The In-Between Years - Part 9
Series: The In-Between Years
June 28, 2020
The In-Between Years - Part 9
In our The In-Between Years series, we ended Acts chapter one noting three things about the 120 disciples who would become the church at its birth in chapter two; three characteristics to watch for throughout this series:
They turned to the Scriptures.
There’s another characteristic we’ll look at this morning. It’s been hinted at all through the first chapter, and it’s going to show full force in the second chapter. I’ve already alluded to it a number of times. But here’s a couple reminders…
4 And while staying 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 the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4–5 (ESV)
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.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. Acts 1:15–16 (ESV)
What is the common factor in those verses? Or better to say who? The Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of the coming Holy Spirit baptism. And he promised power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Peter considered Scripture as having been spoken by the Holy Spirit himself.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity — a mystery I cannot explain — he is “the personal and powerful presence of God, who works toward the establishment of the kingdom of God in the midst of the people of God.”
Beginning with creation onward, you always see the Spirit’s active presence when God is at work in the world. God is about to work in the world in a way he’s never done before with the coming of the church, his called out ones.
The most important thing we know about the birth of the church as we move into chapter 2 is the Holy Spirit’s role in making it happen and that same Spirit’s role in the life of the church ever after.
I know what you may be thinking:
Pastor Brad, cool it with this Holy Spirit talk and the church. Geez, you’ve told us a thousand times already about the Spirit in this Acts series and we just finished chapter one. And now you’re drilling down on that as we move into chapter two. Enough already.
EXACTLY. I think you might be getting it. I’m not sure if you can over-emphasize the Holy Spirit, but I am sure as Baptists we are guilty of under-emphasizing him.
Now, something I discovered is, if you put Acts back together with its first volume (The Gospel of Luke), you see how Luke also highlighted the Spirit’s part in God’s work of coming to us in the person of Jesus (second person of the trinity). You observe his mysterious presence in the very first chapter of Luke’s first volume as well.
So, before we get into volume two (Acts), chapter two and the church’s birth, let’s look back at volume one, chapter one (and a few following) to see how the Spirit plays a much bigger part in all this than we realize, something Luke makes clear when he begins by telling the story of Zechariah.
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Luke 1:5–7 (ESV)
Zechariah’s turn to burn incense in the Jerusalem temple comes up so he goes in to perform his duties. While there, the angel Gabriel visits him and delivers shocking news…
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. Luke 1:13–15 (ESV)
Not only will Elizabeth conceive a son at her old age (a miracle!), the baby will also become none other than John the Baptist, the one prophesied in the OT who prepares the way of the Lord.
About that same time Gabriel visits a young girl named Mary telling her she will conceive a son to be named Jesus, the miracle in this case not that she’s going to be with child but that she’s going to be a mom even though she’s a virgin…
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:35–38 (ESV)
Note what Gabriel says of John to Zechariah: he will be “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.” Note what Gabriel says of Jesus to Mary: the Holy Spirit would come upon her and cause her to conceive. That’s chapter one, volume one. Now think about volume two, chapter one and how Jesus told the disciples they’d receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
It’s no accident that the beginning of both of Luke’s works call attention to the Holy Spirit. He meant to do that. But there’s more.
Jesus laid fairly low for thirty years and then that all changed when he was baptized by John, marking the beginning of his ministry…
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21–22 (ESV)
The Spirit descended on Jesus from the heavens in the form of a dove here in volume one. In volume two we will soon see the Spirit descending on the church as wind and fire. Again, the parallels are intentional.
There’s even more. I’m sure you know the story of how Jesus was tempted by the devil. What you may not know is that temptation occurred just after his baptism and coming of the Spirit. Luke is careful to note something before Jesus enters into that temptation…
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. Luke 4:1–2a (ESV)
Now look at this in volume two…
The first deacons:
3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. Acts 6:3 (ESV)
Stephen, one of those deacons who became the first martyr:
55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 (ESV)
24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Acts 11:24 (ESV)
What was said of Jesus was said of them concerning the Spirit. Also intentional. Just as it was the Spirit who empowered Jesus, it was the Spirit who empowered the early church.
