The Book of Acts (Chapter 2:37-47) (Part 6)
People will always be attracted by witnessing something supernatural that is beyond their capacity to understand or assimilate into their thinking and the day of Pentecost was no exception. That great crowd heard the sound of a mighty rushing wind. They saw huge flames of fire resting on the heads of the 120 gathered together. Furthermore, they heard in their own languages the mighty works of God spoken by people who did not speak their language naturally. The miracle was not so much in the speaking but in the hearing and understanding of what was being spoken. Some witnessing this electrifying event wondered how it could be that they heard in their own languages the Word of God while others laughed and accused those prophesying of being drunk. There will always be scoffers when the supernatural power of God is being revealed to unsaved people or to those who are not open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Signs, miracles and wonders?
Having said this it was not the Signs, miracles and wonders that saved 3,000 that day but a single sermon from Peter in a common language anyone in Jerusalem could understand. Peter firstly used Eschatology to introduce his gospel message. He then began preaching about the Lord Jesus and although He mentioned the signs, miracles and wonders that Jesus did Peter’s emphasis was on the salvation provided by the Lord Jesus. Peter did not draw attention to himself or to the others or to his ministry or to his gifts as it were but made the Lord Jesus and the Word of God the central focus of his address to the crowd. His sermon was the Bible from beginning to end. He used scripture to back up everything he said about God’s provision of salvation only to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit went to work convicting and converting sinners to God. After Peter had preached a wave of conviction about not believing in Jesus spread like wild fire through the crowd gathered there. Now let’s look at the results of Peter’s sermon. We need to keep in mind people being saved and sanctified by the Holy Spirit is not revival but the results of a revival. God first revives and sanctifies His people and then works through them to save and sanctify others. So then let’s see what happened after Peter had preached the Word of God.
(Vs.37) “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction of sin in the heart of an unbeliever. He convicts the world of sin and specifically the sin of unbelief in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. This is the first and foremost sin that He convicts people about. (John 16:8) We can preach about the sins that men commit and should do when appropriate but just preaching about the sins of the flesh is like cutting branches off from a tree that is still alive at the roots. You have to dig up the roots to kill the tree! The root of all sins is unbelief in the Lord Jesus Christ as ones Saviour and Lord. This is the key domino of sin that will topple all of the other dominos of the sins people commit. We can preach to people but unless the Holy Spirit is controlling our preaching there will be no genuine conviction of sin.
On the Day of Pentecost the first and foremost sin that the Holy Spirit convicted men of was the sin of unbelief in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. When those listening realised that they had crucified the Lord by their own sinful deeds and had refused to acknowledge Him as their redeemer and Messiah they were pierced to the heart! They suddenly became desperate to be reconciled to God no matter what the cost to them. What a far cry from most so called gospel preaching today! It puts ‘seeker sensitive’ and ‘purpose driven’ programmes in the shade, not to mention those who say all you have to do to be saved is to put your hand over your heart and ask Jesus into your life. Where is repentance today in most Gospel preaching? Others think that just having a kind of emotional experience is the mark of the new birth. While emotions are involved to a greater or lesser degree in the work of the new birth the main thing is the action of the will. Unless a person is willing to turn away from their sin and unbelief in Jesus and turn to God for mercy and forgiveness they will not be saved at all! God will enable a sinner to repent but will not repent for them as that is their responsibility and not God’s.
So then those listening after they had been convicted about their sin of unbelief in Jesus cried out in desperation “what shall we do?” Well what did Peter tell them to do? Did he tell them to go to the Synagogue? Did he tell them to go to a priest to confess their sins? Did he tell them to do penance? Did he tell them to try to try to live better lives? Did he tell them that they had to give more money to the local synagogue and to help the poor? No he did none of that! What did he do? Well let’s look…
(Vs. 38) “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter told then exactly what they needed to do. He didn’t mince words! There are four things that must occur in a person’s life for them to experience Biblical salvation.
The first thing is Repentance. To repent is not to do penance. To do penance is to do some good work to atone for one’s wrong doing. This is a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Bible to repent in the Old Testament meant that a sinner would grieve and mourn over their sin to the point where they would leave off doing it with all of their heart. In the New Testament to repent meant to change your mind, to change your thinking about God, about the Lord Jesus Christ and about the Bible. It meant that you must turn from a Jesus hating, Jesus rejecting way of life to a Jesus loving, Jesus accepting way of life. This is Biblical repentance. It means the same thing today as it did back then.
