Terry Baxter Devotional

Book of Acts

Book of Acts 

Introduction to the Book of Acts: Acts 1:1-2

“1) The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2) until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭

The book of Acts was written by the same human author that penned the Gospel of Luke.  He was both a researcher and an accomplished historian.  He was known as 
“Luke, the beloved Physician.” (Colossians 4:14) 

From this context of Colossians 4:10-14, we discover that Luke was not from “the circumcision.”  He was not Jewish. Judging by the style of his Greek language usage, which approaches that of Classical Greek Literature, he was by far the most Greek cultured of all New Testament writers. 

This means the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are the only two books in the Bible not written by a Jewish author.  The book was often quoted by early Christian writers and not one of them questioned the authorship or authenticity of the book.

As you read the book of Acts, suddenly the word “we” is include in the text. Some believe that Luke accompanied Paul on three separate occasions.  (See Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; and 27:1-28:16) He is the earliest example of  “a media team.” Though he is subtly mentioned in these three texts, he ascribes no ministry or works to himself. 

Both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are addressed to Theophilus. (Compare Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) The name “Theophilus” is a bit of a mystery. It is a Greek name that could be translate as “God Lover” or “Loved by God.” Some ascribe the name to a real person, others see it more generally as meaning “all who love God.” 

The books may have been written from Rome where Luke accompanied Paul in his  imprisonment.  The date of the two books seem to be around AD 62 or 63.  The book of Acts oddly and abruptly ends with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome with no mention of  his trial or martyrdom.  

This leads me to a personal speculation about these two books.  They may have been prepared by Luke as part of the legal defense for Paul before Caesar.  This would help explain the abrupt end of the book of Acts prior to Paul’s actual trial in Rome. It also explains why Luke did not track the history of the other more prominent Apostles like Peter, James or John.  After the arrest of Paul in Jerusalem, they were completely dropped from the record.  

Whatever the human purpose, the book of Acts was divinely inspired by God to be the only history of the early church.  Nearly all other Epistles of the New Testament can be fit into the time line of the book of Acts.  The big exception is the book of Revelation, which was written later by the Apostle John.

Join me as we begin a detailed study of the book of Acts.  

Proof of the Resurrection: Acts 1:3
“3) To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭3

One of the important ministries of Jesus Christ took place between His resurrection and ascension.  He made numerous post resurrection appearances over a period of forty days.  He gave proof of His resurrection and did much teaching about the kingdom of God. 

I Corinthians 15:1-11 talks about some of His posts resurrection appearances.  At one point, He appeared to a group of over 500 disciples at one time.  Paul stressed that at the time of his writing the book of 1 Corinthians, many of the witnesses were still alive. 

This is important because the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not an obscure event.  It was not a fictitious story made up by a few of His zealous followers.  In fact, some like Thomas were doubters.  

The crowning proof of His resurrection is that many of His disciples willing became martyrs to uphold the claim of His resurrection.  This phase of His ministry lasted forty days and was very convincing. It became the launching pad of the gospel and world evangelization.

I have ministered to many skeptics, agnostics and atheists over the years. My favorite form of apologetics is to invite them to research the claims of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As many of them have been confronted with the evidence of the resurrection, the Holy Spirit brought them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. 

Wait for the Promise: Acts 1:4-5
“4) And Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5) for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭4‬-‭5‬ 

The promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit marks a new age not experienced in the Old Testament. It was foretold in texts like Joel 2:28-29, but remained a mystery. 

