We are in the process of preaching our way through the book of Acts this year. Last week, we looked at the first part of chapter 2; this morning, we will finish that up, studying Peter’s sermon. But as most of us know, this is where we find recorded the great events that transpired on the Day of Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit descended and filled the disciples who were gathered together, empowering them to speak in languages they had never learned. This caused a great crowd to gather in amazement, wondering what was going on. Peter took advantage of the opportunity to proclaim to them the good news about Jesus: he was the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets, whom his audience had rejected; but God raised him up, and now offered forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit to those who would repent and be baptized in his name. In response, about 3,000 were immersed and added to the church.
This is often spoken of as the “birthday of the church.” But there never would have been a church—there never would have been a Pentecost, never would have been an outpouring of the Holy Spirit—if the disciples had not gathered together in prayer and faith for God to do his work. That was what Jesus told them to do: remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:4, 8). And so they all got together stuck to praying, united in their purpose and utterly depending on God.
Once God acted through the Spirit, they acted in response. Jesus gave the apostles a mission, and they immediately set about doing it. In the aftermath of Pentecost, those new converts devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:42, 47a). All of these believers, apostles and novices alike, had the life and work of the church as their top priority: they were dedicated to prayer and study, they shared with those who were needy among them, they ate together and opened their homes to each other. As a result, the church continued to grow on a daily basis (v. 47b)
There is, I think, an important reminder for us here. Perhaps there is even a rebuke. What if the habits of all those in that upper room had been like so many in our day and time? I did not write the following imaginative retelling, but I came across it again this week for the first time in several years. It provided the impetus for our article:
The meeting was called for the first day of the week; but so many things interfered, that of the company of 120, only 40 were able to be in attendance. Peter and his wife had bought a cottage on Lake Galilee and were away from the hot city over the weekend. Bartholomew had guests and, of course, could not come. Philip and his family had been up late the night before and overslept. Andrew had a business conference about a new fishing boat. And James had to stay home and cut the grass.
If the church would never have been born under those circumstances, then how can it possibly thrive under them?
How can it even survive?