Ready or Not!
Ready or Not!
Good morning, and welcome to River City Church! My name is Rodney and I’m excited to be with you this morning. We are on the front end of our verse by verse, chapter by chapter study through the book of Acts.
We started chapter 1 a few weeks ago, and saw some very important anchor points for the book of Acts:
Jesus lived, died, rose again. That’s pretty foundational. If you’re going to understand the book of Acts, you are going to need to know about all of that. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to know everything that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection MEANS for you. That’ll come along the way on some level. But it’s important to know that those things happened.
You need to know that The kingdom of God is not political…yet. The disciples asked if Jesus was going to help them take down the world powers now that he’s risen, and Jesus shot them down. Don’t worry about that. The Father has the authority to do that whenever he wants to.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. But, as we said two weeks ago, the power has a purpose. It’s not just power so you feel good about yourself. It’s so that…
You will be my witnesses. You will tell others about what you have seen and heard. That’s your main assignment from here on out.
Then, Jesus physically returned to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could be poured out.
So that’s the foundation for the scene today. Last week we left 120 followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, spending time worshiping together, praying together, and waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power.
And so in the car analogy we’ve been using the last two weeks, we got ourselves all buckled up on week one, adjusted the mirrors. Last week, we put the car in drive and started to move forward. Today is a step on the gas, things take off and there’s no looking back.
 When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place.
In the beginning of the Bible, in what we call the books of the Law, Deuteronomy chapter 16 shows God spelling out for the nation of Israel several regular festivals or holidays he would like them to participate in as annual reminders of certain parts of their story.
Three of those festivals require every Jewish male within reasonable traveling distance to travel to Jerusalem if they didn’t already live in the City. The first festival was Passover. The second of those three festivals was Pentecost. That name means 50th. Maybe you had your Pentecost birthday this year. But this festival “was [also] called either the Feast of Harvest, because it celebrated the end of the grain harvest, or the Feast of Weeks because it happened 7 weeks and one day (50 days) after Passover Sabbath.
Some Jews also observed Pentecost as the anniversary of God [giving the 10 Commandments to Moses] at Mount Sinai, because they figured out this might have happened fifty days after the Exodus.
And the third of those festivals was held on the last Friday and Saturday of June, and called TrekFest and you were required to travel in costume from wherever you are to Riverside Iowa. No… the third was called the Feast of Tabernacles.
So at Pentecost, you have a celebration of harvest and a celebration of the law. Harvest and the Law. And what you’re about to see over the rest of Acts chapter 2, starting next week is an unbelievable harvest of souls as thousands are saved in one day, and the prophecies are fulfilled that God will write his law, not on tablets of stone this time, but on our hearts. More on that later. 120 followers of Jesus, all in one space in Jerusalem for the festival.
 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying.  They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them.
So, two things are going on here…
A sound like wind: Wind is a familiar illustration of the Spirit throughout scripture. In fact, in both Hebrew and Greek, the original languages of scripture, the word for wind, breath, and spirit are all the same. But strangely, there was no derecho or tornado or dust storm outside that’s blowing through the house, knocking papers and things around… but it sure sounded like that’s what was coming.
And so, because humans are curious creatures, and when it sounds like you should be running for cover, but there are no clouds, no leaves are moving, no dust kicked up… you gotta go see what’s going on, right?
As we’ll see next week, this sound was loud enough and long enough to attract a crowd of thousands of people to a singular location in Jerusalem. There’d have been a lot of, “did you hear that?” “Yeah!” “What was it?” “Not sure, but it sounded like it was the next street over.” I’m gonna mosey on over there and check it out. I’ll come too.
A sight (they saw tongues that looked like fire that settled on each one of them) Fire represents the presence of God in many passages. Ex 3 (burning bush); Ex 13-14 (pillar of fire); Ex 19-24 (Mt Sinai);
Sometimes in the Old Testament, it speaks about the presence of God where a violent wind is there with the fire (Ezekiel 1:5 describes the Lord’s glory by speaking of a whirlwind and flashes of fire; Isaiah 30:27-30 describes the Lord’s anger as fire and wind-driven rain; Psalm 50:3 God’s justice is like devouring fire, and a raging storm; God is a consuming fire (Deut 4:24).
So, based on the imagery of Old Testament scripture, what this whole scene “of a violent rushing wind accompanied by flaming tongues indicates, is that the gathered disciples are now in the divine presence; the throne room of God has come to them. God’s presence is literally with them, and for a moment, it looked like a tongue of fire was on their heads.
 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
This is not the first time the Holy Spirit has come onto, or filled, or empowered, or supernaturally enabled someone. The Holy Spirit has already been at work on the earth in and through people, but it was almost always temporary and only in certain people. Kings. Prophets. Judges. Priests.
But here in verse 4, that all begins to change. You can see it for yourself, the use of the word “all” there. Luke wants you to understand that this isn’t just the 12 apostles now who are being filled. This is all 120. Everyone in the house, including Jesus’ mom and his brothers, is filled with the Holy Spirit and is speaking languages they never learned how to speak.
