The Pentecost Miracle Continues...
O Holy Spirit, our gracious God and Savior: We thank You for bringing us to faith through the preaching of Your Word and the washing of regeneration found within baptism. We pray that You would be with us this day to guide our worship. May we sincerely repent of our sins, heartily believe in Jesus as our Savior, and joyously sing Your praises to the honor and glory of Your name. Amen.
After the flood God commanded Noah’s family to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Noah’s descendants in unbelief refused to do this. Rather, they rebelliously planned to remain together and build a tower which would reach to heaven and rival God’s own greatness. God, therefore, confused their languages and divided mankind forcing them to separate and fulfill His command. That division will continue until the end of time, mitigated only by the gospel which unites people in Christ.
Jesus promised to send His disciples “the Helper” after He returned to heaven. This Helper, “the Spirit of Truth,” would lead them to a clear understanding of the truths of Jesus’ word…truths which convict this world of its sin, demonstrate to this world the righteousness of Christ, and announce God’s judgment upon “the ruler of this world,” Satan!
Text: Acts 2:37-47
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let everyone one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So 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.
In Christ Jesus, whose gospel message works faith in our hearts, dear fellow redeemed:
What was the miracle of Pentecost? If you are familiar with Bible history, you might respond, “Pastor, which miracle do you mean? There are several miracles in that story.” You would be correct, for a number of miracles did occur on the first Pentecost. I would guess, however, that when most of us think of the miracle of Pentecost, we focus on that special gift the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ early disciples—the ability to speak in foreign languages and so to proclaim “the wonderful works of God” to all of the people from around the world visiting Jerusalem at that time (cf. Acts 2:11). Yet, in spite of the wonder of that marvelous gift, I would argue that an even greater miracle occurred that day. In our text we are told, “that day about three thousand souls were added to” the church.
Conversion is a miracle! God the Holy Spirit converts the hearts of individual people as they hear the gospel preached and receive baptism. Conversion is such a splendid miracle that the apostle Paul compares it to God’s creation of light at the beginning of time. He writes, “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). In conversion God the Holy Spirit take us sinners, who are described in Scripture as being by nature “dead in trespasses and sins” and walking “in darkness,” and He instills within us life and calls us into the light of His gospel truths (cf. Ephesians 2:1-5; John 8:12; 1 Peter 2:9). My dear friends, that is what happened for 3,000 souls on the first Pentecost, and we need to know today that THE PENTECOST MIRACLE CONTINUES! Yes, it continues whenever God calls people to faith through His gospel, and it continues wherever God unites people in faith through His gospel!
The evangelist Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, tells us that after hearing Peter’s sermon the people listening “were cut to the heart.” Peter had informed the crowds that what they were witnessing was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The Old Testament, even as Jesus, had promised that the day would come when the Holy Spirit would descend upon His people and enable them to proclaim without hesitation or fear the wonderful news of salvation. That message, Peter said, centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ—God’s promised Savior. Jesus had come into this world and fulfilled His work as the world’s Savior through His perfect life and innocent death. He had then been raised from the dead and ascended back to His throne on high. “This Jesus,” Peter had cried out, “You crucified!”
The Law could not have been preached with more power to these listeners, who were well acquainted with the Old Testament prophecies and held within their hearts the hope of a coming Messiah. To know that the Savior had come and that they were responsible for His death almost caused them to despair. They turned to Peter and the other apostles and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter responded, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” As powerful as had been Peter’s preaching of law, so powerful was his preaching of the gospel. Peter urged all of the people to repent—to turn away from their sin of unbelief. He encouraged them all to be baptized in Jesus’ name for the remission of sins. He promised them and their children the gift of the Spirit—true faith and the fruits of that faith: love, joy, hope, and confidence. This was a message, Peter stated, for a world of lost sinners, for Jesus had through His life and death been “a propitiation for the sins of the whole world” and had “reconciled the world” to His heavenly Father (cf. 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19).
The results of Peter’s preaching were unprecedented. Luke tells us, “Those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” The New Testament church was born! My dear friends, let me assure you, THE PENTECOST MIRACLE CONTINUES whenever God calls people to faith through His gospel!
