scriptures point to Jesus.

This righteousness from God comes from faith in Christ to all who believe. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

This new covenant makes it possible to experience oneness with God (Romans 5:5) “The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts…”

The OT was modeled after the Law (from Moses). This new covenant = a new law of the Spirit.

So, this festival, the Day of First Fruits, was an appropriate time for this gift/new covenant of the HS to be given. Isaiah 1:9? “The predators, wolves, who prey on others – they will neither harm nor destroy my holy mountain. For the waters will be full of my holy sea…”

In the house (household, building, temple), the Jews were gathered. In the last verse of Luke 24 describe the disciples continually at the temple praising/worshiping God. It might have also been the same upper room where the disciples met with Jesus for the last supper.

The began to experience supernatural phenomena.

The first: a hurricane sound of wind (neumar = wind/spirit) – it was a physical manifestation of the HS. Probably reminiscent of the appearances of God in the OT. Ezekiel 13:13 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says, ‘In my wrath, I will unleash a destructive wind…’” This is where he is prophesying against false prophets – a rebuke.

Also the audience in Pentecost probably related this with the trumpets and wind that accompanied the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 30?). “When the people heard the trumpet and thunder, they trembled with fear.”

This awesome aspect of God’s presence was to help them avoid sin (fear of God).

This loud sound of the wind on Pentecost also attracted MORE God-fearing, religious Jews. They were in Jerusalem to attend the festival and temple.

They ALSO saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that came to rest on each of them. Exodus 3:2-5 (Moses and the burning bush). Fire = a sign of the divine. Exodus 13:21 (The Pillar of Fire and Cloud). There are also other symbols of fire in the OT – Elijah and the prophets of Baal. John the Baptist had also spoken of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. “The people were waiting expectantly and wondering in their hearts if John might not be the Messiah. ‘I am not – another is coming more worthy than I.’”

These signs were also instructive to the disciples (Luke 24) “Jesus said, ‘Stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed from on high with power.’”

Acts 1 “Jesus said, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father is sending.’”

This, Pentecost day, was the day.

So, the church was born through the Holy Spirit. On that first Pentecost, a third manifestation of the HS occurred. The HS enabled them to utter/say/speak in other languages. These uneducated disciples suddenly seemed to have skill in these other languages. The people were amazed by these “local languages” that were being spoken.

Why speak local languages? Many Jews spoke Aramaic or Greek (this is from Alexander the Great). Hearing languages in their home town dialects really grabbed their attention. It really brought home just how special all of this was.

  1. Wind
  2. Fire
  3. Tongues

were hard to ignore. Now, here’s the question “What does this all mean?”

But first, what of the international crowd?

There were Jews from every nation, there were converts (proselytes). They were there to celebrate Pentecost – many from Passover may have stayed (around 100,000 for Passover – estimated). Jews from the eastern kingdoms also came, the Roman Empire, Egypt, etc.

Some people wonder why Luke listed certain countries and why that order. He starts with 3 to the east of Jerusalem (Iran area), then some near Iraq, then some near Turkey, then some near North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Sireni?). He wanted to show how far from Rome they came.

As we read in Acts, the gospel had reached Rome long before Paul did. It was probably Christian teaching and opposition to that that caused riots there. Claudius (the governor there) had banned all the Jews from Rome at that time.

After the Roman Jews, Luke continues with the Mediterranean, Arabs, etc. Jews from all over were there. If these people were pilgrims and told people in their native lands, then word would spread quickly.

Obviously not everyone was impressed with these events saying, “they’re drunk!” But they obviously weren’t since it was 9am, much too early for that kind of behavior.

Peter begins to explain what this all means. He made a powerful and courageous witness to Christ. What a contrast from a few weeks earlier when he’d denied Jesus with oaths and curses (three times). Since then, Jesus had restored him, but he still needed the fullness of the HS to witness to others. Not only did he know Jesus, but he also wanted to witness.

Not only Peter had denied him, others had as well, but through this experience and the HS, Peter’s character changed dramatically.

Peter quotes from Joel and David (both well known to the Jews there) and he insists that this Pentecost is a fulfillment of the scriptures.

Peter also appeals to the experience of the Jews who’ve been in Jerusalem – they’d have known of Jesus and his deeds as well as the events/circumstances surrounding his death. Finally, Peter appeals to himself and the others as being eyewitnesses of these events. Then he appeals to the other Jews to repent.

There are 6 themes.

  1. The Age of Fulfillment has come to pass.
  2. The ministry (death and resurrection) = made this possible.
  3. As a result, Christ is at God’s right hand.
  4. The sign of Christ’s guidance and power is the HS.
  5. The consummation of the Messianic Age = the 2nd Coming.
  6. The proper response to all of this = repentance and baptism.

God forgives sins, makes clean. Pentecost = the final step/key in this whole story/process.

God gives eternal (full) life. The disciples waited and renewed their strength. You can as well.

Let’s pray.