|Preacher||Rev. William MacLeod, Glasgow|
|Sermon Title||Pentecost (Communion Saturday)|
|Text||Acts ch.2 v.1 |
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"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2, 1-2).
Pentecost was a unique occasion, just like the day when Jesus died, the day when He rose from the dead and the day when He ascended up to heaven. Pentecost happened once and will never be repeated again. Fifty days after the resurrection the Holy Spirit came down from heaven.
Jesus had promised that the Spirit would come. He said, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) will not come unto you. And when he is come" you will be much better off because, "He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement" (John 16, 7-8) to come. He will convict sinners of their sin and of their lack of righteousness and that the only righteousness and the only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ and the cross. He will convict people of the judgement to come so that men and women will see their need to be saved. The Holy Spirit will take of the things of Jesus Christ and reveal them unto us and He will teach us and show us all things. He will sanctify us and He will remain with us until the end of the age - until Christ come again. That is what happened on the day of Pentecost - the Comforter came and He abides with the church till the second coming.
Although Pentecost will not be repeated, there are many lessons we can learn from this passage. Yes, we do long for a second Pentecost. Not exactly a second Pentecost because it will never be repeated but, rather, we long for the power of the Spirit to be revealed in the salvation of sinners and setting God's people on fire, as the Spirit was revealed on the day of Pentecost. God is just as powerful today as He was in the past. He is as able to convert three thousand souls today as He was two thousand years ago. He is as able to make His ministers a flame of fire today as He was in the past. We long, we pray, we yearn for another Pentecost in the sense that we long for God's Spirit Who dwells in the church to reveal His power to work mightily in the church. We long for Him to show us His presence, to stir us up from our deadness, to awaken us, to revive us and quicken us, so that we will become mighty witnesses and evangelists for Him. We long to see men and women who are careless and thoughtless, despising the Gospel - falling down on their knees and crying out: "Men and brothers what shall we do? How can we be saved? How can we get right with God?" Yes, we long for God's Spirit to reveal His power as on the day of Pentecost.
Here we are tonight and we are preparing for Communion tomorrow and we are longing, aren't we, for God's Spirit to be amongst us. What would be the use of a Communion service if it is just a man speaking, if it is just bread and wine being eaten, if it is just the letter that killeth rather than the spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3, 6). What we need, surely, is God to come in mighty power amongst us and reveal His salvation to us. Surely, we are preparing to meet with God at His table. We are longing to see Christ revealed to us by His Spirit, seated at the head of the table, distributing to us the elements. We are longing to see Christ Himself in the bread and the wine, to feel the warmth of God's presence - God's Spirit in our midst. We long for our hearts to be stirred, for the fire of God to burn within our bones and for God's Word to strike the sinner down, crying for mercy and souls rejoicing in finding the Saviour.
Therefore, we look at this passage tonight seeking to prepare ourselves for Communion, longing and yearning for the Holy Spirit of God to come in His ancient power, which is still the same today, that God's Spirit would mightily reveal Himself amongst us.
1. GOD CAME
2. GOD WORKED
3. A WIDESPREAD EFFECT
4. PETER'S SERMON
The first thing I want you to notice is that they waited for Pentecost. In chapter one verses four and five, there was the promise of the Spirit. They were assembled together and Jesus commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem but "wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me" (Acts 1, 4). "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1, 5). They were not to leave Jerusalem till the Holy Spirit came down upon them. Why? Because the Holy Spirit would give them the power - "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1, 8).
If there is one thing that the Lord is teaching us today, surely it is this: "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15, 5). We are so weak and feeble; our preaching and our prayers are ineffective; our witnessing is ineffective. People are unmoved by the Gospel. We try to talk to them about the way of salvation and they ignore what we say. We try to preach to them and it goes in one ear and out the other. "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15, 5). It is not enough to have a winsome personality. It is not enough to be a friendly witness. It is not enough to talk to people about Jesus and tell them of God's love. It is not enough to preach sermons to people. We need God's Spirit and without God's Spirit, nothing is achieved. Surely, God is teaching us today, "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15, 5).
To the disciples, Jesus said, wait in Jerusalem. Perhaps Peter was feeling a need to go out and tell people about Jesus; he wanted to tell people what he had seen. He was sorry to have denied Jesus but now he wanted to tell the people about Him but he had been warned - he needed the Holy Spirit - "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15, 5). Yes, God is teaching us today that the church is weak and feeble without the Spirit. Why is He teaching us that? So that we will learn to look away from ourselves, not to depend on any natural gifts that we may possess, not to depend upon numbers or talents but to look totally to the Lord.
The second thing we notice here is that "they were all with one accord in one place" (text). As they waited for Pentecost, there was unity - "all with one accord" (text). God loves unity.
