Rodney Gehman – October 15, 2023 – Acts 2:42-47
I invite you to open your Bibles if you haven’t already to Acts chapter 2 and we will pick up where we left off last week. V by v, ch by ch.
Acts Chapter 1 told us that there are 120 men and women gathered together in a house or a meeting place in Jerusalem. And it’s hard for us to believe, but these are the only Christians in the entire world at this time. 120 of them. 12 of them are apostles who carry a unique authority to teach and lead, but they have all been gathered together in this space because as Jesus was getting ready to go back to heaven, he told them to go into Jerusalem and wait, because, verse 5, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.” And then in verse 8 he adds, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you.”
So they didn’t necessarily know what to expect, but they knew two things:
They were supposed to wait for the Holy Spirit. We agreed that we don’t wait very well. We usually pull out our phones and scroll through a bunch of nonsense while we wait. These 120 disciples of Jesus spent their time worshiping and praying and eating together.
They had an assignment. Jesus told them that their assignment was to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria (those are the regions to the south and the north), and to the end of the earth.”
So they were in that room, praying 3 times a day, eating meals together, maybe even brainstorming about how they were going to be witnesses to the whole world, since they don’t know all the languages, they don’t have that kind of money to travel, they don’t know how to go about doing this.
But then in the beginning of Acts 2, at 9am during their morning prayer, the Holy Spirit arrived with a loud noise that was heard all over the city. And you know how it is. Humans are curious creatures, right? They had to go check it out. When Jodi and I were first married, we were living in a little duplex in Kalona, and at about 3am, we were awakened by what sounded like a gunshot right outside our window. So we called 911, an officer came out, we told him what we heard, and he said he’d go around the back of the house and investigate. Well, naturally, I figured he needed some back up, so I grabbed a flashlight and went along with him, because I was curious what the sound was all about. I think he felt safer having me along with him.
Humans are curious creatures. You see black smoke rolling up into the sky, and you have a couple minutes, there’s a good chance you’re going to go check it out. Well, there was a loud sound in Jerusalem, and several thousand people who were staying in Jerusalem for a Jewish festival made their way over to the place they heard the noise coming from. And instead of an explosion or something like that, what they found was 120 hillbilly people with excited looks on their faces because they were speaking languages they had never learned.
And while this crowd was confused about what was happening and how these people who could barely speak their own language were now speaking fluent Persian, Arabic, Greek, Latin, etc, the apostle Peter stood up in front of the crowd to preach the first Christian sermon ever given – the first time someone really presented what we call “the gospel” or “the good news,” the very first sermon about the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and what it means for anyone who believes it.
And I would guess that because the name Jesus was actually a popular Jewish name at the time, Peter is very careful to define which Jesus he’s talking about. John Stott writes “It is not enough for the church today just to ‘proclaim Jesus’. [Because] there are [still] many different Jesuses being presented today.”
You have the hippie Jesus that is all love and flowers and rainbows. He’ll never ask you to do something you don’t want to do, he’s just chill because you’re a really good person and just really, really, loves you.
You have the prosperity Jesus that is all about making your life better! You can have your best life now, because Jesus is all about making your life great again – Jesus will bring you wealth, he’ll make sure you are healthy, he’ll help your business have success, and so on.
You have the guilt trip/gaslighting Jesus that is like, “hey, listen, pal, I died for you and you can't even have devotions every day? Like I had my beard ripped out, nails in my hands and feet for you, and you can’t make it to church on time looking decent?”
You have the self-help Jesus, where sure he died on the cross, but it wasn’t about absorbing God’s wrath toward sin, it wasn’t about rebellion – Jesus died on the cross so that you could unlock your true potential; so that you could unleash the lion or the lioness that you’ve always been.
Then you have the Mormon Jesus, the Muslim Jesus, the Jewish Jesus, which all hold him in high regard, but not as a member of the Trinity or the actual Messiah who died for sinners and brings salvation to those who call on him and repent.
And so here comes Peter and he wants to make sure they know which Jesus he’s talking about, and so in Verse 22: This Jesus of Nazareth that did miracles and signs and wonders, the one YOU had nailed to a cross and killed, Okay, that’s pretty specific – we know who you are talking about now. Verse 32: This Jesus, God raised from the dead and we were all there to see it. Then ahead to verse 36, God has made this Jesus whom YOU crucified is both Lord (meaning, he’s the Master, the King, the one and only Sovereign, the Ruler over all) and Messiah (He’s the one that all the prophets and old Testament stories pointed to).
Jesus is the offspring of Eve from Genesis 3 that will crush the head of the serpent at great cost to himself. He’s the true Noah’s ark that is the only way to escape the judgment that’s coming. He’s the true Moses leading his people out of slavery to sin and into his covenant promise. He’s the true David who took on the Goliath of human rebellion so that you could be free. He’s the true Immanuel, God with us. He’s the suffering servant who carried our sin. He’s the true and better Adam who obeys God instead of rebelling against him. And he is now the true and better King who will eventually have all of his enemies crushed under his feet.
