The Pentecostal Experience - A Study in Acts 2Related Media
Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death and the grave, and ten days after He ascended up into heaven, a great event took place, the equal of which the world has not witnessed since. This event is designated in the Bible as “the day of Pentecost” (Acts 2:1). It was the day on which the Holy Spirit made a unique visit to the earth.
Christendom, in its feverish and futile observances of days, celebrates “Whitsunday” in commemoration of the Holy Spirit’s coming. But the festival is too frequently marked by hypocrisy since some of Christendom’s leaders go as far as to deny the Holy Spirit’s Deity. The true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will not observe the day in empty formalism, but he may use the day as an occasion and opportunity to ponder the great Christian truths which surround Pentecost.
Basic in Christianity are the true facts about God. The conceptions of men about God are many and varied, but the God of the Bible is one God revealed in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth . . .” (John 14:16, 17). This text is a clear and specific expression of the doctrine of the Trinity, directing the mind to that day on which the Third Person of the blessed Holy Trinity came. The word “another” in John 14:16 is the translation of the Greek word allos, meaning another of the same kind. When the Holy Spirit came, the disciples would find in Him no qualitative difference from the Father and the Son. All three persons possess all of the essential and unique attributes of Deity.
To that day on which the Holy Spirit came, and its exciting events, we now turn our attention.
The Pentecostal Preparation
Pentecost was a divinely planned event; it was no mere afterthought with God. The coming of the Holy Spirit was as much a part of the redemptive plan as was the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament we see Pentecost in history, in type and in prophecy. Pentecost was a solemn festival of the Jews. There was a series of seven of those annual feasts which, like the whole of Israel’s divinely appointed ritual, were “a shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1) . These feasts of Jehovah are set forth in order in Leviticus, chapter 23. Let us examine this chapter.
The first in order of the feasts was the Passover (verses 4, 5). This was the feast of redemption, reflecting upon Israel’s deliverance from her bondage in Egypt. The incident is recorded in Exodus 12. The slaying of the Passover Lamb and the sprinkling of its blood marked a new beginning for the children of Israel. On that very day God changed their calendar, saying, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus l2:2) That month was originally the seventh month of the Jewish calendar (Abib), but now a new start was begun with the past blotted out forever. Their day of redemption from Egyptian bondage had come.
This all finds application in Christian experience. Paul wrote, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (I Corinthians 5:7). When the believing sinner appropriates the death of Christ, his sinful past is forever blotted out. He becomes at once a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). Having been born again (John 3:5, 7), he receives new life, God’s own life (II Peter 1:4). The guilt and penalty of past sins are gone. The day of conversion is a new beginning.
The next in order of the Jewish feasts was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8). It was closely associated with the Passover and lasted seven days. Its chief characteristic was the rigid exclusion of leaven from the houses of the Israelites. Now what is leaven? Webster defines leaven as any substance used to produce fermentation, as in dough or liquids, especially a portion of fermented dough used for this purpose; yeast.
In Bible times a housewife could not go to the store and purchase a yeast cake as housewives can today, so she would keep a piece of fermented dough from a former baking. This lump of dough was either dissolved in water in the kneading trough before the flour was added, or else it was “hid” in the flour and kneaded along with it, as is mentioned in our Lord’s parable in Matthew 13:33. When leaven, even though it be a small portion, is added to a lump of dough, the process of fermentation (or corruption) begins to operate.
In typology leaven speaks of false doctrines and false principles of life. At least five kinds of leaven are mentioned in the New Testament. Our Lord warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which He identified as self-righteousness and hypocrisy (Matthew 16:6-12; Luke 12:1); the leaven of the Sadducees which is unbelief (Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8); and the leaven of Herod which is worldliness (Mark 8:15). Paul speaks of the leaven of the Corinthians which is immorality (I Corinthians 5:1-8), and the leaven of the Galatians which is legalism (Galatians 5:1-9)
In these two Jewish feasts, the Passover and Unleavened Bread, there is, in type, a beautiful sequence. The Passover speaks of salvation through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Inasmuch as leaven typifies evil, it follows that the person who trusts the shed blood of Christ for salvation should continue in Christian experience, namely, a walk in separation from evil. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Corinthians 5:6-8).
The third in order of the annual festivals was the feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:9-14). There was no set date for this event since it came, of necessity, when the grain was ripe and ready for harvest. In the autumn, seventy days before the Passover, the fields were ploughed and the seed planted. Then when the time for harvest had arrived, a chosen committee from the temple would set to work with sickle and basket to gather a small amount of grain. This in turn was brought into the temple to be threshed and ground into flour and presented before the Lord. In presenting the first-fruits of the natural product of the ground, Israel was acknowledging the power and goodness of Jehovah.
But again the outward and visible thing was a symbol of something far deeper and greater in spiritual meaning and value. The Lord Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Was He not here speaking of Himself? Indeed so! For it was on the third day after the Lamb was slain that He arose from death and the grave. Of this the Holy Spirit bears witness as seen in the following passage. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (I Corinthians 15:20).
Moses and the prophets may not have understood the full meaning of that Jewish festival, but the Holy Spirit did. Jesus Christ is the Church’s living Head (Colossians 1:18); and because He arose and is alive, He has power to bestow life upon whomsoever He will. Hence we read, “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (I Corinthians 15:23). Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee that we too shall live.
