May 17, 2023 Pastor Steve Behlke

Jesus' Promise Fulfilled (Acts 2:1-13)

Last week, we began a new series in the Book of Acts.

Jesus was with His disciples for the last time. He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit would come upon them. They were eating up every word when, suddenly, a bright cloud descended upon Him, and raptured Jesus into the sky. Immediately, two angels appeared, assuring them Jesus’ll return one day in the same way they saw him go. Imagine the reunion celebration in Heaven. 

Then the angels are gone. Jesus has left. The Holy Spirit hadn’t come, and the apostles are waiting, praying, searching Scripture. Three days. Four days.  

Acts 1:15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.” 

Peter has a thousand questions but Jesus isn’t there so he goes to God’s Word for God’s perspective. Maybe he's thinking about his experience with Jesus, the night of His betrayal. He reads God’s Word. “Guys, the Scripture that the Holy Spirit foretold through David about Judas had to be fulfilled.” His betrayal of our Lord fulfilled God’s Word, it happened by divine necessity! 

God's Sovereignty

God is sovereign. He even uses man’s greatest evil to bring about God’s greatest good. Man sins. The world is cursed and nature causes destruction. But nothing ruins God’s plans. God can use the worst things for His glory…

God created the cosmos and everything in it to be good. He warned Adam ahead of time not to make the choice he did for it would lead to brokenness, death, and destruction. Yet God allowed Adam to make his choice… 

God's Suffering

Man suffers ever since—and we follow the same pattern daily. As with Adam and Judas, in even our worst choices that bring us suffering—God remains sovereign and faithful. Even more, understand that God suffers for our sins, too. Man makes his choice, God allows us to ignore Him, to sin against Him. 

For His sake and ours, God suffers for it another way too! What did Adam’s sin lead to? What did Judas’ sin cause? For each, we see Jesus on the cross. For your sins, see Jesus on the cross, see God’s unfailing love for you. Sin separates us from God. Through Jesus’ suffering, He redeems us from it… 

This is God’s love. He is the God of the cross who identifies with our sin and suffering, He is the God who is found in suffering, who relates to us most deeply through our suffering. He is also the Sovereign Lord of Glory.

Peter discovered another thing. Judas’ role in the original twelve is to be filled,  

Acts 1:21 “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”   

Decision Making

We can learn a bit about decision-making from this. For our family, at work, in church; at times we have big decisions to make and you may have one.

Peter starts with what is known and what is seen. This doesn't require spiritual understanding, just a little bit of research and a few answers. The next apostle, just like the original twelve, has to have known Jesus firsthand from His baptism to His ascension. Easy peasy. That narrows the field. 

Acts 1:23 So they put forward two men, Joseph [Hebrew] called Barsabbas [Aramaic] (who was also called Justus [Roman—wow for the gospel to go global this guy seems to have an edge]), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, [Who? Jesus, in heaven. This is the first recorded instance of prayer to the risen Christ] who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 

I wonder how different, and how very relational it was to pray now, knowing Jesus firsthand as they did, now seeing that He’s the One they’re praying to. Amazing. They spoke with Him on earth. Now they speak to Him in heaven. By faith, may we pray, seeing with the same faith and relational awareness.

But back to godly decision-making, the disciples essentially say, “Okay, Lord, we acted on the info we have, we pared it down to two men. Now, show us the man after Your own heart, like when You chose David.” 

What marks their character is their deep trust in God’s sovereign care. They pared it down to two, and they knew that God had already selected His guy; so they ask Him to show them His choice. Trusting God’s sovereignty, they focused more on God than on the candidate. “Lord, reveal Your choice to us.”

Whatever decision you make, do the obvious work you need to do. But spend more time looking to God! He is sovereign. Ask, seek, knock in prayer.

Acts 1:26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Wait what? Did they literally just roll the dice? What do we do with this? 

First, this was a legitimate method at that time—Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Nehemiah. Second, at this point, they still didn’t have the Holy Spirit. The apostles didn’t have direct guidance from God like how we do today.

So if you have a big decision to make, rather than roll the dice or make a list of pros and cons and add up the columns. We are wise to ask God for wisdom and wait on Him, seek out godly others, and act on what He shows.

God wants to develop a character of trust in you so wait patiently on Him.

Trust His intimate, sovereign care. God is for you. He wants to bless you.

Now we come up to Acts 2: Pentecost, the Advent of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the church. This passage is iconic; it is a huge event in both church and human history.

Jewish Feasts and the Salvation Story

Along with His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, Pentecost was promised and predicted through the Jewish Feasts.

For instance, Jesus was crucified on Passover. The Passover Feast is the Feast of Salvation. Jesus shed His blood on the day Jews celebrated the blood of the lamb that led to God’s deliverance from slavery.  

On the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus’ body was buried.

Three days later Jesus’ resurrection occurred during the Feast of First Fruits, which celebrated the first wheat harvest of the season. The feast anticipated Jesus’ resurrection, His life out of the earth, and our own resurrection.

After this, Jesus remained with His disciples for 40 days before He ascended to heaven. And He told His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit. And they waited for 10 days. That’s when we pick it up in Acts 2. It’s been 50 days… 

The fiftieth day after Passover is the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, 7 weeks is forty-nine days plus one for Sunday. Pentecost means “fifty.” This Feast celebrated the end of the spring harvest, new life, and the Lord’s blessing.

Pentecost points to God giving us the Holy Spirit, planting the church, and the future harvest of believers through the Spirit's ministry in the church. 

