Book of Acts Study Part 3
The Day of Pentecost
- Pentecost was a Sunday. Shavuot (Pentecost) was one of the three pilgrimage festivals which was compulsory for Israel to “appear before the Lord” and was determined by counting of 50 days from the day after the weekly Sabbath following the first day of Unleavened Bread. (Deut 16:16) Therefore Shavuot is observed on the first day of the week – Sunday: Leviticus 23:9-21. “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.”
- Shavuot commemorates the period when God manifested His Presence on Mount Sinai with earthquakes, fire, and smoke, and gave Moses the Law. It is the “Festival of Revelation” and the establishing of the Covenant.
- Shavuot was also the final festival of the wheat harvest when the Priest would wave a sheaf of the “first fruits” from the harvest before the Lord. Other “first fruits” offerings were made at Shavuot. Seven items were commonly brought: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates (Deut. 8:8).
- Readings from the Prophets assigned for Shavuot. On this day, as the Pilgrims gathered from around the world, the Priest would read from the Prophets the following passages: Ezekiel 1, 3 and Habakkuk 3
Where would the Disciples have been at the ninth hour?
- Jesus’ Disciples were continually together following Jesus’ departure, but Luke does not specify the location of their gathering. Christian tradition came to identify the location for the disciples’ gathering on the Day of Pentecost as the same place where Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. These traditions, arise from about the 5th century A .D. However, it is much more likely that they were in the Temple area.
- The Practice of the Disciples throughout this period Luke 24:52-53. “And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God.” Acts 1:14. “All these were continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” Acts 2:1. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. Acts 2:46. “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the Temple.”
Thousands gathered in the Temple area from just before sunrise for the morning prayers.
- Size of the Temple area. Scholars indicate the vast Temple area was capable of containing some 200,000 people. Further, the colonnades in Solomon’s Porch were a popular meeting place for various groups and religious schools, an area that contained benches in addition to the open spaces. In Acts chapter 3 we see Peter and John entering this area and performing a miracle. Here Peter again addresses the people gathered. “While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? Acts 3:11-12
- The “house” where they were sitting Acts 2:2 – the term “house” is a generic term that can as much refer to the Temple as a home or other building. Ancient Hebrew sources refer The Temple Mount as the “mountain of the house,” a term which is used even today.
- The baptism of the 3,000 could only have taken place at the Temple where there were pools available for the masses of pilgrim’s as they approached the Temple.
The Mighty Rushing Wind
- Ezekiel 1 manifested – the birth of the Church. Ezekiel 1 is primarily a Prophetic picture of the Church, exhibiting the four-fold nature of Christ, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit who is the fire at the center of all, linked to the head which is Christ. There is no more fitting Scripture to be read at the birth of the Church than this most complete description of the true nature of the Church.
- Ezekiel 47 – the river of life flowing from the Temple. Ezekiel 47 can be seen as a Prophetic picture of the issuance of the Holy Spirit into the world, through the Church. Reaching out to the Nations to bring healing and restoration “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes” (Ezekiel 47:9).
- Baptized in Wind and Fire. The wind and fire are manifestations of God’s Spirit. the original Hebrew and Greek words for “Spirit” (ruach and pneuma) may be translated as “wind.” There are over 200 instances of the use of these words in Scripture. Gen 1:2, John 3:8, Ezekiel 37:9-14, John 20:22. The Holy Spirit led Israel out of Egypt as a “fiery pillar” Ex 13:21, God manifested Himself in the fire of the burning bush to Moses, Ex 3:2. God is described as a “consuming fire” Heb 12:29
- Taking possession of the “servants” – overwhelmed and changed. Peter declared, “these people are not drunk as you think they are,” the whole group of believers was visibly overcome by the descent of the Spirit as were the Priest in 2 Chron 5 when the Glory Cloud filled the first Temple. There is a clear parallel here. “Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” 2 Chron 5:13-14. The Disciples were not overwhelmed by some unproductive emotional experience, for all in the group are changed, and all become filled with boldness.