The fourth of the solemn feasts is called the feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-21). Notice the time element. The joyous season of the grain harvest lasted seven weeks, and on the day of the seventh sabbath, “fifty days” to be exact, the feast of Pentecost was celebrated. In rabbinic literature it is also called “The Feast of the Fiftieth Day.” Now we begin to see more clearly the deeper significance of Israel’s solemn feasts. The Greek word for “Pentecost” means fiftieth, and it was celebrated the fiftieth day from the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was “the day of Pentecost” (Acts 2:1) when, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, Jew and Gentile were made fellow heirs and of the same body (Ephesians 3:6).
We dare not overlook the fact that this very truth is seen in the feast itself. The following postscript is often overlooked with great loss, “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:22). The expression “to the poor and to the stranger,” naturally reaches outside the assembly of Israel to the Gentile, a fact set forth in Isaiah 66:19. So, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down, the mighty baptism of Jew and Gentile into one body took place (I Corinthians 12:13).
It might be added here that there is no record in the Bible of Israel observing the feast of Weeks until we read of Pentecost in Acts 2. The grace of God in Jesus Christ was to reach out beyond the limits of Israel, and Pentecost marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the divine plan, the Gospel into all the world to every creature. We bow in humble gratitude to God when we realize that the birthday of the Church was in preparation through every stage of human history.
Through the prophets the Lord prepared the way for the Spirit’s coming. Perhaps the best known prophecy that prepared hearts for Pentecost is to be found in Joel 2:28-32. At least Peter had no difficulty in explaining what had happened. He said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). Peter was telling his listeners that what took place on the day of Pentecost was predicted by the prophet. Of course Joel’s prophecy was not fulfilled then and there in its fullest sense, for its complete fulfillment is closely connected with the restoration of Israel, when Messiah’s earthly people will be redeemed. However, the dispensation of the Spirit had its beginning at Pentecost. It is fast moving to a close, when all Israel will share in the outpouring of the Spirit.
But consider also the necessary preparation immediately preceding the day of Pentecost, and even on that day itself. Pentecost, that year as always, had brought to Jerusalem many persons from near and far. Certainly, on returning to their homes, they could not remain silent about the happenings of that day. There the disciples were assembled “all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). Not that they knew in advance all that would happen, but because the risen Lord had so instructed them. They were obeying the divine command which was a part of the preparation (1:4). And their hearts were being prepared also, for the ten days of waiting were not spent in idleness, but “with one accord in prayer and supplication” (1:4). All was in readiness according to The Divine plan.
The teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, while He was here upon earth, prepared the way for Pentecost. He said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him” (Luke 11:13). Again He promised that “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, the Father will send in My name” (John 14:26), and, “If I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7). The ascension of Jesus Christ back to the Father did not mean that the effort of God to save men had ceased. There would be that unfinished task, but the Holy Spirit would come in the Son’s place to carry on. Pentecost did not take the disciples by surprise. The Lord Jesus had prepared them for the Spirit’s coming.
To the Jew, Pentecost was also the time when he was under obligation to remember the giving of the law at Sinai. Pentecost, then, was the anniversary of the law. The law was given expressly to Israel, but the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to indwell each believer, whether Jew or Gentile. He came to unite them into one body. The giving of the law was a preparatory service for Israel. The coming of the Spirit was a preparation for service for all believers, getting them ready to carry forth Christ’s Gospel. We suggest that in the order of these Jewish events God was preparing the way for a greater demonstration of His power in the hearts of men through the spirit. The Jews were acquainted with the symbols of wind and the supernatural voice of God. When these signs were given at Sinai, it meant to them that God had entered into covenant with the Jewish nation; therefore, when the same signs were given at Pentecost, God would teach the Jew that He was now entering into covenant with all who would believe in His Son.
The Pentecostal Presence
The day of Pentecost was the day of the Holy Spirit’s coming into the world. Luke does not attempt a description of the Holy Spirit, but he does deal in greater length with the effects of His presence on that day. We are not going to try here to put into words a description of Deity, but there are some facts which are pertinent and which should be considered.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the coming of a Person. The term, “the Holy Spirit,” is the name or title of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, and is used to distinguish Him from both the First Person, who is the Father, and from the Second Person, who is the Son. There are many other names used in Scripture to describe and designate the nature and work of the Third Person, and in every instance they refer to one and the same Person, the Holy Spirit.
Referring to the Holy Spirit as the Third Person does not imply that He is less important than the Father and the Son, but it does suggest that He is the last-revealed personality of the three. Pentecost introduced the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, and from the Book of Acts to The Revelation, the Holy Spirit functions as the direct agent between God and man. The purpose of Pentecost was to introduce Him to man in a new way.
The Holy Spirit was active before Pentecost, in the Old Testament, striving against Sin (Genesis 6:3), enduing with skill (Exodus 28:3; 31:2-5; 35:21-35), empowering for service (Judges 3:10, 34; I Samuel 10:6), and causing men to speak God’s message (Numbers 24:2; II Samuel 23:2; II Chronicles 20:14). But none of the old testament saints knew Him as the disciples learned to know Him at Pentecost. The Pentecostal Person is no less God than is God the Father, and God the Son.
The Holy Spirit came as the Third Person in the Godhead, co-equal with both the Father and the Son. He is called God (Isaiah 6:8, 9; cf. Acts 28:25, 26; Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 10:15; Acts 5:1-4; II Corinthians 3:18 R.V.). The fact of His Deity is obviously clear in that He possesses the essential attributes of God. Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), omniscient (I Corinthians 2:9-11), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10) and omnipotent (Job 26:13). His coming was not simply the power of an influence; it was the presence of the living God. He had been on earth before, but now He came to stay. The Lord Jesus had said, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
The Church was being formed and anointed by God’s eternal presence. Pentecost was the guarantee of the presence of the Holy Spirit. He came to indwell and possess the hearts of believers. We insist in placing the emphasis upon Him. What happened at Pentecost? The Spirit came.
