“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”
Acts 2:1-6 NRSV
This morning we continue our series on the Spirit-driven life. We spoke about spiritual gifts, the Spirit as our helper and the role of the Spirit in how we witness Christ.
Today we take a look at the outpouring of the Spirit on those disciples gathered together. We know they were in Jerusalem and we know there were 120 gathered.
Remember from chapter 1 that Jesus didn’t make being filled with Holy Spirit an option for his followers and commanded them to stay in Jerusalem until they endured with power.
1. Spirit as a witness/demonstration/evidence
A big change in the life of the disciples came from the filling of the Holy Spirit they went from gathering together to changing the world. The Spirit resting on them like fire was more than just a temporary blessing or a nice feeling, it was a total transformation and gave them abilities that Jesus had promised.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was just the beginning. Their stories continue through the book of Acts and it’s noted that when the disciples came to Thessaloniki they were accused of turning the world upside down.
The focus of the Spirit, as I said a few weeks ago was that these followers of Christ were enabled by the Spirit to be a witness. In this first encounter of their filling of the Spirit was that their speech was changed and people heard and understood them.
There is an ability given to them which enabled them to witness to everyone around, breaking down the language barriers to the gospel. Being filled with the Spirit empowered them just as Christ told them, to be a witness to all nations. The very witness which would inevitably cost them their lives.
The Holy Spirit is what makes following Christ unique. What religion is there on this planet where you are filled with God’s Spirit which enables you to do the things that God is calling you, enabled to be the type of person that God has called you to be?
Christianity doesn't promise that there will not be trouble, in fact, Jesus told them what to expect when they were in trouble for preaching about Him. however, Jesus knew he had left them in the good hands of his Spirit so they had the one that helps them in their time of trial.
Later in chapter 4, when they faced opposition, their first response was to pray and ask the Spirit to help them. The Spirit is our helper as Asia spoke about last week, a helper who comes alongside and enables us to do what Jesus commanded, preach the word with boldness.
Speaking foreign languages
We see the disciple's first encounter with the Spirit are they talking in foreign languages. This enabled them to reach those around them with the Gospel, for many nationalities had gathered in Jerusalem. 120 disciples were likely filled that day all speaking to the people about Christ and the people from all around hearing wonderful things in their language.
Of course, Jesus spoke of this in Mark 16, as a sign of those who believe, “You will speak in new languages”
The first impression was that those filled with the Spirit were filled with alcohol. We're not drunk as you suppose we're just filled with the Holy Spirit!
The takeaway I have from this is that phrase the Spirit gave them the ability and gave them the words to say.
The Spirit knows we need the right words at the right time. Jesus said this would happen
“When you are arrested, don’t worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given the things to say. It will not really be you speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Matthew 10:19-20 NCV
Acts chapter 4 gives an insight into the reality of this happening
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders…
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognised them as companions of Jesus.”
Acts 4:8, 13 NRSV
The story goes on that Peter and John were released by the authorities, after being threatened and told not to speak about Jesus and when they reported to their friends what had happened to them their first thought was, let us pray.
The church then went to prayer to the Lord. In the face of hostility from entrenched and powerful enemies, they prayed,
‘Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness’ (Acts 4:29).
That prayer was answered.
‘The place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness’ (Acts 4:31).
The church prayed for boldness; they received boldness. As a result, the Gospel was proclaimed fearlessly. The Holy Spirit did it.
The ability that the Spirit gave them was the evidence that they had been with Jesus.
2. The Spirit as a prayer language
The evidence of the Holy Spirit filling was the speaking in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the words to say.
To communicate we need language, we need to express to others to God what Christ is doing and to bring the kingdom, we need to speak.
The Spirit is necessary for God's plan for the whole of creation, it is necessary for us today. those who think we don’t need the Spirit or that the days of the Spirit finished with the apostles could not be further from the truth and are missing out on our purpose here on earth.
In Romans 8 Paul says that “All of creation waits with eager longing for God to reveal his children. For the creation was condemned and lost its purpose.
Yet there was the hope that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God.
it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God's gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free.”
In the same way as creation longs for freedom, we as children of God also long for this freedom, especially from our weaknesses.
