What was possibly on the disciples’ mind the morning of Pentecost? Did they experience fear, doubt, and disbelief as we sometimes do? On that day of Pentecost, people who had been doubtful were moved to speak powerfully, to repentance, to belief, and to action. God’s Word and Spirit give us power to overcome and to change to accomplish the work of God.
[Darris McNeely] On the morning of Pentecost 31 AD, what do you think was going through the minds of the assembled disciples in Jerusalem? We know in Acts chapter 2, when we turn there and look at the story alluded to in the sermonette here this morning, that they were gathered together. And of course, one of the most dramatic scenes in all the Bible occurred with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered disciples, and the speaking in tongues, and a mighty rushing wind that we find it hard to imagine what it was like, because it’s not part of our custom to try to pray that down today like some other denominations and religious forms do. We take that for the story that it is, and the gift of tongues, and the speaking of tongues that the Scriptures talk about but we don’t see that as what we need to be doing in practice or in faith, but it is a dramatic story.
But on the morning that those disciples were gathered there, before it happened, you have to imagine that they had no idea that, that would be what would take place. They had not been a part of anything like that before. They’d likely not seen it. And had they seen anything near that type of an ecstatic demonstration, it might have been in a form by someone doing something by their form of religion that they didn’t identify with. And perhaps like you and I would today, we might look at it as a little bit odd. And so they didn’t really think about that, and yet all of a sudden it came upon them. But on that morning as they gathered, made their preparations, put on their clothes, walked to the location where they all were gathered, and they were about 120 disciples as chapter 1 of Acts tells us, they no doubt had a lot on their mind. They had been told to be there, to wait in Jerusalem until that day.
But on that 50th day, from the morning after Christ’s resurrection, a lot had happened. The last holy day season, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread had seen the death of Jesus Christ, and then three days later He was resurrected and He had appeared to them. Of course, on the day that He died there had been an earthquake, the sun had turned to dark at midday, people had come out of their graves and it had set Jerusalem all abuzz. And the tomb was empty, and the disciples had seen Jesus, and the authorities were beside themselves trying to figure it out, looked for the body. They thought that the body had been ferretted away by the disciples, someone had stolen it. It wasn’t there and so a lot had happened in that 50-day period that brought them to that morning of Pentecost.
They had a lot of fear. They were alone. About 10 days earlier, Christ had finally ascended for the final time and they were left alone. And there was fear of the unknown, of what was going to take place, fear of the future. They had come up against the two most powerful authorities of their day in their world. Number one was the Roman Empire. It was the Roman soldiers that had carried out the death of Christ and had sealed the tomb and a Roman guard had been placed there. The Roman Empire was not anything to fool around with. It was a mighty, powerful machine, the most powerful that the world in that day had ever seen. Though the emperor, a man named Tiberius, had been holed up on an island called Capri or Capri for a number of years in absentia, the empire was running quite well on its own. It had been organized quite well and in that remote backwater of Judea, the Roman government kept things in order.
The second power that they’d run up against was that of the Jewish authorities. The Jewish authorities—the Sanhedrin, the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees—that authority was intact in Jerusalem, running the temple, running the religious side of the culture and the social life of Judea under the Roman cap, and it too was a very, very powerful force you didn’t run up against. The disciples had seen what would happen because Christ was arrested and had come before the high priest. And it was the high priest and those people who had engineered His death, and they knew the power that they did have.
And this small group of people who had signed on to what they thought was a remarkable, gifted rabbi, and followed Him around and soon learned that they had fallen into something quite different than anything they could have ever imagined, as they witnessed miracles of loaves and fishes, and people being brought back to life, and dramatic healings. And over a three and a half year period they had had their lives transformed and then they’d watched Him die. And then they had seen that He was resurrected.
And so they had become a part of something that again, they were still trying to understand. This was just three and a half years, and in really a few weeks, seven weeks and a day of intense thought, emotion, that they had to grapple with and deal with as they came into the presence of one another on the morning of Pentecost. What was on their mind? You know, before we ever get to that rushing wind that came in, it’s good to think about this question, because it has a direct application to you and I today. As we came here this morning, to services, and as we gathered here this morning ourselves, there is a very important lesson for us to learn as well.