The Second thing is Believers Baptism by Immersion. This implied believing in Jesus for salvation and showing that you had died to your old way of living without God and through faith in the Lord Jesus had risen to a new way of life in Him. The water symbolized a death and burial. As you went under the water you were expressing in a visible way the reality that you had died to your old sinful life. It was being buried as it were. When you came up out of the water you were declaring that you had risen into a new way of life that was no longer controlled by sin. This is why Infant Baptism is wrong. It is not taught anywhere in the Bible. Can a baby repent of its sin or believe in Jesus? So then the second thing Peter told them to do was to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and that in doing this they would receive forgiveness for all of their sins.
The third thing is to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the people gathered that day who were unsaved Peter told them they could get the “package deal” all at once. Those who were saved were not only baptized and born again by the Spirit but also Baptized with the Holy Spirit at the same time. This should be the normal pattern for those who get saved, however, in the Bible there were cases where people were born again and baptized but were baptized or filled with the Spirit at a later stage in their Christian walk. Being born again is one thing and being baptized or filled with the Spirit is something else. They are connected because it is the same Holy Spirit that does both the regenerating and the empowering work in a person’s life. In the Bible there is a distinction between the Spirit indwelling and the Spirit poured out. They are two separate and distinct works of the Holy Spirit. They may be and should be simultaneous at conversion but it is not always the case.
These then are the steps to being saved according to Biblical standards. The same applied to believers down through history and it still applies to believers today. God’s Word has not changed! Neither has the way of salvation and sanctification changed either. Peter told them that this experience was not only for them but for future generations. Let’s look at this.
(Vs.39) “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
The Promise Peter was referring to was the Promise of the Father that the Lord Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to empower His followers after He had ascended into heaven. On the Day of Pentecost the Lord Jesus made good His promise. Notice the text. It says “to you” (those listening to Peter) “and your children” (their children) “and to all who are afar off” (the Gentiles) and “as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (every believer in every age). So then it is clear that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is for every believer in every age of the Church and not just something that happened in the first century.
(Vs.40) “And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
There was a solemnity and serious note in Peter’s preaching. There were no jokes or laughter or witty stories to tickle people’s fancies. God does not use a court jester to search the hearts of men neither does he use clown to convict the conscience. Peter went “straight for the spiritual jugular vein.” He told them plainly that they were to separate themselves from the perverse generation in which they were all living. Things are much more perverse today than they were then yet the same message is applicable today. We live in a perverse and crooked generation that is doomed to destruction as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were doomed. A famous preacher once said; “A ship in the water is alright but water in the ship isn’t.” We are to be “in the world but not of this world.”
While we can and do enjoy many things in this world we must not be enslaved to them. Once they own us we are in trouble spiritually. We cannot agape God and agape the world at the same time. As the Apostle John writes; “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Lot was spared as he was a righteous man, living by faith but vexed and troubled by the society in which he lived. He was saved only by the skin of his teeth. However, his wife, being enslaved to this world and to the things of this world, looked back and was lost! Most probably she loved the high life and the boutiques and the social life and material possessions more than she valued her very life and soul. In the end she made her choice and reaped the consequences for time and for eternity.
As the Lord Jesus also said “what profit is there for a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul or what can be exchanged for the value of a soul?” After all when we die we leave it all behind. We cannot take it with us when our time comes to leave this world. If we agape the world and the things of this world we cannot agape God at the same time. We are totally given over to the Lord or the devil. There is no middle course! There is neutral zone. We are either walking in the light or walking in the darkness. One of the devils subtleties is to try to convince us that we can live in both the world’s camp as well as the LORD’s camp at the same time. Some are preaching today that we can have the best of both worlds. These are the faith prosperity money preachers who are teaching covetousness and that as God’s people we should have it good in this world. Go tell that to the Christians in Iraq and Syria and in all of those Muslim countries where being a Christian is a crime! Let these money hungry pariahs try to ply their faith prosperity theology in North Korea or in Pakistan, or in China or in Northern Nigeria or Iran and Saudi Arabia and see how far they will get. This world is a Titanic heading for a huge iceberg and only those who have on their life jackets of salvation in Jesus will survive and be rescued at the end.