Behold, how good a thing it is,and how becoming well,Together such as brethren arein unity to dwell!
( Metrical Psalm 133)
God loves unity: the harmony, the love, the fellowship. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13, 35). That's the thing that will show them that you are the disciples of Christ. Remember how Jesus prayed in John 17: "That they may be one, as we are" (John 17, 11). One in Him, in unity, harmony and love. If there is one thing that grieves the Holy Spirit, surely, it is quarrelling, bitterness, envy, hatred, pride, showing off, broken relationships and breaking our unity and love. Friends, this was the one thing that really characterised the group that were gathered in the upper room - "they were all with one accord in one place" (text), united. Before Jesus died, the disciples were arguing as to who was going to be the greatest - Who had more gifts? Who had more grace? They were fighting amongst themselves as to who would have the top place. Now, we find them gathered together and they are all of one accord.
Friends, don't let any root of bitterness remain there. Whatever other people think about you, and they might cast you out and despise you, laugh at you, ridicule you or excommunicate you - forget it! Don't keep a grudge in your heart. They will answer to God for their attitude towards you but let your attitude be one of love. "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4, 26). "They were all with one accord in one place" (text). Let us more and more seek to be united; preferring one another, not trying to get the upper hand over others; not trying to impress others and show off and seek for ourselves the greater position - but, rather, humbly giving place to others, appreciating their talents, gifts and graces, and loving them and praying for them. Pray for your enemies, pray for those who say evil things about you - love them (Matthew 5, 44). Walk in unity. How can we expect God's blessing if we are bitter in our hearts.
The third thing that we notice as they waited for Pentecost was that they were in prayer. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1, 14). The various disciples all continued "with one accord" (text) in prayer. Christ had said that the Holy Spirit would come upon them not many days hence (Acts 1, 5). Did they just sit back and wait until the Spirit came and then it would be great? Did they sit around and do nothing? So often, you and I are like that, aren't we? We are lazy and so ready to sit back; we are ready to make an excuse out of God's sovereignty and plan: God has not chosen to do this or that therefore, I'll just sit back and wait. Maybe one of these days there will be a revival and then it will be great. No, they had the assured promise from Christ, "Not many days hence" (Acts 1, 5) something wonderful is going to happen - the Holy Spirit will come.
And yet, what were they doing? They were all "with one accord in prayer" (Acts 1, 14). Praying for what? Praying for the promise to be fulfilled. Praying for the Holy Spirit to come. Friends, we have great promises in God's Word addressed to us too. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18, 20). He has promised that He will bless us. Satan shall be bruised under your feet shortly. He has promised that He will give us the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit will be with us - but we are to pray, all with one accord" (Acts 1, 14). Yes, united in our prayer.
How important it is to be earnest. Our problem is not a lack of Prayer Meetings but a lack of earnestness in our Prayer Meetings and in our private prayer. Oh, to wrestle with God - "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32, 26). Oh, to give Him no rest until He make Jerusalem a praise upon the earth (Isaiah 62, 7). Oh, to plead with Him that He will rend the heavens and come down (Isaiah 64, 1), draw aside the curtain, as it were, and come down. Plead these great promises of Scripture. Plead that the Lord will reveal Himself in mercy and in grace. Plead the great Psalms of prayer and wrestle with the Lord. You know how to give good gifts unto your children, don't you? If your children come asking for a fish, you don't give them a serpent. If you then know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him (Luke 11, 11-13). Why are we so reluctant to ask? "Ask, and you shall receive" (John 16, 24). Earnestness in prayer is vital - all "with one accord in prayer" (Acts 1, 14) - praying together, praying secretly and praying for the Spirit to come.
Then, fourthly, as they waited for the Spirit they didn't wait in vain. Trusting, looking, praying and begging for the Holy Spirit, they waited on God. They didn't run here or there, they waited on God.
I waited for the Lord my God,and patiently did bear;at length to me he did inclinemy voice and cry to hear.He took me from a fearful pit,and from the miry clayAnd on a rock he set my feet,establishing my way.
He put a new song in my mouthour God to magnify:Many shall see it, and shall fear,and on the Lord rely.
(Metrical Psalm 40: 1-3)
"I waited for the Lord" - What does that mean? "He heard my cry." It certainly involves prayer, a cry, and it involves faith - looking to Him. You and I, spiritually, feel that we are in a pit, in a hole as it were. We are longing for the day when our churches will be filled, when the Gospel will flourish, when the multitudes will be saved, when the fear of God will come down upon our communities, when songs of praise will rise from our towns and villages - filling the earth and the heavens.
I waited for the Lord my God,and patiently did bear;at length to me he did inclinemy voice and cry to hear.