But let’s go back, let’s look at a few of these scriptures in a little bit more detail and see exactly what had been taking place among the disciples during this period of time, that brought them to that morning of Pentecost. If you go back to Matthew chapter 28, chapter 28 and verse 16, let’s just read a few of the accounts of that period following the resurrection, that the Gospel accounts tell us and there’s more there. We sometimes just kind of tail off when we get to the end of one of the Gospels and we know the events, Christ was crucified, Christ was risen, and we don’t look at some of the details there. There’s a lot of information in the details that we are given in chapter 28 verse 16. It says, “The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. And when they saw Him they worshiped him. But some doubted.” There was doubt. Doubt, some of them doubt, what did they doubt? Did they doubt themselves? Did they doubt what they were seeing? Did they doubt that it was real? What was the doubt that was nagging away at them even as they saw Him, and even worshiped Him, knowing that they… as they did know that He had died, and yet there was doubt?
We often think a miracle would be just what we need. The elixir, the antidote to our faith, to every one of our problems, if we could see a miracle; and we like signs, but miracles, well, they’re a little harder to come up with. We all have signs, we take certain things as signs. “Well, that’s a sign that I should go here, take this job, do this or do that.” But miracles, well, that just takes a little bit more work, but they were here in the midst of a very large miracle. It goes on, “Jesus came and He spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, make disciples of nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded, and lo, I am with you, always, even to the end of the age.’” And yet some doubted.
Back in Mark’s account, chapter 16 of Mark, we see that the same thing lingered among the wide group of people there. Mark chapter 16, verse 9, now, “When He rose early on the first day of the week,” speaking of Christ’s resurrection. “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him as they mourned and wept.” And so she was the first to see the empty tomb and have that appearance, and she goes and tells them. “When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.” An eyewitness account, there was a lack of belief that put them in the situation here that they did not understand and didn’t believe that had actually happened.
It goes on, verse 12, “After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.” That’s the famous road to Emmaus experienced from the book of Luke, “and they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.” They didn’t believe that He had risen, they didn’t believe that they had been seen, that He had been seen, and therefore, then they would not believe these eyewitnesses. Their disbelief would extend not only to the idea that the dead could come back to life, as He did, but then they doubted the truth of these witnesses. They looked upon them then as liars, charlatans, or fools, maybe a bit delusional.
And you can begin to imagine how this dynamic begins to… must have been being set up within the disciples, because when you begin to doubt one another, you begin to lose trust. The bonds of trust among the disciples were beginning to be frayed. Not completely unraveled, but the doubt and the disbelief has an impact. Think about that among our own relationships with each other. If we begin to look at one another as less than trustworthy, then that has other consequences in relationships, and that’s taking place among the disciples here at this moment.
In verse 14, it says, “Then later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table and He rebuked them, rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” So Jesus had to rebuke them. We, again, don’t necessarily always pause and think about this, in these hours and days following Christ’s resurrection. That He had to rebuke them and teach them. Show them otherwise what had been done, rebuke their unbelief, as it goes along here. And again, He gives, through Mark’s account here, He gives the same commission to go. Let’s go into Luke’s account. Luke chapter 24.
And let’s look at it beginning in verse 36, this is after His resurrection, “As they said these things,” this is the two that He had appeared to on the road to Emmaus, “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified, and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.” Again, nothing like this had been a part of their frame of reference before. Again, what they thought that they were becoming a part of was a movement that was noble, that was good, there had been many movements of other Messiah-type figures at this period of time in Judea. The gospels and the book of Acts tell us that would-be zealots and messiahs had come and gone. And yet, they had not been able to completely separate the fact that now what they were part of was the real, the real thing, because Christ had died. Even though they had seen miracles, again, another indication to us always to remember that miracles are important, miracles can be faith-builders, but miracles by themselves will not do it all. But they were frightened and they thought that they had seen a spirit.
