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work always before us ; to keep doing the kind of things that he did ; to endeavor to serve mankind as he served it ; to be loyal to him as our Teacher, Saviour, and Friend ; and to follow him as our Leader and King.
2. Jesus crowned his work for mankind by his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead : his death, as the atonement for the sins of the world ; his resurrection, as proving his power over death, and his existence as an ever-living Saviour and Helper, even unto the end of the world.
3. The coming of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had promised in his last conversation with his disciples (John 16:7), which is our particular lesson for to-day.
There were, then, two powers which made the existence of the Christian Church a possibility.
First Power : The living Saviour, risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven ; the King to be loved and served ; the Saviour to be proclaimed the Guide and Director of the movement; the Source of authority and power.
Second Power : The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, convincing of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come ; the transformer of souls ; the strength in weakness ; the guide into all truth.
Without these two powers nothing could have been accomplished.
II. THE COMING OF THE POWER, Acts 2 : :1-13 1. THE TEN DAYS' PRAYER MEETING. Jesus ascended to heaven on May 18, as we can learn through the study of the dates of the Jewish Passover. This was 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1 : 3). The Jewish festival of Pentecost, made forever a Christian festival by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples of Jesus, was fifty days after the Passover, and therefore ten days after the Ascension. These ten days were spent by the little group of Christians in a continued prayer meeting, waiting for the promise which Jesus had made to them as he left them (Acts 1 : 5).
Those attending this prayer meeting were not merely the eleven Apostles, but all the followers of Christ who were able, and wished, to be there. There were women there (Acts 1 : 14), and some men who were apparently prominent among Christ's followers, of whom we know nothing but their names and their presence at this time (Acts 1 : 23). The total number is given as 120 (Acts 1 : 15), although we do not know whether this was the total number meeting there, or the number present at the choosing of the new apostle.
These disciples gathered in an upper room, praying, and waiting for the fulfilment of the promise, that they might be prepared for the overflowing Blessing. There are two ways in which God answers prayers for spiritual gifts: (1) by the gift itself, (2) the other by making the soul capable of receiving the gift in full measure. Both kinds of answers were given to this praying company.
2. THE SCENE ON THE MORNING OF PENTECOST. 1. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come. The reckoning of the day began at sunset of the day previous. This was the dawn in the morning, the full coming of the day.
2. A sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. There was no wind ; only a sound which is best described as the sound of a wind. It - the sound — filled all the house
From an old print. where they were sitting, and was even
The Day of Pentecost. heard beyond its walls (v. 6).
3. Cloven tongues. Revisions, “ tongues parting asunder.” Not each tongue cleft into two parts, forked, but “ the fire was in the form of tongues which distributed themselves over the company, a tongue settling on the head of each one.”' - Rackham. Like as of fire. Not real fire, as an organ of destruction, but with
the appearance and brightness of fire, like that of the Burning Bush. And it sat
Where'er the Lord is, there are they;
In every heart that gives him room
They light his altar every day,
Zeal to inflame and vice consume."
- John Keble. 4. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost (Spirit). There was no distinction between the apostles and the others; or even between the men and the women. “ Filled can mean nothing less than that the whole capacity of each man was occupied, and all his being under the influence. The degree of receptivity varied, no doubt, but the lesser and the greater vessels were all full.” — Maclaren.
And began to speak with other tongues than their own native language, which was probably Greek or some form of Hebrew. No doubt some spoke in one tongue, some in others, which would account for the fact that dwellers out of every nation under heaven heard them speak in their own native tongues (vs. 5-11),; and also for the fact that to some of the hearers it was merely such incoherent babbling as might be produced by indulgence in strong drink (v. 13).
As the Spirit gave them utterance, not of themselves, and they spoke of the wonderful works of God (v. II).
It was the remarkable manifestation of a power far beyond what any man could do. The signs that accompanied the coming of the power were to reveal the fact, “ in letters that could be read from the stars," that the invisible Holy Spirit was actually present, to make the fact clear and unmistakable, to show the source whence the power and its effects came, and to illustrate its nature. We know that an unseen power exists by what it does. The sound, the flame, the speaking with tongues, were proofs of the unseen power of the Spirit. The Apostles could not know and realize the presence of the Holy Spirit without some manifestations that made it known to the senses. No one ever saw the greatest forces in the world. No one ever' saw electricity, or gravitation, or chemical forces. We know them only by what they do. We know the Coly Spirit by what He did and is still doing, especially in His transformation of people.
