(Series: “The Early Church of Jerusalem” post #2)
The “church age” began in grand style. The day was the Jewish feast day known as Pentecost (Acts 2:1), and approximately 120 of Christ’s followers were gathered together in a room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1). They had been waiting a week for the resurrected, glorified, now ascended Jesus to fulfill His promise to baptize them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:5). This baptizing would amount to God the Holy Spirit coming to dwell inside each of them (John 14:17; Romans 8:9), and the Spirit’s indwelling would endue each believer with power for evangelism (Acts 1:8). Then it happened.
Suddenly, without warning, the room in which all those believers were sitting was filled with a noise that sounded like a violent wind blowing (Acts 2:2). And then, just as inexplicably, divided flames of fire shaped in the form of human tongues appeared out of nowhere and one tongue came to rest upon each believer (Acts 2:3). At that point each believer was filled with God the Holy Spirit and strange sounds began to pour out of their mouths (Acts 2:4).
The sounds were the sounds of foreign languages those believers had never learned, and it didn’t take long for all that commotion and noise to create quite a stir. Evidently, at some point, the believers left their room and made their way into the streets of Jerusalem, still speaking those unlearned languages as they went. Jerusalem at that time was filled with people, many of them foreign Jews who had traveled to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:5).
To the amazement of those foreign Jews, they heard those Galilean Jews speaking their various languages (Acts 2:6-8). The Bible even makes a point of listing all the different languages those Spirit-indwelt believers were speaking (Acts 2:9-11). They were the languages of the visiting Jews from: Parthia, Mede, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Crete, and Arabia.
The scoffers who didn’t understand that actual languages were coming from those believers mocked them and accused them of being drunk on new wine (Acts 2:13). But the foreign Jews who were understanding exactly what those believers were saying knew better. They said, “We hear these people speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God. What does this mean?” (Acts 2:11-12)
What it meant was that a new era had just been birthed. A promised age, the church age, had begun. What was needed now was a powerful sermon. After all, what’s church without a sermon? (Spoken like a preacher, right?) And who will be the man to preach the church age’s opening sermon? It will be Peter, of course. We wouldn’t expect anything less. After all, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut before the Holy Spirit came to dwell inside him!
Peter launched into an impromptu sermon right there in the streets of Jerusalem (Acts 2:14). He explained that he and all those other believers weren’t drunk (Acts 2:15). No, in actuality what those people in Jerusalem were witnessing was the beginning of the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy from the book of Joel (Acts 2:16). The prophecy concerned the “last days,” a time period that began when Jesus first walked this earth (Hebrews 1:1-2; James 5:1-3) and will end when He returns to walk it again at the close of the seven-year tribulation period this world is scheduled to undergo (Acts 2:17-21). According to Joel’s prophecy, one of the trademark characteristics of the “last days” would be God pouring out His Holy Spirit in a way that would cause believers to supernaturally prophesy, see visions, and dream dreams (Acts 2:17-18), and the engine that would supply all the power for that would be the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Following that introductory explanation of what those people of Jerusalem were witnessing, Peter then segued into the second section of his sermon, which was all about Jesus:
- Jesus’ miracles had proven that He truly had been sent by God (Acts 2:22).
- Jesus had been crucified by the hands of man, but His death had been in accord with the foreknowledge and purpose of God (Acts 2:23).
- God had resurrected Him, and that resurrection had fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy, this one from David’s Psalm 16 (Acts 2:24-31).
- Following His resurrection, Jesus had ascended to take His exalted place at the right hand of God (Acts 2:32-33).
- Jesus’ exaltation was even more fulfillment of the prophecies of David, specifically the prophecies found in Psalm 68:18 (Acts 2:34) and Psalm 110:1 (Acts 2:35).
- Once He was at the right hand of God, Jesus had poured out the Holy Spirit upon His followers and in so doing kept the promise He had made to them (Acts 2:33).
- In the wake of all these events, all of Israel could know for a certainty that God had made the Jesus the Jews had crucified Lord and Christ (Messiah).
Okay, now the ball was firmly in the court of those Jews who had heard Peter’s sermon. How would they respond to what they had just witnessed and Peter’s explanation of it? Well, that will be the subject of my next post. So until then, stay tuned…..