The world of the 1st century was very much tied into an awareness that there was a spirit world, and a lot different than even we today, we see a spirit world today in media and entertainment form. And not for the reality that the 1st century world would have known and experienced, that other dimension. They saw it in different ways and understood it completely different from anything from our frame of reference and they were ascribing, would have been ascribing then even to Jesus something that was not of God, which in itself can be a problem. Because they were seeing Christ risen and they saw Him in a bodily form, but then they were attributing something different to that. They understood their problem, in verse 38, “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’” He understood that, and again, He is just laying it out that they were troubled and there was doubt. “’Behold,’ He said, ‘My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’” So it was a bodily appearance that He made completely to them, and He showed them His hands and His feet.
Verse 41, “But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food?’” So there was still this not fully developed confidence and faith in what had happened, and so He goes even further and asks for some food. They gave him a piece of broiled fish and honey comb, He takes it and he sits down and eats in their presence. And then going on here, in verse 44, “He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and the prophets, and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”
So He begins to teach them from the Scriptures that they might understand, and that they might comprehend what He was and how He had fulfilled everything that they would have understood to one degree, and then even more they had begun to develop a fuller understanding of the prophecies of Isaiah, or Joel, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, the statements about the Messiah. But all of this in the midst of a troubled, terrified, frightened mindset that they were having to work through, during these days between the resurrection and Pentecost. And so Christ gives them teaching and He gives them understanding.
What we are seeing here is again, the power of the Word of God. Though a miracle had taken place in front of them, that still wasn’t enough to remove the doubt and fear. But as Christ begins to give them the teaching from the Scriptures, of how He had fulfilled literally, in every way, the scriptures about the Messiah. This then begins to be the anchor and the soil into which they can anchor a life of faith that they were to have and to develop. It is rooted in the Word of God. This is what He does as He moves them through the Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets, and opening their understanding. “And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and the remissions of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, and you are witnesses of these things. Behold I send the promise of My Father upon you, but tarry—or wait—in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.’”
And so Luke’s account gives us a very specific instruction, how He told them, “You wait in Jerusalem and then you will receive the power from on high.” And that is what they were doing as they waited for that period of time to come about. They were looking for power from on high. That power would come in the form of the Holy Spirit. And that power would be what would begin to banish the fear, the troubling, doubt, that they had, coupled with the Word of God that they were to have. Now, when we turn over to Acts chapter 1, and we look at, kind of summing up of this as it is. First few verses of Acts chapter 1, beginning in verse 3, Luke in his prologue to the account as he writes to this man named Theophilus, “about all that had been done by Jesus until the day in which He was taken up through the Holy Spirit and had given commandments to the apostles, whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during 40 days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
So Luke gives us an explicit reference point that this went on. These accounts of like what we have read in the gospels and others for a 40-day period. John has another set of accounts, and then he kind of ends and he leaves it wide open. At the end of John, you remember, John says, there were so many other things that He did in his life and no doubt probably part of that 40-day period that it would take volumes to teach it, and to record it during this period. We just get a few snippets from the gospel accounts, at least, of this 40-day period. And then it came to an end, it came to a close. But it was a very intense period of time of Jesus appearing to them both in Galilee and Jerusalem, teaching them from the Scriptures, appearing to them in larger groups, perhaps even, more smaller groups, and in some of the ways they’re talking like He did to Peter, on the Sea of Galilee, having meals with them. And speaking about the deep things of the Kingdom of God to prepare them for what they were to take part in, and what they were to be a part of. And so Luke’s account brings this together. And then there came a time, in verse 4, where they were assembled together with Him and He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father, which He said, “You have heard from Me, for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So there is going to be a gap. “Not many days,” we would look at it roughly 10 days from that 40-day period. They were with Him and they asked Him in verse 6, “Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” They had a very “life is now, living in the present” mindset that this was all going to happen in their lifetime, which is something that pertains to every group of people from that time forward, that looking for the appearance of the Kingdom, the return of Christ. Every generation of God’s people have done that. We are no exception today, as we wait and look for the time when the Kingdom will be restored. He went on to show that, “It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own authority, but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you will be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This is the threefold commission that is given to this group of disciples where they are to be witnesses of Him in the city of Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria—the wider region of the country, look at it as kind of the wider counties of the country of Israel at the time—and then ultimately, to the end of the earth, to take the Gospel and to be a witness of God, to do this.