We see a mighty unfolding in the Book of the Acts. Pagan powers are smitten, the lame are made to walk, the dead are raised to life, and thousands of souls are born anew. Never before were men possessed with so great an impulse to speak out for Christ. Never before had there been such a readiness and voluntary willingness to suffer for Christ. Never before had a group so large known such enthusiastic and intimate fellowship. The world was to witness a new thing. Rather than deny Jesus Christ or each other, the disciples chose to take their lives into their own hands and go forward in Christ’s name even unto death. Then commenced their witness in Jerusalem, branching out to Judea and Samaria, and in due course pushing out toward the uttermost part of the earth. And how did this new constraint come? There can be but one answer--the Holy Spirit had come to abide.
God’s purpose is to draw men to Himself and make them like His Son, Jesus Christ. To this end Christ gave Himself. But in so doing He did not complete the task. The process of producing God-likeness is still going on today, and it is the primary work of the Spirit to accomplish this. Undoubtedly the disciples were somewhat startled when Christ commissioned them to go forth into all the world and present His Gospel to all men. If they were bewildered at His command, they had a right to be. But He anticipated their fears and eased their burdened hearts when He added, “After that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” At Pentecost, that is exactly what took place. The Holy Spirit came. Now, for more than nineteen hundred years, men have defied suffering, sorrow and death in order that Christ’s transforming Gospel might reach all men and fashion them into His likeness. Not all who have heard have believed, by any means. But some have and in every instance a work has been wrought, not by the disciples themselves, but by the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost.
We need to recognize the Pentecostal Person in the ministry today. There is a prevailing impotence that none can deny, and all because the Person of the Holy Spirit is lost in a program about Him. We have emphasized the program and the personnel behind it, but we have shut out Him who alone can produce lasting results. The works of the flesh can never produce the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life-line of power in the Church. The coming of the Spirit was the commencement of the Church for, says Paul, “Ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). By the Spirit the body of Christ was formed, and by Him it is held together.
Too little attention is being given Him, and because He is not recognized there is no power in service. There is no need to pray for the Spirit to come. He is with us today. “He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure” (John 3:34). He is a Person, and we have as much of Him as did the disciples at Pentecost. When we permit the Holy Spirit to take possession of the Church today, we can expect glorious results. Let us evermore yield to Him.
The Pentecostal Phenomena
The word “phenomenon” has been defined as a strange and striking appearance of any nature; something not common, a marvel, a wonder in the external world or in a person possessing unusual powers. The day of Pentecost brought with it a demonstration of unusual power at which time there were wonders to behold. The phenomena that accompanied the Pentecostal Presence is now under consideration. The phenomena were three in number. They were signs which were the symbols of the Holy Spirit’s coming; the signs of sound, sight, and speech. The first was heard, the second was seen, and the third was both heard and seen.
There was the sign of sound. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). Here we are told that the Spirit’s coming was as the wind. It was a supernatural sound, for the divine record has it that the sound came from Heaven.
Wind is one of the emblems of the Spirit. The Greek language has but one word for “wind” and “spirit,” and they mean the same thing in that language. We shall cite two biblical illustrations which show the spiritual analogy between the wind and the Spirit. In Ezekiel 37, we have the prophet’s vision of the valley of dry bones, a prophecy which has to do primarily with Israel. Ezekiel was taken by God to see a valley filled with dry bones. Then God said to him, “Son of man, can these bones live? . . . Then said He unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:1-10).
These four winds, which the prophet calls breath, are the divine breath of the Holy Spirit, the breath that caused the first man to live, when “the Lord God formed man of the dust of ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). It is further testified to by Job, where he says, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4).
When the Lord Jesus explained to Nicodemus about the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, He said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
The wind is a symbol of power, of life. It is not static. It stands for the Holy Spirit, the mightiest of all powers, apart from which no sinner, dead in trespasses and in sins, can ever be born again into the family of God. He is the energizing power that quickens men today. Apart from Him men remain spiritually dead.
There was the sign of sight. “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3). To the Jew, fire had always been a symbol of the divine presence and it is a glorious expression and illustration of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture says, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). He is called, “the Spirit of burning” (Isaiah 4:4). He is likened to the consuming fire which purges the wheat from the chaff (Matthew 3:11, 12). Fire is used to describe the illuminating power of the Spirit, for the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of our Lord are called, “the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5).
The Jewish religion was made up largely of symbols, the physical things being used to symbolize the spiritual. No better symbol could have been used for the person and work of the Holy Spirit than fire. Fire illuminates, and Pentecost was to be a new revelation and illumination.
Christianity was not to begin in the dark. There is nothing vague or shady about it. As it commenced under the glory and splendor of divine light, so it has continued. That religion which has thrived on half-truth and which ingratiatingly makes its way into the minds of the unwary is not the true Christian message which came by the Spirit at Pentecost. The weakness of Modernism is not so much in what it says as in what it does not say. The true Christian message subscribes to the doctrine of Pentecost, and that is the enlightening and purifying power of the Holy Spirit. There is no room around the Pentecostal fire for religious chameleons who change color with every background. Without that Holy Fire, there never would have been the mighty results.
Recently I stood by an open fireplace. I appreciated the warmth. What a fitting symbol is fire of the Christian faith! Christianity is not cold. It warms the hearts of its adherents by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Wherever it is embraced, it kindles a new conflagration. This Pentecostal phenomenon was the doing of the Lord.
There was the sign of speech. “And they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Speech in itself would not ordinarily be classed as a marvel in the external world. Speech is common to all men. But the Pentecostal display of tongues was above the realm of nature, and all those who were present knew it. It was something uncommon to them. The gift of tongues was the first of the Pentecostal effects and the first to disappear. The crowd that gathered that day was mixed, “out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), so that they used different languages and dialects. The phenomenon occurred when, to the amazement of all, the apostles began to speak, not in the normally recognized Aramaic of the Galileans, nor even in the common language of the Jews, but in tongues which the listeners were able to understand in their own language.
The phenomenon of tongues was not permanently instituted, but it was designed for temporary purposes. We believe that God gave this gift at the time especially for the benefit of unbelieving Jews, for, says Paul, “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear Me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (I Corinthians 14:21, 22).
Three times tongues are spoken of in The Acts, and in each case it was a sign that God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, had brought the Gentiles into the Church on the same basis as the Jews. (See Acts 2:1-4; 11:15; 18:24; 19:6, 7.) Speaking in tongues was a sign of the Spirit’s presence, and such a sign was given to the whole group so that they all spoke with tongues (10:46).
Speaking of the Pentecostal phenomena, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “These were but symbols of no value save as signs for the moment. It is necessary to observe that fact, because there is always a hunger in the carnal heart for signs. These signs were material; today we do not need them; they were needed at the commencement.”
The speaking with tongues at Pentecost was doubtless done in perfect order, without any confusion, and it was given just for the occasion. The gift was neither universal nor permanent. Dr. Arthur T. Pierson said, “Speaking in an unknown tongue is unintelligible to the hearer, is undesirable and unserviceable, it may degenerate into an empty display of the mysterious--a mere babble, if not babble, of confusion, and that such a gift acts rather as a hindrance than a help to common joint worship.” Today the Holy Spirit is indwelling Christians, seeking to exalt and magnify Jesus Christ in us. Let us not confuse the unbeliever any more than he is already bewildered, but let us seek to witness to him intelligibly and intelligently in a tongue that he knows.
The personal and practical aspect of the Spirit’s ministry is summed up in the statement, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” This is the normal state, and it is commanded in Ephesians 5:18. More important than seeking after the Pentecostal phenomena is to surrender our lives to the Pentecostal Person who longs to fill us with Himself in order that we might be equipped to carry out the Great Commission.
The Pentecostal Preaching
The atmosphere was charged with tenseness. The Holy Spirit had introduced a new dispensation and the strange Power was being felt by all. The disciples now assured that this was the Comforter whom the Lord Jesus had promised to send. Now the Spirit-filled followers of Christ were under His complete control. The world would see a mighty demonstration which no man ever had witnessed before. This demonstration began when the disciples were filled with the Spirit, and it was first evidenced when they “began to speak with other tongues.” Indeed, this was the Pentecostal phenomenon, that miraculous speech should be granted to the disciples so that they might speak the wonderful message of God in dialects and languages which they themselves had not known but which were perfectly familiar and understandable to some of the hearers. This was the favorable result, and it was accomplishing the purpose of the Lord.
But there were impressions made upon unbelievers which left some amazed and perplexed. They heard and saw what went on, but they did not understand. What they heard seemed gibberish to them. They reported that the followers of the Nazarene were drunk with wine. Indeed, there was no little mental confusion among the multitudes who witnessed the Pentecostal phenomenon. In order to escape the enigma, they commenced to jeer and joke, saying, “These men are full of new wine.” Others, in their seeking hearts asked, “What meaneth this?” Then followed the first Pentecostal sermon.
We are now to see a Spirit-filled man in action. Peter was the chosen vessel to deliver the discourse. Let us look now at both the man and the message.
The Servant was Empowered
Before the Pentecostal message could be delivered, God’s messenger needed to be properly equipped. Peter was the chosen vessel to preach the Pentecostal sermon. Before Pentecost Peter was an unlikely candidate for the job. He had the gift of “gab,” but he often spoke in haste and with uncontrolled recklessness. His one asset was his aggressive nature. It seemed that he was talking most of the time. In conversation he delighted in taking the lead. He was quick-tempered and vacillating. Before Pentecost he was quite self-confident, depending more on himself than on the Lord. The world might have congratulated him for becoming a self-made man. But the man God uses is the man God makes.
At the Last Supper our Lord said to His own, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night.” Immediately Peter replied, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet wilt I never be offended” (Matthew 26:31-33). At that point our Lord predicted the shameful cowardice of the self-confident Peter, saying, “Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice” (vs. 34). In spite of Christ’s prediction, Peter persisted, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee” (vs. 35).
Foolish Peter! If only he had known his own weakness! A few hours after that conversation with Jesus, Peter forsook and denied his Lord (vss. 69-75). It has happened often that the very sins for which we condemn others, and which we boast will never overtake us, cause our downfall.
The believer who is empowered for service must lose confidence in self and depend wholly upon the Lord. The plain teaching of Scripture is that the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38) and infirmed (Romans 6:19), and that we are to put no confidence in it (Philippians 3:3), nor make provision for it (Romans 13:14). We dare not trust ourselves. We need to learn that “it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). The man of wisdom has said, “The Lord shall be thy confidence” (Proverbs 3:26). If we hope to be used of God, our confidence must be toward Him (I John 3:21), and in Christ (I John 5:14). The mighty Apostle Paul was greatly used of the Lord because he had learned in whom to place confidence. He could say, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The Christian worker is confident that, as he works, the Lord must work through him. The confident expectation of every true servant of Christ is in the power of the Holy Spirit. The self-confident Peter of the past was in no condition to deliver the Pentecostal sermon.
But Peter was to experience a change, and it was that change which empowered him for the holy task. Such empowering is the work of the Holy Spirit. The first great demonstration of Pentecostal preaching was an exhibition and illustration of the Spirit’s power, a necessary spiritual qualification for bearing witness to Jesus Christ. Peter stands forth as an example of what the Holy Spirit will do with the servant who is fully yielded to Him. All through the Book of the Acts and the Epistles, the Holy Spirit is the Presence and the Power in true service. All results were accomplished by Him. This is the marked feature in the history of the Christian Church. One purpose in Christ sending the Holy Spirit was to equip the disciples for the work. He said to them, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8). He had given them the Great Commission, but without the power of the Holy Spirit, they were inefficient to execute it.
Our Lord said many fine things to Peter, but none of His sayings were more important than that which He uttered to Peter and to the rest. “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). We need to be clothed upon with power if we are to engage ourselves in aggressive spiritual work. Like Peter, we must be filled with the Spirit if we plan to go forth to serve Christ. No doubt to “tarry” went hard with the impulsive, enthusiastic apostle, but he did it. So did the rest of the disciples. There was an unlimited field of service. It was to be worldwide--“into all the world” (Mark 16:15), “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Such a tremendous task could never be accomplished without the special endowment from Heaven. We need to be filled with the Spirit.
We are not specialists when it comes to this matter of waiting upon the Lord. But a necessary part of the equipment with which to reach men for God is first to reach God for men. He who does not pause before the Throne of God is in danger of becoming mechanical, and the most mechanical person is not of necessity the most practical. The practical servant of the Lord does God’s work in God’s way by the power of God’s Spirit. Peter could not be Christ’s witness without the Spirit’s preparation. Neither can we. Let us ask ourselves if we are witnesses, born again and empowered by the Spirit. We have not yet begun to serve Him until this is so.
The Scripture was Expounded
Following Peter’s enduement with power by the Holy Spirit, we notice that he expounded the Scriptures. The Pentecostal sermon was authoritative because it was scripturally correct. The copious use of Scripture here instructs us as to what our sermons should be like. Twelve out of the twenty-three verses are direct quotations from the Old Testament. In many quarters there is a total departure in present-day preaching from this Pentecostal procedure. Peter appealed to the inspired Word of God for the answer to the witnessed phenomena. He was preaching the Word. In Paul’s solemn charge to Timothy, he wrote, “Preach the Word” (II Timothy 4:2). This is as it ought to be. The preacher’s message should proceed upon the assumption of the inspiration and infallibility of the Word of God. The true art of preaching is to stay by the “thus saith the Lord.” We are to be ministers of the Word. One word from God’s Book is worth more than all the jewels from all earthly books.
Peter’s address commenced with the prophetic Scriptures as he sought to show that what actually had taken place was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy in the gift of the Holy Spirit. There was the courageous ring of certainty in Peter’s message as he answered the charge of drunkenness with the words, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (vss 16, 17).
The skill, wisdom and bravery of Peter were a sure sign that something momentous had taken place. This was not the mere eloquence of man. It was an epoch-making address and it stands out as the first authoritative document of the new Church. Only the Spirit of God could have possessed Peter’s mind in interpreting this apocalyptic prophecy of the Hebrew Scriptures, a prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the far-reaching results that should follow.
The passage which Peter quoted and interpreted is found in Joel 2:28-32, and it declared, many centuries before Pentecost, that God would one day pour out His Spirit on all flesh. The crowd in amazement asked, “What meaneth this?” And Peter proceeded to tell them that this is that declared by the prophet Joel. Pentecost was no accident. It marked the beginning of the end, the beginning of the last dispensation before that great and notable day when the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood.
Actually Joel’s prophecy is not yet fulfilled in its entirety. This is still the dispensation of the Spirit as predicted by Joel. As yet all flesh has not seen and heard. “Into all the world” the believer, indwelt by the Spirit, must go with the Gospel of Christ. No revival in the history of Israel ever before reached out to bring the members of all flesh to God. But this is God’s final effort to reveal Himself to lost humanity. Each Person in the Godhead gave Himself in successive dispensations to win lost mankind back to God. The Old Testament is clearly seen to be the dispensation of the Father. By direct revelation, through patriarchs, prophets, priests, judges, and kings, God sought to win man back to Himself; but he would not come.
Then, after four thousand or more years of human history the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). The dispensation of the Son lasted from the cradle in Judea to the Cross at Jerusalem.
Then came Pentecost, fifty days after the death and Resurrection of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit came in a new way, not upon men but into men. He is in the world today enabling and empowering the servants of the Lord to open God’s Word to needy mankind.
But Peter did not confine his exposition to the prophecy of Joel. He moved like a master into the Psalter, quoting from three Psalms and making the application of the Scriptures. He used Psalms 16, 110, and 132. And we should make practical use of the entire Psalter as well. Dr. Joseph Parker said, “Every Psalm bears its own marks of inspiration. Human experience has been anticipated in all its innumerable phases. Is it nothing to have a book which knows the soul through and through, and can express all its sorrow and all its rapture? How mountain-like is the sublime old Hebrew among the languages of earth! And how noble its billow-like swell amid the waves of meaner speech! David knew me. Asaph is my bosom friend. Solomon is my confidant.”
The Book of Psalms accounts largely for the Bible’s growing influence among the peoples of the earth. The Lord Jesus Himself assured us that we would find Him in the Psalms. Thank God for the Psalter! It seems to have been written in a language which we all can understand. These were the Scriptures that Peter expounded.
Sinners are saved by God’s Word. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Peter 1:23). “For the word of God is quick, and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). In our day there is a drift away from expository preaching of the Bible. Many sermons are long on experience and story-telling but short on Bible teaching. Peter knew the Scriptures and how to apply them.
The Saviour was Exalted
Finally, the Lord Jesus Christ was exalted in the Pentecostal sermon. The substance of Peter’s sermon concerned “Him” (Acts 2:23). The Scriptures which He used pointed to Jesus of Nazareth, who was both Lord and Christ. Peter and the rest of the disciples had been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, Christ the Lord; but now his hearers must be convinced even as they were. The Peter of Pentecost is filled with the Spirit, and all Spirit-filled preaching exalts Christ. When our Lord promised to send the Spirit, He said, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, . . . He shall glorify Me” (John 16:13, 14).
The Spirit came to guide men into all truth and Jesus Himself is the very embodiment of truth. “I am the Truth,” He said. The Spirit’s holy purpose is to bring Christ into full view of saint and sinner. F. B. Meyer wrote, “He is so anxious that nothing should divert the soul’s gaze from the Lord whom He would reveal, that He carefully withdraws Himself from view . . . But remember that when you have the most precious views of your dear Lord, it is because the Holy Spirit, all unseen, is witnessing and working within you.” All revelation of divine truth should be given for the glorification of Christ; not that the Son should have precedence over the Father and the Spirit, but that men should see the Godhead, “For in Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Being filled with the Spirit, Peter therefore exalted the Saviour in the Pentecostal sermon. This was to be expected.
Peter appealed first to the works of Jesus (Acts 2:22). He told his hearers that God put His seal of approval upon the Man Jesus, and that by His wonderful works He showed that He was the Messiah. The Apostle refers to Him as “Jesus of Nazareth,” the title by which the multitude had come to know Him. The fame of Jesus, because of His wonderful works, had spread far and wide, and Peter was appealing to the multitude by the designation which they knew best.
While we rightly emphasize the death and resurrection of our Lord, I fear it is often to the neglect of His life and work here on earth. The miracles of Christ need to be restated and re-emphasized. They have become so familiar and commonplace to some of us that we no longer are amazed at God’s miracle work. Did the Lord Jesus perform works that no other man could do? This question has been the battleground upon which Modernism has attacked evangelical Christianity. Peter declared Christ’s mighty works to be a demonstration of God to the world. They were the works of God; for the miracles, wonders, and signs which our Lord wrought, “God did by Him in the midst of you.” Let us not overlook the importance of our Lord’s earthly work before the Calvary experience, but say with Nicodemus, “No man can do these miracles that Thou doest except God be with him” (John 3:2). “By His works the Son bore witness that He was sent of the Father” (John 5:36).
Peter then passed on in his Christ-exalted message to speak of the Messiah’s death. The sufferings and death of Messiah were no mere accident nor afterthought, but He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (vs. 23). Later, Peter showed the Lord Jesus to be the slain Lamb “who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:20). The suffering Messiah had been fully revealed in the Pentateuch, in Prophecy and in the Psalms, and the very details of His death were all pre-arranged in eternity. God was offering the sacrifice for sin. No mere man could do it. “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). The Father made His (Christ’s) soul an offering for sin.
Let us begin at the Cross where God begins with it, not with the bloodiness and brutality of the Crucifixion, but in the glorious, infinite heights of the foreknowledge of God. Sinners are not saved because their emotions are aroused through hearing about the cruelty of the Crucifixion. We are saved by the voluntary, vicarious death of the eternal Son of God, who knew that He was coming to die on our place. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Pressing on, the Apostle insisted upon the necessity of Christ’s resurrection from death and the grave--“whom God raised up” (vs. 24). No doubt Peter’s argument for the resurrection was overwhelmingly effective with his Jewish listeners. He quoted David from the Psalms. David said, “Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” (vs. 27). But David could not have spoken of his own self, for it was now evident that David had died and had been buried, and his sealed tomb was at hand. Peter was preaching Christ throughout his sermon, and the central fact, to which the most space is given, is His resurrection. The things which David had written, and which Peter quoted, could not have been David’s own experiences. They were prophecies which never could have been fulfilled in any other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then where was Jesus of Nazareth? If He arose from the dead only a few weeks before, where is He now? Peter answered this question. “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted . . .” (vs. 33). David is not yet ascended into Heaven in his physical body, but Jesus Christ is. God has exalted His Son to His own right hand, so that all the house of Israel, yea, every one of us, should know that this same Jesus is both Lord and Christ. The sermon that is Christocentric will have the blessing of God upon it.
Preaching is a great vocation! It is the proclamation of the good news of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. In the mind of Christ it was doubtless the greatest vocation, for He intended that its influence should be felt worldwide. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature,” He told His disciples (Mark 16:15). All preaching involves at least two necessary elements, a man and a message. And when both the man and the message are God’s, there are certain results which follow the sermon.
There is no finer example of the right kind of preaching than the first Pentecostal message. Of course, a prerequisite to the delivery of any sermon is the right kind of preacher. Though it is His Word, rather than the man who gives it that God has promised to honor, yet there must be the preacher. The printed page is greatly used of God, but the Gospel proclaimed in writing is not preaching. The author is not always a preacher.
Peter was the privileged servant to deliver the first sermon at Pentecost. The personality of the preacher has very much to do with the power and effectiveness of a sermon, and Peter possessed the kind of personality that God could use in the preaching of His Word. The sermon becomes a very part of the preacher. He lives it. If he is not a man of deep piety and purity who can forcefully express truth through his character and personality, he is not likely to succeed for God. He can be no mere machine expressing truth mechanically. Peter was a real man, a saved man, a changed man, filled with the Holy Spirit, and the effect of his life and preaching is worthy of note.
