Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1401
June 9, 2019 Pentecost Acts 2.1-13
Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“The Church Journey Begins”
The Waiting is Over
We are stepping back in time from the last two Sunday’s. We have already looked ahead to the events that followed today’s reading of the coming of the Holy Spirit. We have seen Peter’s sermon and examined how the church began to practice life together. Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate the birth of the church and the sending of the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for this event and told them also (in John 14) that God would send the Spirit as their Helper. It must have been difficult to wait having seen Jesus after the resurrection and having been taught the fulfillment of Scripture that brilliantly came to fruition in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
The waiting is over and the Spirit has come. The reading from Acts 2 is one that marks the Spirit coming upon the disciples in such an extraordinary way that many heard the gospel in their own language. The church began performing signs and wonders. People sold properties to provide for fellow believers. Everything that happened from the beginnings in the book of Acts was fueled by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. That same Spirit still fuels our ability to participate in God’s mission to the world.
Filled with the Holy Spirit
The day of Pentecost is the day that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. The house they were in was filled with the sound of the wind, the sound of the Spirit. I am fascinated that the first experience of the Holy Spirit is the sound of the Spirit. It is like a rushing wind, blowing through the house. We have all experienced high winds and the sound of that wind. Sometimes the wind is a gentle breeze, but this time it was more like a storm coming in, perhaps even as violent as a tornado. The story invites us to imagine what it sounded like to be filled with the Spirit. It was loud enough to draw a crowd of people. That almost makes it sound like a sonic boom to the point that people knew exactly where it came from.
What do we imagine when we think about being filled with the Spirit? Sometimes we have images of people dancing and shouting and more charismatic images. Sometimes we might imagine a gentleness and thoughts of wisdom and kindness. Sometimes we might think of great inspiration or creativeness. In Acts 2, we are set to imagine this wind and tongues of fire and various languages and lots of speculation.
Who is the Holy Spirit? The Bible has much to teach us about God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, we say He is the third person of the Trinity. He is equal to God the Father and God the Son. Christians tend to spend much more time on God the Son, Jesus, and time with God the Father, but we don’t spend as much time learning about God the Holy Spirit. And yet, the Spirit is all over the place in scripture.
Jesus says in John 4.24 that God is Spirit. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The Holy Spirit has the same nature, the same attributes, the same power, that is, the Spirit is God-Spirit just as Jesus is God-man. Even though we know God as Spirit, it does not make it any easier to relate to the Holy Spirit because a spirit is not a bodily form, not a person like we experience in our lives of personal interactions. And yet, we use the term Spirit to describe the third person of the Trinity. The Spirit is as mysterious as the concept of the Trinity. We say in our theology that the Trinity consists of three persons in one substance, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus uses this same language in Matthew 28.19, that we are to baptize “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. Paul uses this reckoning in one of his benedictions to the church, “the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13.14).
One of my favorite words to think about with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit is personality. God has attributes of a personal nature. God gets angry. God shows delight. God loves and God hates. We might relate more easily to the notion of Father and Son. Those are more physically quantifiable. We know something about fathers and sons. But spirit is more illusive. Spirit is not physically visible, so we struggle with how to relate to the Holy Spirit. But let’s imagine the Spirit through the term personal or personality. The Holy Spirit has joy, grief, anger, faith, that is, He has the attributes we know within personalities. One of the purposes of our walk with God, our study of the scriptures, and of theology is to get to know the personality of God and thus, of the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of some of the attributes of the Spirit’s when he said God would send a Helper. Described as a helper is to show a certain kind of character and personality.
We are filled with this Spirit that he might help us to live out the calling of God in our lives and to live dead to sin but alive to God.
The Jews had come to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish festival. Everybody was there who could possibly make the journey. What drew them to the disciples was the sound made by the Spirit. At the sound the multitude came together. Was it curiosity? Was is God drawing them in? Perhaps a little bit of both. The Jewish festival of Shavuot, celebrated fifty days after Passover, was now transformed into a church service! Everybody’s here, let’s worship by proclaiming the gospel and the Spirit makes is possible with various tongues in all the languages needed.
Amazed, Astonished, Perplexed
The people are amazed, astonished, and yet perplexed at what they have seen and heard. The mixed feelings come from the hearing of various languages. They were both amazed and astonished, but also bewildered and perplexed. It is almost like they did not know what to think about it all. All of this is a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Look at the three ways “being filled” is used in the story…
The first use is when the sound of the Spirit filled the entire house. There was no corner without the sound. In fact, it blasted way beyond the walls of the house so that all in the city could hear. Secondly, the Spirit filled the disciples. There was not one aspect of their being unfilled. The sound of the Spirit overflowed into the city by the sound of the spoken word, even in languages beyond their own abilities.
But there also was a criticism of the disciples, that they were filled with new wine. Peter called this for what it was, fake news. People who oppose Jesus will twist the truth like this to incriminate believers. A bewildered crowd will seek to tear down what they do not understand. So instead of the blessing of God’s Spirit, they must be drunk with wine. It is happening this way today, don’t you think, that those who do not have a clue about what God has said in Scripture will seek to tear down the church and all who believe. Isaiah spoke of these kinds of people in Isaiah 5.20-23,
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!
This is the picture Isaiah paints with words and it fits what we hear and see today. I imagine if we were to quote Isaiah 5 to many of the anti-Christian movements today we too would be accused of being “filled with new wine” just like the disciples.
The Church Journey Begins
On Pentecost Sunday, the church is underway with the help of God’s Spirit. They could not have done this without the Spirit. This is why Jesus told them to wait. Don’t try to do God’s work on your own. It is only by God’s Spirit that we are able to do anything. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers and give gifts to His own for the work of the church and the mission. It is the work of the Spirit to help us along our journey. The Bible does make distinctions between the Father, Son, and Spirit. It is the Son who was sent to die for us. It is the Spirit who is sent to help us. The Son comes in human form, the Spirit has not. At the core of God’s personality, the One God acts with love, grace, mercy, justice, and so forth, as one God, Father, Son, and Spirit.
Our journey is marked by much of what we will see throughout the book of Acts but I want us to also note Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “16Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God’s Spirit dwells in us as individuals and as the church. God’s Spirit fills our lives for the journey of faith. In each of our lives there is a need for filling. When we try to fill our lives on our own we often do so with things of the flesh, possessions, entertainment, or some other means. But the Bible helps us see that the only real satisfying life is when our lives are filled with God, filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus, filled with the things of God. Yes, sometimes God gives us material things as a blessing, but more often he gives us those things that money cannot buy, things of the Spirit. That filling gives us courage to speak or gives us the ability to resist the things of the world. That filling sets us free to give ourselves over completely to God's will and desires. That filling enables us to carry on the journey that began in Acts 2 and continues to this day and will continue on until Christ returns.
Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us from God. The Holy Spirit binds us together and empowers us to be the church in the world. We celebrate the miraculous power displayed with the disciples in Acts 2 and we give thanks that that same power is given today, that we might be filled with the Spirit to live as God has commanded us. Let us celebrate today and give thanks for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the church. Amen.