Consider this question, with what we have just read: how could people filled with doubt, even a measure of unbelief, fear, general fear, intense fear, heightened fear, abject fear—fear takes many different forms and guises; sometimes we can control our fear, sometimes it overcomes us and we’re just shaking in our boots—how could a people dealing with all of these emotions during this 50-day period of time be expected to do what Jesus told them here in verse 8, they would do, when they have problems figuring it all out at that particular moment? It goes on, “When He had spoken these things,” in verse 9, “they watched and He was taken up in a cloud, received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up,” and this is through the account here in Luke, then, would be the final bodily appearance of Jesus to them. And He leaves them on the Mount of Olives, which is a very, very significant geographic feature there on the east of Jerusalem across from the city, and through the Kidron Valley and up on this Mount called Olives.
Zechariah’s prophecy in chapter 14 shows that Christ will, on that day, set foot on the Mount of Olives. And so it was very key that His final ascension would be from this mountain. And they’re seeing that, and it’s the final time. “And they looked steadfastly in toward heaven,” verse 10, “as He went up, and behold two men stood by them in white apparel.” Apparently, two angelic figures appeared to them as the disciples were kind of watching Christ go. It’s always fun to try to imagine how this happened. I have my own Star Trekkian-type of way to imagine how Jesus ascended. I kind of think that He kind of, you know, elevated, and rose, and they saw Him, and they saw Him and the clouds, and the clouds, and then all of a sudden just like that, [snaps fingers] He was gone, kind of like in a “Star Trek” just a flash of light. That’s how I imagine it and He was home, He was back at, He was at the third heaven. I don’t think it was an intergalactic tour that He was on to get to the third heaven. He was just [snaps fingers] gone, He was there.
But they saw Him for a period of time, and that’s how I like to imagine it. “But then two angels appeared and they said to them,” in verse 11, “’Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing into heaven? The same Jesus who’s been taken up will come in a like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” I like that phrase. “Why are you standing around gazing?” They were kind of like this, and like this. Maybe they had their hands in their pockets kind of like this, thinking, “Wow, that was neat. What do we do now? Where do we go from here? What happens?”
You ever been in that type of situation where you don’t know what to do next? When I was 15 years old, I got on a bus from my little hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I was going to get on a Greyhound bus. And those days you didn’t fear getting on a Greyhound bus, and you could go all over the country on a very cheap pass. And I was going to go out to California, my first trip to California, visit my brother for about three weeks. But I had to go to St. Louis about 100 miles north of my hometown and pick up what they called an express bus, that would go through the larger cities. And this express bus took Route 66 out of St. Louis all the way to Los Angeles, my first time to get on that fabled highway, Route 66. When I got off the bus from my hometown, I was in this large room, this large terminal, it was as larger, even larger than this room here, which for me, from my small town was a pretty big thing to walk into, and I did, first time I had ever traveled.
And I didn’t know how to make a connection. I didn’t know how to read a board to tell me these things. I remember taking my little bag and walking over and kind of looking around, and sitting down on a bench. And I sat, and I sat, and I thought somebody will come along and tell me what to do. Somebody will tap me on the shoulder and tell me what to do next, but you know what? As I was sitting there gazing around, nobody came. Then I finally figured out, “Oh, I got to do this myself. I’ve got to find out where that next bus leaves, and what time.” And so I made a certain few inquiries, I got on the bus, didn’t miss it. But that was a life lesson that I had to learn. I was standing there gazing, not quite knowing what to do.
The disciples stood gazing, and they didn’t know what to do. From this point, they had only 10 days. What did they do during that 10 days? As you read on in Acts chapter 1, one of the main things they did was to choose a successor to Judas. But by doing so, when you read the account, you understand that they knew the Scripture, and they applied Scripture to their choice and their decision to replace Judas. It’s an interesting way that they did. And it brings it down to the end of the chapter. And they chose Matthias by casting lots. I happen to think that they, no doubt during this period of time, as the days go on they talked and they read. They might have fidgeted a bit and wondered, “Well, should we go fishing?” “No, He said wait ‘till, wait in Jerusalem,” and so they were there and they continued.