When Peter preached his sermon, he displayed a practical working knowledge of the Word of God; the message was biblical (Acts 2:16-21). Next in order, the sermon was Christocentric, setting forth the whole truth concerning Jesus Christ, in orderly sequence (vss. 22-32). This is the kind of preaching that counts. What results might one expect from a sermon such as this, a sermon that is scriptural and Christ-centered, and that is preached with courage and conviction? The first Pentecostal sermon itself should be studied carefully. It is a masterpiece. It might well serve as a pattern for all preaching. But it takes more than the man and the message to produce lasting results. The secret of the results of Peter’s sermon was in the unseen Power Who took charge. No human personality nor any amount of eloquence can achieve such glorious results apart from the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. What Peter and the disciples saw after he had preached was a demonstration of divine power which actually was the Spirit of God working through them.
There was Conviction
Of the hearers it is written, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts” (vs. 37). Such was the power of the sermon. Every preacher should be aware of the fact that not all of his hearers realize that they are lost. The congregation may possess intellect and intelligence above normal, and yet be indifferent to their sins and their wrong relationship to God. Preaching with conviction is the need of the hour. Not only are men to see the vileness of their sins, but they should be made to recognize the heinousness of sin, “that it might appear sin,” and that it “might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:13). Wherever real conviction results, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. When our Lord promised the Holy Spirit, He said, “When He is come, He will reprove (convict) the world of sin” (John 16:8).
There may be a thousand voices crying out loudly against sin, but no agent apart from the Holy Spirit’s can produce genuine conviction. This is the Spirit’s own work. When the Spirit enlightens the darkened mind showing the wrath of God which is poured out upon sin, then does the heart of the sinner long for deliverance. All men have some standard of what ought to be, but the Holy Spirit alone is able to destroy these false conceptions and show the sinner how radically defective his views of right and wrong are. Man, apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, argues that he is not bad at heart, but when the Spirit is free to work, He brings to bear upon man’s conscience how vile a sinner man is. When self-righteousness bows its head in shame and the heart cries out to God for salvation, the Spirit has brought it about, and the work of conviction is done.
Perhaps you ask if the Holy Spirit has not been remiss in His work, since there is such a widespread lack of genuine conviction. I fear that we have overlooked a most important phase of the Spirit’s work. Conviction was not to be brought directly to sinners by the Holy Spirit’s coming. The Spirit did not come directly to sinners, but to the disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). The Spirit came directly to the believer, therefore His work of convicting must be accomplished as He is free to work through His own. The preacher cannot convict of sin apart from the Holy Spirit, nor, generally speaking, will the Holy Spirit do it without us. It is futile to ask God to convict sinners when He already has promised to do this on condition that we, who are the temples of the Holy Spirit, do not hinder Him. You see then, how that the Spirit convicts sinners through Spirit-filled and Spirit-used lives. We pray God to convict the sinner, but the sinner does not feel that he is a sinner because he sees us, who profess to be Christians, living no differently from himself. How sad when sinners come to our church and hear the Gospel and then turn away in unbelief and rejection because they see us doing the same things they do! Think it not strange when sinners are not convicted in our churches. The Holy Spirit has not failed. We have. Actually our Lord was suggesting that “when He is come (through you), He will reprove the world of sin.”
The power of the Pentecostal sermon was not merely in the fact that the sermon was preached, but that it was “preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven” (I Peter 1:21). The Apostle Paul gave witness to the same glorious truth when he said, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Corinthians 2:4).
The preaching that produces conviction is always the result of Spirit-filled lives both in the pew and the pulpit. It is useless to speak sentimentally about a sin-cursed and perishing world as long as we ourselves attempt to hide our own sins and refuse to turn from the world. When we live lives of defeat instead of victory we cannot expect that the Holy Spirit will do His work of conviction. The Pentecostal sermon brought conviction because “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:4). When will we learn that God is waiting to demonstrate through the lives of His children how awful sin is and how wonderful is His Son our Saviour? Let us cease wasting our effort in the attempt to produce conviction by preaching Christ in our own strength. The Spirit is dependent upon the pure lives of God’s children.
There was Conversion
The conviction wrought by the Spirit through the disciples brought from the crowd the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). These Jews had been waiting for the Messiah to come, and now Peter, by the Holy Spirit, tells them that Messiah has already come. Moreover, Peter informs them that it was He whom the nation had rejected and hanged upon the Cross at Calvary. Now what would they do? Would they be given another chance? Would God send Him again so that the people might have another opportunity to receive Him? In desperation they asked of Peter and the rest, “What shall we do?”
This burning question emanated from the Spirit-pierced and Spirit-convicted hearts, for men do not ask questions about eternal issues when there is no conviction. Peter answered, “Repent!” Repentance means, literally, a change of mind. These Jews had the wrong conception regarding Jesus Christ. By wicked hands they had taken and crucified and slain Him. He had come to them, but they would not receive Him. They showed their attitude toward Jesus when they rejected Him. Now Peter says, “Change your attitude. Change your mind about Jesus Christ.”
True repentance effects not only a change of mind and attitude, but a complete moral reformation which is seen in sorrow for sin and a deep regret that the person repenting has violated the holy laws of God. Real repentance manifests itself in self-abhorrence and self-humiliation. This, in turn, causes the sinner to turn away from all his sin and transgression against God. Repentance was the keynote of the preaching of John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the disciples. When this needed note is missing from the sermon, we need not look for men to be saved. The truth that the world must change its attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ must ever be held before the eyes of men. This involves a radical change in the innermost recesses of man’s being, and such a work can be accomplished only by the Holy Spirit, for “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). A man, apart from the Holy Spirit, might stir the emotions of another, but only the Spirit of God can reach the human spirit.
