The Acts of Who? (Acts 1-2)
Good morning. Please open your Bibles to the book of Acts., chapter 2.
In the early 1900’s, the evangelist Harry Ironside was walking through the city where he lived when he came upon a group of Salvation Army workers holding a meeting on a street corner. There were probably 60 of them. When they recognized Ironside they immediately asked him if he would give his testimony. He did, giving a word about how God had saved him through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
As he was speaking, Ironside noticed a renowned college professor who had become famous for his attacks on Christianity. He called out, “Dr. Ironside, “I challenge you to debate with me “Agnosticism versus Christianity” in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at 4 o’clock.”
The evangelist replied, “You’re on, but on one condition: I’d like to bring with you two people, whose lives have been transformed and their character has changed because of atheism.”
The professor said, “What do you mean, changed because of atheism?”
Oh, I don’t know… maybe someone who was suffering from alcoholism or addiction, who listened to one of your lectures and can say that thanks to atheism, he’s now clean and sober?
Or how about a young couple whose marriage was in trouble and on the verge of ending. Can you have them come to the meeting and testify to how they stayed together because they stopped believing in God?”
“I can’t find anyone like that,” said the scholar.
Well, that is interesting, said Ironside. Then he turned to the crowd that was there on the street corner and said, “Would any of you like to join me next Sunday and testify to the difference the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has made in your life? Who would be a witness to the miraculous saving power of the risen Christ and the truth of God’s Word?
Every single hand at that Salvation Army meeting shot up, and one person from the back of the crowd said, “Would you like us to bring the band?”
This morning as we transition from the gospels to the book of Acts, I want you to understand that while me may be done reading the gospels, we are not done with the gospel. I’d like us to read a portion of the sermon Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, which Christians look at as the birth of the church. Then, we will go back to Acts chapter 1 and get caught up to that point. Read with me, beginning with verse 22:
[Read Acts 2:22-39]
Throughout the history of the church, this book has been called the book of Acts, or the Acts of the Apostles. And I’m not going to argue with two thousand years of church history and say we need to rename the book of Acts. But we should at least consider whose “acts” Acts is really about. Acts is about Jesus. The first verse, the last verse, and 99 verses in between mention Jesus.
And it is with the power of the Holy Spirit that the apostles tell people about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is referenced 107 times. So really, the more accurate title of the book would be The Acts of Jesus, working through the Apostles, empowered by the Spirit.
But, that’s a little awkward, so let’s just call it Acts!
Luke sets us up for the idea that this book is a…
1. CONTINUATION of the Work of Jesus in the first two verses. Look at that with me: (Acts 1:1-2)
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
You could be thinking, but wait a minute—doesn’t the gospel of Luke end with the death and resurrection of Jesus? why didn’t Luke say DID and TAUGHT?
It’s because of what we’ve been saying all year long: The Bible isn’t a collection of different stories. The Bible tells one story. The Old Testament contains the New Testament, and the New Testament explains the Old Testament. So if you were playing a trivia game and the question was, “What books of the Bible tell the story of Jesus?” the answer isn’t Matthew Mark Luke and John. It’s Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers… all the way to Malachi.
Then it’s Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But it doesn’t stop there! It’s Acts. It’s Romans. It’s the rest of Paul’s letters. It’s Hebrews, James, 1st – 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation. Where do we find a record of what Jesus did and taught? [Hold up Bible] Right here. Where do we find a record of what Jesus is doing and teaching? [to church] Right here.
Luke wants us to know that Jesus has only begun to do and teach. He is still doing. He is still teaching.
And He is still directing us, leading us, guiding us, and telling us what to do. I want to look next at Jesus’…
2. COMMANDto the Believers (Acts 1:4-14)
Let’s read the text, beginning in verse 4:
4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
What command does Jesus give the disciples here? You might say, “To be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.” But that’s not actually the command. The command was to stay in Jerusalem and wait. Wait for what? Wait for the promise of the Father which they had heard from Him.
That’s the command. Wait. Not passively waiting. That’s what they were doing at first. Jesus ascended back into heaven and they were all just standing there staring at the sky. God had to send two angels down to kind of give them a kick in the rear and say, “Guys, don’t just stand here looking at the sky.”
So they got it in gear and they went back to Jerusalem and waited for the promise of the Father. Look at verse 12:
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
There is a vitally important word here for our church. We are about to enter maybe the biggest time of transition since I have been your pastor. When Mike announced his retirement last week, immediately the questions started coming—what’s next? Who will take Mike’s place? Who could ever take Mike’s place? Are we going to change worship styles? Are we still going to have a choir? Are we still going to have an orchestra? Are we going to get a pipe organ now? What if things change and I don’t like it? What if things don’t change and I don’t like it? Is this going to split our church?
Church, I don’t have an answer for all these questions. Well, except maybe one. Pretty sure we aren’t going to get a pipe organ.