These are real active living languages spoken and understood by others.  Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, (because of Pentecost) devout people from every nation under heaven.  When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard (was hearing) them speaking in his own language.
To experience this here today, it would be as if I started speaking perfect Portuguese to you right now. And then, while I’m enjoying this new ability, a family over here that’s a first time guest with us would stand up and say “Hey!!! We are from Brazil!! This is amazing!” But what’s even more impressive is that the Spirit isn’t just giving me a general Portuguese that all the people of Brazil learn…The word “tongues” or “languages” here is the word “dialektos”, which means I would be speaking perfectly the very dialect of that specific family's hometown without my Iowa accent.
No wonder they are a little confused. Not confused because they don’t understand – confused, like, “how is this happening!?” Except here in Acts 2, it’s not just for one family… There are thousands of people this is happening to.
Luke defines who is in the crowd. It’s not a mix of believers, unbelievers, locals, foreigners…The people listening in are devout Jews who have been scattered around the known world over the centuries. These are people who have already been trusting Yahweh, believing in the coming Messiah, trusting the promises of Yahweh to be fulfilled one day, but they haven’t necessarily heard all about Jesus. Even if they knew about him vaguely, or were at Passover 50 days ago when he died, they probably hadn’t heard about his resurrection, the commission to be witnesses, and they for sure hadn’t heard about the Spirit’s filling.
The known world at that point (as described in v9-11) was from Iraq and Iran in the East to modern day Turkey in the North, as far as Italy to the West, and then south across the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt and Libya, Syria and into Saudi Arabia. That’s what “every nation under heaven” meant to Luke and his readers. And here they are, in Jerusalem, hearing other people speaking their hometown dialects.
“Speaking in tongues occurs three major times in the book of Acts. Each instance pertains to the acceptance of a new people group into the body of Christ.
First, here in ch 2, the apostles speak in tongues to the Jews, demonstrating that the promise of the Holy Spirit has come and that the covenant promises to them will be fulfilled (v. 4). Later in Acts, Paul will travel to some far away cities, only to find churches already set up. How’d they get there? These guys! They carried the gospel back to their hometowns after Pentecost. Massive shift.
Next, in Acts 10, a Roman named Cornelius and his family speak in tongues to show that Gentiles have been accepted into God’s people. What a backfire on the hopes and plans of the political kingdom, huh? The Romans you wanted Jesus to destroy are now speaking in tongues, singing the praises of Jesus!
Finally, Jews in Ephesus, a city in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), speak in tongues to demonstrate that the Church is now reaching over the national borders of Israel into other countries. The move of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth is happening!
Speaking in tongues is not something that happens every time someone is filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts. None of the 11 apostles spoke in tongues when they first received the Holy Spirit from Jesus back in John 20. They did here at Pentecost, but not the first time. John the Baptist was in his mother’s womb yet when he was filled with the Spirit. Don’t know that he ever spoke in tongues. His mother Elizabeth didn’t speak in tongues when she was filled in Luke 1:41. The group of believers praying for Peter and John in Acts 4 were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly. No mention of tongues.
So it’s not that speaking in tongues is always involved, but it definitely was in some of these major moments in the advance of the gospel.
 They [the crowd] were astounded (literally, to put out of place – as in, they were losing their minds with overwhelming surprise and wonder) and amazed, saying, "Look, aren't all these who are speaking Galileans?  How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language? —  …we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues."
Galileans. These were the guys accused of skipping language class. They were known for poor spelling and mispronouncing words (Vincent, 450), and all that kind of thing. I’m sure we in this room could all take turns telling jokes about Missourians or people in Arkansas. Where I grew up in Pennsylvania, all of our jokes were about people in New Jersey. I would guess every state has someone that they call hillbillies or hicks or whatever… and that’s the Galileans.
So it’s pretty show-stopping when all of a sudden you hear THOSE people who can’t even speak their own language very well, now speaking in the perfect dialect of your own hometown. The disciples move downstairs and outside into the street to find thousands of people who are absolutely beside themselves that these yokels are speaking fluent Farsi Persian, fluent Masri Arabic, and more.
God is so personal, isn’t he? You are not just a general human being to him. Nothing about the way he views you is sterile or in generalities – he knows you intimately. Psalm 139 says he knows when you stand up, sit down, go outside, come back inside…he knows how many hairs are on your head, and he knows your unique dialect, your accent, etc.
And secondly, Aren’t you glad God just meets us where we’re at? Maybe you feel like a Galilean… you trip over your words, this whole thing of speaking the gospel to someone feels clunky and I think I know what I want to say, but I get trip over my words…
Or maybe you remember that moment Jesus found you. That moment when your faith became more than just talk, it became very real. For me it was my senior year in high school, sitting in a high school chapel service, living two lives at the same time. I was a chameleon. My mom had sniffed it out. I could shrug her off, but I couldn’t shrug off that still small voice in my head saying “are you with me or aren’t you? Today you choose.”