The sermon of power is the biblical, Christ-centered sermon which exposes sin and calls upon the sinner to repent. It is preached by the man who is filled with and guided by the Spirit. The Thessalonian believers experienced true repentance, a turning to and a turning from for they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:9). But their repentance was not the result of the mere preaching of the Word; “for,” says Paul, “our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost” (vs. 5). We see here that the results were achieved by the combination of a yielded life preaching the word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s sermons were sermons of power.
The first results of the Pentecostal sermon were outstanding. Luke says that there were added “about three thousand souls” (vs. 41). Conviction was immediately followed by conversion. These results were not produced by the eloquence of Peter, not by his logical argument, but by his declaration of truth concerning Jesus in the power of the Spirit. So men were saved and the Church grew.
We say that it is hard to get men to repent and be converted. But right here is where the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, and the decisions we cannot get men to make, He will produce. We figure on the amount of converts by the number that we have led to acknowledge, with their lips, the Lordship of Christ, but we have forgotten “that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Corinthians 12:3). And when the Holy Spirit gets a man to decide for Christ, that man is soundly converted.
The power of a sermon that is prepared and preached under the leadership of the Spirit cannot be expressed in our terms. The results are not accurately recorded on the church roll, but they are eternally inscribed in God’s book. When Peter preached, the converts were not his but God’s. They were not received into the Cathedral of St. Peter, but we are told that the Lord added to the Church such as were being saved (vs. 47). If we are to witness a soul-saving ministry in our churches, both preacher and people will have to get right with God and allow the Holy Spirit to have His way.
Much preaching today is without power. The sermon is delivered but the results are meager. But God has not changed. In the early Church, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Corinthians 1:21). Notice, it does not say that it pleased God to save men by foolish preaching, but by the foolishness of preaching. When the Apostles preached Christ, it appeared to the outside world as foolishness, but it still was God’s prescribed method for saving the lost. Modernism is educating the masses to believe that sermons which search the heart and affect the emotions are “foolish.” Such preaching is frowned upon. And yet if we expect to see men delivered from the wrath to come the Spirit of God must be free to convict and convert through the preacher, through the sermon, and through the saints in the pew.
There was Continuance
The record has it that “they continued steadfastly” (Acts 2:42). The three thousand, more or less, did not constitute the tabulated results after the sermon was preached. These are they who continued steadfastly. When men are soundly saved through the power of the Spirit, the results are continuous. As I write this message, I sit in a small mountain home high on the plateau of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia. A series of preaching services is now in progress. Last night after the meeting a mountain preacher told me of the usual results at “revival meetin’” time. Said he, “If the evangelist can get the people worked up enough, they’ll come forward and confess their sins. But the trouble is, it just don’t last. They soon forget God, Christ, the Bible, and the church. We don’t expect to see many of these until ‘revival’ time again next year.”
We insist that such “results” are not the work of the Holy Spirit. Too often there are those who come into the inquiry room, confess sin, profess to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, receive a Scripture portion but are seldom seen in the house of God or with the people of God. Are they God’s converts or man’s? We are not judging the “converts,” but we invite our readers to share with us further in the continuous results of the first Pentecostal sermon.
The new converts “continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine.” The word doctrine means teaching. Now they were very much limited in their access to the written Word of God. As yet there was no New Testament in writing. The printing press was not yet thought of, so that they were wholly dependent upon a few hand-inscribed copies of the Old Testament. But baring been born of the Spirit, they were drawn to the Word of God for instruction. The new nature hungered for the soul-food which alone is able to sustain and satisfy the child of God.
Where are the “converts” of today? While it is true that some are continuing in the study of God’s Word and are found where the truth of the Bible is presented, too many have not continued, and show no desire whatever to learn the Word of God. Is the Holy Spirit at fault? Indeed not! We who are the temples of the Holy Spirit are at fault. We have grieved Him by our sins and our selfishness. We have failed to acknowledge the absolute necessity of His operation in the sinner’s heart. We have not recognized that His sovereign and gracious work of convicting and converting the lost must be carried out through us. Let us use all the skill and wisdom and natural ability that we possess remembering that the abiding results are manifest where the Spirit is honored.
The power of the Pentecostal message drew the new converts into “fellowship.” This was exactly what they needed. It is important for us today, for we need one another also. God knew how much we should need each other, hence, “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (I Corinthians 12:13). When any person is born of the Spirit, he is organically united to the Body of Christ, “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). Do our hearers have the desire to fellowship with God’s people? Are they one with us? They should be! And if the Spirit is having His way, it will be so.
Next in order, we are told that the new converts continued steadfastly “in breaking of bread.” They were drawn by the Spirit to the sacred ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. How misguided are the masses today! Multitudes outside of Jesus Christ come to church only on “Communion Sunday,” as though there was saving merit in the ordinance. On the other hand, there are those who have confessed the Lord Jesus as Saviour, who show no desire to be present at the Lord’s Supper. Our Lord commanded His disciples, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19), and certainly it seems that one who has been truly saved would have some conviction about this. We hasten to inquire whether or not some of our “converts” were ever born of the Spirit.
We are told that they continued steadfastly in prayer. Yes, they prayed. The new converts did not consider “the pastoral prayer” enough for them. It must have been a great blessing to the new believers when Peter and the rest prayed, but they too learned to exercise the glorious privilege of communion with God.
Here, then, are four aspects of the New Life in Christ to which the Pentecostal converts gave consistent attention--teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer. Let us give the Holy Spirit His way so that He may achieve the same glorious results in us also.
Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)