And then the 50th day came, the morning of Pentecost, and they were gathered together. And what happened? They didn’t know. They came together, in verse 1 of chapter 2, “On the day of Pentecost when it was fully come, they were with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting, and it appeared to them, divided tongues as of fire. And one set upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And this dramatic miracle took place, of wind, and fire, and language, and hearing, and people took notice.
And in the room of the house where they were gathered, it obviously became a little bit too small for all that took place, because as these other people take note of it, you get the impression they moved out into a more public location in Jerusalem. Some say that they wound up in the temple precincts; could very well be. Jerusalem was swelled with pilgrims, at this point in time, and this added to the drama of the moment. I wonder if more people came to Jerusalem for Pentecost in that year because of what had happened 50 days earlier, plus three, and they had heard about that. Maybe a few more decided to go to Jerusalem on Pentecost to see what was going on, and the town was bursting at the seams, and from all these nations that we’re told about here and areas. And then this dramatic miracle takes place, festive occasion. Far more people than they could have ever imagined and Peter gets up and gives the sermon of his life. Bold, “Men and brethren,” he begins to explain what’s happened. That they’re not drunk, that this is of God. And Peter thence begins to quote Scripture. He quotes Joel, he quotes Psalms and he gives interpretations upon those scriptures, here in chapter 1, no one had ever heard of before. That’s a little-understood part of what was taking place.
Peter was quoting Scripture and applying it to something that had happened and that is Jesus, His death and His resurrection. And there wasn’t a Jew in Jerusalem, not a rabbi, not a priest who’d ever understood Joel or the Psalms in that way, nor would they have ever dreamed of applying it to what had happened just weeks earlier, with the arrest, crucifixion, and death of this Man called Jesus of Nazareth. And yet Peter does, and he gives a bold sermon. It’s an informed sermon. It’s an encouraging sermon, it’s very pointed and direct, that includes a dramatic call to repentance. In verse 38, after everyone has calmed down, they realize they’ve been involved and they were responsible for the death of Jesus. “What do we do?” Peter says, “Repent, believe, be baptized, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And they did, and “thousands were added to the Church that day.” Every minister’s dream, to give one sermon and thousands of people get baptized and join the Church in one day, every minister’s fantasy.
When you look and you understand what was taking place, here are people who’ve been terrified, they had been doubtful, unbelieving to one degree or the other during this previous 50-day period. Now all of a sudden, as Peter steps forward, and of course, you know the story of Peter. He was the one who was the leader of that doubt and fear and terrified approach, because he denied Christ three times, and he had to be pointedly taught by Jesus. He had a lot to come back, he was at the back of the pack. He had a long way to come to be the one to stand up and to give the sermon on this day, but he did it. And all the others came right in and were a part of it with him. These were not terrified, doubtful people.
When you read what Peter said about these prophecies from Joel and the Psalms—trust me, folks, Peter’s sermon would not have passed doctrinal review by the Jewish doctrinal committee of that day. We have a very involved, and very good, and a very detailed review process at many different levels of our writings, of our speaking in the United Church of God today. Everybody who gets up and gives a sermon in a congregation, that sermon before it’s ever posted on a website, has been reviewed or at least approved by individuals within the congregation. Articles that are published in our magazine or scripting for our television programs goes through a very, very thorough review process. That’s been the hallmark of our feature.
The Jewish authorities of their day had a very thorough doctrinal review process and Peter’s would not have passed, which is why they ran smack in trouble with the Jewish leadership from this point forward because they were applying new meaning to old Scriptures that no Jew had ever heard before. And it just caused them to proverbially tear their clothes and rush at them and ultimately to the point of Stephen and they stoned him. And therein, lies a key to the understanding of what had taken place with these individuals here. We get on to verse 40, the wrap-up: “With many other words, he testified and exhorted them saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation,’ that those who were, who gladly received his word were baptized; about 3,000 souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers.”