Romans 8.26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We can take this as not talking just about the weakness of our prayer life but perhaps our weakness in general.
When we are honest with ourselves we all have areas of weakness, we all have areas where we long to be free.
We have the answer to our struggles; we need the Spirit of God and God grants his Spirit in abundance and continues to provide the Spirit to us today.
How are we to receive the Spirit, we receive the Holy Spirit in the same way we receive anything from God, we ask, believing we shall receive.
Praying in the Spirit
We also need help in our prayer life. When we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit it is where the Spirit gives us the words and the ability, and sometimes with groaning.
The scripture also tells us this is a prayer language that speaks directly to God, and whilst we don’t know what we are saying our prayers go to God. In Corinthians 14, Paul states his preference for prophecy, speaking the words from God in a known language to those around us but he doesn’t discount the value of speaking in a heavenly language.
“I will explain why. Those who have the gift of speaking in different languages are not speaking to people; they are speaking to God. No one understands them; they are speaking secret things through the Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 14:2 NCV
The point that Paul is making is that in a church context we should speak in a way people can understand us but speak by the authority and power of the Spirit. In our prayer times, we can pray uninterrupted in a heavenly language.
Jude says Prayer is vital to building ourselves up especially if we are needing faith to help us with our natural desires.
Instead of being people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit. you, my friends, keep on building yourselves up on your most sacred faith. Pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,” Jude 1:19-20
If we knew the power of the Holy Spirit in our reality, in our everyday life, would our life be any different?
Would the way we live and speak change? Would we still walking in our flesh, contorlled into natural desires.
James says “where do wars and fights come from among you, because of your unfulfilled desires”, what if all your desires were fulfilled by the Spirit of God (James 4)
Let me ask this is it possible to be a follower of Jesus without the Holy Spirit? Jesus said to his disciples while I’m with you I’ll give you my authority my ability, however, when I go, I’ll give you the Holy Spirit.
All the disciples of Jesus’ disciples, every single one of them was filled with the Spirit, Not one opted out.
Later on in Acts, when Paul meets some people he asks did you receive the Spirit when you believed? They said that haven't even heard of the Spirit, so he prayed for them and they filled with the Spirit
So how do we receive this Spiritual ability? Ask.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Every believer should be filled with the Holy Spirit and we know that God moves when people are in unity. Which is my final point.
3. The Unity of the Spirit
My final point is this unity, which is a key thing to note in our passage this morning. Those disciples were gathered together in one place, there is unity in their gathering, and then the Spirit is revealed.
Being in unity doesn’t mean we all agree on every point. Being in unity of the Spirit, means that we are all expecting God to fill us with his Spirit.
This is the unity or oneness that Jesus spoke about, he said in John 17, he prayed for them to be one as the Father and the Son are one so that the world may know he was the Christ sent by the Father. Furthermore, their love for one another would show that they are his disciples.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit's power fills up what we are lacking in us, or in our flesh, when it comes to Christian graces. Of course, we are not perfect but we are aiming in the right direction.
Paul speaks of the Christian graces or virtues as abilities that the Spirit gives rather than something that we can only develop through practice or just self-effort in obedience to the law. It is however worth noting that living in the Spirit is a way of life and we should walk it out.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
You can easily tell those who are not living in these graces because they are driven by their natural desires.
The Christian graces described in Galatians are the norm in Christian life. Tell me how we can walk the Christian life and still be in the uncrucified flesh?
Tell me how you can be a Christian and not be filled with the Holy Spirit. Being born again by the Spirit of God.
With the Holy Spirit, Jesus says comes the conviction of righteousness, Sin and judgment.
Tell me how we can be a Christian, a Christ follower and not be convicted of righteousness, sin and judgement
These graces bring us together in unity, in which God can work fully in us.
The evidence that we have God's Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is active in us and that we are one together in the unity of the spirit.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:8-9 NRSV
The filling of the Spirit is more than a nice warm feeling, it’s evidenced by our prayer language, our unity and our witness.
We as Christians are called to live or dwell in the Spirit, ask for the indwelling power of the Spirit and walk in the unity that only God supplies.
Jesus commanded his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit. We read in the beginning that the Spirit of God hovered over the earth, the void. It seems that the Spirit is looking to fill voids, where we have made room.