On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 God turned a new page in human history. Atonement for sin had been accomplished through Jesus’ death on the cross. The resurrection of Christ from the dead had given assurance that Jesus’ death was effectual. The ascension of Christ announced Christ’s sovereignty over the enemy. Everything was ready for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the church.
It is hard to improve on Charles Koller’s outline of Acts 2 (Expository Preaching Without Notes). His three points are: 1) This is That (vv. 16-21). 2) This is He (vv. 22-24). 3) This is How (vv. 25-41). Pentecost fulfilled prophecy. Miracles affirmed Jesus’ lordship. And, if people believe in the resurrected Christ, genuinely repent of their sins, are baptized into him, they are saved and incorporated into a new social reality called the church. When God pours out his Holy Spirit many wonderful things result.
The Spirit Enabled Hearing of the Gospel
Pentecost was a Jewish festival that arrived 50 days after the Passover Sabbath—so it always fell on Sunday. The total celebration was called the Feast of Weeks. The earliest harvest was just beginning. That was the day when God decided to begin his church. The apostles were all together when the Holy Spirit came. Three signs indicated that God was up to something grand: 1) Sound like wind. Jesus had predicted that when the apostles heard such a thing they would be receiving the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). The Hebrew and Greek words translated wind are the same words for Spirit. 2) Fire that looked like a tongue. Sometimes a flame of fire looks like a human tongue. God is likened to fire (Hebrews 12:29), and fire purifies. 3) Speech beyond human ability. The Greek word for tongue means human language. The signs encompassed the ear, the mind, and the tongue.
But there was something more to Pentecost than miraculous signs. Pentecost was about the Holy Spirit and people. The people (composed of Jews from 14 nations) had come to Jerusalem for Passover and stayed over for the celebration of Pentecost. They were in the right place at the right time. The sound brought the crowd together, and the dialect (language) made the gospel abundantly clear. Jews from these 14 nations heard the gospel in their own dialect and wondered how that could be since the ones speaking were all Galileans. (One could discern a Galilean dialect because the Galileans had a tendency to swallow certain syllables as they spoke.) Was the miracle in the apostles’ mouths or the Jewish ears? Maybe the answer is yes!
The Spirit Testified to Christ
The Holy Spirit was the major voice on the Day of Pentecost, but he would be embarrassed if we were to think that Pentecost was about him. The Holy Spirit not only defers to Christ but points people to Christ (John 15:26). What happened on the Day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of prophecy. The minor prophet Joel had predicted a time when the Holy Spirit would come to all people—men and women; young and old. The Holy Spirit would convict people of sin (John 16:8, 9) so that they would call out for the Lord to save them (Acts 2:21).
Once Peter (he is the one whose sermon was preserved for us) quoted his text, he spoke of Jesus. Miracles testified to Jesus’ identity. The crucifixion might have looked as though humankind was in control, but things happened as a result of God’s plan. And the resurrection proved that Jesus had defeated death.
The Spirit Formed a New Community
Peter gave the big idea of his sermon in Acts 2:36—Jesus, the very one they had crucified, was Lord and Christ. Ouch! No wonder the Pentecost crowd was under conviction. They asked if there was any way they could be right with God. Peter’s response to Jewish people who already believed in God was, “Repent and be baptized.” These two commands were followed by two promises—forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the really good news was that it was for them, their children, and for all nations (see Ephesians 2:13).
The crowd heeded Peter’s strong plea (Acts 2:40). They accepted the message and 3,000 were baptized. The Holy Spirit had created something that had never existed on planet earth before—a church. This church followed the apostles’ teaching, shared all things in common, observed the Lord’s Supper, and prayed like crazy. Pentecost means that a new day had dawned, and the end was now beginning.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.