God meets us where we’re at. Rich, poor, men, women, masters, servants, black, white, brown, young, old, wealthy Persians or backwater Galileans.
The Holy Spirit pouring out his presence on you doesn’t depend on you getting yourself all cleaned up, shined up, get your act together…He doesn’t even depend on how well you know your own language. At the core, one author writes, The Spirit coming at Pentecost, just like Jesus becoming man, is more about God coming to us in our fallen condition than it is about us finally getting to God” (Gempf, 1071).
THAT’S SOME GOOD NEWS RIGHT THERE.
And at this exact moment in time, these 120 are basically just speaking what they know is true about exactly that! They were declaring the magnificent acts of God – no doubt they are not just praising God for how good the food was or how God dried up the Red Sea – they are no doubt praising God for all that he has done in Jesus, his miracles, his ministry, his teaching, his death atoning for sin, becoming the sacrificial lamb, dying to erase the wrath of God toward their sin, raising him from the dead, thanking him for keeping his promises, praising him for the power they have been given, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
 [The people in the street] were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this [them speaking in our own languages first of all, like how is that possible, and on top of that, all these things they are saying, all this praising God about his Messiah, and Jesus dying and coming back to life and all that] - what does all of this mean?"
Others in the crowd are right there, quick to explain… [They] sneered and said, "They're drunk on new wine."
Or the way you and I might say it today, “they are smoking something.” They’ve been tipping back on some of grandpa’s old cough syrup. That’s what’s happening.
But the comment about them being drunk ruffles Peter’s feathers enough that he can’t just leave it hanging right there. He stands up with the other 11, in verse 14, gets everyone’s attention somehow, and quiets everything down, and then begins the first Holy Spirit-empowered Christian sermon ever given.
"Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words.  For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it's only nine in the morning.  On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.  I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy.  I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
And here’s where I’m going to leave this hanging today:  Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Everyone. Pentecost is proof that that word can be trusted. There are no national barriers to the gospel of Jesus, no gender barriers, no political barriers or vocational hierarchy… There are not even cultural or language barriers to the gospel of Jesus and the salvation, the forgiveness of sins, newness of life in Christ, his righteousness applied to you, the resurrection of the dead, along with the filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit and the mission that comes with it. Contrary to what most skeptics might say, Christianity is the most inclusive religion there is. How can you get more inclusive than “EVERYONE”?
Just like Jesus’ death and resurrection, Pentecost was a one-time event. There is no need for it to happen again, anymore than there is a need for Jesus to go to the cross again. John 20 was the soft launch. Jesus breathed on the apostles and gave them the Holy Spirit for their salvation. It was quiet. No fireworks. But as Luke’s gospel ends, they were worshiping Jesus, praising God, filled with joy. That’s Spirit talk right there.
Pentecost, then is the Grand Opening event that lets us know, the Holy Spirit of Jesus really does live in anyone who believes, really does empower us for ministry, really does produce change! Come one, come all to Jesus!
But the reality is, not everyone gets it. Some still sneer and say we’re smoking something. It’s everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. That’s the only barrier to eternal life, right there, isn’t it? You won’t call on the Lord if you don’t think you’re a sinner. You won’t call on the Lord if you think you’re doing just fine. And God’s not going to push you into something you’re not interested in…Romans 1 says he “gave people over” to the desires of their hearts. Proverbs 14:12 says there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it only leads to destruction.
But if you humble yourself enough to confess your sin; confess your need; to repent of your hostility toward God and receive his invitation to know him by faith in the final and finished work of Jesus at the cross, where he became your sin so that you could become his righteousness… you will be saved! And that very moment that you see that Jesus Christ is a far greater treasure than anything sin has to offer you and you respond in faith, you are instantly at that moment, whether you feel a sensation or not, speak in tongues or not - you are instantly in-dwelt by the very presence of God, the Holy Spirit.
Romans 6:8 says it’s not possible to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. John Stott takes it a step further and writes this: “There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlike character apart from his fruit, and no effective witness without his power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead” (Stott, 60).
Oh it’s possible to call yourself a Christian and not be one. It’s possible to say you love Jesus, but never see him as a treasure. It’s possible to claim to have faith, but never actually trust Christ for anything. But there are zero true disciples of Jesus who do not have the Holy Spirit, and as Ephesians 1 says, the Holy Spirit is our guarantee that we are saved. You can’t lose him, and he can’t lose you.
Praise God for his magnificent acts! What’s something that happened this week you can praise God for to the other people in your group?
Lord we want to know you. We want to know the power of your presence. We want to be bold in our faith, bold witnesses when that opportunity comes; we want to know you Jesus
May your kingdom come, your will be done, in Riverside as in heaven.
Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887)
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)
John Piper, online article: How Do I Know If the Holy Spirit is in Me?, April 6, 2020 (accessed September 29, 2023)
Michael Heiser, Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016)
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996)
John D. Barry, Douglas Mangum, et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016)
Conrad Gempf, “Acts,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994)