Acts 2 is the description of the events of Pentecost Sunday. Acts 1 records the ascension of Jesus 40 days after His resurrection. The disciples had been told to wait in Jerusalem until they received the power from on high. It would be 10 days more before the Holy Spirit arrived. Acts 2 describes how the church was born that day. The first 13 verses describe the coming of the Holy Spirit. Beginning in verse 14 we have a long sermon preached by Peter on that occasion. Peter began by explaining what was taking place (14-21). He followed that with a message that included the account of the death of Jesus, His resurrection and His exaltation into heaven. Verses 37-39 describe the response of the crowd and the offer of salvation. The rest of the chapter describes the new community of believers that today we call the church.
The Day of Pentecost was set in the Old Testament as being 50 days after Passover. Pentecost is 50 in Hebrew. It was a day sometimes called the Festival of Harvest (Exodus 23:16). It was a feast that celebrated the beginning of the harvest and was a time when the Israelites praised God that the harvest had begun and, therefore, they were assured that the fuller harvest would follow. Many have noted that it was appropriate that the first harvest of souls in the church would occur on that day.
Read Acts 2:1-3. Note that the Bible says this event came like or in the appearance of wind and fire and not actually of those items. This description was Luke’s attempt to explain the unexplainable. There were two symbols of the coming of the Holy Spirit: wind and fire. In verse 2 we read that it sounded like a mighty or violent wind. In both the Hebrew and Greek, the word translated “wind” is also translatable as “breath” or “spirit” which is significant in understanding this event. The wind was the coming of the Holy Spirit and note the way in which it came as, “the blowing of a violent wind.” Contemplation of that gives us some idea of the force of this power that came upon them and is available to us.
In verse 3 we read that it “seemed to be tongues of Fire.” This was the way God displayed Himself to Israel in the wilderness and elsewhere. The Holy Spirit is God in every sense of the word and should always be addressed as “He” and never “it”.
Verse 4 records that “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” This clearly pictures what is detailed elsewhere in the New Testament. When one becomes a believer, God gives him the Holy Spirit and when he receives the Holy Spirit, He totally fills him.
Verse 4 goes on to record that they, “Began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” In the context of this event this is not the speaking in tongues of I Corinthians but rather the ability to be understood in the language of all of those present. For the Jewish Festival of Pentecost thousands upon thousands traveled to Jerusalem for the celebration that took place in the temple. The multitude consisted of Jews from many countries who spoke many different languages. God wanted to be sure that everyone understood who Jesus was, what He had done for them and the necessity of making a personal commitment to Him.
Read Acts 2:14-41 which records Peter’s Sermon. The sermon itself is an example of the way we should be teaching and presenting the Bible. First, it was Biblical. Peter quoted three major Old Testament passages and alluded to a couple of others. He made a major reference to the prophecy of Joel, noting especially Joel 2:29-32 in verses 17-21. In verse 27 he quoted from Psalm 16: 8-11 and in verses 34-35 he quoted Psalm 110:1. The church and a Christian’s testimony must always be biblically centered.
Second, his sermon was Christ centered. It was all about Jesus. It is also interesting to see that Peter talked about what Jesus did, not what He taught. That is not to imply that the teachings of Jesus are not important. We have them in detail in the Gospels. This, however, was a sermon to unsaved and we don’t teach spiritual truth to the lost. We begin with who Jesus is.
Peter’s sermon was powerfully delivered because he was being used by God. We too often think we are too weak to be used by God. We are weak beyond imagination, but God is strong and when we share God’s love with others, He makes us strong. That day the Holy Spirit empowered Peter to preach and 3000 are converted.
Verse 37 records that when the crowd heard the sermon of Peter they were “cut to the heart” and asked, “What do we do?” Verse 38 is Peter’s response was simply repent and be baptized. Repent was a Greek word that meant to change one’s mind. If Peter spoke in Hebrew, a real probability, the Hebrew word is even stronger than the Greek and has the idea of a complete turnaround. Peter was asking for a reorientation of one’s whole life and for the Jews that had to begin with a reorientation of the way they viewed Jesus.
For Jews, baptism was associated with a change of allegiance. One was baptized so show he had changed from being a Gentile to being a Jew. The thrust was to make a public identification with Jesus. Becoming a Christian always involves a new commitment of life. Verse 41 records that the number who were baptized was 3000.
Thus, the church was begun. Then in verses 42-47 we find 5 characteristics of the church. Read Acts 2:42.
To be a church we must be a learning/studying people: We are not given the specifics of the teaching, but we can assume that it was what the Old Testament taught and what the Apostles heard from Jesus. In time it included the gospels and teaching of the epistles. The key is the continual importance of learning. Read Colossians 3:16. There is no substitute for studying the Word of God.
Second, the church must be a fellowshipping church: It is impossible to express the legitimacy or uniqueness of Christian fellowship. The Greek word used here is “koinonia” and comes from the root word meaning “sharing” or having things in common. Several things characterized this fellowship not the least of which was unity. They were one in Jesus and that oneness excluded no one. Read I John 1:3
Third, a church must be a worshipping church: Luke noted two things, “breaking of bread” and “prayers.” Breaking of bread is used in the New Testament to refer to the communion service. The phrase “prayer” is probably better translated “the prayers” which would make it to mean attendance at the appointed temple prayer times. They worshiped God via remembering what Jesus had done for them and participating in worship times.
Fourth, a church, to be a real church, must be a sharing church: Read Acts 2:44-45. They viewed their possessions as that which could be used to help others. Sharing is a characteristic of a true church.
Finally, a legitimate church is a witnessing church: Read Acts 2:47. Note it was a daily addition, and that the Lord received all the credit for the growth. Individuals tilled the ground, planted the seed, watered it, etc. but the Lord gave the increase. Every believer has a role to play in reaching the lost.
We could close our study by singing “Happy Birthday” to the church. Instead let’s close by thanking God for the church. As we thank Him for our church let’s recommit ourselves to being a studying, fellowshipping, worshiping, sharing, and witnessing church.