They waited! They waited for Pentecost. Oh, that we would wait upon the Lord tonight in unity, prayer and faith, realising our own total inability and the greatness of God's grace, sovereignty and power.
God was at work, of course, even in the preparation: the waiting, the prayer, the faith, the unity, because we cannot even pray without God's help. We cannot trust in Him without His help. We cannot be united without His help. "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15, 5). We are dead without God. God was at work in His disciples in the upper room; God was at work in their hearts: working faith, which is the gift of God; working prayer in them - dependence, reliance upon Him. We need God and we must persist in praying to God for His presence with us.
God worked - "Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind" (text). Suddenly! God often acts when we least expect it. There are times when we think, "Maybe this time, maybe in this situation, maybe in this way." Most often, it is not like that. God takes us by surprise. Often, when we are becoming desperate, when we have reached the end of our resources, when we feel beaten and broken, helpless and hopeless - God steps in for the glory of His grace. It can be like that for a person who is seeking the Lord. They try this, that and the next thing. They try hard and then they despair and fall at the feet of Jesus. He picks them up and fills their heart with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Suddenly! There they were in the upper room. Perhaps they thought it would have been the day after Jesus ascended up to heaven that the Spirit would come, maybe they thought it would be the first Sabbath day after. However, all these days past. It was ten days after Jesus ascended up to heaven when, suddenly, at nine o'clock in the morning, the Holy Spirit came. "O ye of little faith" (Luke 12, 28), could God's Holy Spirit come tonight in mighty power amongst us? Yes, even although we are so unworthy, even although our prayers are so feeble, even although our faith is failing, for the glory of His own sovereign grace - He steps in. "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind" (text). God's Spirit is the breath and wind of heaven.
Remember Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones? "Can these dead bones live?" (Ezekiel 37, 3). That was the question that faced Ezekiel. He said, "O Lord God, thou knowest" (Ezekiel 37, 3). God said to him, "Prophesy unto the wind, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live" (Ezekiel 37, 9). The spirit came. He entered in and there rose up a mighty army for the Lord from that valley of dead bones. Here we are today in the valley of dead bones. "Can these dead bones live?..."O Lord God, thou knowest" ( Ezekiel 37, 3). It happened in the past and it will happen in the future - God knows. "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live" (Ezekiel 37, 9). Come rushing, mighty wind - the power of heaven.
Then fire, tongues of fire rested upon the disciples. Fire is an excellent symbol of God. He is a "consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4, 24). He burns up the chaff, He burns up the dross and He purifies the gold - the purifying, holy fire of heaven. He sets us on fire doesn't He?
The Lord will light my candle so,that it shall shine full bright.
(Metrical Psalm 18, 28)
"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (verse 4). God came in and took over. That's what we long for, isn't it? We are so fleshly, so earthly, so worldly; we are like worms clinging to this earth and wriggling around upon it. Oh, that we would rise up for God. Oh, that the Spirit would enter into us. Oh, that we would be heavenly minded. Oh, that we would be full of faith and of the Holy Ghost - full of love for God, full of zeal for His cause.
They "began to speak with other tongues" (verse 4). They were able to communicate: deaf ears were opened, hard hearts were softened, dull minds were enlightened. It is wonderful to get through to people. Sometimes we feel people are impregnable to God's Word and hardened to it; they have defence mechanisms around them, then at last, there is communication, we are able to get through.
This is the opposite of the tower of Babel. You remember when they were building the tower of Babel, united together in fighting against God - He that in the heavens sits, laughed (Psalm 2, 4) and He sent down confusion of tongues: different languages so that they couldn't understand one another. They had to give up their massive building project and they were scattered abroad upon the earth. But now, on the day of Pentecost, language barriers are broken down and another great building project begins - the building of the city of the living God - the new Jerusalem. They can understand the disciples and the message gets through. The apostles are communicating God's Word in all these various languages. God's Spirit is enabling them to proclaim His Word.
God worked, yes, we need God to work. They waited for Pentecost. They waited in unity, in prayer, in faith and God worked. Are you and I waiting and looking and longing and yearning for God to come in amongst us tonight and tomorrow and in the days to come that we might know the power of God's Spirit in our congregations?