- Synchronization with the Holy Spirit – the “Prophets” are Along with the wind and fire, the Holy Spirit brought an unexpected gift. A new Prophetic Speech! The group began Worshipping, Preaching and Prophesying in languages they had never learned. The miracle of Babel (when God confused the languages) Gen 11:9 is reversed in part. Luke says that people from all over the known world heard the believers speaking in their native languages. This miracle is repeated throughout the Book of Acts and is inextricably linked with the Baptism in the Spirit. We see later the true importance of this “gift.” The believers now could pray in complete synchronization with the Holy Spirit without the “filter” of their natural minds.
Peter’s Message – “this is that”
- Following the Holy Spirit’s descent, Peter stood up filled with boldness and addressed the crowd.
- Peter quickly explains the events just witnessed and declares that this is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy regarding the outpouring of the Spirit in Joel 2:28-32. He states, “this is that” – (“what you now see and hear”) Acts 2:16
- Peter makes a clear call for repentance, and for his hearers to accept Jesus as Lord and Messiah
- The preaching obviously went on for some time as Luke writes, “With many other words he warned them and pleaded with them” Acts 2:40
- According to Acts 2:41, about 3,000 people responded to Peter’s call “to repent and be baptized.” – a significant number when we contrast this with the 120 who existed as a group before Pentecost.
- Temple Baptismal Pools. Pools were available for the Pilgrims to wash as they approached the Temple. Obviously, the Disciples utilized these pools to perform the Baptisms.
The Promise of the Father
Acts Chapter 1
4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
The instruction of Jesus to wait for “the promise of the Father” v.4 was the final commandment He gave to the Disciples. What was Jesus telling them to wait for?
- Jesus clearly does not say, wait until you are saved or Born Again, He tells them to wait until they are filled with power. This “clothing with power” by the Holy Spirit was clearly what Jesus was telling them to wait for.
- The Disciples had already been Born Again following Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22 Note the parallel here with the creation of Adam, who became a living being when God breathed upon him.
- He tells them that it is a “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” which He parallels to John’s water baptism. V.5 He further describes the result of this Baptism …” you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”. In only one Gospel is Jesus introduced as the “Lamb of God” in all four He is described as the “the one who Baptizes with the Holy Spirit” This not reduce the former in its importance but helps us to see the importance of the latter.
- To Baptize means firstly to dip – to be fully immersed. We are baptized in water as an act of obedience, going through the water as Jesus passed through death and into resurrection life. Symbolically we follow Him through death and into life. At the New Birth, we receive the Holy Spirit, and are, through His power birthed into the Body of Christ. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Cor 12:13. In the New Birth then we are touched by the Spirit’s creative power – like Adam we become a living being, but of a different order, we are literally a new creation. We are adopted as Sons of God and made a part of the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit has made us wholly new, we become His Temple. “the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” 1 Cor 3:17 Now He wants to come and fill and take possession of us.
- When Solomon built the first Temple, everything was complete – it was a brand new creation, it had all of the items that God had commanded be placed there – including the Ark of God. However something more had to take place, it needed to be filled with God Himself. “then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud,14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” 2 Chron 5:10-14
- Baptism has another meaning, to submerge, to saturate, to infuse. It is this description that helps us to understand the Baptism in the Spirit. When you submerge a tea bag into hot water, it is not just an act of dipping that produces the tea. The water soaks through the bag, saturates the contents, takes possession of them and releases that which is locked inside and we have tea. In the Baptism of the Spirit we receive His fullness. When we invite Him to come in His fullness, He infuses us, saturates us, and takes possession of us as God’s children and releases the fullness of our New Creation lives out to the world. We are filled with His Presence and Power and we are radically changed
- The Holy Spirit is the fire of God, fire consumes that which it touches, Jesus was describing the action of the Holy Spirit in this Baptism, He will take possession and cause us to burn with His Holy Fire.
This Baptism with the Holy Spirit is always linked with power and the boldness to speak or witness.
- In Acts 2:4 one of the results of the Disciples being baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit, is that they became bold in their speech and actions.
- In Acts 4:8 Peter is again filled with the Spirit and speaks out boldly, so much so that those who heard him were amazed.