Illustration. One day at Niagara Falls I visited the city power-house. Descending a hundred feet underground amid the whirl of the great turbines, we came to a small brick compartment only a few feet square within which were several black pillars made of coils of wire, but looking as innocent as iron posts. We were told that there was flowing through those dark wire coils an electric force equal to from seventy thousand to a hundred thousand horse-power ; that it moved every electric car in the region, lighted the streets of the city, and brought daylight into the homes of the citizens. We rode up and down the rapids in electrics moved by that current, walked the streets and read our letters by the light it produced. We knew the greatness of the power by what it was doing.
So we know the power of the Holy Spirit to renovate the soul and transform the world, by the multitude of souls He has already transformed into saints.
The proof grows more complete when we see the 3000 converted, and it has been growing stronger and stronger all down the ages. The Christian Church is the proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit. He inspires, comforts, strengthens, guides into truth, renews the character, convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, gives power and joy and peace, awakens new life, produces in us all the fruits of the Spirit, makes us temples of the Holy Ghost, fits us for eternal glory.
“ The simple truth is that Christianity itself, with this Somebody left out, is more of an incredible miracle than the most wonderful acts that have ever been ascribed to the spirit of Jesus. There is no other explanation possible for the rise and power of the religion of Christ except the irresistible power of an omniscient, omnipresent, supernatural Spirit.” — William T. Ellis.
"We are but organs mute, till a master touches the keys
Verily, vessels of earth into which God poureth the wine;
Dumb till our heartstrings swell and break with a pulse divine.” The Three Symbols of the Holy Spiril. 1. The Wind. “The Greek word was used in both senses, wind and spirit, by our Lord in his conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:8).” — Cook.
14. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
TEACH ALL NATIONS
(1) It is an invisible power.
2. The Flame. John the Baptist had said that “ Jesus shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Fire is one of the most expressive symbols of the Holy Spirit. Fire, shining in light, is mysterious in nature, ineffably bright and glorious, everywhere present, swift-winged, undefiled and undefilable. (1) It represents the revealing power of the Holy Spirit, shining into each soul
; as the illumination of a house by a lamp, or as a twilight scene when the sun rises
(2) It expresses the cleansing, purifying power of the Spirit. Fire and light are the great disease killers.
So is the Spirit to moral diseases. He is the refining fire that cleanses the pure gold from the enfolding dross.
(3) It symbolizes the comfort, warmth, cheer, fresh life, joy, peace, which the Holy Ghost imparts.
(4) Fire is the symbol of intense energy and zeal. The Holy Spirit fills the soul with WITH
SENCE glowing enthusiasms and uncon
ROTECTION querable energy and zeal for
LO. I AM WITH YOU God. 3. The Tongues. (1) These
Blackboard Suggestion. represented the means by which the disciples were to spread the Gospel. But it needs to be a tongue of fire, of the light of truth, of the warmth of comfort.
(2) It is the symbol of the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations and in all languages.
(3) It is the expression of whatever is within us, the revelation of our deeper feelings.
There were people present at this feast from all the nations, and thus was the truth of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, spread over all the world.
III. THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE APOSTLES. One effect of this gift of the Holy Spirit was the wonderful change it produced in the apostles. It was almost a transfiguration experience. So the dead wire is thrilled with electricity, and bursts out into light and power. They were common men no longer. As Mosheim says, “ Their ignorance was turned into light, their doubts into certainty, their fears into a firm and invincible fortitude, and their former backwardness into an ardent and inextinguishable zeal.” Note especially the change in Peter from the man who, less than two months before, had forsaken his Lord, and thrice denied him. But the risen Christ had forgiven Peter and restored him to his apostleship.
"I hold it truth with one who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
Of their dead selves to higher things.” – Tennyson.
One of the strongest evidences of the transformation of Peter was in the sermon which he preached to the multitude this Pentecost morning. There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven, come there to be present at the two great Jewish feasts, the Passover and Pentecost, which were less than two months apart. These men probably had no regular occupation, and could and doubtless would
22. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
investigate any peculiar happening in the city. When this was noised abroad, the strange events accompanying the coming of the Spirit. It is uncertain whether this means that the noise like a wind was heard throughout the city, or whether, as is more probable, the noise had been heard by some outside the room where the disciples were gathered, and the report of the matter had spread abroad. The
crowd gathered, and hearing the disciples speaking with other tongues were all amazed and marvelled.