A church begins to develop. A fellowship, a community, prayer, sharing food together, much like we do today. “And fear came upon every soul,” and this was a different type of fear. This was a healthy fear of respect and awe and wonder at now what had happened. Now, it was all beginning to come together. “And all who believed were together and they had all things in common. They sold their possessions, they divided among them, they shared among those who had need. And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
Verses 40 to 47 is a summary of one of the most remarkable periods of the church experience. It is the ideal to which every subsequent church period has wished to be able to emulate, including ours today. A period of unity, one accord, fellowship, love for one another, treating people as equals, not in a completely socialistic manner that we understand from our modern context of socialism, or the welfare type of society. This was something that was spiritual in nature, that bound them together and they prayed, they studied the Scripture, and they praised God, it says, and because of that, their example caused them to have favor with people and others were drawn to their example at that time.
It is a remarkable period of church history, because right here we have a vision being fulfilled that Jesus Christ has for His Church. And that is of people led by the Holy Spirit, knit together, everyone providing that which they can toward a community of faith, power, and love, sharing, looking out after one another and caring for one another. That is the vision that Jesus has for His Church as articulated by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:16 Ephesians 4:16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×, and they had it at this moment. And it is also the mission of the Church, we see right here, it has begun. What we read about back in Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×of the gospel being taken to the world. And more specifically for this group that they would be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth being fulfilled.
The vision of the Church was coming together and the mission of the Church was being accomplished. And because both were working together, the mission and the vision, there was a remarkable picture being described here by Luke, of the Church at peace. And what was the key to that? We’ve just read it. Two things we can summarize to show what was the key to bring about this scene that we see here at the end of chapter 2 in Acts. A Church that was grounded in the Word of God. Jesus began to teach them, we read, from the Law of Moses, from the prophets, the Scriptures about Him, to explain to them what had happened. He spent days and days, and weeks and weeks doing that, bringing new dimension of understanding to the Scriptures that they had never had.
And then even when we see in the days after Jesus’ final ascension, a roughly 10-day period, when they came to make a decision to replace Judas, they read Scripture, they applied it properly, God blessed the decision. And you have to understand that and realize that, that’s what they were doing during that period of time as well. So that when they came to that morning of Pentecost and this mighty event takes place, they were ready then to move into the experience provided, and that extra dimension of power that the Spirit of God would give them and did give to them, and Peter takes the lead to give the sermon of his life. And this dramatic miracle, but beyond that, 3,000 people being added to the Church, and then a community being developed.
And so two things create this vision and this mission. The Word of God. If we can borrow a phrase that we’ve used over the last two years, two phrases, they labored in the Word and they lived in the Word. The ministry has had those two themes for the past two conferences. Labor in the Word, meaning to read the Word, and to learn it, and to soak it in and drink it in; and to live the Word, this past year. So the Word of God is what Jesus took and explained, it is what the Church went to, to explain what was happening, and then, it is the Spirit of God. This is the dimension that was given on Pentecost, and what this day is all about for those of us who are the firstfruits.
That is how the mission of the Church is done and that is how then that vision of a community, of a Church, of a people who are rooted in the Word of God, who actually do care for one another, is accomplished; by no other means, by no other means. It is the Word of God and it is the Spirit of God that did it for them, and will do it for you and for I today as we live our lives, as we go about our lives. The Church was given favor, we’re told, as they demonstrated these fruits and others were added. People need to see that Spirit within us. They need to see within us, Jesus Christ. In Colossians chapter 1, Colossians 1:27 Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
American King James Version×, Paul writes, “To them, God will to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in you, the hope of glory. That is what caused people to see something in those disciples and to want to be a part of it. That is what caused them to banish their fear, trouble, doubt, and unbelief: Christ in them through the Holy Spirit. In Revelation chapter 14, we are given an image of the firstfruits, called the 144,000 in this part of the Revelation. “Standing with the Lamb on the Mount of Olives,” in Revelation 14:1 Revelation 14:1And I looked, and, see, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
American King James Version×, “144,000 with the Father’s name written on their foreheads. And a voice from heaven like many waters, and the voice of thunder, and the sound of harpers playing their harps, they sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who are not defiled with women,” they are virgins, spiritual virgins. “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
A firstfruit is one who follows Christ. And it is Christ in us that is that hope of glory. All the gods of doubt—and I say gods with a little g, because doubt, and guilt, and fear can really separate us from God—the gods of doubt, and fear, and unbelief have all been shredded by Jesus Christ. Colossians 2:15 Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
American King James Version×, tells us that He disarmed the powers with His death. That’s what He did. People should see God in us. You remember what Ruth said to Naomi when Naomi, in the book of Ruth, had lost her husband and children, and these two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, tried to follow her away from Moab, and Orpah decided to leave. But she said, “Go ahead Ruth, you go home too,” and Ruth says, “Your God will be my God, wherever you go, I will go.” Because Ruth saw in Naomi, God, an example that she wanted to be a part of. People should see God in the firstfruits. People should see that in us.