What I do know is that when Jesus’ disciples had questions about what would happen next, Jesus told them to wait:
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
Verse 8—you will receive power when…
So they waited. Again, not passively staring at the sky, but actively gathering together, devoting themselves to prayer, and maintaining a spirit of unity.
Glynwood, I don’t know what our church will look like in six months. I really don’t. You might think I have an agenda. The only agenda I have is to continue to lift up Jesus so he can draw all men to himself (John 12:32). I want to do that in the most effective way possible.
And I know that the enemy is going to do everything in his power to keep that from happening. He’s going to throw everything he has at us because he knows what a critical moment this is in the life of our church. He’s going to try to ramp up hallway gossip. He’s going to try to turn us inward and focus on our own preferences. He’s going to get us to think about what worship style we like best, and not on proclaiming the gospel to the nations, bringing sinners to repentance.
And he is going to ramp up his spiritual attacks. We are going to find ourselves more tempted to sin. Not just with leadership, but in your own lives. We will probably have more building and property and space issues. You may even face more crises in your personal life, with health, finances, relationships—
The point is, we need to be prepared for Satan to do everything he can to divide us. Friends, that is literally what we see in the rest of the book of Acts. And so from the outset, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the promise of the Father. Gather together. Pray. And be in one accord.
What do we pray? Simple. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ladies—when you come for Bible study on Tuesday mornings, Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.. Men—when we get together for breakfast at chappy’s, or Man Church, Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.. When we gather for prayer meeting on Wednesday nights, Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.. Families—when you have family devotion time, when you pray with your kids at night, when you bless your food at mealtimes, Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Because here’s what Jesus promised the disciples would happen with the coming of the Holy Spirit: He told them before He was crucified that the Holy Spirit would come, and that He would comfort them, teach them all things, convict sinners of their sin, convince everyone of the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, and that He suffered and died, was resurrected, ascended, is exalted at the right hand of God, and will one day judge the world in regard to sin and righteousness.
It doesn’t say the Holy Spirit will tell you who our next minister of music will be. But if our prayer is “Holy Spirit, fill me! Fill our church! Flow through us and use us to bring glory to Jesus. Guide us! Lead us to repentance!
And grant us the patience to wait for you:
- And wait for the Lord. Be strong, take courage, and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).
- Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength (Isaiah 40:31).
- “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6)
- “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:25)
And after about ten days, the Holy Spirit came. You know the story.
3. The COMINGof the Spirit (Acts 2:1-13)
2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
I know our time is running short, so I want to bring it home with this. The point of Pentecost was not the rushing wind and the tongues of fire that rested on each of the disciples. It wasn’t the miraculous ability to speak in tongues, which by the way, it is clear that these were human languages, and not some heavenly prayer language. God didn’t give them a speech that no one could understand. He gave them an ability to proclaim the gospel in a way everyone could understand.
The point of Pentecost is:
4. The PROCLAMATION of the Gospel (Acts 2:14-41)
As we fill in these blanks, I want you to keep these notes in your Bible as we go through the book of Acts, because you are going to see this basic outline in nearly every sermon in the book of Acts. You will also see this basic outline in every one of Paul’s letters. And it gives us a guide to what our own proclamation of the gospel must be:
1. Jesus came, was crucified and resurrected
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[g] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (v. 23-24):
2. This was according to God’s plan (v. 23, 30-33):
It was with the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. David prophesied about it a thousand years ago.
3. Jesus is both Lord and Christ (v. 36)
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
4. We must respond (v. 37-39). The sermon ends with all the people gathered there being cut to the heart and saying, brothers, what shall we do?
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Our first response to the gospel is to believe it.
- John 3:16: whoever believes in him shall not perish, but will have everlasting life.
- Romans 10:9-10
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Next, we Repent
To repent is to turn away from your sins. This was the first thing out of Jesus mouth when He began his public ministry (Mk 1:15). Calling sinners to repentance was the reason he came (Luke 5:32). To repent is to change your mind—about who Jesus is, about what sin is, about what you are.
Number 3, Be baptized: (v. 38)
Not necessary for salvation, but necessary for identification. It is a way of saying, I’m on this team. It’s like when an all star football recruit sits down at a press conference and chooses a hat. It is making a public commitment to one team and rejecting all the others. Three thousand people were baptized on the day of Pentecost, and the church was born.
Number 4: Receive the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that when we make that public identification with Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit. There isn’t a second baptism. We receive the same Holy Spirit that empowered everything we are going to read in the book of Acts.
This promise is for us. It’s for our children. It’s for everyone who feels far off. It’s for all the nations.
Confess that Jesus is your Lord and Christ.
Identify with Jesus
Be filled with the Holy spirit.
 Ironside, Harry A. Random Reminiscences from 50 Years of Ministry. New York: 1939, pages 99-107. Source: sermoncentral.com