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The Day Pentecost Came
by David A. DePra
On the Mount of Olives, minutes before He ascended to heaven, Jesus told His disciples,"But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) The disciples had expected a physical kingdom in their time. Jesus was offering them something better: A spiritual kingdom. A new birth. They would not merely witness – they would be living witnesses of the fact that Jesus Christ had come to save the world.
The disciples returned, as Jesus commanded, to Jerusalem. They were gathered together in what we call "the upper room." About one hundred and twenty of them spent those days praying. We read, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." (Acts 1:14)
The disciples waited about one week. Then the day arrived. When Luke wrote the second chapter of Acts, he chose his words carefully. He wrote:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come…"
Fully come. Or, to say it another way, Pentecost was about to be fulfilled. Everything which the day of Pentecost had foreshadowed was now about to come to pass. The "day" of Pentecost had fully come – the fullness of what intended by it was upon these disciples.
Pentecost had been an Old Covenant feast day. It marked the end of the barley harvest, and the beginning of the wheat harvest. The "ingathering" of the harvest – agriculturally – typified the "ingathering" of God’s spiritual harvest. The New Covenant fulfillment of Pentecost had fully come that day, because that day God would "gather in" the very first of those who would comprise "the saints," – the Body of Christ. But it was just the beginning. Pentecost had fully come. But it would last for over two thousand years.
Luke tells us what happened. He says:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
Now, most of us, when we mention the day Pentecost came, talk about these four verses. They record some amazing supernatural signs and wonders. In them we see the first evidence of the spiritual gifts. They are important to be sure. But if we read on, we will find out that this day of Pentecost held much more than only those first significant events. We will, in fact, find that this day included the first sermon, and the very first conversions. In THOSE events we also find the fulfillment of Pentecost.
The First Sermon
The first event for the new church, immediately after the Holy Spirit fell, and the disciples exhibited supernatural gifts, was the sermon which Peter preached to those who were observing those incredible things that day. It is easy to minimize the sermon in light of the spiritual gifts seen that day. But how many of us have realized that this sermon was ALSO the product of the Holy Spirit? Peter was exercising a spiritual gift through this sermon, just as much as he was when he spoke in tongues.
The content of that first sermon certainly must be important. Remember, it was THE first sermon ever given under the inspiration of the newly received Holy Spirit. The very FIRST message! Surely it – as nothing else ever would -- ought to indicate to us what God’s focus was to be. Would God inspire the first sermon to focus on unimportant issues? No. This sermon stood for something basic and foundational.
This sermon does not contain ALL Truth, nor is it intended to be a theological dissertation. But it is an introduction, of sorts, of the church – indeed of the Truth about Jesus Christ -- to the world. THAT, if nothing else, should make us stand up and take notice of it’s content.
Let’s look at this sermon a piece at a time. The first thing Peter does is assure those who were listening that what was happening there that day WAS of God. Peter quotes Joel from the OT as a prophecy which pointed towards this day of Pentecost, and to those events taking place as a fulfillment of that prophecy.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This appeal to existing scripture is basic, and necessary. It shows us that Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knew it was necessary that anything happening in the name of God must be founded in scripture. God did not do then, nor does He do now, anything outside of the bounds of His holy Word.
The Principle of Prophecy
This reference to Joel brings us to an overall principle regarding prophecy, which most of the church has today forgotten. That principle is this: You should believe prophecy will come to pass, by faith, well ahead of time. But you can rarely know for sure what a prophecy means ahead of time. Not as to details and outworking. No. The only way you and I can ever know for sure what prophecy means is by seeing it come to pass. Get that: We know what a prophecy means when it happens. Then we are able to say, "THIS is what God meant by what He said."
Jesus actually said this very thing. He said, "And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that, when it is comes to pass, ye might believe." (John 14:29) If we would just accept His words, it would save us the trouble of always trying to figure out what Jesus has already told us we cannot know.
We have to get it settled: We cannot know what prophecy means until it happens. Until then, we are to simply believe and trust God – for it is sufficient that HE knows. And actually, we don’t have to look any further than this first sermon by Peter to see this principle is true. Read the passage from Joel which Peter quoted, and which he said was being brought to pass that very day. Could anyone have figured out, ahead of time, that this passage of scripture would be fulfilled in an upper room, in Jerusalem? And then by the Body of Christ for two-thousand years? No. In fact, the Jews still don’t believe it. And unfortunately, neither do some Christians.
