Happy Birthday Church
Today we celebrate the Birthday of the Church! Not this local assembly here in Longville, but the assembly of the Body of Jesus Christ that began after His ascension into Heaven. The day we refer to as Pentecost. Many believe that Jesus died in 33 A.D. which would make the church 1,985 years old today. Think about this for a moment. Satan has used so many different people, organizations, and nations to try and destroy what God began on this day almost 2,000 years ago . . . but with no success. Even today, churches in many parts of the world are severely persecuted. But, the church, Jesus’ body here on earth, is alive and still has an impact with the message of salvation from God.
This morning I would like to spend some time talking about what God began to do in the hearts of His people on this day in 33 A.D. This marks the transition from the Old Covenant relationship of external obedience to the Law, to the New Covenant relationship of the Law written upon the hearts of His people and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer. What an exciting day this is, and I want to spend some time talking about the birthday of the church this morning. Let’s begin by taking a few steps back in history, a few weeks before that day, and look at what led up to this powerful day in history as recorded for us in the book of Acts.
Prelude to the Birth of the Church (Acts 1:3-5, 8-11)
After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, He appeared to the women at the tomb, His disciples, and to many other people. We celebrated Easter 7 weeks ago. On that day we talked about the eye witness accounts of our resurrected Savior. Check out the message from that day on our website. If you remember, after His resurrection, Jesus met His disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem, a couple of different times. He spent time with them at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus talked to disciples on the road to Emmaus. Over and over we find that Jesus, in His resurrected form, ministering to people. The Apostle Paul tells us that He was seen by over 500 people in 1 Corinthians 15:6. So for 40 days, Jesus, in His resurrected form, prepared people for what was about to happen next. What was that?
Luke gives us a snapshot in Acts 1:3-5:
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
Jesus spent most of those forty days with His disciples, but when it was time for Him to leave and ascend to heaven, He told them not to depart from Jerusalem. They were to wait in Jerusalem for the promise from God the Father, the promise that Jesus told them about. What promise is that? He tells them in verse 5, it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Over and over Jesus told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
So, for the last 40 days, Jesus has been preparing His disciples for what was about to happen next. At some point, Jesus and His disciples go out from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. It is there that Jesus gives them their mission statement right before He leaves for Heaven in Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Their mission is to tell the whole world all that they know about Jesus. They have been eye witnesses to everything about Jesus; His teaching, His death, burial, resurrection, and in a moment His ascension. You can probably understand the mix of emotions and amazement as the disciples were standing on the Mount that day. In fact, look at how verses 9-11 describe the ascension:
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
Forty days after Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross of Calvary, the disciples stand in awe and astonishment as they watched their resurrected Jesus ascend into Heaven. After they regain their composure, the disciples return to Jerusalem and there they continued for the next ten days waiting for the promise from the Father concerning the Holy Spirit. They returned to the upper room as their place of resident, probably where they spent the night. While they waited the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples chose Matthias as a replacement disciple for Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus and went out and hung himself.
Now according to verse 15, a company of about 120 followers of Jesus had joined with the 12 disciples. It appears that Peter was the spokesperson in verse 15. According to Luke 24:35, the disciples and the 120 followers “were continually in the temple blessing God” over the next 10 days. Though the twelve made their residence at the upper room, they spent much of their time in the Temple. There they worshipped, prayed, and fellowshipped with others about Jesus and this promise of the Spirit of God yet to come. You can imagine them sitting in the porches that surrounded the Temple courtyard as they patiently obeyed Jesus’ instruction to wait in Jerusalem.
Jewish Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) (Acts 2:1)
Now the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost as it was called in Greek, was approaching quickly. This feast was 10 days after Jesus’ ascension and 50 days after His crucifixion. The Feast of Weeks is an important Festival for the Jewish person. In Hebrew, it is called Shavuot. The reason it is called Pentecost in Greek is because the word “Pentēkostē” means 50. The Jewish person was to count 50 days from the Sabbath of Passover week to arrive at the date for the Sabbath of the Feast of Weeks. This was one of three festivals that God required all Jewish males to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
It was referred to as a latter first fruits festival when they would bring a “first fruits” offering of the summer wheat harvest to the Temple. It was also a celebration of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. The date of this feast was the date the Jews choose to celebrate God’s giving of the Law 1,400 years earlier at Mount Sinai.
As you can imagine, during the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, the city of Jerusalem would have been a city bustling to the brim with Jews from all over the known world bringing their offering to the Temple and celebrating with others in the city for this required feast. This is what is going on in Acts 2:1:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.
When verse 1 says, “they were all together,” I believe that this was referring to not only the 12 disciples, but also the 120 others that were mentioned earlier in chapter 1 that had joined the disciples. They were all together. It says that they “were all together in one place.” Some people believe that this is the upper room where they were staying the night. I believe that the place referenced here is the Temple courtyard. An upper room large enough for this many people would have not been likely.
The disciples, and the 120 others, were in the Temple continually according to Luke 24:35, and besides, this is a festival day when people were gathering there any way. The Temple area is where they should be as a good Jew would. The 12 disciples may have been staying in the upper room during the night, but here they are with everyone, I believe, in the Temple square where there are thousands of people gathered for the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost.
Imagine, thousands of Jewish people from all areas of the known world gathering together in Jerusalem for the Festival called the Feast of Weeks. Sacrifices and offerings are being made, great feasts and celebrations for the harvest are taking place. Celebrations for the birth of the nation of Israel as a people in a covenant relationship with God when the Law was given on Mount Sinai. So, it was also a celebration of the birth of Israel as a nation under God. This was not some quiet moment when the promised Holy Spirit of God comes.
