Reality Sets In

Please read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 21-23 in your favorite Bible.  I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

Our common life is founded on the reality of God.

The Internet search company Google is probably the world’s biggest data collector.  No surprise there.  It may surprise you to hear they have spent millions of dollars measuring their own employees, attempting to learn how to compile “the perfect team.”

They assumed building good teams required combining the best people, but it wasn’t that simple.  In 2012 Google started Project Aristotle.  Abeer Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division “We looked at 180 teams from all over the company. We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’

The study concluded that in good teams, members show sensitivity, listening to one another.   This lead to a concept called “psychological safety;” a belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.  That feeling of safety allows all members to contribute to the conversation knowing that their ideas and emotions will be respected.  Putting together a successful team has less to do with who is on the team, more with how the members interact.

(Adapted from https://www.scoro.com/blog/teamwork-stories-importance-of-teamwork/ on 11/3/17.)

Once again, this is a case of science affirming what was already revealed to the writers of Scripture.  We see affirmation of the fact that being a church requires an agreement to love one another.

Love forbears, forgives, and forgets.  Love welcomes the practice of trial and error as a means of discovering God’s will and is never guilty of putting someone on trial for making an error.

In Christian families and churches we are called to create the kind of safe environment that Google’s data revealed as the most productive type of environment.  Psychological Safety will exist among people who emphasize grace and gentleness.  People who follow Jesus and who want their church to grow begin with love, which is manifest in purpose tempered by positivity, success achieved by means of interpersonal support.

REVIEW:

Realistic Identity = Who are we?

a. We must not be worldly (vs. 1-4, 18-20).

NEW:

b. We must be godly (vs. 16-17, 21-23).

First, godliness involves knowing who you are.  According to this passage, you are GOD’S TEMPLE (16) and YOU TOGETHER ARE THAT TEMPLE (17).  The Gk word for TEMPLE (naos) refers specifically to the building itself; the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, not the whole temple campus.  This gives the analogy a depth of meaning.

Here in 1 Corinthians 3, believers joined together in a church form GOD’S TEMPLE.  (See Ephesians 2:21-22 and 1 Peter 2:5.)  Later, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul’s emphasis seems a bit more centered on individual believers as God’s dwelling-place:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Individual believers being “little temples” (God’s “mobile homes,”) going about the world is a thought that follows Jesus’ description of Himself.  He said His earthly body was a TEMPLE (JHN 2:19-21).

Whether together or apart, believers are God’s dwelling-place.  That fact alone makes us responsible to behave like a believer everywhere we go.

How do we know we’re His temple?  We know it is true because God the Father has given God the Spirit to us.  This is what Paul meant when he wrote: GOD’S SPIRIT DWELLS IN YOUR MIDST.  In 2 Corinthians 1:22 & 5:5, Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is our GUARANTEE that all God’s promises are true; they will be kept.

Part of God’s guarantee is His promise to protect us.  GOD’S TEMPLE is SACRED as indicated by His promise to avenge us against all who DESTROY us.  The word SACRED means “holy” and “set apart.”  It is a state of moral/spiritual purity and a state of separation from sin and worldliness, as we saw last week.  DESTROY also means “to defile or corrupt,” so it doesn’t only mean persecution in the form of acts of physical violence.  It includes spiritual corruption.  This warning is not limited to persons outside the church.  People inside the fellow-ship who are divisive or in any way impede the ministry of the church are in trouble.

Paul was concerned this is what was happening at Corinth.  He didn’t exaggerate the situation: they were dividing over flagrant

immorality, idolatry, relationships between WEAK and STRONG members, Spiritual Gifts, mis-practiced communion and the resurrection, just to hit the highlights.  Competitiveness and false doctrine had created separate parties in the church and anyone who pushed the success of their party over obedience to Christ was destroying the church.  God Himself opposed them.

People of faith should be encouraged to know that God will defend His own.  Justice will be served.

YOU ARE OF CHRIST AND CHRIST IS OF GOD explains how it is that ALL THINGS belong to God’s people.  This is a theological statement that reveals the fact that God the Son and God the Father are one, just as Jesus said (see John 10:30).

– It is through our faith-relationship with Jesus Christ that the unlimited resources of God the Father are made available to us.

– In His death and resurrection, Jesus redeemed us.  That is, He paid the price for our sins; He bought us out of slavery to sin.

– Through Jesus Christ – God the Son – we have access to God the Father, and that is the life-giving chain by which all this is possible.

Second, godliness involves knowing what is in store for you (21-23).  Good things are in store for those who wait upon the Lord.  Paul’s words ALL THINGS ARE YOURS (22) and ALL ARE YOURS (23) leave nothing to worry about.  Because we have God’s unlimited provision in the PRESENT and FUTURE, we can obey God’s command in Philippians 4:6 = Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Your future does not depend on any of your leaders; WHETHER PAUL OR APOLLOS OR CEPHAS.  This should be obvious; God is in charge.  Church leaders have their roles to play, but God decides whether a church will be fruitful or not (as we’ll see in v. 7).

Your future does not depend on the WORLD’s approval or support.  That’s good news because we can generally depend on the WORLD’s disapproval and, in some places, outright persecution.

Everything – LIFE and DEATH, PRESENT and FUTURE – is in God’s hands.  God is going to work in favor of His family.  He is going to work for the betterment of His children.

Our common life is founded on the reality of God.

Last week we observed that one of the appeals of the Christian faith is that we offer the world something real.  We hold forth words of assurance that there is more to life than what the world offers.  We can make such claims until we run out of breath, but when our actions are merely worldly, then the claim is denied.

We need to work at having a culture of safety in our church.  Competition and condemnation shut down imagination and  experimentation, which forbids the innovation we need to succeed.

Churches tend to fall into one of two extremes just because it’s easier to think in extreme terms.  The one extreme exalts innovation.  With an evolutionary point of view, the assumption is that newer is always better.

The other extreme is imitation.  People in these churches have an opposing view that older is always better.  They assume that if we better imitate the way we’ve always done things, recreating the good old days, they better off we will be.

A more biblically realistic view, but one that is more difficult to achieve, puts imitation and innovation on an equal level, understanding these are both merely tools to achieve what is our true goal: pointing people to God.

Philosophies and programs are not goals; they are means to the real goal, which is making Jesus Christ apparent in our lives, whether we are together in this building or apart from it.  Good builders know how to use a variety of tools to complete their job.  If all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, then hanging pictures is easy, but sawing wood is practically impossible.

What we see here in 1 Corinthians 3 is that God’s people use God’s methods and His tools to faithfully build more of Jesus in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.

Realistic Expectations = What can we do?

a. We must build on a good foundation (vs. 10-15).

b. We must be faithful builders (vs. 5-9).

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Turns Out Samson Had Parents

Please read Judges 13 in your well-worn Bible.  I have used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson James Dobson told about a mother who was sick in bed with the flu. Her little daughter wanted so much to be a good nurse, she brought mom an extra pillow and a magazine to read. And then she even showed up with a cup of tea. Her surprised mother took a sip and said, ”Wow! I didn’t even know you knew how to make tea!”

The girl said excitedly, ”Oh, yes. I learned by watching you. I put some water in the pot, put the tea leaves in, and I boiled the water, and then I strained it into a cup. But I couldn’t find the strainer, so I used the flyswatter instead.”

Her mother set the tea cup down and said, ”You what?!”

”Oh, don’t worry, mom,” the little helper exclaimed.  “I didn’t use the new flyswatter; I used the old one.”
Being a mom is not easy! One woman who said, ”Before I was married, I had three theories about raising children. Now, I have three children and no theories.”
Moms know motherhood can be everything from exhilarating to exhausting.  So today it is very appropriate to pause and say ”Thank You” to our mothers and thank God for them.

Tdoay we’re going to hold up Samson’s mother as a good example of motherhood.  Even though we don’t know her name, she distinguished herself as a quick-witted, faithful, and reasonable woman.  Samson became a biblical hero because of his mother’s obedience to the revealed will of God.

  1. Context: what’s happening in that part of Judges?

On a national level, we look to verse one and find that Israel was virtually hostage to the Philistines.  Israel’s cycles of evil resulting in suffering, crying out to the Lord, and deliverance are so typical verse one is almost formulaic. The cycle went from Idolatry to Oppression to Repentance to Deliverance, then back to Idolatry.

The EVIL they did was part of worshipping idols; forsaking the true God for false ones.  The discipline they suffered as a result was being DELIVERED into the hands of one of a pagan nation.  The length of Philistine domination – 40 years – is the longest such period in Judges.

The people cried out in their distress and God bailed them out once again.  At this stage of their history, the people God used to bail them out were called “judges:” that’s where the title of the book comes from.

On a personal scale, we turn to verse two to find out about Samson’s parents and Samson’s divine origin.  The surprising part is that they were childless at the time.

Strange as it may seem, biblical accounts of childless women are typical Mother’s Day sermon material: think of Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth.  (We save Mary for Christmas.) The Bible says that children are a gift from God.  That’s true.  However, people of that time assumed that the opposite must also be true; that being childless was a sign of God’s disfavor, a mark of shame, maybe even an indication of hidden sin.  (In fact, a later Jewish reference, the Talmud, proverbially state that people who were blind, leperous, in slavery, or childless were “dead.”

The family lived in ZORAH, a town into which they relocated to escape the oppressions of the Philistines.  It was located 15 miles west of Jerusalem.

They were DANITES; descendents of Jacob’s son Dan.  Calling them a CLAN instead of a “tribe” may imply there weren’t too many DANITES left.  To be frank, the Danites were the “outlaw”  tribe of Israel.  They had a history of betraying the other tribes and were often at the pointy end of the oppressions of pagan nations.

  1. Samson was to become a Judge and Israel’s Deliverer (sorta).

The angelic messenger promised Mr. and Mrs. Manoah a child in verses three, six, and eight to fourteen.  In v. 3 he said, “YOU ARE GOING TO BE PREGNANT AND GIVE BIRTH TO A SON.”

In v. 6, in the way she summarizes her encounter with the angel, we see that Mrs. M was mostly clued in: She referred to the angel as a MAN OF GOD, a phrase usually used for prophets, judges, and kings.  Wrong, in this case.  Se said “HE LOOKED LIKE AN ANGEL OF GOD, VERY AWESOME.”   AWESOME is a word that meant “fear-producing;” it was often used to describe God.  But Mrs. M may have been so intimidated by her visitor that she was afraid to ask his name.  This is something Mr. M would do in v. 17, when the angel returned.

For his part, Mr. Manoah only slowly caught on.

One teensy detail Mrs. M did not tell Manoah as she recounted the instructions of her visitor was the matter of their son leading God’s people in overthrowing the Philistines.  So it’s clear that Manoah was sufficiently intimidated by the idea of fatherhood alone, and prayed to God for some guidance in how to BRING UP THE BOY WHO IS TO BE BORN.  In verses nine and ten, Manoah’s prayer was answered with a “Yes;” the angel came back.

In verses 11-14, Manoah asked the obvious questions first.  The more intrusive questions came later.

“ARE YOU THE MAN WHO TALKED TO MY WIFE?” and “WHAT IS TO BE THE RULE THAT GOVERNS THE BOY’S LIFE AND WORK?”  (The kid isn’t even born yet and dad is already putting him to work!)

The angel only directly answered the first question.  In answer to the second, he repeats only the instructions given to Mrs. M and also does not mention the whole “lead deliverer” thing either.  This may indicate the angel thought Manoah was showing a lack of faith and/or “the paralysis of analysis.”

Conditions that were attached to the promise; God required the male child be a NAZIRITE from birth to death and for his mother to be a Nazirite throughout her pregnancy (4-5, 7, 13-14).  (See Numbers 6 for the full set of Nazirite regulations.)

The name nazir (Hb) means “dedicated” or “consecrated.”  In general, being a NAZIRITE required keeping an extra set of laws to achieve a higher level of holiness.  In such a role Samson was said to be “DEDICATED TO GOD FROM THE WOMB.”  According to Numbers 6, a Nazirite vow was made by an adult man or woman and was to be kept for a limited period.  To make this vow on behalf of an unborn child and to make it for life are both unique to Samson.

The specifics included: “DRINK NO WINE OR OTHER FERMENTED DRINK” (in Numbers 6, all fruit of the grapevine is prohibited), “DO NOT EAT ANYTHING UNCLEAN,” and no trips to the barber; “WHOSE HEAD IS NEVER TO BE TOUCHED BY A RAZOR” (interestingly, the Nazirite’s head was shaved clean at the end of his or her time of commitment).”  The main concern about Samson was that he didn’t get a haircut (verse five).  I assume we all know how that worked out…?

Mrs. Manoah was commanded to observe these regulations because God knew what the mother consumed would become part of the child’s body as well.  He wanted Samson to be fully pure from birth.

God’s purpose in these extraordinary arrangements was pronounced by the angel: “HE WILL TAKE THE LEAD IN DELIVERING ISRAEL FROM THE HANDS OF THE PHILISTINES.”  God intended Samson to provide leadership for His people in overcoming their oppressors.  It also means he would not accomplish this deliverance alone; Samson was supposed to unite the people under his leadership and they would overthrow the Philistines by working together.

  1. Mr. Manoah misunderstood, then overreacted.

Biblically, angels never tolerate worship that belongs to God.  Mr. Manoah learned that lesson.   Whether or not there was an ulterior motive behind his offer of hospitality (15-16), what’s clear is that MANOAH DID NOT REALIZE THAT IT WAS THE ANGEL FROM THE LORD to whom he was speaking.

The question about the angel’s name (17-18) is not necessarily as innocent as it may appear.  In this culture, to know someone’s name was viewed as being able to somehow exercise power over them or know something special about them.  This made people in general reluctant to give out there name, just as we are supposed to be reluctant to give out personal information on the Internet (especially to Russian hackers).  As is always the case in the Bible, there is a refusal to answer that question directly; the angel replied, “IT IS BEYOND YOUR UNDERSTANDING.”  Or, “It is too wonderful for you,” a hint at his heavenly status.

If is only after the angel’s dramatic exit that Manoah understood, but then he overreacted a bit.  It took an over-the-top demonstration (19-21), but Mr. & Mrs. M were finally convinced.  After all, it’s not every day you see a blast of fire that reaches heaven AND your dinner guest ride it out of sight!  (Something similar happened when an angel appeared to another judge, Gideon, in 6:20-23.)

In verses 22-23 we read Manoah’s overreaction.  Everybody knows that if you see God, you are burnt toast because no one sees God and lives.  So Mr. M panics; “WE ARE DOOMED!”  (Think C3PO in all the Star Wars movies.)  But Mrs. M is a sensible sort and reasons that if God had only wanted to blow them up, He would not have accepted their sacrifice, nor would He have given them the promise of a child and instructions on her pre-natal behavior.

  1. God’s promise was kept.

Mrs. Manoah birthed a boy and named him Samson (24).  The name SAMSON is related to the Hebrew word for “sun,” but is exact meaning is not clear to us today.

What is clear is that the LORD was with him: HE GREW AND THE LORD BLESSED HIM (24).  Sounds a bit like Luke’s summary of the Jesus’ growing-up years: JESUS GREW IN WISDOM AND STATURE, AND IN FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN (LKE 2:52).

The second detail in this line is also exceptional: THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD BEGAN TO STIR HIM (25).  That word STIR is from the Hebrew word salah (Hb) which meant “to rush upon; trouble.”  This is the only use of this word in the Bible, which is part of what I mean by “exceptional.”  IMHO, this word has a more aggressive sound to it than I would normally associate with the Holy Spirit.

It is also exceptional in its irony.  Of all the Judges, Samson is the one most often empowered by the Holy Spirit (see 14:6+19; 15:14) in the most unusual way and yet was the worst-behaved.  More on that as we develop this series of messages on Samson.

Ted Sutherland wrote an Internet account of a Mrs. Monroe who lives in Darlington, Maryland. “She’s the mother of 8 children. And except for a few interesting experiences, she’s just like any other mother across America.

“She came home one afternoon from the grocery store and everything looked pretty much the same, though it was a little bit quieter than usual. She looked into the middle of the living room and 5 of her darlings were sitting around in a circle, exceedingly quiet, doing something with an object in the middle of a circle. So she put down the sacks of groceries and walked over closely and looked and saw her kids playing with 5 of the cutest skunklets you can imagine.
“She was instantly terrified and she said, ‘Run children, run!’ Each child grabbed a skunk and ran, in 5 different directions. She was beside herself and screamed louder, more frantically, with great gusto. It so scared the children that each one squeezed his skunk! Guess what? Skunks don’t like to be squeezed!”

<Retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-ted-sutherland-humor-mothersday-discipline-3704 on 5/13/17.>

As much as we love mom, we realize she’s only human and doesn’t always give good advice.  However, godly moms like Mrs. M. have God’s help to transcend their humanity and obey God’s commands.

Samson had godly parents who loved him a great deal.  But were they always good parents?  You’ll have to come back next week to find that out.

Under the Influence

At Emmanuel Baptist Church, we combined our Pentecost and Memorial Day observations in the “Pastoral Prayer” section of our worship service.  I was particularly happy with the way it turned out and offer it as an addition to your own Memorial Day observances.

“Since 1971 Memorial Day has been observed annually on the last Monday in May. The purpose is to honor the nation’s military personnel killed in wartime.

“The holiday was called Decoration Day at first, because people decorated soldiers’ graves with flowers and flags on that day. Today it is also marked by parades, memorial speeches and ceremonies.

“Waterloo, New York, was the birthplace of Memorial Day.  On May 5, 1866, the people of Waterloo placed flowers on the graves of northern soldiers who had died in the Civil War. In 1868, Major General John Logan declared May 30 as a day for honoring soldiers who had died fighting for the North.             “After World War I ended, in 1918, Decoration Day became a day to remember everyone who died fighting in U.S. wars – the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. The observation now also includes World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf wars.” <Bobby Scobey; retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-bobby-scobey-stories-59644.asp on 05/23/15.>

Decoration Day has become Memorial Day, a time to remember all our loved ones and the sacrifices they have made for us.

“It’s honorable and fitting this morning we remember the sacrifice of our nation’s great veterans, who gave their lives on battlefields abroad and here at home. By some estimates, nearly 1.3 million Americans have shed their blood and died for freedom’s cause. Still, as magnanimous as this number is, it pales in comparison to the number of men, women, and children who have given their lives for freedom’s eternal cause.

“Michael J. McClymond, writing for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, wrote in its December 2002 edition: ‘The total number of Christian martyrs during the 20th Century is reported at 45 million.’ He finished his though by defining Christian martyrs as ‘believers in Christ who lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.’” <Jason Bonnicksen; retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-jason-bonnicksen-statistics-holidayscivic-79109.asp on 5/23/15.>

As we memorialize all who have made a sacrifice of life itself for our benefit, it’s important we remember the One who shed the purity of his blood for freedom’s cause. For without the sacrifice or our Jesus on the cross, we would have no means of celebration today.

