We saw last week the important implications for the early church and us that Jesus ascended into heaven, and we saw how they addressed a leadership need by calling a new apostle. The New Testament church would continue in the power of Jesus' continued intercession and prayer for them and through the ministry of leaders in the church, the apostles, that would do the special work of planting brand new churches all over the known work with a demonstration of the same type of power that Jesus Christ manifested.
We want to start not in Acts 2 but in 2 Chronicles. It’s in 2 Chronicles 5, a history of Solomon’s reign, that we see the Temple David longed to see built. And the Ark of the Covenant, from the time of Moses, is brought into the holy of holies, and at the end of chapter 5, the glory cloud of God fills the Temple. It’s so powerful that the priests could not do their assigned duties they had to wait in awe of God and his manifest presence.
Then Solomon prays. He prays better than he is, he prays better than he has any right to. He prays better than his past, better than his future, would say he has a right to pray. Yet here it is in holy Scripture, and we get to read it and see how it propels us to and explains Acts 2.
[Read, starting with 5:18, read that paragraph. Then to vs. 32 about foreigners. Then 36 to end, then 7:1ff]
The message of Solomon’s prayer is that in some mysterious way, though the universe cannot contain the great God we serve and who loves us with a covenant love, has come to dwell with us, in this Temple, and will hear our prayers and respond with power and might and justice and judgment to establish the reign of his king forever and ever and establish a people for his pleasure, both Jews and Gentiles.
Do you think that’s just a coincidence? That message of Solomon being the same as the message we see in Acts 2? I do not. In Acts 2:
Just as with Solomon, the disciples have gathered at God’s command to await his confirming presence. He’s going to renew his covenant with them through establishing the place where his spirit will dwell and manifest his power. In context of humble prayer, and nothing more or less, God sends his Spirit as he did in the past, and because the Spirit of God is invisible, he has to add something to make it possible for us to perceive it.
Many implications for understanding the text and understanding the world we live in today from this. We will unpack some of these in the sermon, some in conversations afterwards.
1) The Christian life from the Old to the New Testament to today, is an experience of God giving power to his people, if you have a powerless life over sin, a powerless life over the desires of the flesh, the devil, the world, if you have no power, then it’s very likely you have no Spirit. If you’ve managed to create a life that requires no power, that requires no faith, that has no risk, no danger, no need of his gracious gifts, then it’s very likely you are not living the Christian life.
2) This power is not private, but public. It is not simply Jesus coming and sitting on the throne of your heart, but it works itself out, by the very nature of the gift and the giver, in public and in the assembly of the people of God.
3) As God establishes his new Temple, his new dwelling place with men in 2 Chronicles 5 with signs and wonders of a specific type, now he establishes through signs and wonders that he dwells with his church in a new, mobile temple, with every believer being a temple of the Holy Spirit, with his Spirit not being tied to a specific spot, but going everywhere his people go. Where shall I go to flee from your spirit, David prayed in Psalm 139, I wonder did he see such a day as this?
Instead of fire descending on the sacrificial lambs of the Old Covenant, he sends fire to descend on the future martyrs of the New Covenant. Every one of the people who were mentioned in the book of Acts as being in that assembly of Acts 2, and almost every believer in the book of Acts, is recorded in history as being martyred for the faith.
The glory descends in OT Exodus at Mount Sinai, at the Temple sacrifices in 2 Chronicles 7, and now in Acts 2, the fire and glory descends signaling that God is demonstrating his power, manifesting his presence, glorifying himself, empowering his people to rule and reign and tell the world, Jews and Gentiles, the good news that Jesus is Lord, Jesus is alive, and Jesus forgives sinners who repent and by faith, believe he is God and can forgive sin.
Think about this more deeply, though. What do you think happened when God sent fire down upon the sacrifices of sheep and cattle at the Temple in 2 Chronicles? Do you think they survived?
What happens when the power of God comes down on you to proclaim the Gospel in a hostile world, and you demonstrate with great power that they cannot control you, they cannot buy, you, they cannot withstand your message of hope and forgiveness through Christ alone—did you think the world would be happy with you? Did you think it would applaud (slow clap)?
The gospel and the power of God to rescue sinners that we have today may not be as flashy, may not have the spiritual fireworks attending it as the apostles saw, but it’s no less real. The promises of Christ to heal body and soul, to rescue the sick and the dead from the final destination of all who side with Satan and his angels, they are no less real today, Amen?
Tongues of fire on the 120 fall and signal that God’s presence and power are a consuming fire. If you want to be consumed by God, who happily receives the offering of your life and sacrifice of your small goals to his big ones, your selfish goals to his goals that will transform the universe, God bids you take up your cross and follow his son. When Jesus bids us come, as Bonhoeffer said, he bids us come and die.
The details of the text today is that God supernaturally and powerfully signaled that he would accomplish the goals of taking the good news of repentant faith in Jesus as the Messiah to the nations. The miracle could have been as much a miracle of ear as one of tongue; the crowd could have been miraculously able to hear praise and prayer and preaching as the 120 were overcome by the presences of God and had a spiritual experience that made them babble. Or babble could be transformed in midair before it hit their ears. Or the 120 could have been saying something like a universal common language that all could hear, by the power of God. We don’t know. It’s not explained. But what’s clear is that Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said that Matthew 10:19 that he would give his disciples the words to say, if they were brought before rulers to give testimony. He did for them what he did for Moses in Exodus 4:12, he gave them speech to tell the truth about God.
He can and will do the same for you today. It may not be in a different language, but if need be, he clearly can do that.
God is not afraid to release his word, with power, into a hostile world. Are you?
There’s a reason Jesus promised he would be with the disciples. The mission is scary. There’s a reason Jesus promised he’d send his spirit among us—the mission is lonely. There’s a reason we meet and the early church met so regularly for the Lord’s Supper and worship and preaching and fellowship—the mission of spreading the true gospel into this culture is not easy. We need to be built up and matured with the means of grace God has promised will empower his church to repentant faith.
Let’s come boldly, expectantly, to the table today, fortifying ourselves for the mission of seeing the gospel to further and deeper than ever before in Hernando County and beyond. Let the nations be glad!
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