The Church has faced great trials and experienced great triumphs throughout the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts. With persecution of the Church still prevalent, a group of passionate Christians endeavor to bring the gospel outside of the borders of Judea and the immediate region. Men like Paul and Barnabas turn their focus west to Asia Minor, Greece and even Rome. Facing new cultures, their would be new challenges and opportunities. How would they fare in spreading the gospel to these peoples and what adjustments might they make? We examine these questions and more today.
Despite facing persecution that led to imprisonment, murder and consistent oppression, the church endeavored to spread beyond the walls of Jerusalem. Though the message of God has been received by thousands of Jews, a sense of urgency takes hold. The desire to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to those outside the first covenant drives a young man named Phillip. Much like his martyred friend, Stephen, Phillip is a fiery evangelist from the next generation of believers. He has been taking care of the needs of widows and other less fortunate in Jerusalem, but a pull from the Holy Spirit inside him leads him on a journey to Samaria…
In studying persecution worldwide today, we wanted to use a system that lined up with what the Early Church faced. We based this system on the several recorded instances in the Book of Acts, taking from instances between Acts 3 and 12. We use this window as methods of persecution that are recorded after chapter 12 are similar to those found within the 10 chapter sample size. We outlined several of these instances of persecution in Episode 2 last week, which can be read here. To help our readers follow along with our discussion about modern persecution, we outline the types of persecution we found in Acts 3-12. These are general guidelines and are not to be taken as the gospel on the types of persecution. It is simply a general idea of persecution from what we found.
We conclude our look into Peter's message on Pentecost Sunday. His message thus far has outlined what the outpouring of the Holy Ghost was and how it related to scripture. He also revealed the identity of Christ and the purpose of his death, burial and resurrection. Today, we look further into Peter's explanation of Christ, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost and what can be done to receive it.
Acts 2:25-28 – Peter moves his focus to a Psalm of David (Psalm 16:8-11). This was meant to confirm that Jesus was the One mentioned in multiple prophecies in the Bible. By referencing David, he is quoting a man that no Jew could deny. People sometimes had their differences about the prophets, but they would never deny their greatest hero. We can also look to Psalms 49:15, 86:13 and 116:3 to see further heralds of Christ relating to this scripture.
Acts 2:29-30 – Peter identifies the difference between David and Jesus in verse 29. David is dead. Jesus is alive. This is to take the most revered man in the Jewish culture and put him below Christ. However, Peter reveres David as prophet in the next verse, referencing 2 Samuel where David let it be known that God had spoken through him. This verifies that the Psalms Peter has referenced were in fact prophecies about Christ. In this verse, we also find a reference to Isaiah’s famous prophecy about Christ when Peter talked about Jesus being raised up to sit on his throne (Isa 9:6-7). Paul would later use this idea as he opened up his letter to the Romans (Rom 1:3)
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As we have a lot of scripture references, we have chosen to link them to their source on www.blueletterbible.org. We hope you enjoy following along with us as we breakdown this amazing message!
The message that Peter delivered came after a powerful move of the Holy Ghost, the first of its kind (Acts 2:1-15). This move of God was so powerful that it drew thousands of people within Jerusalem to its epicenter. What were they drawn by? Was it the mighty rushing wind as mentioned in Acts 2:2? No. It was the sound of the 120 speaking in tongues, the sound of which was not unlike music carried on the wind*. Upon finding a bunch of backwoods Galileans seemingly speaking uncontrollably in multiple languages, the multitude labeled them as drunk or crazy (2:12-13).
However, Peter immediately and soberly stood up in the midst of the crowd and let them all know that these people were not drunk (2:14-15). He then proceeded to outline what they were witnessing and the doctrine behind it, utilizing an uncanny knowledge of scripture that ranged from the Torah to the Psalms to the major and minor prophets. The doctrine he handed down that day would be referenced in writings throughout the history of the early church, making its way to several individuals and congregations afterwards. This message bridges the Old Testament and New Testament, tying the two covenants together and heralding the message of salvation to all peoples.
*In Acts 2:6 the word noise is likened to the musical tone of instruments
The Genesis of a New Hope
The church is in a state of supreme confidence. Christ is risen and has been teaching again and doing great things (Acts 1:3). Though the multitudes have now become a few hundred, the excitement is high and the close followers are ready to follow Christ into the next phase.