Stand, then call out simultaneously the names of anyone you’re memorializing today.

VETERANS

MARTYRS

MISSIONARIES

DEPARTED SAINTS

“One of the great preachers in U.S. history is D. L. Moody. He pastored in Chicago and there is still a wonderful Bible College there that bears his name and values. Mr. Moody was a successful minister, but by his own admission, he lacked the power in his ministry. One day two women came up to him after a service. They said, ‘We have been praying for you.’

“‘Why don’t you pray for the people?’ he asked.

“‘Because you need the power of the Spirit.’ “In relating the incident years after he writes, ‘I thought I had power. I had the largest congregation in Chicago, and there were many conversions.’”

“Moody also said that in a sense, he was satisfied. He was in a comfort zone. But these two praying women rocked the boat. They told him that they were praying for an anointing by the Holy Spirit. Mr. Moody could not get this off his mind and he wrote, ‘There came a great hunger in my soul. I did not know what it was and I began to cry out to God as never before. I felt I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service.’”

“Rev. Moody began crying out for God to fill him. He withdrew, prayed, and sought it over a period of time. He writes the following: ‘Well, one day, in the city of New York — oh, what a day! — I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not be put back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world.’”

<Ken Pell, retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-ken-pell-stories-blessing-curse-esau-81534.asp on 5/22/15.>

(Please read Romans 8:1-4.)

Message: Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we are free from the sin nature and its deadly outcome.

  1. The outcome is NO CONDEMNATION!

THEREFORE indicates a new section beginning.  This is the third time this far in the book of Romans that Paul has made this kind of transition.  It covers chapters 6+7, where Paul’s written about slavery to sin.  We are all born with a sin nature.  That is the legacy of Adam.  The sin nature is an appetite for disobedience to God; it makes us especially vulnerable to temptation.  On our own, we can only hope to restrain the sin nature.  The sin nature carries so great a degree of influence that we are ultimately powerless to resist it – we are in “slavery” to it.

Though the sin nature is deadly, the situation is not hopeless – God provided a way out!

Let’s go out of order a moment and note the condition – FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS.  This condition begins with confession – admitting that sin is a personal problem.  It continues in the personal belief that Jesus Christ is the sole solution to the problem of sin and accepting Him as my Savior.  It is perpetuated and validated by the ongoing decision to live for Jesus as Lord; submitting all my days and ways to Him.

Before explaining how it’s possible, Paul sets forth the good news: THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION!  NOW indicates the situation has changed.  A new possibility has emerged: NO CONDEMNATION.  We are no longer condemned to death as law-breakers (see 6:23).  There is only one condition and no qualifiers, no exceptions to the rule!

So who are we to bring condemnation against those beloved of God when HE has chosen not to?  How false it is to say that we are too far gone, too guilty of evil to be forgiven by God?  Faith brings us to the point where there is NO CONDEMNATION.  In both these examples, the Enemy wants to distract, discourage, and disable believers, but his accusations are false, because God has said there is NO CONDEMNATION.

  1. Jesus made that possible by His death o/t cross.

Verse two makes it plain; this was accomplished THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.  He is the means of our salvation.

Verse three tells us, WHAT THE LAW WAS POWERLESS TO DO… GOD DID BY SENDING HIS OWN SON.

– THE LAW WAS POWERLESS means that there was no permanent solution here. God provided t Law for 3 reasons.

— To define his standard (everything outside what God approved is sin).

— To motivate restraint of the sin nature.

— To provide forgiveness when we fail, through the blood of the sacrifice.

While the Law was effective for those purposes, it was unable to destroy the sin nature.  It was a temporary fix until Jesus came.

– The sin nature weakens the Law by making it impossible for us to keep it; our nature condemns us to always fall short of God’s standard.

– GOD SENT HIS SON…

— IN THE LIKENESS OF SINFUL MAN.   Don’t let the word LIKENESS make you think Jesus was anything other than fully human.  He lived in every way as we do, with the exception of sin – He was not guilty of sin (see Hebrews 4:15), nor did He have a sinful nature.  (This is because He had no earthly father to pass it on to Him.)

— TO BE A SIN OFFERING. Since sin brought the penalty of death, a life was due.  God, in His mercy, did not require the life of the sinner, but allowed a substitution.  When an animal was sacrificed, the pouring out of its life was in the loss of its blood.  Blood symbolizes life, a life wasted by defying God.  Jesus’ blood was the ultimate sin offering that once for all time paid the debt of the guilty sinner.

– HE CONDEMNED SIN IN SINFUL MAN.  Notice He condemned SIN, not the sinner.  Sin is a defeated enemy; new life is available.

Verse four explains the purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice: THAT THE RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULLY MET IN US.  Jesus, being fully God and fully man, fulfilled with His blood, what the Law required for the forgiveness of sin.  Notice three particulars:

– The requirements of the Law are RIGHTEOUS.

– The requirements of the Law were FULLY met.  Again; no conditions, no exceptions.

– The requirements of the Law were fully met IN US – or for us – but not by us!

  1. The Holy Spirit provides a new life for us.

Verse two shows that THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE SET ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH.  The main contrast here is between the old and new covenants. But there is another contrast here, between the LAW and LIFE.  While the LAW gives regularity, LIFE gives the flexibility to show grace.  This shows the superiority of the Spirit’s operation.

According to verse four, being thereby freed from the death penalty, we DO NOT LIVE ACCORDING TO THE SINFUL NATURE BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT.  Paul will spend the rest of this chapter detailing what life ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT is like.  For now, what’s important to us: We are NO LONGER under the influence of the sin nature but are under the influence of the Holy Spirit instead.

For the believer, the goal of life changes from self-satisfaction to satisfying God under the direction of the Spirit.

“There’s a story told of a husband and wife both of who were doctors – one a doctor of theology and the other a doctor of medicine. When their doorbell was rung and the maid answered, the inquirer would often ask for “the doctor”. The interesting reply was: “Do you want the one who preaches or the one who practices?”

We know the theory of Christian living but what we must do is to practice it!

<Owen Bourgaize, retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-owen-bourgaize-humor-holyspiritbaptism-pentecost-2971.asp on 5/22/15.>

What we’ve learned is that the Holy Spirit makes all the difference.  We can’t preach or practice with any eternal effectiveness apart from the indwelling Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the agency of salvation, the part of God that resides in us and provides the information and power we need to live beyond what is merely natural and merely normal; to experience God in living moments, great and small.  The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to truly LIVE!

On Pentecost (known to the Jews as the Feast of Weeks), God’s promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled.  On this day hundreds of years ago, the first disciples became the Church as they received the Spirit as Jesus had personally guaranteed they would.

Personally, I like the fact that Memorial Sunday, Pentecost Sunday and Graduates Sunday have all come on the same day.  One aspect of Memorial Day is to celebrate our freedom as Americans.  In a similar but more important way, Pentecost is a celebration of our freedom in the Holy Spirit. These are both celebrations of past events, while our graduates remind us that we have reason to celebrate the future as well.  It’s been a fulfilling experience. But in the midst of it all, remember: under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we are free from the sin nature and its deadly outcome.

The Just Judge

(Please read Isaiah 11:1-5 and Acts 10:34-38.)

            A New Yorker was forced to take a day off from work to appear for a minor traffic summons. He grew increasingly restless as he waited hour after endless hour for his case to be heard.

When his name was called late in the afternoon, he stood before the judge, only to hear that court would be adjourned for the rest of the afternoon and he would have to return the next day.

“What for?!?!?” he snapped at the judge.

His honor, equally irked by a tedious day and sharp query, roared out loud: “Twenty dollars contempt of court! That’s why!”

Then, noticing the man checking his wallet, the judge relented: “That’s all right. You don’t have to pay now.”

The young man replied, “I know. But I’m just seeing if I have enough for two more words.” Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcNoDGA6

A Charlotte, North Carolina man, having purchased a case of rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against …. get this …. fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of fabulous cigars, and having yet to make a single premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the man stated that he had lost the cigars in “a series of small fires.”   The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in a normal fashion. The man sued … and won!! In delivering his ruling, the judge stated that since the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable, and also guaranteed that it would insure the cigars against fire, without defining what it considered to be “unaccep-table fire,” it was obligated to compensate the insured for his loss.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the judge’s ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fires.” After the man cashed his check, however, the insurance company had him arrested… on 24 counts of arson! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used as evidence against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 consecutive one year terms. Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcORaAmH

Examples of unjust judges and jokes about them abound.  In Scripture, one of the things God hates in injustice.  The abuse of power is a violation of the trust God and people invest in those in authority.  For example, in Leviticus 19:15, the LORD is quoted as saying, “DO NOT PERVERT JUSTICE; DO NOT SHOW PARTIALITY TO THE POOR OR FAVORITISM TO THE GREAT, BUT JUDGE YOUR NEIGHBOR FAIRLY.”

Get the Message = Isaiah predicted the Messiah would be a Just Judge; Peter announced Jesus Christ is the Just Judge.

  1. The Son of Jesse would be a Just Judge. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

CONTEXT: Isaiah has just written about how a remnant of Israel will survive all their tribulations and return to the land (ch. 10).   In chapter 11, he explains that one of the descendants of King David’s father Jesse will be the agent of saving the remnant.  In chapter 12, he pauses briefly to compose a song of praise for God’s salvation action.

COMMENT:

As a human being, the Messiah would be an eternal version of a king in the dynasty of David (v. 1).  This is important because most of David’s descendants were lousy kings – either idolatrous or cowardly.  (This may be why Isaiah made no mention of David but jumped back to Jesse.)  The Messiah will dramatically break out of that pattern.

Isaiah used an arbroreal image to depict this prophecy of hope: A SHOOT…F/T STUMP OF JESSE.  It is a continuation of an imagery that appeared earlier in this book:  In chapter six, the burned-down forest symbolized the downfall of prideful Israel.  In chapter ten, the forest representing mighty Assyria grew up to replace Israel but was cut down. Now the imagery goes full circle as a SHOOT grows from the STUMP of the failed monarchy.

By the time Jesus was born, no king of the line of David had reigned over Judah for 600 years.  But, through Isaiah God promised that a fruitful BRANCH would grow FROM HIS ROOTS.  God worked powerfully to restore His people.

The Holy Spirit would empower His rule (v. 2).  In the Old Testament, when people do things that normal people couldn’t do, the explanation is always that the Spirit of the Lord empowered them to do it.  The prophet elaborated extensively on this point because, as we saw last week, it is crucial

– THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD WILL REST ON HIM.  (This prophecy was very literally fulfilled on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a DOVE, rested on Jesus.  Even more miraculously, a voice from heaven explained the meaning behind the event: “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”  (See Matthew 3:17.)

(Notice that five of the six elaborations are things that occur between the ears.  This underscores the importance of the mind as the place where our life of faith is realized and sensed.)

– THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND OF UNDERSTANDING.

– THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL AND OF POWER.

– THE SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OF FEAR OF THE LORD.

This is summed up with a statement of the Just Judge’s character.  His would be the kind of life that makes justice possible and at the same time is a work of the Spirit = HE WILL DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.  The kind of powerful but righteous individual, the perfect ruler described here, must be both divine and human.

As a divine being with perfect character, the Messiah will judge with perfect justice (vs. 3-5).  In the Old Testament, pronouncing wise judgments in court is the “acid test” of all authority, whether it is good or evil.

His godly character empowers His just judgment.  How the authorities treat the most vulnerable members of society reveals where their hearts and heads are.

– WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS HE WILL JUDGE THE NEEDY.

– WITH JUSTICE HE WILL GIVE DECISIONS FOR THE POOR OF THE EARTH.

Judgment is both recognition of the truth and an appropriate response: reward for the righteous AND wrath for the wicked.  Notice that it is the Just Judge’s WORDS that will accomplish this.  His judicial pronouncements have the authority to make the will of God occur.

– HE WILL STRIKE THE EARTH WITH THE ROD OF HIS MOUTH.

– WITH THE BREATH OF HIS LIPS HE WILL SLAY THE WICKED.

RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE HIS BELT AND FAITHFULNESS THE SASH AROUND HIS WAIST.  The words BELT and SASH miss the imagery of the original language; the virtues just listed are like the undergarments of the Messiah.  When all outward appearances are stripped away, He is still righteous and faithful.  He does not go by appearances as people do, He is righteous all the way beneath outward appearances.