- In Acts 4:31 the whole group of the Disciples were again filled with the Holy Spirit with the result that they spoke out with boldness
- In Acts 6 we see Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking out with boldness, doing signs and wonders.
- In Acts 9:7 Paul is converted and then filled with the Holy Spirit, again the result is that he began speaking with extraordinary boldness
Jesus had already instructed them that the Holy Spirit would not come in fullness until He had departed John 7:37-39
- John 14:15–18 Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would, in effect replace His immediate presence with them, being “another” (like Him) who would “comfort’ them, being with them forever. John 16:5-7 They would not be left as “orphans”
- The Holy Spirit would “teach them” and cause them to “remember” what Jesus taught. John 14:25–26
The Promise in the Old Testament
As we consider the teaching of Jesus, we begin, like the Disciples to gain more understanding of why Jesus told them to wait. However, there is one more description that Jesus used that will help us to see the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as an entrance into the supernatural realm of God. He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, v4 What is this “Promise of the Father?” We do not have to enter into conjecture here for Peter in his address to the crowd in Acts 2 tells us EXACTLY what the promise of the Father is:
“for these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; 18 EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. Acts 2:15-18
- This is a direct quote from Joel2:28–32. Peter says THIS IS THAT, or what you see and what you hear is what God promised in Joel. This is a far-reaching statement. The Disciples were visibly physically overcome by the power of the Spirit, they were engaging in supernaturally empowered praise in different languages, they were Prophesying, they were Worshipping. By Peter saying “this is that” he was revealing that the experience of the Church on the day of Pentecost was God’s established norm for His new Church! He is declaring that what Jesus described as the “Promise of the Father” is here and being clearly evidenced. The Church was promised a supernatural dimension by the Father, Peter is saying “here it is”, this is what it looks like. It is very clear that this experience of the Spirit’s power was not just for a few on the first day. God promised this to ALL, it is clearly for all. Peter, finalizes his message by inviting his listeners to repent, be born again and receive this “Promise” for themselves.
The experience of the Disciples
The third hour of the day was the equivalent of 9 am. Jews were commanded not to eat, drink or begin work until they had prayed the morning prayer, the time to do this lasted until the fourth hour or 10 o’clock. The Disciples were being accused of behavior that looked to those around them as “disgraceful”. They appeared to be “drunk”, however, this was evidenced they were visibly overwhelmed, possibly unable to stand (as the Priests in 2 Chron 5) most definitely physically affected by the power of the Spirit. We see some of this in Old Testament experiences of people being touched by the Spirit. Saul, in particular, was so affected by the Spirit’s power that he was totally overwhelmed for many hours. It was commonplace for the Prophets to fall to the ground when confronted by the the presence of God. Daniel reveals that he was affected for several days by such an experience Dan 8:27
Right through Church history in times of revival. Such things have been commonplace.
- Jonathan Edwards, the great Preacher and theologian of the Great Awakening in America (1725–1760), said in his Account of the Revival of Religion in North Hampton in 1740–42: . . . many in their religious affections being raised far beyond what they had ever had before: and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining perhaps for a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.
- Charles Finney (1792–1875) was one of the most powerful revivalists in Church history. At a country place named Sodom, in the state of New York, Finney gave one address which produced the following result: I had not spoken to them in this strain of direct application, I should think, more than a quarter of an hour, when all at once an awful solemnity seemed to settle down upon them; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell. Indeed nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from this first shock that fell upon them. Every one prayed for himself, who was able to speak at all.
Study of the Book of ACTS Part 1
Luke’s two volume account Gospel & ACTS
- Who was Luke? He was a companion of Paul, who accompanied him on some of his missionary journeys, therefore an eyewitness to a number of the events outlined in the book. Luke, obviously an educated man, is believed to have been a Gentile Physician.
- Theophilus – meaning, “dear to God”, an unknown person, some have reasoned that Luke is referring to the Church, though there is no evidence to support this idea.