It was now clear, according to Peter, what God meant when He inspired these words through Joel. God would pour out His Spirit upon His people. This would result in many manifestations, both through those people, and even in heavenly spiritual places. This was happening right then, on that day when Pentecost had fully come.
Jesus of Nazareth
As mentioned, it is very easy to minimize this sermon by Peter. But we dare not. Do we realize that this is the VERY FIRST sermon preached by anyone in the Body of Christ under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? It is. It is the FIRST. Thus, might we not expect to find in that sermon some indications as to what the Holy Spirit would want to say down through the centuries by the mouth of His church? Might we not expect that this sermon by Peter would be typical of the message of the gospel?
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 you yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held by it …..This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:22-24, 32-36)
Peter points to "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God….as you yourselves also know." Nothing and no one else is the center of Peter’s sermon. Peter does not talk about religion or social issues. He gets right at the heart of the matter: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. The risen Christ. The need for repentance.
Peter speaks as if those who are hearing Him are quite familiar with the ministry and death of Jesus. There were both people who liked Jesus and those had wanted Him killed in that crowd. But we do not find Peter adjusting his message to fit the crowd. He does not water down anything. He goes right to the Truth. He says, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death."
Does it sound like Peter was worried about offending anyone in that crowd? Does it sound like his goal was to make those folks "feel good about themselves?" Or to make friends? No. But that is what some preachers do today. They preach a gospel which nicely sidesteps the sin issue. It is a gospel which tells about "how wonderful Jesus is" – and certainly He IS wonderful. But it is a gospel which leaves out the Cross – leaves out the fact that we are sinners who need a Savior. It is a watered-down gospel.
Right here we begin to see why the "power of the gospel" is rarely seen today. We have taken out the power – the Cross of Jesus Christ. Instead, in many places, we preach a gospel, either of fear, or one where God is nothing more than a fairy godfather. Put a tooth under a pillow, and in the morning, you get what you want from Him.
Christianity is a new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But you must come to God on HIS TERMS – not because God is narrow-minded – but because God’s terms reflect THE WAY THINGS ARE. You are lost and dead. Jesus is the only Savior. Thus, the way to God goes through the Cross of Jesus; of Calvary. If you will not come to Jesus as a sinner, you are not walking in the Truth. You really aren’t coming to Him at all. You cannot be saved.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is NOT a negative message. God does not say, "Believe in Jesus or I will send you to hell!" The gospel is not a "threat of punishment." God does not say, "Wallow in the guilt of your sin forever, or I will never save you." No. But what He does say is this, "You are ALREADY on your way to hell, and ALREADY in guilt and condemnation. Jesus has come to give you LIFE. He has come to deliver you from all of that." But we will scoff at that unless we see it is true. We simply cannot find deliverance from sin until we confess that we are sinners. It is IMPOSSIBLE otherwise. Confessing we are lost sinners is central to what it means to come into the Light and to embrace the Truth. Unless we see we are sinners we will never know we need a Savior!
The good news is that God will be constantly trying to show us we are sinners. The question is whether we will open ourselves to Him. Our answer will determine our eternal destiny.
In Peter’s words we find this basic Truth – that God sent Jesus, by His determinate counsel and foreknowledge. We find the same message John would later write: "For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son…." (John 3:16) Peter also tells the crowd that THEY crucified Jesus – which is really another way of saying that WE crucified Him. Jesus died for OUR sin. And then Peter announces that Jesus has been raised from the dead, "whereof we all are witnesses."
Peter did not stop there. He goes on to announce both the true identity of Jesus, and the effects of what Jesus accomplished. He says,"Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear ….. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Jesus is thus proclaimed as being GOD (Lord) and Messiah (Christ). And all of this, Peter says, is the outcome of those people having crucified Him. Thus, we see the Truth of the Redemption being opened to them. Peter is telling them that, yes, THEY crucified Christ. But, Peter says, this was part of God’s plan. Jesus died for THEM. He tells them that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and that what they were seeing that day was poured out because of it.