Now look at what happens after Jesus’ temptation in back in volume one.…
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. Luke 4:14–16 (ESV)
Volume two, chapter two, just after the church is born we’ll see this…
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. Acts 2:14 (ESV)
Hmmm. Back to volume one where Jesus stood up to read in the synagogue, quoting the prophet Isaiah…
17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Luke 4:17–20 (ESV)
In volume two, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon those 120 disciples with the birth of the church and they immediately begin proclaiming the Good News of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, setting captives free from sin and death. The blind see. The lame walk. The poor are comforted.
There’s a saying among writers: show, don’t tell. As one author put it, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Luke, ever the good writer, doesn’t just tell us about the Spirit’s influence in the life Jesus and the church, he shows us by carefully and subtly paralleling his presence and effect from one volume to another.
We tend to think of the Holy Spirit in terms of our personal and intimate walk with God (which is appropriate), but what we may overlook and what Luke shows us is the way the Holy Spirit empowers the church as a whole, the way he influences the corporate mission and work of the church, the role he plays in the ongoing life of his ekklesia, his called out ones.
Conclusion: As we continue through our series The In-Between Years, a look at the church in the book of Acts, we’ll see how they came together, how they prayed, how they turned to God’s Word, and most importantly how they utterly relied on the presence and power of God’s Spirit.
The church’s ministry to a lost world began, just like Jesus’, with the coming of the Spirit and it continued, just like Jesus’, in the power of the Spirit.
As we move into the birth of the church in chapter two, we must not miss that. The same Spirit who descended upon them and filled them from that day forward is the same Spirit who is with us today. That same power is available right now. That power, that influence, is needed more than ever. Martin Lloyd Jones wrote, in his commentary on Acts:
…the most vital need of the world today is the need to know exactly what the Christian message is. And that in turn leads us to seek to know what the church is, the church that delivers this message.
There is a real confusion today about Christianity and about the Christian church—her nature, her task, and her message. This is a great tragedy. Think of the problems harassing people today, individually and collectively. Think of the unhappiness, the heartbreak and the cynicism and bitterness in life. We are all aware of these human problems, as they are called. But if only people were truly Christian, most of those problems would immediately be solved. And it is the same with our international tensions and difficulties. Enmity and war and strife are due to the fact that men and women are in a wrong relationship with God, and they will only find out how to enter into a true relationship by knowing, believing, accepting, and submitting themselves to the message of the Christian church, the message of the Gospel.
We have seen that the great message of the church is, as Luke puts it here at the very beginning of Acts, a message about the Lord Jesus Christ. This is Christianity: “all that Jesus began both to do and teach”—what He is doing and what He is yet going to do. So now we continue from there because we see that our Lord addressed these men, these apostles of His, and gave them a commission. So we come, in this second chapter, to the origin of the Christian church. This is what throws light on the nature of the church, what she has been commissioned to do and how she does it. And here it is emphasized that the whole thing is the action of God. This is not something that was done by this handful of people. We are told so often about them and so often they say about themselves that they were nobodies. We never tire of hearing how they were dismissed by the learned people, by the authorities, as “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13), and that is what they were.
It seems to me to be simply ludicrous to suggest that such men, without learning, without any influence or authority, without any money behind them, with none of the means of propaganda that we are familiar with today, that such men by their own efforts and abilities could succeed in doing what we read of in the pages of this book. How did it come about? There is only one answer. The world was turned upside-down not because of what they did, but because of what God did to them, in them, and by means of them. And that is the essential message concerning the Christian church—her meaning, her function, her message, her purpose.
What God did to them that made them so effective, so powerful, to spite their less than noble backgrounds was to send down the Spirit. Our prayer in this series should be “Lord fill us with your Spirit.”
Lloyd Jones said:
[We come] into a true relationship [with God] by knowing, believing, accepting, and submitting [ourselves] to the message of the… church, the message of the Gospel.
That message is this: all those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
 Choi, Y. (2016). Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
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