But there was a difference of opinion among the people as to what the disciples were really doing, and what was its
Those who only understood the common tongues of Palestine would think it a mere unmeaning babble. These, and perhaps some of the others, felt that it was traceable to strong drink, — These men are full of new wine (v. 11).
Therefore Peter, the natural leader of the disciples, stood up, surrounded by the others, and begin by taking advantage of the perplexity of the people and their questionings, and especially of the charge in verse 11. This charge he, however, brushed away as absurd. “ In the East men drink only in the evening.” — Geikie.
The Appeal to the Prophets, Peter Preaching
Peter then appealed
to the Jewish Scriptures which were familiar to them from childhood, and were believed by them all
. He said : What has taken place in your presence is exactly what your prophets foretold would characterize the Messianic times for which you are hoping. Turn to the prophet Joel (written 600 years B.c.) and you will see that both what has been done for the disciples here, and the things you are suffering under the Roman yoke, are the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy of these times :
“Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams.”. Every wise and good man is always seeing visions, - how to be more useful, how to grow wiser in his service, how to overcome faults, how to live nearer to God.
"In youth, beside the lonely sea,
Of some celestial messenger.". Aldrich. God gives us these visions and dreams to lead us on to the best things of life. The whole church should keep before her the vision of a perfect manhood and womanhood, perfect business ideals, perfect national and international relations, a perfect church, a perfect world, the city of God.
Better Engines and Hotter Fires. A railroad man was once asked what was the line of greatest improvement in railroads. His reply was, “ Better engines and hotter fires.” That is exactly what the churches and all reformers need to-day -- better
23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain :
24. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
engines, better equipment, means of working, and hotter.fires of zeal, till it can be said of each one of us, “ The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up."
Fighting the Evils. The very visions and dreams led to strange events which were signs of spiritual changes, and divine movements. In the earth beneath ; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke ; the wars and tumults, and destruction of men, as in the capture of Jerusalem, and many a war and commotion since, arising from the conflict of evil and good. These are signs that the Gospel is alive and active, that the truth is not dead, that moral winter is giving way before the coming of spring. The battle is the sign of victory. So Christ himself says : “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10: 34). This is a universal principle. First disturbance, overturning, discussing, criticising, unsettling, as the way to better things.
Jesus told his disciples (Luke 21 : 25–28) about the terrible times that were near at hand, - distress of nations, perplexity, men's hearts failing them for fear, Jerusalem trodden down by the Gentiles, the powers of heaven shaken, and then the Son of Man coming with power and great glory. Then," when these things begin to come to pass,” Jesus, with wonderful assurance, calls to his disciples, Look UP, AND LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, FOR YOUR REDEMPTION DRAWETH NIGH.
For parallel with the signs and wonders of the terrible times were to be signs and wonders of another kind, signs of the moral transformation of the character of men ; wonders of the spread of the Gospel among the nations, marvels of heroic martyrdoms, miracles of healing, helping the poor with brotherly love.
Modern Applications. This early part of the twentieth century is very like the time of the early Church. Never has there been a greater conflict between good and evil than to-day. The people are everywhere rising up against wrongs and oppression. Tumults, commotions, upheavals, wars, follow. The conscience of good people is awakening, and the churches are fighting against wrong. No greater signs and wonders ever were than now on mission fields, in education, in healings, in a thousand efforts to make the world better. These too are signs that the Gospel is still a
Spain living force to be reckoned with by the powers of evil. Men, or devils, do not fight a dead enemy.
Copyrighted. Courtesy of Missionary
Education Movement. Peter Announces that the Messiah Has
The Hope of the World. Come, vs. 22-36. From the general statement of the fact that the events they had witnessed were the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Messianic times by the prophet Joel, Peter goes on to declare that not only were the Messianic times already come, but that the Messiah himself had come, — Jesus of Nazareth.
Peter makes several clear points in his argument that Jesus fills the conditions of the Messiah.
(1) The promised Messiah was to be the son of their king David. Jesus was the -son, i.e. descendant, of David ; and David himself foretold that this son should be the Christ, i.e. the Messiah raised up to sit on his throne (v. 30).