Suddenly, Christ stops and tells his followers that he was leaving (1:4-8). How could this be? They had gotten Christ back only to lose him again. With his last words, Christ told his followers to return to Jerusalem and wait until the power of the Holy Ghost came upon them. Then, he was gone. Drifting up into the sky, shrinking away and out of sight (1:9). All that was left to do was obey Christ's words.
They returned to Jerusalem and assembled themselves in a large upstairs room (1:13). And their they waited, hoping and believing for that sign of empowerment...
Unified Focused Prayer
Without hesitation, the early church began praying (1:14). They spoke with God and brought their needs before him. They did this as a unified body. Their minds and passions were all directed to one cause: bringing the Holy Ghost into the world. They were ready to be empowered as Christ had said so they could go about doing the work that Christ had commanded them to do.
To really bring the power of God into our own lives, we must be unified in our prayer and focus. As congregations, we must unify ourselves as a Body of believers if we want to see the true empowering move of the Spirit that God desires. As families, we must unify our homes if we want our children and our marriages to receive the empowering protection and direction needed to navigate every trial and tribulation society throws at us. As individuals, we must be unified within our minds, passions and purposes to truly have the empowering move of God that brings about the calling and direction that Christ has called us to follow.
Unification must take place, but it's not the only thing we find in the lead up to the Holy Ghost being poured out.
In the midst of their multi-day prayer meeting, Peter got everyone to focus on something that was lacking. Scripture had declared that they would need to replace the betrayer Judas (1:16-22). This is an easy set of scriptures to gloss over. It's sandwiched between the last words of Christ and the first move of the Holy Ghost and seems to be a simple clerical issue they are taking care of, just wanting to shore up the numbers.
However, Peter's attention to detail heralds exactly what makes the Early Church so different and Christianity so unique from other ideologies and beliefs. It is a faith that desires to get things right. If the Word claims something to be true or necessary, it is incumbent on the church to follow that principle, no matter the winds of doctrine and society that blow. It's why Christ was able to say firmly that he did not come to destroy the Law but fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). This is a sentiment repeatedly expressed by the Early Church. Peter, the other Apostles, Stephen and Paul are all quoted throughout the book of Acts as defending the Law while teaching Christ. Peter in Acts 1 knew that, while prayer and unification were important, order was necessary, too.
The Rushing Mighty Wind
After setting the table with unified focused prayer and a Body set in order, God's timing was fulfilled and He moved on His people. The first thing it says was that the sound from heaven that came was as a rushing mighty wind (2:2). Let's examine those three descriptive words:
Rushing: The move of the Holy Ghost was fast. God may seem to take a long time to do what we ask of him. As mentioned in Part One of Acts Facts, after Christ ascended it took between 6 and 10 days of prayer for the Holy Ghost to fall. However, when it fell, it didn't take long. We may find ourselves looking for an empowering moment with God. For some it may be that initial salvation experience.
Personally, I sought the Holy Ghost for over a year before I was filled. It was frustrating at times to not receive God's Spirit when other children and adults were speaking in tongues on either side of me. I got discouraged but my parents and a couple of close friends encouraged me to persist and eventually it happened for me. Whether you need the Holy Ghost or an empowering move of God in your marriage, ministry or other area, don't let up. God will show up when He's ready and He won't leave you forsaken for your faith.
Mighty: The move of the Holy Ghost was uniquely powerful. The Greek word used here is biaios and is only used in this scripture. It was a very specific type of might that God unleashed that had never been experience before that day. It is a force that is described as being fierce and violent. This is apt because the Holy Ghost comes into our lives and wages war on our flesh and the influence the devil has over us.
"The Kingdom of God suffereth violence and the violent take it by force." (Matthew 11:12)
These words of Jesus are confirmed when God fills an individual with His Spirit. All that is evil, unrighteous and against God is attacked and driven back. The Kingdom of God advances with every soul won.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but might to the pulling down of strongholds."(2 Corinthians 10:4)
This affirmation from Paul encapsulates the power of the Holy Ghost: the first spiritually empower weapon sent by God. When we receive it, God goes to work defeating the evil influences and control that Satan and this world have on our lives. As we advance in our relationship with God, we our empowered to let the spirit flow out of us and to take authority over the enemy. All because God chose to empower us with something mankind had never seen before.