Coming of the Promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4)
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Imagine for a moment, in the noise and chaos of the Temple area during the Feast of Weeks, suddenly out of nowhere came the sound of a mighty wind, a violent wind, a wind that is rushing into the courtyard that caught everyone’s attention. It filled the “house” our text says. This is a word that is often used in reference to the Temple, God’s house. The disciples and the 120 others were probably under one of the porches around the courtyard and this wind filled the entire courtyard of the Temple. This great wind came from Heaven we are told.
Then there appeared to them what looked like divided tongues of fire that came rested upon each one of them individually. This was not just the 12 disciples, but also the 120 believers and maybe other believers as well. Possibly not real fire, but what appeared as fire resting upon each of them. Everyone was immersed in the sight and sounds of this great event taking place. No one in the Temple courtyard could escape seeing what was happening to these Jesus followers.
Our text tells us that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages. This supernatural phenomenon manifest itself in a way that caused people to have the capability to speak in other languages that was unknown to them before. The gift was so that they could communicate with people from all over the world in different languages. Notice that this was all the act of the Holy Spirit, there was nothing the followers of Jesus had to do. Today, many think you have to do certain things for this to happen. This came upon all who were believers in Jesus. All of this took place according to God’s will and God’s timing for the effective spread of the Gospel. Look at the response of people in the Temple as they see what is going on.
Response to the Coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:5-13)
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians-- we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God."
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine."
So here we have a city and Temple area busy with all that takes place during this festival time, the Feast of Weeks. These were devout Jews because they were there in obedience to God’s instructions concerning the pilgrimage feasts. They came from every area of the world and many different languages, yet each person was now hearing the disciples speak to them in their own language! The reason they were amazed and astonished is that these disciples were Galileans. Galileans were not known as a people of great education and learning. These disciples, under the control of the Holy Spirit, were telling people about the mighty works of God in their own language!
Look at all the areas listed in verses 9-11 that people came from. All these people were hearing in their own native languages from those who had been baptized with and then filled with the Holy Spirit speaking of the mighty deeds of God. Luke does not give further detail about exactly what they were saying other than it was all under the general topic of the mighty deeds of God.
Verses 12 and 13 give us the two responses from people who saw and heard all this. Some people were amazed and curious about what was taking place and others mocked them saying they are drinking too much wine. So, their reaction was either amazement or mocking at what has just been revealed to them. This reaction is the same for each of us today when we tell others about Jesus; amazement or mocking!
Peter Preaches the Gospel (Acts 2:14-41)
With all the commotion, noise, and excitement, Peter recognizes that someone needs to explain what is taking place here. With thousands of people in the courtyard of the Temple, this Galilean speaks up calling everyone’s attention to him. Peter begins to preach the Gospel message to all those who could hear him. He told them in verse 15 that this is not the result of drunkenness, rather it is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. In verses 16-36, Peter points out that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is the prophetic fulfillment of the Old Testament and that this Jesus who they crucified was the Christ, their Messiah that they have been waiting for.
After this pointed message from Peter, many of the listening crowd were asking what they should do? Verse 38 gives us Peter’s response to them:
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It says that Peter and the disciples continued to bear witness to them and verse 41 gives us the miraculous result:
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Did you hear that? 3,000 souls got saved when they understood that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah sent from God to save the world. This is the beginning of the Body of Christ, the church.
The Birth of the Church (Acts 2:42-47)
This results in the birth of the church in Jerusalem. They were devoted to the Apostles teaching about Jesus, they became devoted to each other, they had communion together in remembrance of Jesus, they spent time in prayer together, and they took care of each other’s needs. Verse 47 tells us that:
the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
On this day, 1,985 years ago, during the great pilgrimage festival called the Feast of Weeks, God started the New Testament Church with miraculous signs and biblical preaching. 3,000 people, people from every part of the known world, heard the message of salvation in their own language and got saved that day. From this point on, the New Testament church became the key to the spread of the Gospel message. Teaching and preparing people to tell others about Jesus Christ.
Why is this important to us today? Because we still have that mission of going into all the world and preaching the gospel. We still get responses of amazement or mocking. We should be encouraged that this church, the Longville Bible Chapel, was begun in 1954 under the same belief. We are a people of faith baptized with Holy Spirit power, but often we quench the Spirit in our lives by living in fear, lack of faith, or with sin.
The Feast of Weeks or the Day of Pentecost, was the celebration of the redemption of Israel from their bondage to Egypt and the establishment of a covenant relationship with God at Mount Sinai. A covenant of Law which we call the Old Covenant.
Because of what took place in Acts 1 and 2, the Day of Pentecost is now a celebration of the redemption of all people from their bondage to sin and the establishment of a New Covenant relationship with God. A covenant where God’s law is written upon our hearts. A relationship that is the result of faith in God.
If you are a believer here today, I say to you, Happy Birthday Church. We can never say enough about the wonders of God’s salvation through our Savior Jesus Christ. God gave birth to the church on the Day of Pentecost for the purpose of preparing, equipping, and encouraging believers to do the mission of being witnesses for Him.
Are you a believer?
Are you a testimony for Jesus?
Are you a part of His Church?
Holy Spirit power is available to each of us who by faith trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He is with, helping to convict us, shape us, and mold us to be usable instruments in the mission we have.
We go forth with Holy Spirit power when we yield our lives to Him.