So it’s something for us to examine in our own way, see how much of that is being demonstrated in our life. We have to live as well, knowing that there is a God, and to live our life that every day counts. And to live with the reality that there is a God who judges, who sees, and who knows. That Numbers 32 and verse 23, is correct. Our sins will find us out. And God will expose sin, ours to ourselves, sometimes to others. And we must live knowing that way. If we can make that decision and live with that reality that there is a God who lives, and before Him we stand every single day of our life and every major decision, every small decision of character, and the decisions that we make in the privacy of our own mind, and in our own actions that not everyone knows about, not even our mate, all are in accordance with righteousness and a desire for righteousness.
That’s an important trait for a firstfruit, for a firstfruit to have in their life, and in their approach to life. We can internalize that and think that through. We are going to be taking giant steps toward creating that kind of Church that we read about here in the book of Acts, that has been imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, and changes are being made. In 2 Peter chapter 1, 2 Peter chapter 1, Peter writes, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you and the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped corruption that is in the world through lust.” As we have received the gift of God’s Spirit, as those on that first day of Pentecost received the gift of the Holy Spirit were brought into the Church, they became, and so are we, partakers of the divine nature. And it is in that, we reach the real nexus, the real critical point of our life before God, where we recognize that, with the Holy Spirit, we are taking on the very nature of God, the divine nature.
That’s what this day is all about as a firstfruit. That’s what the gift of the Holy Spirit is for us. That’s how we live the Word, that’s how we drink in the Word, and it changes our life and it banishes the fear, gives us confidence in who we are and what we are to do. And allows us to then grow, because the next few verses here of 2 Peter speaks to a process of spiritual empowerment and growth and development. “Also for this very reason, giving all diligence into your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,” the divine nature. All of these qualities are to the divine nature, “to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christ did not leave His disciples as orphans. He said He wouldn’t and He didn’t, even though there was a moment in time when they thought that they were orphaned, as they stood gazing up and looking and wondering, “What do we do next. What’s the next step?” They weren’t orphans, and we are not either in our life. If we can learn to take on the divine nature and drink that in, in our lives, then we can banish doubt, uncertainty, and fear, unbelief, that will creep in at various times as we go through our lives, and stages in the developments of life. Trials hit us that will shake our faith, test our faith. It’s God’s Spirit that is the only thing that we can have to overcome those fears, because really, it’s all the Church of God has ever had. And as we’ve seen, even when they were confronted with the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, and they recognized that they still had to deal with the hostility of the world around them, in a kind of a two-pronged government called the Roman Empire and the Jewish society, plus their own human nature, and themselves. They were going up against a lot, just as we go up against our world today, and ourselves, and what Satan might throw at us.
So if I can come back to the question that I asked, what was going through their mind on that morning of Pentecost? Well, the real answer is for you and I, the same things that are going through your mind right now, and my mind. As I got up this morning, prepared to come over here, go through the day, same things that will be in my mind tomorrow, and next Thursday, and a month from today. The same things were going through their minds that go through our minds. Life, that a doubt every once in a while creeps in, sometimes an unbelief, fear, bonds of trust might be tested. And when those come in, how do we process them? How do we handle them? We will handle them by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
And if those are the weapons of our warfare, then we can handle them. We can deal with them. And we can be about the work that we see that the Church did then and has always done, of taking the message of salvation and of repentance to life, to people who need that message. And we can have the power to believe that, and to grow together and develop together as a bride of Christ, and accomplish His work and His purpose and His will. We give ourselves to that devotion, to that devoted study and the process of taking on the nature of God. We’re no different than them. We can take on that nature and we can live. We can accomplish the work of God, and we can then be the firstfruits who follow the Lamb and who know their God and do mighty deeds and mighty exploits.