The Power of the Gospel
After Peter was finished, the crowds responded. It was not an intellectual response, nor an emotional response. That is because conviction of sin, repentance, and salvation are not matters which pertain to either of those realms. The response of the crowd was MORAL. They recognized that they had lived lives independent of God. They saw they were lost. And Peter’s words had given them hope that God had sent Jesus to redeem them. Notice what happened next:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41)
The question, "What shall we do?," indicates that the message Peter gave brought those who heard to a sense of need. They KNEW what he said was the Truth, and felt convicted. They wanted to know what the next step for them could be.
Peter’s answer contains the familiar three step process to conversion. We must REPENT, be baptized into Christ, and then receive the Holy Spirit.
Repentance is a "change of mind" towards God. What is important to see here is that there really is only ONE sin we must repent of to turn and receive Christ: We must repent of the sin of refusing to turn and receive Christ! In other words, we must repent of UNBELIEF. Once we repent of refusing Christ, we will turn and find full redemption and remission for all our sin in Christ.
This is actually so simple we miss it. When Jesus preached, "Repent and believe," He was telling us to repent of UNBELIEF. If we do repent of unbelief, then we will do what? BELIEVE. And if we believe, then we are embracing the redemption for all sin found in Jesus Christ.
Now ask something: Is it possible to repent without acknowledging your sin? NO. What would you be repenting of? Repentance is the outcome of a godly sorrow for sin, and the recognition that there is NOTHING I can do about it. This is impossible if I don’t acknowledge I am a sinner. I must repent of my neglect of Christ, my refusal of Christ, and confess my helpless condition in Adam. I turn to Him as a sinner without hope, except for the hope of His free grace in Jesus Christ.
The second step is to be baptized into the name of Jesus. This is not primarily talking about water baptism. It is really talking about being immersed into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by faith. Paul would later write of this baptism:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (Rom. 6:3-8)
Water baptism is an outward confession of THIS inward reality. Water baptism never saves you. But the people in that day considered water baptism such a natural and expected outcome of your inner faith, that they never even questioned as to whether to do it. They did it as a part of their conversion process, and took it quite seriously.
Once Peter tells them they must, "Repent and be baptized in Christ for the remission of sins," He goes on to promise them that they would "receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." And he expands this promise to include all those who would likewise believe thereafter. But notice carefully. Peter is promising them the very same gift of the Holy Spirit which they had witnessed that day in the apostles – not anything less, or anything more.
For years, people in the church have tried to explain as to why the church today does not exhibit the kind of gifts and experience which was seen in the early church. Some have suggested that it is because when the apostles died off, that we no longer needed such things. They point to Hebrews 1:1 and say that it teaches that God used to speak to us through the "prophets," but today we have His Son. Yet this is really begging the question. Hebrews 1:1 was written by someone who lived in the time of this early church. He writes as one looking back on the times when God used to speak through the prophets, and as one who NOW, in "these lasts days," is in the time when God speaks through the Son. Thus, the transition which is being noted in Hebrews 1:1 has already happened at the time the author of Hebrews writes his epistle – before 70 A.D.. This therefore tells us that he is in the same time as us – those last days when God is speaking through Jesus. The spiritual gifts are therefore one of the ways in which God speaks to us through Christ – not a way which is done away in favor of His Son.
The reason the gifts do not operate in many places today is that the HOLY Spirit seeks to do a "holy work" through "holy people." Today we rarely offer ourselves to God for such a work. Instead we expect God to work on our terms. But don’t think this means we are that blatant about it. We are not. Rather, we simply set an agenda and never seek God for His will. We do whatever is comfortable, financially profitable, or seems to be "working." That is enough to crowd out God.
When we water-down the message of the gospel to accommodate people – either by word, deed, or example -- there is no freedom for the Holy Spirit to do what He wants to do. God will not cooperate with lies and misrepresentations of the Truth. It is remarkable He does anything at all in some places. That is His mercy.
Peter promises that for those who truly give themselves to God – save themselves from the crooked generation they are in – God will give them the Holy Spirit. It will be part of their conversion to Christ. The Holy Spirit will take everything of Jesus and make it real TO us, IN us, and THROUGH us. He will minister His gifts through us.