Now we will see what a Biblical Church is really like. The Lord Jesus did not tell us as His followers to form denominational structures and systems, or to make converts but to make disciples. Those saved on the Day of Pentecost became disciples, not just converts. Those who had been saved immediately were baptized and then enrolled in Bible classes and introduced to regular fellowship and worship. This became the main priority in their daily lives.
(Vs 41-42) “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
A revival had occurred in Jerusalem and around 3,000 people were saved! Immediately they had a huge baptismal service undoubtedly witnessed by the multitude gathered there that day. It is one thing to get people saved but something more to make them disciples. Evangelism without discipleship will not work in the long term. People need to be saved but also sanctified. Being born again is a one off experience but sanctification (being separated to God) is a life-long process.
When we see how these believers in the book of Acts conducted their worship and fellowship we have the blueprint or the pattern of how church fellowship and worship should really be for us if we are born again, Spirit Baptized believers. They were not conducting a formal religious service at all. It was in fact a new way of life! Everything else in their daily lives, as important as many of those activities were, their first and foremost commitment was to the Lord Jesus and to the worship and ministry within their local fellowship. Now notice what they were doing. Notice that they were “continually devoting themselves.” It was not a half-hearted devotion or something they did when they felt like it or had time free from the other daily activities.
Today for multitudes of professing Christians worship and fellowship is something they do on Sundays or if they are inclined attend the mid-week Bible Study and prayer meeting when they feel like it but apart from that for many there is no fellowship or sharing with their fellow brothers and sisters during the week because they are so busy. It may be work or study or some other legitimate occupation but if it becomes more important than fellowship and worship then it becomes an idol i.e., something we value more than the LORD Himself. When it comes to having a relationship with Him He will not tolerate rivals! To devote ourselves to someone or something means that you give that person or that activity first place and make it the No1 priority in your daily life. While daily work, study, domestic activities and family life and relationships and even relaxation are a necessary part of life we must be careful that these things do not take priority over our devotion to the Lord Jesus and to His Body in the local fellowship we attend. What then were these believers devoted to?
(Vs.43) “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
Signs, miracles and wonders always follow the preaching of the Word. This was the pattern of Jesus ministry and the pattern of the Apostles Ministry. Mark wrote; “And they (the disciples) went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20) Today we have many so called apostles, prophets and teachers peddling the Word of God for profit or to fulfil their egos. They love the praises of men more than they love the approval of God. There are those calling themselves ‘Apostles’ who are in reality anything but that. There is no doubt that when the Spirit of God moves in power among the LORD’s people there will be a sense of awe and wonder in that fellowship but the signs and wonders will never be emphasized above the Word of God or as a substitute for the Word of God. If they are then that fellowship is in trouble. Where there is the genuine baptism or infilling of the Spirit poured out there will be supernatural signs, miracle and wonders, however, they will never be elevated above the preaching of God’s Word.
(Vs. 44-45) “And all those who had were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”
There are several things we notice.
They “were together.” They had unity of the Spirit. Today we have Ecumenism and denominationalism and many in Christendom (Institutional Christianity) think that if the denominations can all get on together that they will experience unity. This of course is not Biblical at all. The Unity of the Spirit is based on truth and not error. For many years now you have had ecumenism thriving in the professing Christian Church. You have this in Charismatic circles as well. In most cases where Ecumenism is tolerated and cultivated Biblical doctrine goes on the back burner in the name of unity in diversity. While worship styles vary among Christians Biblical doctrine should not change. True unity is based on Biblical truth and not error. No matter what ‘gifts’ are manifest in a fellowship, if that fellowship is into doctrinal error the Holy Spirit will never endorse their ministry. He is the Spirit of Truth and not error!
They had “all things common.” No one in the fellowship went without and they shared everything they had. Their focus was no longer on this world and the things which they possessed but focused on the world to come. The outworking of the Spirit filled life produced this generosity among them. The same thing occurred again a little later when they were all refilled again with the Spirit corporately. We read about this; “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:32-35) Also they knew that the temple would be destroyed and Jerusalem ransacked therefore It was no use in hanging on to their possessions as the city would collapse.
What would you do if you knew beforehand that banks and financial institutions were going to crash? You would get your money out of the bank. In the case of these believers they acted upon what the Lord Jesus had said about the future of the City of Jerusalem. There was no use in hanging on to their possessions and even their land. They combined their resources for the common good of all. Their generosity in this matter was brought about by the love of God poured out afresh into their hearts by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5) The days will come when faithful believers will need to support and look after one another because the world will be in an advanced stage of chaos and Institutionalised Christianity will have apostatised.