The Father promised the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-18: 14:25-27 15:26-27 and 16:7-15.  This would mark the beginning of a new age.  Some call it the church age and others refer to it as the age of the indwelling Spirit of God.
Jesus did not want His disciples to leave Jerusalem and embark on the Great Commission without the Baptism and power of the Holy Spirit.  He was not raising up a new religious sect, rather He was about to pour out an entirely new kind of relationship with God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise from the Father.
In Acts 1:5, Jesus quotes from John the Baptist.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit was promised by John the Baptist in each of the four gospels.  It is recorded in Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16 and John 1:33.  These are the verses Jesus was referring to in Acts 1:5: “For John Baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  
The stage was being set for something profound and unprecedented.  It is tragic that there is so much controversy and confusion over the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Let me share briefly some of my story related to my deepening understanding and walk in the Spirit.
I came from a theological background that was very timid and inhibited about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It took me years to embrace the full meaning of Scriptures like John 4:22-25 and John 7:37-39.  (Sorry, you need to look them up for yourself!) 
Theological bias blinded me to the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12-14 and Galatians 5:22-26) I believed in Jesus but lived in fleshly bondage and trusted man made doctrines and human reason to guide me.  The full meaning of Romans 6-8 escaped me.  I shunned the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Memorizing many chapters in the Bible  from books like John, 1 Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Hebrews and 1 & 2 Peter began to chip away at the at numerous false notions about the Holy Spirit commonly held in evangelical churches.  However, solid hermeneutics preventing me from embracing much of the emotionalism and extra biblical phenomenon in other groups.  The Bible became my guide. 
As my understanding about the walk in the Spirit deepened, so did my exposure to the international body of Christ and the persecuted church.  I have been privileged to rub shoulders with many obscure saints of whom the world is not worthy.  Over time, God graciously led me into deep and overflowing communion with Jesus Christ through His Spirit and His Word.  
Now I fully enjoy and embrace the anointing, unction and power of the Holy Spirit.  My walk with God through His Spirit has become like rivers of living water in my innermost being.  I no longer stuff God or the Holy Spirit in the small box of any denominational bias.   I long to experience the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, the fellowship of His suffering, the full mysteries of His Word and sweet communion with His Spirit. 
Be prepared to be challenged as we study the book of Acts. This book will expose your theological bias no matter your background.  
Many believers and segments of the body of Christ around the world today are still experiencing God working in ways like the book of Acts.  I am no longer an agnostic about the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit in this present age.  God is sovereign, powerful and in control, but He will not force His Spirit or glory on any person.  Many have not because they believe not.  My advice to the skeptic about the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit is the same as Jesus to His disciples; “wait for what God promised!” 
Changing the Times: Acts 1:6-7
“6) So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7) He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬-‭7‬ 

These two verses are fascinating.  The Jewish people were looking for the Messiah to restore the Kingdom to Israel and rule the world from Jerusalem.  Daniel 7:13-14; 27 and Amos 9:11-14 are prime examples of this kingdom restoration mindset. 

The disciples were well versed in this kingdom restoration theology and expectation.  This prompted the question; “Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” According to their Old Testament view of prophecy, this was the next event on God’s timetable.

In Acts 1:7, Jesus acknowledged a coming change in times and epochs. God does indeed rule over the affairs of mankind and brings changes to times, governments and earthy administrations. Revelation 20:1-10 talks about the millennium reign of Christ on earth.  The restoration promised in Old Testament prophecy is coming. 

But God had a mystery age not clearly revealed in the Old Testament.  Paul talked about this in depth in texts like Ephesians 3:3-13 and Colossians 1:26.  This is often referred to as “the church age” or “the age of the indwelling Spirit of God.”

In Matthew 16:17, Jesus talked about building “His Church.”  This was a new concept for the disciples.  The obvious question should have been; “What is a church?” This is the first time the word “church” is used in the Bible. No wonder Paul called it a mystery. Let me paint a broader picture of this mystery.

The concepts of the Gospel based on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, grace, justification by faith, conversion, the indwelling Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, the church, the bride of Christ, salvation for the Gentiles and the Great Commission are all part of the mystery not clearly revealed in the Old Testament.  Christianity is a huge paradigm change from Old Testament Judaism.

There is some argument over when the church age formally started.  Was it with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ or was it the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?  Most point to Pentecost.  

According to Acts 1:4-5, the promise of the Father was going to change everything. It was going to mark a change in the times and the epochs. The age of the indwelling Holy Spirit for all believers was about to begin.  The new focus would be on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ.  Jesus was about to start building His Church.  Times were about to change.

But here is the crucial point, the focus of this coming age revolves around the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  If you want to be part of His Church, you need to put faith in Jesus Christ and then grow and mature in your walk in the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit desires to do a huge work in you followed by a might work through you.  Welcome to the book of Acts.