These OT Feasts foreshadow God's entire plan of salvation. 

So we pick it up on the Feast of Pentecost or the Harvest Feast, which included a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. So the city was filled with devout Jews.

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind [like a tornado], and [the sound] filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves [spreading out like fire], and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Often when God does something new He validates it with authenticating signs.

The Holy Spirit indwelling believers is new! So God provides three authenticating signs that this is the advent of the Holy Spirit Jesus promised, 

The first sign was a sound, a noise like a mighty wind. Notice, there wasn’t any wind. The room wasn’t filled with wind but with "the sound" of a violent wind, a tornado. And it filled the whole house. This sound revealed the coming of the Holy Spirit in POWER. God made it clear to each of them that God’s Spirit was with them, powerfully, just as Jesus said He would be.  

God's Power

The Holy Spirit came with power then and He continues to empower us to be Jesus’ witnesses. As much as the Spirit comforts and cares for us, teaches and guides us, He also empowers us. That’s what the sound of a great tornado zeroing down on your house or 100 freight trains rushing into town represents.

The second sign was visible, Acts 1:3, “and there appeared to them tongues as of fire” as of fire, just as there was no wind, there was no consuming heat. It’s similar to when God revealed Himself to Moses as the burning bush that didn’t burn. 

God's Presence

God often revealed His PRESENCE through fire. He revealed His presence and protection of the nation as a Pillar of Fire over them in the wilderness. Then atop Mount Sinai. Here, the tongues of fire kept flickering like fire, and resting on each individual much like He came to Jesus in the form of a dove.

The sound of a violent, rushing wind represents the Holy Spirit’s POWER, and the tongues of fire upon each believer represent God's PRESENCE.

And the third sign?

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues,...

This is the third sign: they began to speak in foreign languages.

God's Purpose

This is the fruit, it shows the PURPOSE of God’s presence and power: to fulfill the Great Commission! 

These three signs, the sound of a violent wind (the Holy Spirit’s power), the tongues of fire (God’s presence) on each believer, and foreign languages (fulfilling God’s Purpose that we shall be Jesus’ witnesses) authenticate that the Holy Spirit has come to empower Jesus’ disciples.

The same Holy Spirit dwells in you and empowers you to carry out Jesus’ mission today.

This is another gift of God’s grace. Again, this was a first-time event, a brand new thing, so God authenticated Jesus’ gift of the Spirit on that occasion alone. Not only for their sakes but for ours today. No, He doesn’t grant us to speak the gospel in a foreign language every time we travel abroad. But don’t underestimate the Presence or the Power of Christ in you…

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. 

They weren’t making up words. They weren’t speaking ecstatic words that no one could understand. The Holy Spirit empowered them to speak in the native language of the worshipers visiting Jerusalem for the Harvest Feast. 

Acts 2:5 Now there were Jews living [staying] in Jerusalem, devout men [worshipers] from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred the multitude [the crowds] came together and were bewildered because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.

Not only were they bewildered, but they were also impressed, at first.

Acts 2:7 They were amazed and marveled, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 "Parthians and Medes and Elamites [Iranians], residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia [Turkey], Egypt and the districts of Libya and around Cyrene [Africa], and visitors from Rome [Italy, Europe], both Jews and proselytes [Non-Jews who converted to Judaism], 11 Cretans [Greek isles] and Arabs [Syria... So how is it that] we hear [these unread Galileans] in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds [lit., the greatness, the magnificence] of God."

Wow. God did what He promised long before in the Jewish Feasts. He did what Jesus promised He would do. He sent the Holy Spirit to believers. They had God’s presence, and God’s power, to declare God’s Greatness and the Good News that Jesus Christ paid for our sins and gives sinners eternal life.

The same God is in YOU, with the same power, for the same purpose. God cares for YOU. God in Christ forgives YOU. And God is present within YOU. 

Big picture.

This is the opposite of what happened at the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 11, people united and acted contrary to God’s purposes and this would bring great harm. So God interfered; He caused them to speak in different languages. And unable to communicate with one another they separated, dispersed, and eventually formed different nations. A very significant event. On the day of Pentecost, the opposite occurred. The disciples spoke of the greatness and the glory of God to all these people in all their different languages, causing all who believed to be united together in Jesus Christ. 

However, most of those who heard had one of two predictable responses.

Acts 2:12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean? [what is the significance of this day?]” 13 But others were mocking, [Unable to explain it away, they mock; create a new narrative,] saying, "They are full of sweet wine. [Dudes, they’re drunk, don’t even pay them any attention.]

This leads to the apostle Peter’s first sermon in the next passage.

But Pentecost is a very significant day in history. God did a new thing. The risen Christ sent His Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him. This is the first act of the risen Christ. Pretty awesome. The Holy Spirit's arrival on the Day of Pentecost also inaugurated a whole new dispensation: the church age.  

Earlier, we saw how all four of the Jewish Spring Feasts were fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming. There are three more that Jesus’ll fulfill upon His return:

The Fall Feasts

The Feast of Trumpets is interpreted as pointing to the future event of the rapture of the church and the return of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 

The Feast of Trumpets was followed by the Hebrews’ holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement

Represented in two stages, with two goats, the High Priest sacrificed one to make atonement for sin. Then he laid the people’s sins on a second goat removing all sin from the city. When Jesus returns He will fulfill this day completely when all Israel shall believe and be saved.

The final feast is the Feast of Tabernacles or Tents when God makes His dwelling with us. On earth. In His Temple. And reigning in His kingdom.