Just before Jesus comes back the true Church will look and be quite different than we see it now. This is why faithful Christians need to be preparing for persecution now through home fellowships more so than in structured worship services. In those days Church buildings will go overnight. In those days denominational affiliations won’t matter anymore. We need to stand together as born again Bible believers because if we cannot stand together then we will never stand alone when the real persecution and adversity comes. If our unity is based on anything else other than the Word of God, the blood of the Lamb and the power of the Holy Spirit, then that unity will collapse when the pressure really comes. The daily trials and tests believers in the western democracies are experiencing now are preparing them for the persecution to come after the Antichrist has been revealed.
(Vs. 46-47) “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
For those first century believers’ daily fellowship was a high priority. Some I suppose still had to look after their families and work but took every opportunity when they could along with their families to worship and to have fellowship with other believers. Today in such countries as China, North Korea, Eritrea, Syria, Iraq, and Iran and in Saudi Arabia fellowship is vital to the survival of faithful Christians in those countries.
Notice what the believers did in Jerusalem.
They “continued with one mind.” They were unified in their thinking and together brought their thinking into line with Holy Spirit who had freedom to work among them unhindered. Their unity was based on apostolic doctrine and not on the doctrines and commandments of man.
They were “In the temple.” At this point they were still part of the institution as such but were soon to be outlawed by the religious hierarchy who already had these followers of Jesus in their sights. Today many of the LORD’s people are still worshipping within the structure of their particular denomination but when the apostasy occurs after Antichrist is revealed the denominational system as we know it today will become an apostate system that includes Ecumenism and even interfaith associations and aligned with the government. Eventually institutional Christianity with its denominational structures will all be destroyed as the Temple system was destroyed in 70AD. Already we see a move towards Ecumenism and even interfaith not to mention the ordaining of Sodomites to the ministry in some denominations. Even many Charismatic and mega-churches will also go with the flow of apostasy to Babylon because the spiritual deception will be so powerful just before the man of sin is revealed and comes to power.
Notice that they also “broke bread from house to house.” They practiced regular hospitality with each other and in this way no one went without. Furthermore, it gave them opportunities to share their experiences at a personal level which was not really possible when the whole fellowship was gathered together for worship. The fellowship in Jerusalem was in the thousands. The breaking of bread refers to the Lord’s Supper or the Passover meal to celebrate their deliverance from the ‘Egypt’ of this world and from its ‘Pharaoh’ Satan. Also the breaking of bread reminded them of the ultimate redemption to come at the rapture and resurrection of the faithful Church.
They were “taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” Where the Spirit of the LORD is there is freedom to worship and to encourage one another and to praise the LORD for all of His continuing benefits both temporal and spiritual. Sharing a simple meal together evokes fellowship at a level not possible in a public meeting. This is an aspect of fellowship that could be cultivated far more than it is in many churches today. Food should always be taken with gladness and singleness of hearty. Grumbling and complaining about the food one eats is a sin of ingratitude to the LORD for His daily provision of our basic needs. If you have a roof over your heads, food on the table and clothing to wear what more do you need in this temporary life?
They were “praising God and having favour with all the people” There is nothing as engaging as Spirit empowered joy and praise in worship. It will attract others especially those who are spiritually hungry for the LORD. These Spirit-filled believers were speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and making music in their hearts to the Lord and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name the Lord Jesus Christ.
And we read what happened. “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Sinners were not saved spasmodically or now and then. Sinners were being saved daily and added to the Assembly.
What happened to those first century believers will happen again. The Church that the Lord Jesus comes for will be and look different than it does now. The things we see these early believers doing will once more be the things the faithful Body of the Messiah will be doing. It won’t be in denominational church buildings but in homes, factories, warehouses, in the forest, in caves, in offices and wherever they can meet to worship. In these assemblies the Spirit of God will be moving among them, saving souls, sanctifying saints, revealing Apostolic Doctrine through the Bible, manifesting spiritual gifts and bringing about a oneness of mind and heart, something that only the blessed Holy Spirit can bring about. With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible. In the next study we will see how the healing of a crippled man became the catalyst for Peter to preach another Spirit-empowered sermon to the people.