And the people went, oh dear. That would include us who yelled for him to be crucified. What must we do to be saved?! Peter says: “REPENT!” And at the end of that first sermon, verse 41 says, about 3000 people changed their minds about Jesus, called on the name of the Lord for the forgiveness of their sin, and were all baptized into the name of Jesus.
Now, I don’t know what picture appears in your mind when you try to imagine 3000 people being baptized in one day, but the reality is that there really isn’t much water in Jerusalem. You’d have a few public pools and springs, so there would have been some water around, but logistically, this would have been quite an operation! It definitely would have created quite a stir, as we’ll see by the end of the chapter.
So that’s where we are currently sitting in chapter 2. What started with a little over 100 people, (picture), is now over 3000 people (picture).
So maybe some of these people went back home later that week, maybe they stayed a little longer, we don’t really know. But the story of Acts stays with some of these new believers in Jerusalem, so let's see what they did next:
 They devoted themselves to four things. That word “devoted” means, they “attached themselves to” these things. They “attended to them regularly”. These became daily habits and routines, things they would not let go of…
the apostles' teaching, – If you recall, after Jesus was resurrected, he appeared at various times to the apostles for 40 days, and we see in Luke 24 that Jesus used those times to teach them how all the scriptures (the Law, the prophets, the Psalms) all pointed to him (Luke 24:27, 44-45). Luke 24:45 says he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
Part of the great commission was to “teach them to observe everything I have commanded you,” and so it’s very possible that the things the apostles were teaching are the same things we have in the gospels and the rest of the New Testament, about how all the benefits of the life, death, resurrection and ministry of Jesus.
to the fellowship, – enjoying each other’s company and mutual encouragement, rehearsing what God has done, etc
Author and pastor Tim Keller puts it this way: the thing that creates community and friendship is the statement “you too?,” meaning you have something in common. You like volleyball too? You like art too? You like gardening too? You like farming too?
But with this group in Jerusalem, it isn’t just “oh you’re Jewish too!” Now here these 3000+ believers are with something new in common – You’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit too? You believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the one all the prophecies point too - you believe that too?! You’ve been forgiven too!?
The thing that we all have in common as believers is that, according to Romans 8:30, is that we have been predestined to belong to Jesus, we have been called from death to life, and we have been washed clean of our sin by the blood of Christ. The thing that unites us is the body of Christ was broken for us and his blood was poured out for our forgiveness – that we died with him, and he died for us, and when he was raised, we were raised, and when he ascended we ascended, and when he sat down at the right hand of God, we have been seated with him in the heavenly places, and every spiritual blessing is ours in him! The thing that unites us is that God the Father initiated our salvation by moving toward us in love before we ever gave him a second thought, adopted us into his family even though we were enemies of his, rebels to his will. He has lavished on us grace upon grace upon grace and he delights to give us the kingdom, which is all of the benefits of his rule and reign in our hearts, which we see now in part but will one day see in full.
We do not belong to the kingdoms of this world – we’ve been transferred to another team, purchased out of the kingdom of darkness by the Son of God’s death in our place, and we’ve been given a new kingdom, a new name, a new position in Christ. What unifies us the body of Christ, what makes us BELONG to Jesus, what secures our future is not that we all vote Red, or that we all enjoy the same kind of music, or that we all live in the same level of financial prosperity or root for the same sports teams…What unites us as the body of Christ is that we were all the same level of dead in our sin and that we are now the same level of saved by grace through faith in Jesus!
1 John 1:3 – what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 13:13 - The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
That’s where true fellowship is found. This fellowship is what happens when we circle the chairs and pray together! Sure, we share common interests in other areas too and those things are fine, but true Christian fellowship goes so much deeper than those things.
They were devoted to the breaking of bread, – eating meals together – maybe including an official Communion or Lord’s Supper sort of thing as well, it’s hard to say, but at any rate, they shared meals together…
and to prayer. They married themselves to prayer. They had spent those 10 days in prayer as they waited for the Holy Spirit to come, and now that the Spirit is here, they aren’t letting up. They continue to be united in, and devoted to, prayer.
 Everyone was filled with awe, (probably “everyone” meaning those who are not Christians) and many wonders (Miracles) and signs (visible evidence of a divine presence) were being performed through the apostles.