  1. Jesus is the Just Judge. (Acts 10:34-38)

CONTEXT: Acts 10 is an important transitional event in the history of the Church.  Peter received a vision and an experience in which God revealed that salvation is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  Our verses are Peter’s testimony about Jesus as he summarizes what he has learned.

COMMENT:

The Just Judge will not show favoritism (vs. 34-35).  To the poor and oppressed, justice is equated with salvation; at last their cause will be vindicated.  PETER BEGAN TO SPEAK is a formulaic way to introduce an important address.

“I NOW REALIZE,” Peter began.  After the visions he and Cornelius had, Peter sees God at work to change his mind about the Gentiles.

“GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM,” the word translated as FAVORITISM literally means “face-taking.”  God does not put on a smiley face for one set of people and condemn another based on arbitrary factors like nationality.

Here is a point on which Peter and Paul agreed.  In Romans 2:11 it is written, FOR GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM.  (The context for this verse is what Paul wrote on the subject of God’s righteous judgment.)

“HE ACCEPTS MEN FROM EVERY NATION,” but NOT from every religion.  This text can’t be used to justify our culture’s indifference about religion, our studied attempt to overlook the differences or understand which faith is true.

This same point has already been revealed in Acts:

– Acts 1:8 = Jesus promised His disciples would be His witnesses “TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

– Acts 2:17 = In his Pentecost sermon, Peter himself quoted the prophecy of Joel that the Spirit would be “POURED OUT ON ALL PEOPLE.”

– Acts 8:26-40 = An Ethiopian had already been saved and received baptism at Philip’s hand.

Also, prior to Jesus’ ministry, Luke 2:32 records Simeon declaring that Jesus would be “A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES AND FOR GLORY TO YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL.”  In spite of these warnings, it required this experience to move Peter to an understanding of this revelation of God’s plan.

Persons who have made an acceptable response to God have two qualities.

– The FEAR God.  The oft-repeated teaching of the Proverbs is that FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM.

– Because we tend to associate FEAR with negative things, this rubs us the wrong way.  BUT, it makes sense to fear God as He is our Judge.  Whether it takes the form of respect or anxiety, FEAR is a perfectly acceptable motivator to DO WHAT IS RIGHT =

In verses 36-38, we see that Jesus demonstrated He is the Just Judge.  For starters, He took the message went to Israel first: THROUGHOUT JUDEA, BEGINNING IN GALILEE; predominantly Jewish areas of the Roman Empire.  This was the plan of God, to offer salvation first to His people, and through them, to the world.

AFTER He had received THE BAPTISM JOHN PREACHED, Jesus began His public ministry.

GOD ANOINTED JESUS OF NAZARETH WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND POWER, which He used to…

– …do GOOD.  It’s incredible that though all Jesus ever did was good, He had to endure such opposition.

– HEALING ALL WHO WERE UNDER THE POWER OF THE DEVIL.  This explains part of the opposition He suffered.  The devil arouse opponent because Jesus delivered people from his influence.

All this was possible because GOD WAS WITH HIM.  May this be our greatest ambition, our most fervent hope.

At the height of a political corruption trial, the prosecuting attorney attacked a witness. “Isn’t it true,” he bellowed, “that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?”

The witness stared out the window, as though he hadn’t heard the question.

“Isn’t it true that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?” the lawyer repeated.

The witness still did not respond.

Finally, the judge leaned over and said, “Sir, please answer the question.”

“Oh,” the startled witness said, “I thought he was talking to you.”

Justice is not something that just happens.  It is too contrary to our sin nature and human nature, the things that dominate our thinking otherwise.  Fortunately, we have Jesus as our example as the Just Judge.  We are given the same Holy Spirit by God the Father, so we have everything we need to obey His will and exercise His will.  In the name of the One who IS Justice, let us go forth and live justly.

The Spirit and Success

(Read Isaiah 61:1-3 & Luke 4:14-30.  I use the NIV – you use whichever version of the Bible you prefer.)

Message: Isaiah predicted the Messiah would successfully do the work of God because of the Spirit’s anointing.

The story is told of a new bank president who met with his predecessor and said, “I would like to know what have been the keys to your success.”

The older gentleman looked at him and replied, “Young man, I can sum it up in two words: Good decisions.”

To that the young man responded, “I thank you immensely for that advice, but how does one know which are the good decisions?”

“One word, young man,” replied the sage. “Experience.”

“That’s all well and good,” said the younger, “but how does one get experience?”

“Two words,” said the elder. “Bad decisions.”

(Today In The Word, November, 1989, p.23.)

Clarence Jordan was a man of unusual abilities and commitment. He had two Ph.D.s, one in agriculture and one in Greek and Hebrew. He could have done anything he wanted. He chose to serve the poor. In the 1940s, he founded a farm in Americus, Georgia, and called it Koinonia Farm. It was a community for poor whites and poor blacks. As you might guess, such an idea did not go over well in the Deep South of the ’40s.

In 1954, the Ku Klux Klan had enough of Clarence Jordan, so they came one night with guns and torches and set fire to every building on Koinonia Farm but Clarence’s home, which they riddled with bullets.

The next day, a reporter came out to see what remained of the farm. The rubble still smoldered and the land was scorched, but he found Clarence in the field, hoeing and planting.

The reporter said in a haughty voice, “Well, Dr. Jordan, you got fourteen years into this farm, and there’s nothing left of it at all. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?”

Clarence stopped hoeing, turned toward the reporter, and said quietly but firmly, “About as successful as the cross. Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we are about is not success but faithfulness. We’re staying. Good day.”

Beginning that day, Clarence and his companions rebuilt Koinonia and the farm is still going strong today.

(Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel, 1987, Word Books Publisher, pp. 188-189.)

  1. Isaiah 61:1-3 predicted the Messiah would be anointed with Holy Spirit power.

CONTEXT: These vs. begin a chapter of good news (which is why we refer to Isaiah as the “Gospel of the Old Testament”) for the people of God returning from captivity in Babylon. These verses are here to get the reader to take the following verses more seriously as it establishes the credentials of the one who will fulfill the prophecy.

COMMENT:

What the anointing means on a literal level is to apply oil.  This was done for ceremonial, religious, and/or medicinal purposes.  On a spiritual level, it means to apply Holy Spirit power to someone to endow them for ministry.