- Luke makes plain that he researched his writings carefully, gathering information from many sources. Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the thing accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1
- The Books of Luke and Acts were circulated as one complete volume until the decision to circulate the 4 Gospels as one collection of accounts
What Jesus BEGAN to do and teach
- This summarizes the content of the Gospels, they are a record of what Jesus DID (His works) and what Jesus TAUGHT
- The inference here … The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach v.1 … implies that the Book of ACTS is about the continuation of the Ministry of Jesus through His followers
- We can further surmise that until Jesus returns He will continue to perform His Ministry through His followers in the same way He did when on Earth
40 Days. The post resurrection appearances and teaching about the Kingdom of God
- Jesus appeared to His followers in various ways for 40 days following His resurrection – almost 6 weeks. This is a considerable time, during which He taught them many things about the Kingdom of God. There does not appear to be an order to His appearances. Some personal appearance are noted and were later considered important – like His appearance to James, His brother, who went on to become a significant leader in the early Church.
- Paul notes the following Resurrection Appearances 1 Cor 15:5-7 “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;”
- The “brother” of Jesus” The word “brother,” in Hebrew, also means “blood sibling” so James may have been a relative.
- The “in-between” age. “At Christ’s first coming the age to come invaded this present age; at His coming in Glory the age to come will have altogether superseded this present age. Between the two comings the two ages overlap; the people of Christ live temporarily in this present age while Spiritually they belong to the Heavenly Kingdom and enjoy by anticipation the life of the age to come.” F. Bruce – Commentary on Acts
The command and the Promise of the Father
- The Holy Spirit is the “Promise of the Father”
- The Promise was given through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32).
- The Promise was proclaimed by John the Baptist (John 1:29-34).
- The Promise was referred to by the Lord Himself (John 7:37-39; John 14:16-17; John 15:26; John 16:6-7 and 13-14; and Acts 1:8.)
- Jesus told them to “wait” until the promise came, but does not seem to indicate how the promise would be experienced
You will receive POWER
- Power – exousia – the power or more accurately “authority” to rule, as with a government. An elected Government is given the authority (exousia) to rule the nation.
- Compare with Matthew 9:6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
- Power and Authority – exousia and dunamis. Power stands behind authority, you need both to function. Jesus has been given ALL AUTHORITY, the Holy Spirit bestows POWER to exercise that authority and changes take place (see ACTS 2)
- There is a “therefore” in the relationship between authority and power. Jesus has all authority … therefore …. He sends out the Church anointed with the (dunamis) power of the Holy Spirit “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [f]always, even to the end of the age.” Mat 28:18-19
The Ascension Glory Cloud and the witness of the Angels
- The Shekinah Glory Cloud surrounds Jesus (compare with the Transfiguration – Luke 9:28-36)
- Parallels to Daniel (in appearance) and more significantly – 2 Kings 2 – Elijah and Elisha – “the double portion anointing” given by Elijah to Elisha upon his ascension.
- The Ascension of Jesus and His Second Coming are paralleled here. Jesus will return in exactly the same way that He departed the Earth. It will be public and every eye will see Him returning on the clouds. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. Rev 1:7
- Two Angels address those gathered and announce that Jesus will return in the same way that He departed …. “with the clouds”
In the Upper Room, the Apostles, Mary and the Brothers of Jesus with the rest of the 120
- This was likely the same place in which the Last Supper took place prior to Jesus arrest.
- They were together – devoting themselves to prayer 14
- Among the 120 were, the Disciples and their families, Mary, Jesus’ Mother and a number of His “brother” (see not above)
The replacement of Judas and the appointment of Matthias as the 12th Apostle
- Peter takes the lead in explaining Judas’ suicide. He then leads the Apostles to choose another to replace him.
- The qualifications are clear, it must be someone who was with Jesus and the Disciples for the whole of Jesus’ ministry – a witness to His teaching and Ministry.
- Two are chosen, who are equally qualified, Joseph and Matthias. In the tradition of the OT, lots are cast between them, trusting the result to the providence of God. Matthias is chosen to replace Judas.
- It is interesting that this is the last time that lots are used to make a decision like this. Following the coming of the Holy Spirit, the leadership of Jesus is more closely seen through the exercise of Spiritual Gifts. (Compare with Acts 15 – The Council at Jerusalem, which was decided by a Word of Wisdom given by James)