 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. These folks are now called “believers”, because of their response to Peter’s message. They were all together, at least for a while, and they held all things in common. Which looked like this:
 They sold their possessions and property
and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Can we just admit together that this is beautiful? You have this new Jesus community that has formed, and as they talk and share meals together, and get to know each other, they realize, man, there are some major needs. The Bible doesn’t tell us what those needs are, but you can guess – medical needs, travel needs, food, shelter, repairs, whatever. Normal human needs. And certain people realized wow, these people have less than they need, and we have more than enough. We’ll sell that field over in Wellman that we really don’t need, and we’ll use the money to help out with some of these other needs. That is a beautiful picture of generosity, where they treasured Christ and each other more than they treasured their possessions.
Many branches of the Church throughout history have looked at these verses and said, “that is prescriptive for the church…this is what church was intended to be!” The Hutterite Brethren in Moravia did exactly this – when you join the denomination or the organization, all of your possessions belong to the common pot, and all members have access to everything.
But what’s important to notice here (and we’re going to see this come up again in a couple of weeks) but what’s important to notice is that this was 100% voluntary. There is no command from Peter. Peter said “repent and be baptized” not “Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor” or “if you have two fields, sell one.” This is not some kind of holy communism. They did not believe that following Jesus necessarily meant taking a vow of poverty.
During his ministry on earth, Jesus only told one person to sell everything and give the money to the poor, and he might still ask certain ones of us to do something like that today, but that is an exception rather than a rule. Jesus may or may not ask you to sell some of your possessions. I’m not saying he will, and I’m not saying he won’t. But what we are all called to is generosity, especially to orphans and widows, the poor, and those in need. The apostle John would later write, “if we see a brother or sister in need and we don’t do anything, how can we claim we have God’s love in us?”
 Every day they devoted themselves to
meeting together in the temple, - Larger, corporate, formal gatherings. This is pretty incredible to me, because they did not give up on all of their Jewish customs – they doubled down on them, because they had a newer, richer meaning! The prayers meant more to them now. The fellowship meant more to them now. The symbolism of the Temple meant more to them now. The scriptures being read meant more to them now. The songs they sang (most often the book of Psalms) meant more to them now.
and broke bread from house to house. – smaller, informal gatherings. There are things that the corporate gathering cannot do. You can’t really get more than about 5-10 minutes of a conversation in on Sunday morning. It’s much more difficult to share what’s going on in your life with a lot of other people and kids running around. But in a home, across the table, in the living room, there’s a lot more room for sharing with each other, encouraging each other, praying for specific needs with each other, having people know you, help you with things, care for you when you’re down, giving you an opportunity to practice your spiritual gifts, whether that’s helping, or encouragement, or administration, or prophecy, or wisdom, or whatever. Even sharing a meal together is something that happens on a smaller scale…
They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts,
 praising God and
enjoying the favor of all the people. This new Church was fascinating for everyone who was watching from the outside. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be part of this gang!? Eating together, filled with joy, passionate witness, learning a new “togetherness” – and it appears that people really enjoyed being around them. This of course is not going to last very long at all, but for now, it looks pretty sweet.
And while all of this looked pretty good, they didn’t just keep to themselves or only invite other believers over for dinner…
Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
These Spirit-filled disciples and apostles were opening their mouths to bear witness, but the Lord (Jesus) (the Ruler, the King, the Head, the Savior) added to their number those who were being saved. The early church practiced evangelism. Sharing their faith. It didn’t need to be a program. They didn’t need an evangelism director, or pastor of evangelism to go around the city and come up with things to do. These Christians were so enamored by the gospel of grace they had received that they couldn’t help but share it.
So, we are two chapters in and here’s what the church looks like so far:
Married to the Word: Anxious to believe and obey what the Scriptures taught; repenting where we need to repent, studying and learning together.
A caring, loving, sharing Church: A Holy Spirit church is one that is generous, hospitable, and cares for the poor, the outcast, the weak, those in need.
A worshiping Church: Together in large gatherings and in their homes in smaller gatherings, marked by joyful reverence, prayers, meals & communion.
A proclaiming Church: These believers faithfully spoke up about who Jesus is and what he had done; and DAILY, Jesus continued to build the church (Baker, 889).
So I’ll leave you with a few moments here to respond in personal prayer. This morning. I’ll put a few things on the screen that can prompt your prayer time, and then we’ll sing one more song together.
PRAYER ON YOUR OWN
Father, give us a hunger for your word. Not just so that we can say we read through the bible in a year or that we checked the box for today… Give us a hunger for your word, because that’s how we come to know you. To know who you are, to know who we are, to know what truth is.
Jesus, give us love for each other and for the lost. Love that is generous, love that cares, love that witnesses to the lost, a love that serves the way you served us.
Holy Spirit, who can I encourage today before I leave this room? Ask the Lord to show you in this moment who you can encourage today. The Lord might bring a person to mind, maybe bring a name or a face to your mind. Simple as that. Then ask about how you can encourage them.
David Brown, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson, A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation, vol. VI (London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, n.d.)
John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994)
William H. Baker, “Acts,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995)