The text of this morning’s Pentecost Sunday sermon at MacAlpine Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, New York is below. However, you will find the audio version says more. You can listen to the audio of said sermon at this link. Concerning the topic at hand, some other posts of interest include: my sermon called “Perplexed by Pentecost?” and “The Way of Wisdom: Canon and Cessation.” Next Sunday is Trinity Sunday and we’ll look at Matthew 28:18-20 and 1 Cor 12:3-6.
“A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.” -label on Wikipedia
Our passage today gives us a summary of Peter’s Pentecost sermon on Joel 2. Those who heard Peter’s preaching and were cut to the heart said, “What shall we do?” We normally think of this as a question of application. Application like ‘give me something I can do,’ like a sermon series with lots of ideas on how to be a better parent or have a better marriage, etc. But in this case, they knew Peter’s interpretation of Joel was the truth. They knew that they had blood on their hands because of the crucifixion of their Savior. So they asked this question of application – a question spoken from the pit of despair because they are helpless to help themselves and they know it. “What shall we do?” And that is a natural question for us to ask now for other reasons. What shall we do now? We are not hearing a sound like a mighty rushing wind filling this sanctuary or seeing divided tongues as of fire resting on the people around us. We are not speaking in tongues or seeing wonders and signs like those done through the apostles. So what shall we do now? What does a Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus do today? And what is someone who hears the gospel and is cut to the heart to do today? With these questions in mind, hear God’s word:
- Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus both back then and today will tell others about Jesus.
Luke tells us that on that Pentecost they were all filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4) and began to speak and that other people heard them telling the mighty works of God (Acts 2:11). They were speaking about Jesus who had been attested to by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him. Much later in the chapter Luke tells us that Peter bore witness and continued to exhort the people saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40). And Luke tells us that about three thousand souls were added that day (Acts 2:41). And then the last verse says that the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). The fact that the church was growing in number meant that Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus were telling others about Jesus. They were a people on fire for Jesus – who when they were filled with the Spirit then immediately began to speak to others about Jesus.
And we likewise are to be filled with the Spirit and to speak to others about Jesus. If you trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation, then you have the Holy Spirit within you. But as the apostle Paul tells us, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). And when you are filled with the Spirit you will testify to Jesus both to fellow Christians and to the world and you will encourage those who do not personally know Jesus to be saved. Back then there were many faithful Jews who were amazed and perplexed at what was happening and there were others who were mocking, saying, “They are filled with new wine.” Peter responded to those mocking the church by refuting the idea they were drunk and then he turned to Scripture to explain what was happening and shared the gospel as an eyewitness to the risen and ascended Jesus who had poured out the Holy Spirit. Today there are no shortage of people who will mock the church. But this too is an opportunity to be filled with the Spirit and with gentleness and respect to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15). Spirit-filled disciples both back then and today will tell others about Jesus. (And when we speak about Jesus some will be cut to the heart and ask, “What shall we do?”)
- Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus both back then and today will encourage those cut to the heart to repent and be baptized.
- Peter told those cut to the heart, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). They had been cut to the heart because Peter had told them the bad news that they were guilty of the blood of Jesus Christ. The Jesus whom they had crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead and had ascended into heaven, this Jesus whom God had made Lord and Christ. And hearing the bad news of their sin and guilt they were cut to the heart knowing that they needed the forgiveness of God. And so Peter tells them to repent and be baptized for the good news is that in the name of Jesus there is forgiveness of sins and everyone God calls will receive the Holy Spirit. Indeed, “it shall come to pass,” Peter says, “that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
- Here again nothing has changed – Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus will share the bad news about how their sin separates them from God and the good news about Jesus, and when anyone is cut to the heart then the Spirit-filled disciple will invite them to repent and join the church through baptism.
- And Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus back then and today devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
- The reason you know that those who repented and were baptized not only received the Holy Spirit but they were filled with the Spirit is the way that their lives had changed. Now they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Indeed, the text describes them selling their possessions and giving to any who had need, attending temple together daily and breaking bread together in their homes in what amounted to informal worship services, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God, and having favor with all the people. These verses (Acts 2:42-47) are describing people who have been transformed and are filled with the Spirit. It is quite striking that they are not said to have spoken in tongues to show that they had received the Spirit – no, their entire lifestyle had changed because they had the Spirit and were filled with the Spirit.
- And today Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus devote themselves to studying the Scriptures – the words of the prophets and apostles, and to the fellowship of fellow believers, to the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper as well as to come together during informal times of worship around table in their homes, and to the prayers. Every Christian has the Spirit and so every Christian can be filled with the Spirit. What shall we do now? Be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit can give you the words to tell others about Jesus and encourage those cut to the heart to repent and be baptized. The Spirit transforms hearts through those words we speak to one another, to our families around the dinner table, and to those in the world. We are all prophets. And we devote ourselves to the life of Christ’s church where the Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures as they are proclaimed and preached, sets us apart through baptism, and feeds us with the Lord’s Supper. This is how we give thanks for such a great salvation. This is how those new Christians responded on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus. And this response today also brings glory to God.