It is not typical in the Old Testament for these things to be mentioned together. Only in King David do these two concepts come together.  This makes me think Isaiah is anticipating a unique individual and there has never been anyone as unique as Jesus Christ.

What the anointing would accomplish initially, was that all these things would have happened when the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon.  (Notice how these verses sound like the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.)

– PREACH GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR = The word POOR may be literal, but poverty and piety often went together in the Old Testament (see Psalms 40:17; 72:12-14).  In fact, the righteous poor were called the anawim.

– BIND UP THE BROKENHEARTED = This can be sorrow over sin or over life’s wounds.

– PROCLAIM FREEDOM FOR THE CAPTIVES = The word for FREEDOM is only used for the freeing of slaves in the Sabbath and Jubilee years. Judah’s release from the Babylonian captivity is the obvious and immediate fulfillment, but Jesus bought us greater freedom from a worse captivity; a spiritual one.  He has set us free from a slavery to sin.

– RELEASE FROM DARKNESS THE PRISONERS = ditto.

– PROCLAIM the following…

THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOR = FAVOR showed to His people, in contrast with VENGEANCE on their oppressors.  These were considered two sides of the same act.

THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD = The justice of God is difficult for us to comprehend.  Though the Assyrians and Babylonians were wielded by God as instruments of wrath on His people, He still holds them responsible for their actions Israel and Judah.  An answer is that this shows how God is so powerful He is able to turn evil and use it to accomplish His will.

– COMFORT ALL WHO MOURN = COMFORT is one of Isaiah’s favorite words.  It is both the promise that things will get better and actions to resolve situations favorably.

– Turn signs of mourning into symbols of joy.

ASHES were put on the head as a sign of deep DESPAIR and in times of MOURNING.

These were exchanged for a CROWN OF BEAUTY, OIL, GARMENT, which are all typical preparations for a feast, or celebrating a wedding.

– OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS and A PLANTING 0F THE LORD are symbols of redemption.

Why do all this? FOR THE DISPAY OF HIS SPLENDOR. It’s about God, not us. The highest good we can do for one another is to direct our attention to God (GLORY).

  1. The prophecy came true in Luke 4:14-30.

The occasion is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry = HE RETURNED TO GALILEE. He had been to the Jordan River to be baptized by John (3:21-22). That experience left Jesus FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (4:1). The Spirit lead Jesus out into a nearby wilderness area where He fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the devil (4:1-13).  Similarly, that experience left Jesus IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT.

So when Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet ISAIAH, “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS ON ME,” He really meant it!  We’ve seen that asserted twice already!

The setting is a typical Saturday service in the synagogue.  This was a worship service that consisted of prayers, readings from Scripture and a message that explained the readings, usually showing how they were related.

The outcome was mixed.

Jesus’ ministry had been successful throughout Galilee. NEWS (pheme) is the Gk root of our word “fame.”  Jesus was just starting & already becoming famous.  He was not only famous, but popular: EVERYONE PRAISED HIM.

His ministry in Nazareth, however, is met with disapproval.  In Nazareth, people are impressed, but not persuaded.

Apparently Jesus’ reputation preceded Him.  The people in the synagogue had evidently heard the rumors from other parts of the region and were looking at Jesus to see if they were true.  Look at v. 20 = THE EYES OF EVERYONE IN THE SYNAGOGUE WERE FASTENED ON HIM.

Initially, their reaction was favorable: V. 22 = ALL SPOKE WELL OF HIM AND WERE AMAZED AT THE GRACIOUS WORDS THAT CAME FROM HIS LIPS.  This good impression didn’t last long, as they began to question Jesus’ claim.  “ISN’T THIS JOSEPH’S SON?” THEY ASKED in v. 22.  How could HE be the Messiah?

At first, Jesus’ response to them in vs. 23-27 seems out of proportion to this question. Without going into a lengthy historical explanation, we could summarize Jesus’ response as a warning that if they reject Him as Messiah, they will be guilty of a greater blunder than their ancestors’ worst moment.

Also, He knew their hearts and noted two things:

–  One, that they showed up at the synagogue not to hear His teaching, but in hopes of seeing some miracles of the kind they’d heard Jesus did earlier in Capernaum.

– Two, that they were just a few minutes away from being angry enough to throw Him off a cliff!

As Jesus confronted their lack of faith in Him, their amazement changed into anger.  Vs. 28-30 = ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE SYNAGOGUE WERE FURIOUS WHEN THEY HEARD THIS.  THEY GOT UP, DROVE HIM OUT OF THE TOWN, AND TOOK HIM TO THE BROW OF THE HILL ON WHICH THE TOWN WAS BUILT, IN ORDER TO THROW HIM OFF THE CLIFF.  BUT HE WALKED RIGHT THROUGH THE CROWD AND WENT ON HIS WAY.  Note the word ALL in vss. 22 + 28. The whole crowd in the synagogue had this reaction to Jesus.

The primary message here is “Don’t be like the home town crowd, be like the other crowds.  Have faith in Jesus.”  The secondary message has to do with the Spirit and success.  Success is to be defined as faithfulness to God, regardless of how people react.  If we will keep the main thing the main thing (directing people’s attention to God) then we can be considered faithful.  Let God take care of everything else.

In his commentary on Luke, Darrell L. Bock wrote a couple things about how we can successfully apply the promise and fulfillment of Jesus the Messiah in our increasingly hostile culture.  As we’ve talked a lot about this lately, I want to share his insights with you.

“It is important to appreciate how central good teaching is to ministry.  In an era when feelings and interpersonal relationships are high on the agenda, it is wise to reflect on why Jesus spent so much time instructing people.  One of the fundamental biblical assumptions is that human cultures distort reality.  Our minds need reshaping and renewing, so that our feelings and reactions, will be more like what God desires.” (Bock, pp. 139-140.)

“Since Jesus’ ministry was built around his teaching and since he showed that God’s will was not what the religious culture was delivering, then how careful should we be to make sure that our communities are well instructed and grounded in God’s truth.” (Bock, p. 141.)

“The church has a difficult task.  On the one hand, to discuss redemption and release we must mention sin.  On the other hand, the offer of the gospel is ultimately positive, so that the goal is not a message of doom but of hope.” (Bock, pp. 143.)

Here’s the hopeful thing we’ve learned today.  God kept His promise and sent the Messiah He promised.  This is not just a historical or Jewish thing, but is essential for our message.  God sent THE Messiah, the only hope of salvation.

Rather than let the world define success for us, we need to trust that the God who keeps His promises will also equip us with all we need to not just survive but thrive in this 21st century world.  Let success be putting that hopeful message out there on a congregational & personal basis.

(The NIV Application Commentary (Luke), Darrell L. Bock, Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.)

The Birthday of the Church

(Please read ACTS 2:1-13.) 

I. Three miracles announced the birth of the Church.

          A miraculous sound: v. 2 = A SOUND LIKE THE BLOWING OF A VIOLENT WIND.  In the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, the word for WIND can also  be translated as “spirit.”

          For example, in Exodus 14 a STRONG wind parted the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to escape the Egyptians.  In Ezekiel 37: the four winds reanimated the bones when God gave the prophet a vision of bringing new life to spiritually dead people.

          We need to note, however, that this was a SOUND LIKE THE BLOWING OF A VIOLENT WIND, an audible but invisible sign.  Not a puff of air actually moved, it was only the sound of wind.

          It was VIOLENT in the sense that it heralded a great change. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 11:12, “FROM THE DAYS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST UNTIL NOW, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN HAS BEEN FORCEFULLY ADVANCING AND FORCEFUL MEN LAY HOLD OF IT.”

          Verses 5+6 explain that the purpose of the SOUND was to draw a crowd of God-fearing Jews.  How big a crowd?  V. 41 tells us that 3,000 repented and were baptized after Peter’s message!

          A miraculous flame was the second sign: v. 3 = WHAT SEEMED TO BE TONGUES OF FIRE THAT SEPARATED AND CAME TO REST ON EACH OF THEM.

          In the Old Testament, a flame or brilliant light accompanied God’s presence. It revealed His glory.  Again, in the exodus, God lead His people with a pillar of fire when they traveled at night.  This was both physical and metaphorical: God’s voice FLASHES FORTH LIKE FLAMES OF FIRE (Psalm 29:7).

          John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIRE in Luke 3:16, associating exodus imagery with the ministry of Jesus.  This sign was inaudible but visible.  FIRE is also biblical symbol of judgment and purification.  In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Paul wrote about Judgment Day, warning that our works (our actions) will be tested by fire.  Only what is truly of God will survive the flames.

          The people who saw those flames would understand that God was purifying those people for His indwelling presence, His Holy Spirit.  They would know that this day had come as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (Joel 2, most familiarly).

          The miraculous speech in languages (tongues) not learned by the speakers is the third miracle.  In v. 4 it is written that they BEGAN TO SPEAK IN OTHER TONGUES AS THE SPIRIT ENABLED THEM.

          A careful reading of the Old Testament shows that there were numerous instances where a person temporarily received the Spirit to perform a specific task; then it was taken away.  In a situation similar to Acts 2, we read in Numbers 11: the 70 elders of Israel received the Spirit and began to prophesy.

          Though the New Testament describes other situations where believers received the Spirit and spoke in tongues, the Greek used in this passage sets it apart from all other examples; it is not used again in the NT.  This is an indication that Pentecost should be treated as a unique event.  It does not serve well as proof for the false doctrine that tongues is evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit or, by association, genuine faith.

          Following the teaching of the Apostle Paul, any repeat/subsequent/ongoing experience of tongues must be…

          …interpreted (1 Corinthians 14:5, 27-28).

          …a sign to believers, not unbelievers, as it was here (1 Corinthians 14:22).

          …done in an orderly fashion (1 Corinthians 14:33+40), contributing to good communication and unity, not detracting from it.

          What makes this Pentecost event of historical import was the fact that this began God’s new work, a new way of receiving the Holy Spirit: v. 4 = ALL OF THEM WERE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.

          Before Pentecost, the Spirit was given to individuals on a temporary basis for a specific job, then withdrawn.  This was a comparatively limited use of the Spirit.  Starting with Pentecost, the Spirit was given to all believers on a permanent basis, for all the works God wanted them to do to build up His Church.

          The word FILLED is descriptive of the degree to which the Spirit should direct a believer’s life.  It is a measure of both quantity and quality of the life of faith.

          That Day of Pentecost is the “birthday” of the Church in the sense that the Filling of the Spirit, available in this way for the first time, is what qualified those believers to be part of the Church, the new people of God.

 

II. The newborn Church was misunderstood.

          As we have observed, a crowd was drawn to the upper room, attracted by the sound.  An “upper room” was an open-air room on the flat roof of a house; it was a more public setting than we usually picture it.

          we need to also consider that Jerusalem was still full of Passover pilgrims.  People were crowded into the city to a degree that would amaze us; avoiding a crowd might have been as difficult as collecting one!

          The point, as always, is that God acted.  He put 3,000 people where they would hear the sound, see the flames, and hear the tongues that validated whatever Peter said even before he opened his mouth

          The crowd reacted with…

          …amazement and perplexity.

          That was most of the crowd.  The rest asked the question “AREN’T ALL THESE MEN GALILEANS?” That is an ethnic slur.  Judeans saw Galileans as their rough and back-woodsy relations.  So this question could be paraphrased as “What’re these hicks doing?  How is it possible that these ignorant folks are speaking so many different languages with their hillbilly twang?”

          Luke goes into considerable detail about the crowd so we will understand two things.  One, that they were a group of “hostile witnesses.” This means they had no reason to lie in favor of the Gospel.  Quite the contrary, they had concocted some fanciful explanations.  Two, Luke wants us to see that a because a diverse crowd had gathered, diverse languages were required to communicate the Good News to them.  The primary reason for the disciples speaking in tongues was to tell the people the truth in their own language.

          In Matthew 28 and Mark 16 we read that Jesus commanded His disciples to take the Gospel to the whole world; on this Day of Pentecost, the whole world came to them!  Whether they were among the 3,000 new believers baptized that day or not, this crowd would take the news back home with them.  The Gospel had a one-day window to send the news out with the Jewish pilgrims who returned home.

          …cynicism.  We belittle what we don’t understand; that is human nature.  The text says that some of the crowd MADE FUN of the disciples.  Jesus Himself had to endure mockery while He was crucified – His followers will have to do the same.

          “THEY’VE HAD TOO MUCH WINE” is an example of the mockery they made.  It is an excuse for dismissing and mocking the message. Though it can hurt and feel formidable, the taunts of worldly-minded people have no real effect on our faith.  Those who do such things say far more about themselves than they do the Church.