Dunamis Power: Acts 1:8 
“8) but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.””  Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭8‬ ‭

This verse highlights the Great Commission purpose of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  The Greek word for “power” is “dunamis.” It is the same word from which we get the English word for “dynamite.” That intrigues me! 

The basic idea in this verse is that God would do extraordinary things both in and through believers through His indwelling Holy Spirit. This “power” would give them both inner unction for effective witnessing and supernatural outward signs to confirm the gospel message.  

It doesn’t mean that the miraculous would become common or ordinary.  Then it would cease to be miraculous.  But it means that God would step up and confirm the message of the gospel in powerful ways. 

This is the point behind Hebrews 2:4.  When the gospel is preached, God Himself would bear witness of the message with signs and wonders and miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.  In this verse, the word “dunamis” is translated as “miracles.” A true miracle can always be traced back to God. 

In Acts 3-4, one miracle of healing opened the door for numerous evangelistic messages and opportunities to teach and preach about Jesus Christ. In the process, the disciples displayed unusual courage and boldness.  This is a great example of the power of God at work.  Only one man was healed and that resulted in many hearing the gospel.

Acts 1:8 provides another principle.  God’s promised power was tied to the spread of the gospel. I look at it as “front lines power.” God did not promise His power for those sitting on the side lines or for personal consumption.  It accompanies the spread of the gospel.  It is an unction for witnessing. 

I cannot explain it, but I’ve seen it hundreds of times over.  When ordinary believers step up and step out in witnessing and sharing the gospel, glorious things begin to happen. Personal joy is compounded and God begins working in marvelous ways.  

There is a wave or surge of power that accompanies the spread of the gospel.  It translates into experiencing God in extraordinary ways.  

If your walk with God is dry and mundane, it may be an indication that you are not living on the front lines of faith and world evangelism.  Instead, you have most likely retreated into the comfort zone of self focus. 

I cannot find a single verse in the Bible promising dunamis power for self consumption.  Yet this is where many modern churches are content to live.  Then they make that tragic observation that God doesn’t do miracles today.  

Let me state this clearly, dunamis power is for making Jesus known and not for making self comfortable.  It’s for actively reaching Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the remotest parts of the world with the gospel.  If you want to experience God, get off your blessed assurance and report for duty on the front lines of sharing the gospel.

 The Ascension: Acts 1:9-11

“9) And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10) And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11) They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬-‭11‬ 

There is no way to measure the impact of the ascension on the disciples. As He finished His final words which pointed to the coming work of the Holy Spirit, He was lifted up before their very eyes into heaven while they were intently watching.  This was a literal, visible and actual event.  They were eye witnesses.  They watched it happen. The ascension was meant to cement several truths in their minds.

First, the ascension validated His resurrection.  All of them saw the resurrected Christ, but non of the actually witnessed the event.  It was accomplished in the solitude of the sealed tomb. By contrast, the ascension happened before their very eyes in broad daylight.  All doubt was removed. 

Second, the ascension proved that His work on earth was done. Human redemption was complete.  The debt of human sin was paid in full once and for all time.  His death and burial satisfied the Wrath and Justice of God.  Nothing can be added to His work on the cross to earn or merit salvation.  It is a free gift based on faith in the grace of God. 

Third, the ascension indicated that His new work in heaven was beginning.  He was entering into the office of intercessor at the right hand of God.  Romans 8:27-28; Hebrews 4:14-16 and 7:25 all speak of His office as intercessor on our behalf at the right hand of God.  He is to be credited for the good and glorious things that happen in our lives. 

Forth, the two men in white clothing illustrate that we are not alone during our sojourn on earth.  God has heavenly agents that help carry out His will and plans here on earth.  Hebrews 1:14 states that they render secret service to those who will inherit salvation. 

Finally, the promise of His return underlines the fact that Jesus is coming again!  This is a foundational truth taught throughout the whole New Testament.  Just as He was taken up into a cloud into heaven, so He is going to return on the clouds of heaven.  (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) 

The resurrection, the ascension and the promise of the Holy Spirit were the three main points to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.  (See Acts 1:22-36) Witnessing the ascension accomplished something profound in these men.  It punctuated, validated and cemented everything about the life, ministry and gospel of Jesus Christ.  They lived and died knowing the reality of heaven and the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. 