Wind: the move of the Holy Ghost came as though from nowhere. The followers of Christ had the expectation that they would receive the Holy Ghost. God doesn't lie and He is faithful (Numbers 23:19, 1 Corinthians 1:9). However, they were utterly surprised when God did show up to fill them with the Holy Ghost because it was an invisible move of God. It seemingly came out of nowhere.
God's greatest moves come in ways we could never expect. The person diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma doesn't expect God to wake him up in the middle of the night to start a praise and singing service in his living room. However, that's exactly what God told my grandfather to do one night while he tossed in his bed with severe pain. He arose from his bed and went into the living room with his wife and they began to sing the songs they had sung while evangelizing and starting new churches in Minnesota. In that makeshift service, God instantly healed my Grandfather and cancer has never again entered his body.
The Holy Ghost moves on us, whether to heal, deliver or save in ways we never thought possible. People fall over as though in a trance. Others shout and dance in the altar without control. Some fall to their knees and sob uncontrollably as the Spirit overwhelms them. In Acts 2, it looked to them like their tongues were catching fire! (2:3) The reactions are all different, but they all seemingly originate from out of nowhere. It just shows God's power and ability. In one instant all can be calm and the next it is exploding with a move of God. That is what happened in Acts 2 and that is what will happen if we prepare ourselves for the move God desires.
The Constant Sign
As mentioned previously, there are many different ways the Holy Ghost manifests itself when it moves on us to do it's sudden, amazing and mighty work. However, one thing is always constant. When the Holy Ghost fills us, we react in a very visible and physical way. We speak with tongues (2:4). These tongues may be of other nations or they may be of angels or of the unknown tongue that only God recognizes (1 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Corinthians 14:2). Regardless of what the tongue sounds like or what its origin, God takes control of our tongues when He moves on us with His Spirit. Why? Of all our appendages, why the tongue? Why not the mind to reveal great mysteries? Why not the hands to do mighty works? Why not the heart to endue it with irrevocable passion? At times God does those things by the way. However, in all instances, God's saving grace causes our tongues to lose all control to the power and authority of the Almighty. Why?
It could be because of the Proverb that tells us that the tongue holds the power of death and life (Proverbs 18:21). It could be that the tongue is considered to be a vile and wicked thing that the devil uses for his purposes and thus God desires to take back from Satan his greatest advantage. It could be that it is the easiest sign for others to see and believe that God has moved. This theory is held up by the results that speaking in tongues helped bring the church later on (2:41). Regardless of why God chose tongues for the constant sign of the Holy Ghost filling us, it is a constant both in the Bible and today.
Across denominations of Christianity, people are speaking in tongues and accepting it as a sign of the Holy Ghost. Accepting this truth has allowed the modern church to return to the principles, practices and power of the Book of Acts. As with any Spiritual revival, there is push back both internally and externally, but we will get to that in another devotion in this series. For now, let us be glad that God is moving in such a way that unleashes the authority as He intended with signs following accordingly. For if we allow tongues to flow freely, we will see signs, miracles and wonders like never before (Mark 16:17-18)
Our Acts Facts portion of the Acts Series continues on Patreon. If you want to see the full list of facts, head on over and sign up for $2 to help us continue spreading the message of Jesus. Today's sneak peek comes from Acts Chapter 23. This is yet another great chapter on dealing with adversity, mostly on the idea of not losing sight of your purpose in the midst of trials. Check it out, tell us your thoughts and consider assisting us as we advance the cause of Christ. Thanks and God Bless!
Our Acts Facts series continues on Patreon. If you want to see the full list of facts, head on over and sign up for $2 to help us continue spreading the message of Jesus. Today's sneak peek comes from Acts Chapter 18. There's a ton of Facts in this chapter and it would be great for young leaders to read as it shows how we should respond to adversity. Check it out, tell us your thoughts and consider assisting us as we advance the cause of Christ. Thanks! Remember, our first devotional post will be posted right here on the Compass Page for Free next Wednesday.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.