The Power of Truth
This first sermon by Peter got a wonderful reaction. Luke writes, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." That first day, the "ecclesia" – the church – went from about one-hundred and twenty, to three-thousand one-hundred and twenty.
But WHY? WHY did the words of Peter have such a profound effect on these people? Did Peter use some intellectual argument and corner them into having to embrace Jesus Christ? No. Did he work them up into an emotional fervor, and then do an altar call? No. Neither did Peter make them feel good about themselves, or entertain them. He simply told them the Truth – and it was a very difficult Truth to face? WHY did these people face it?
Remember, many of these people had been in the mob calling for the crucifixion of Jesus. All of them had been Jews, with varying degrees of dedication to the traditions of the elders. Sure, they had heard about Jesus. Some of them even heard Him preach. But up to this point, they had not followed Christ. What was different now?
We find the answer in something Paul would later say was built into the gospel. He said:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Rom. 1:16-17)
The gospel – the good news – is THE power of God unto salvation for those who believe. In other words, the TRUTH about Jesus Christ carries power that is not of this world. It carries the power both to illuminate the Truth to people, and to bring them to Christ because of it.
But if you are really honest about it, you probably don’t really believe that there is power like that in the gospel. You probably believe that those days are over. What power? Since when is the simple message of the gospel THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION?
Nothing has changed about the gospel. It is still as powerful as ever. But unfortunately, what has changed since that day are the people who preach it. You see, the gospel is not only a powerful message. But God wants it to flow through people who have come under that power. God has ordained that most of the time He will work through people to preach the gospel. But many today who preach it do not even believe it – much less live under the power of it. And that is the key. If we are to have a gospel which contains power, we must have those who live under the power of it preaching it. Like Peter.
mentioned, the power of the gospel lies primarily in the Cross.
Paul made this clear years later:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish
foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
(I Cor. 1:18)
tells us that if you and I think the Cross is foolish, or unnecessary – and we
can do that simply by neglecting it – then it is evidence that we are ALREADY
perishing. Get that.
Our attitude towards the Cross is evidence of whether we are saved.
Those who are saved have seen that they need DELIVERANCE from what they
are in Adam. They know the Cross is
the only way out – through the death of Christ.
Thus, they embrace the Cross by faith.
But those who have not seen they are dead in Adam consider the Cross just
a symbol. For them, it is otherwise
I think of the Cross as a NEGATIVE, then it is only because I think of myself
without the Cross as a POSITIVE. Get
that. It is vital to see.
If I am comfortable without the Cross – even religiously so – then I
will view the Cross as something meant to subtract from me.
But if I know I am a desperate sinner, then I will know the Cross is my
salvation. Thus, I will only see the Cross as a POSITIVE if I know that
without Christ I am a NEGATIVE. I
will want deliverance and will embrace the Cross.
Cross is the end of everything man is without God.
It will never make us feel good about ourselves.
But it will do something better. It
will set us free from ourselves, and make us feel good about Jesus Christ.
THAT is freedom.
message of the Cross is able to come with power through those who have come
under it’s power. It is not only
impossible to preach the Cross with power if you aren’t carrying one, but it
is hypocritical. Anyone can preach
the “doctrine” of the Cross. But
God wants us to BE WITNESSES – in our lives – as to what the Cross is able
to do in people.
is fully capable of converting people without us.
That is for sure. But this
isn’t the way He generally wants to do it.
Rather, He wants LIVING WITNESSES to Jesus Christ who preach a powerful
message – yes – but who carry WITHIN THEM the power and life of the Holy
does this happen? Individuals must
unconditionally surrender themselves to God through Jesus Christ.
Individuals must belong to God – be holy.
WE must come under the power of the Cross.
Then the HOLY Spirit can do wonderful things – through holy people.
But we are deluded if we think God will do much through people who
don’t even live as if they belong to Him.
He won’t. He can’t.
Thus, WE are responsible for the lack of power today, for we are not
living under the power ourselves.
The Pure Message
That first Pentecost, a fisherman who had, only weeks earlier, denied Jesus Christ, preached a sermon. Only weeks earlier, he and his friends had been hiding in fear of their lives. Now he was standing up and boldly proclaiming a message that was no less dangerous, and yet no less TRUE than before. Jesus was God. Jesus was Savior. He had died and been raised.
The reason three thousand people were converted that day is because the message which was preached was a PURE message – and that makes it a HOLY message. "Holiness," in the Bible, always means "set apart for God’s use." Or, more clearly, to "be holy" means "to belong to God." When Peter stood up and preached this message, there were no strings attached. The message was not altered to accommodate the audience or the locals. It was the Truth, pure and simple. It was a message which belonged to God, and which was being preached on His terms, to His glory.
There was more. The vehicles of the message were, themselves, dedicated with ONE ACCORD to the purposes of God. THEY belonged to God. Thus, God had as pure flow through which He could bring His Truth. That meant none of the clarity and power would be diluted.
Three-thousand people fell to their knees that day because they heard Truth – Truth which cut to their very soul. Is that what people hear today? Too often the answer is NO. They hear stuff about Jesus. They hear stuff about church. But do they hear the message of the gospel?
You might think that if you are saved you don’t need to hear that message. True, maybe not the way in which an unbeliever would need to hear it. But do you really grasp the simple gospel? Do you have a solid foundation of understanding as to how and why Jesus came and died? Do you understand the GRACE of God in a way that carries you through life? Do you walk in the reality of knowing that you are as forgiven as you will ever be, right now, because in Jesus Christ, "It is finished?" We are talking here about fundamentals to be sure. But so few Christians ever get the foundation finished. We are too hurried to build something else.
The problem with the church today is that instead of building on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ, we are building on other foundations. We have a nice building up, but on the wrong basis. We must return to the basics. If we do, we will find that they touch every corner of our lives. They are not things we hear once and leave. They are the foundation upon which we live and build from here throughout eternity.
The first mention of what the saints – the newly converted saints -- did when they gathered together after that first sermon is found in the very next verse. Luke records:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
We must remember here that when God coined the term "saint," He did so for a reason. The name "saint" means "holy one." It is, by definition, one who "belongs to God." Thus, when we find "saints" living and gathering together, we might expect HOLY things. In the above passage, we see precisely that. The term "one accord" indicates that these saints had one goal together: To know Jesus Christ. To worship and glorify Him. To belong to Him. This was manifested by the fact that they did not even consider what they owned to be precious to them. They were absolutely carried away with their love for Jesus Christ.
These were normal people. They had much less than any of us have. And a lot more to lose for what they believed. Yet one thing stands out in the story of the early church: These people had been caught up with something eternal. It was something which changed their perspective so drastically that they were even willing to sell their possessions. They were fully dedicated to Jesus Christ. They were actually living as if they belonged to God – as if they WERE saints!
Today we use many ploys to get people to turn to Christ. Sometimes we use the "fear ploy." We scare people into turning to Christ, lest they "burn in hell." Other times we bribe them. We tell them if they turn to Christ, that He will do for them everything they want Him to do. Especially if they send in a dollar or two to their favorite television ministry. A third ploy we use is the social ploy. Turn to Christ, join a church, and become religious – and in certain circles, you will be accepted.
But if you read the book of Acts, you will see none of these were reasons why any of the people turned to Christ. They turned to Him for pure reasons – because the message they heard was pure. And the result was eternal. Nothing could move them from it.
People turned to Christ, yes, because they saw they were lost. They saw what sinners they were and were brought to repentance. This is essential. But their reaction was not to run to Christ out of fear. It was to run to Him as One who loved them. The message of the gospel is one of DELIVERANCE. It is one of freedom. THAT is the message they heard, and the Christ who was revealed to them.
What we see people doing in the books of Acts is the result of being carried away with LOVE, and of being carried away with an ETERNAL perspective which put their lives on a completely different basis from what it was on before. They knew that what they had received, and had seen, was so infinitely more important than anything of this world, that they could not help but begin to live like it! In effect, these people had seen TRUTH. It was too late for them to plead ignorance. They would never be the same again.
The church today has only itself to blame for losing this vision. We have compromised with the Truth for the sake of money and members. We allow unbelievers and heretics into leadership positions in our denominations, and even when they begin to deny Christ, we say nothing. We allow our churches, slowly but surely, to look exactly like the world. We play church, and live personal lives of immorality, compromise, and unbelief. Too few are willing to pay the slightest personal cost to obey God. Then we wonder where all the power has gone. We wonder where a living and real Christ has gone. Well, I’ve got news: He left a long lime ago. And He won’t be back until we start taking His Word and His will seriously.
If we want Christ back in the churches – indeed, back in our lives – we must start living in accordance with the very name by which God calls us: SAINTS. HOLY ONES. People who belong to God. We start by personally surrendering to God. Then we live out that surrender, not just in church on Sunday, but everyday. God will help us. Just fall into His hands.
The Holiness of the Church
In Acts 5 we find an indication of how seriously God takes the holiness of His church. Luke records:
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
We find later that this "sharing of all things in common" was not something which was commanded by God. It was voluntary – a product of seeing Jesus Christ. But unfortunately, a couple named Ananias and Sapphira, did it for other reasons. In fact, what they did was deceitful.
Ananias and Sapphira had sold a piece of property for a price. (see Acts 5:1-11) But instead of giving the church the whole sum, they gave only part of it. THAT was not the problem. Peter later told them they could have given nothing and it would have been acceptable. So giving part of the sum would also have been fine.
The problem was that they gave part of the money and deliberately conspired to lie, saying that what they gave was the entire sum received. The motive? To make themselves look generous and holy. The consequences they paid for lying in this way were great. Both of them died that day. It was God’s judgment.
We might ask: Why was God so hard on them? Besides, folks do stuff like this today all the time. We don’t see them getting struck dead. Why did God do that to Ananias and Sapphira?
We are so callous to the holiness of God that when we read this account, we think God is being too hard on them. But what we find here is a revelation of how important it is to God to maintain the holiness of His church. These two people deliberately and knowingly planned to bring deception into the church. They clearly had no reverence for God, or for His people. By bringing upon them these consequences, God was showing all of us how serious a sin that is in His eyes.
The church, at that point in time, was pure. This made the sin that much greater. Ananias and Sapphira could not plead ignorance. They did not have the bad examples which we have all grown up with. They had only the good example. But what God does once, and thinks about something once, is what His mind is about it. God doesn’t change. Thus, despite the fact that, in His mercy, God does not strike people dead today who pollute His church, what does this tell us about how He views such things?
For the last two thousand years, people have been polluting God’s church with their agenda. People have repeated the sin of Ananais and Sapphira on many levels. Fake holiness. Fake Christianity. Filthy lucre. Unbelievers in leadership positions. Hate. Bitterness. Power struggles. Blatant immorality. You name it, it has not only been allowed in churches, but affirmed by churches through our refusal to do anything about it.
Back to the Basics
Every so often, there will come a movement intended to get us back to the first century church era. But what we often end up doing is that we try to mimic their ACTIONS, but not their FAITH and COMMITMENT to Jesus Christ. It cannot work. The truth is, there is no need to "get back" or "recapture" anything. God has never moved. He is just as big, just as willing, and just as real as He was then. We need only to unconditionally surrender to Him. Nothing short of that will do. Nothing. Then what we read in Acts can become real for us today.
We must return to the basic and foundational Truths of Christianity. Now, when I say that, immediately there will be some people who think I’m talking about doctrines. They will think that I’m saying that all we need to do is study harder, and get back to knowing and teaching the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. I don’t belittle this. In fact, it is necessary. Vital. But just knowing the doctrine won’t do it. We must enter into the reality of what the doctrine represents.
What I’m talking about is this: We need to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One that is built on the Truth. THE one which includes the Cross. THE one which includes repentance from sin, and a personal holiness based on an unconditional surrender to God. THE one which refuses to compromise with the Word of God. Again – nothing else will do. And it cannot happen by proxy or through a group. It has to happen with INDIVIDUALS.
There was a day Pentecost fully came to pass. But that day isn’t over. It is still going on. "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor. 6:2) May God open our eyes to what He – even yet – wants to do through His people.*
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