The people of today are no different spiritually than the people of Peter’s day. By nature every generation of human beings are sinful—lost in the darkness of this world and in need of the light of the gospel. Whenever you and I are moved by God’s Spirit to share Jesus’ word with others, He will be at work in their hearts using our words to convict them of sin and to inform them of Christ. While most of the people with whom we deal will not be well-instructed in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and so consequently we may choose not to emphasize those prophecies in our personal witness, we are still to follow the apostles’ example and use both the law and gospel as we witness. All people have been given a natural knowledge of God by their Creator—our heavenly Father. Consequently, each person has a conscience. While many, if not most, of the people of our day question whether there are absolute rights and wrongs, you and I can still use God’s law and its demands for perfection to reveal to people their sin and their need for a Savior. God’s law say, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). There is no wiggle room there. Either you are perfect, or you are imperfect. If you are perfect you are saved. If you are imperfect—even a little—you are damned. Yet in Christ we find the mercy and forgiveness we need. In Christ we find rest for our weary souls (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). He welcomes us back into God’s presence and promises to uplift and sustain us. As we speak these words of law and gospel, God the Holy Spirit continues to call people to faith and adds to His Church.
Yes, THE PENTECOST MIRACLE CONTINUES! It continues, secondly, wherever God unites people in faith through His gospel! Our text describes the aftermath of Pentecost, and it too is absolutely amazing. We are told, “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Luke goes on to describe the spirit of generosity that dominated that early church in Jerusalem, as people were moved by the Spirit to share the material possessions they had with others. They were filled with joy, worshiped regularly both in the temple and in their homes, where they shares their meals and enjoyed communion. Yes, the early church was alive and vigorous, united and the loving fruits of their faith were obvious for all to see!
Does the vibrancy of the early church stand in stark contrast in your minds to the church of today? Have we lost their fervor and joy? As I was visiting with one of our senior couples some weeks ago, they mentioned sadly that many of Immanuel’s members seem to have lost their first love (cf. Revelation 2:4). They recollected with great satisfaction the energy our membership exhibited when the church had burned and had to be rebuilt, and they wondered out loud where the energy had gone. At our parents’ meeting for extra-curricular activities this last week, the chairman of our Board of Education commented on the sacrifices his father’s generation had made in support of the school—sacrifices sadly that few seemingly are willing to make today.
My dear friends, the solution is to be found in our text. Those early believers, as we have already noted, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” The Holy Spirit still works through His means of grace—the gospel in word and sacrament. The solution for reenergizing our congregation is to be found in each of us getting back into God’s word. Make daily, personal Bible reading a priority in your life. Without doubt it will improve the quality of your life, as the Spirit uses that word to inspire God-pleasing words and actions, which will be a blessing to those around you and in turn to yourself. Take advantage of the group Bible study opportunities that are available to you. Our summer Sunday Bible Class will be considering various conversations with Jesus found primarily in the Gospel of John. Come and listen to Jesus as He addresses the individual concerns and needs of a variety of the people He met in His day. You will be surprised how similar those concerns and needs will be to your own. Come to worship—not just once or twice a month, or even a quarter. Would you ever consider a diet that asked you to eat only once or twice a month! You cannot be filled with joy and energized spiritually, if you are starving yourself of worship! Enjoy the fellowship of other believers. Invite them to your home. Visit them at their homes. Discuss issues of the day from a spiritual perspective using the Bible as your guide. We have an election coming up in November—what does God have to say to us about our citizenship and the exercise thereof? The “breaking of bread” mentioned by Luke refers to communion. Make the reception of the Lord’s Supper a priority in your spiritual life. One of the members of our Gus Johnson Bible Study mentioned just this past Thursday, that when he communes, he knows that God washes away his sins and he feels good about that! My dear friends, pray! While prayer is not a means of grace, for in pray we are speaking to God, not He to us. Yet, when we pray regularly, we are reminding ourselves as well as our God of all of those things that are important to us and to Him. God assures us that “the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Whether together or apart our prayers are powerful, because we are addressing our all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God who both commands us to pray and promises to respond in the best possible way!
My dear friends, THE PENTECOST MIRACLE CONTINUES! Yes it does whenever God calls people to faith through His gospel, and wherever God unites people in faith through the gospel! May we rejoice in this miracle and be encouraged by this miracle. Then we will be prepared as individuals and as a Christian congregation to go forward with enthusiasm to fulfill the ministry our Savior God has entrusted to us! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting