The Start of the Church: The Power of One?
June 30, 2019
Overarching theme: Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.
Core Point: One person, in one community, with one Spirit, can change the world.
Start point: Acts is the second letter of a two letter series written my Luke. The first letter is the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a physician who traveled with the apostle Paul. The date of the writing is believed to be around 62 A.D. when Paul under house arrest, awaiting trial before Caesar. Many scholars assume Acts was written then because it does not record Paul’s defense, release, and further gospel preaching. The themes in Acts center on the Holy Spirit empowering the believers to declare the Good News of Jesus the Christ to both the Jews and the Gentiles. As they declared the Good News, people started to believe resulting in the Christian church being established. Luke’s purpose for writing his Gospel (see Luke 1:3–4) applies to Acts as well: to give an “orderly” account of the early church after Christ’s resurrection. Dedicating the two-volume work to Theophilus, Luke wanted him to have “certainty” about what he had been taught. Basically, Acts is the story of how the church was established and how it grow through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, with the story of Christ Jesus, and service of the disciples.
Let’s talk about the time in which the Holy Spirit came forth at Pentecost. Pentecost is the festival when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is celebrated on the Sunday 50 days after Easter. The name comes from the Greek pentekoste, “fiftieth”.
Pentecost comes from a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot, also known as the festival or feast of “Weeks”. It was the spring harvest festival of the Israelites. That time of year marked the start of the wheat harvest and the end of the barley harvest. Shavuot also marks the time that the Jews were given the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is considered a highly important historical event. Prayers are said on Shavuot (especially at dawn) to thank God for the five books of Moses (collectively known as the Torah) and for his law. Some people also spend the first night of Shavuot studying the Torah. Synagogues are decorated with flowers and plants on this joyous occasion to remember the flowers of Mount Sinai. The roots of Christianity are found in Judaism. The apostles were celebrating this festival in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended in power. How interesting that the Holy Spirit, who writes the laws of God on our hearts, comes during the celebration of Law of Moses. A transition from the book to the heart was happening.
Reflect on this Scripture:
Acts 2:14-41 (NRSV)
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover my flesh will live in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One experience corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you in the text?
What does the text say, from the Old Testament reference, about what will happen?
What is the Story of Jesus that Peter proclaimed? Who is the audience?
What response does Peter want from the people in regards to the message?
What is the actual result of the message?
What is the main point you get out of this text?
Let’s highlight a few points from the text. It is amazing how God is using Peter to make a difference in the lives of those celebrating Shavuot. God spoke through Peter a message about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Notice how Peter’s community of disciples were with him. So this one person from this one community of new believers helped change the lives of both Jews and gentiles. This one person with this one community was motivated by the one Spirit of God. Acts 1:8 describes how Jesus gave the disciples a heads up on what would be happening. Through the disciples of Jesus, the witness of God’s activity would be proclaimed to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit was the power that gave the disciples and the believers in Christ the power to speak and live out the example of God’s Love and Grace.
Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Questions to Ponder:
Do you believe that this power is given to all believers even now? Explain
What do you think could happen if you proclaimed and lived out God’s message of grace through Christ on a daily basis?
How can you make this New Testament example relevant in your life?
Thinking about your life, what would you like to have as a result of your life’s work?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
1. Write on a piece of paper:
“Acts 2:38 (NRSV), 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Place it somewhere for you to read it every day.
2. Reflect on this passage this week. Have you repented of your sin so your sins can be forgiven? Have you been baptized and found initiation into God’s grace community? If you remember you baptism, then what did it mean to you? Finally, live into the power of the Holy Spirit that guides you in everyday living and being a witness for Christ Jesus.