Thirdly, notice the widespread effect. They were in the upper room and the door was locked. The disciples gathered together - a hundred and twenty of them in this upper room. They didn't remain in the upper room with the doors locked enjoying the presence of the Spirit. Notice the effect it had: they went out and began to speak to people. They started to communicate the Gospel. They had been in hiding before but now the Spirit sent them forth to tell others about Christ. They go out as witnesses: the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
I remember some years ago being greatly moved by something I read in the Evangelical Times. It was an account that had come out of China of God's Spirit at work. In the Province of Henan in China, there was a little group of around a dozen believers. They were deeply concerned for the cause of God and they gathered together to pray. They were praying earnestly for God's Spirit - and the Spirit came. They felt His presence and His power. They went out into the streets and started to talk about Christ and the power of God was upon them. The people in the street stopped to listen. Crowds gathered and shopkeepers shut down their shops and gathered round. They spoke with tears in their eyes of the Saviour and of the need for salvation and of the glorious work of Christ. The people who were listening began to weep, coming to salvation and trusting in Jesus. After they had been going on for some time and were tired, they wanted to go home but the crowds wouldn't let them - they wanted to hear more. "We want to hear more about Christ! We want to be saved!"
Then the authorities came along - the police - and carted them off to prison and beat them until they were unconscious. Amongst them, there was a little girl of twelve; she too was beaten unconscious. As they looked at this little girl lying unconscious, some of them felt sorry for her. When she began to come round, they expressed how they felt sorry for her. She told them how she felt sorry for them. She began to tell them again about Christ, about His Gospel, about the way of salvation and they beat her again. Still they couldn't beat out of her the Gospel and what the power of the Holy Spirit had brought into her life. In the end, they had to let them go and a revival spread through that whole area. It all originated at a little Prayer Meeting.
How soon God's Spirit reaches out through His people and how mightily large numbers can be affected. If God's Spirit were to come down upon us here tonight, to set us on fire for Christ, tomorrow this church would be filled. In days to come, it would be far too small for the multitudes who would gather. Yes, friends, we need God's Spirit. "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15, 5). We have grieved Him by our sins and our worldliness. We must plead for God's Spirit to mightily work amongst us.
Multitudes gathered and the news got round; God stirred up interest. The Gospel, miraculously, was being communicated. People were amazed to hear God's Word in their own language. Wherever they came from: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome - all were hearing the Gospel in their own language.
Then there were the mockers. Isn't it amazing that when God's Spirit was so mightily at work, the mockers were there? It's not really amazing, the devil is always busy where God is doing a great work. Remember even Calvary: the Son of God, the holy harmless Son of God, the Creator of the universe dying on the cross, crying out, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15, 34). They knew what He was saying but they mocked Him. "He calleth Elias...let us see whether Elias will come to take him down" (Mark 15, 35-36). "He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Mark 15, 31). Surely not! Surely not at Calvary! Yes, the mockers are there. Surely not on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit is so mightily at work and the Word is being preached with power! The mockers were there. "These men are full of new wine" (verse 13); they knew full well in their conscience that it was a lie but, oh, the hardness of the human heart! Oh, the hatred that there is for God in the heart of man! A widespread effect.
Finally, we notice, Peter's sermon. "Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these men are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath" (verses 14, 19). Joel had spoken about this day that the Spirit would be poured out. Your sons and your daughters, your old men and your young men - they would prophesy. They would all become prophets and preachers, mightily equipped and empowered, all on fire for Christ, telling the wonderful works of God.
Surely, this is what we are longing for - a time of salvation. "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (verse 21) - a time when God's Spirit is mightily at work. "Whosoever," - Are you here tonight, unconverted? "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (verse 21). That is true today. Call upon His name and you will be saved. Why will you not call? Are you going to be sitting at the Lord's Table tomorrow? If not, why not? Because you are not converted, well, it's time you were. Why let another day pass, it might be your last. Tonight, God could call you away and cast you into hell. Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved.
Are you saying, "I feel such a weak Christian, such a poor Christian." No doubt, you are a weak and poor Christian, so am I, but "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (verse 21). It is to the Lord we must look. Yes, we are unworthy but is our faith in Him. In Him Who said, "This do in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11, 24). You say, "I am unworthy to sit at the Lord's Table." If you are, you are unworthy to sit at His table in heaven; and if you are unworthy to sit at His table in heaven, you are in a very dangerous position.
On the day of Pentecost, three thousand souls were added to the church. "Repent, and be baptized," (verse 38) said Peter, "that your sins may be forgiven." Three thousand professed faith that day. Why are you waiting when the Lord is calling you? Through His Gospel He is calling you. Through the preaching of the Word, Sabbath after Sabbath He is calling you. Have you called upon Him? "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (verse 21). Christ died on the cross for sinners and rose again. Call upon Him, believe on Him, trust in Him as your Saviour and you will never perish.
"Let a man examine himself, and so" not "eat!" No, that is not what it says. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat" (1 Corinthians 11, 28). Put right what is wrong and come to His Table and eat of the symbols of His broken body and His shed blood, looking for the Lord to work more and more in your heart and in your congregation.
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