Men of Galilee: Acts 1:11-13
“11) They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” 12) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13) When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭11‬-‭13‬ ‭

The two angels made an interesting observation when they addressed the disciples at the time of the ascension.  They called them “Men of Galilee.”  This is significant for three reasons. 

First, they were outsiders in Jerusalem.  They were sojourners.  They were common working class folks from around the Sea of Galilee.  They were a ragtag group of fishermen, tax collectors and blue color workers.  They were looked down on as being uneducated and uncultured men. (See Acts 4:13) 

They did not fit the high culture and prestige of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. This created much tension between the ruling class of Judaism and the emerging leadership in the early church. 

They fit the description Paul made in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 of the kind of people God often uses.  God often calls weak, ordinary, common and foolish people for His great work.  In the process, He gets all the glory.

The same is true today.  God chooses unlikely people to accomplish His great work.  He seems to favor common and ordinary people as His vessels through which He accomplishes extraordinary things.  

Second, there was a lot of traveling taking place during these forty days. Immediately after His resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples to return to Galilee from the Passover in Jerusalem.  (Matthew 28:10). It appears that much of His post resurrection ministry happened back in the region of Galilee. 

However, they returned to Jerusalem for the ascension. The disciples were mobile and spent much time traveling.  The upper room became a multi purpose facility.  It was used for lodging, but it also served as their organizational headquarters and their prayer and worship center.  It was not fancy, but it was functional.  Let me extrapolate for just a moment.  

The contrast between the religious institution of Jerusalem occupied by the religious leaders and the upper room used by the disciples is totally comical.  The Religious leaders occupied and controlled the temple grounds and all of the religious facilities and institutions of Jerusalem. Judaism had become very institutionalized while the new church was forced to remain very flexible, mobile and practical.  The Jewish religious leaders followed centuries of religious tradition, but the disciples were free to follow the Spirit.  The Jewish religious leaders focused on buildings, but the disciples focused on the organic body of Christ.  The Jewish religious leaders practiced authoritarian leadership, the disciples practiced servanthood leadership.  

This contrast goes on and on, but it is important.  The more institutionalized a movement becomes the more negative weight it caries.  This might be a topic for another discussion, but it is certainly embodied in this text.

Finally, the actual ascension happened from the Mount of Olives.  According to Zechariah 14:4, this will be the place of the return of the Messiah. Jesus is going to return to the exact place where He ascended.  It is a Sabbath days walk from Jerusalem.

Keep your eyes and ears focused on Israel and the Middle East as the end times approach.  This is the geographical backdrop for much of the Bible both historically and prophetically.  

Devoted to Prayer: Acts 1:13-15 
“13) When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14) These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. 15) At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said,” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭13‬-‭15 

This was the prayer meeting that shook the world. This gathering of 120 persons did not have a planning meeting about how they were going to fulfill the Great Commission, instead they focused on prayer.  Seeking God in prayer and intercession was the methodology of the early church.  

With one mind they continually devoted themselves to prayer. I must stress that prayer is not about prayer, it is about connecting and aligning with God.  They spent the time between the ascension and the day of Pentecost seeking God in prayer.  

It was in this prayer meeting and not at a board meeting that God welded them together in one mind.  Through prayer God worked in them individually and He bonded them collectively.  Just as Jesus launched His public ministry with 40 days of prayer and fasting, so the early church was launched through an extended prayer meeting. 

They were following the command of Jesus Christ to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 1:4) Tragically, as the church exploded with growth, they started neglecting prayer.  Acts 6:4 records what I call “The Great Reset.”  The Apostles cleared their schedules and returned to their primary calling; “4) But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word.” 

Again we see the word “devote.” It means “To be devoted, to tarry, remain somewhere, to continue, remain steadfastly, to cleave to someone.”  The idea is to cleave to God in prayer and continue in that relationship. Prayer became their primary focus from which the ministry of the Word was fueled and sustained in the early church.

The greatest way to align the modern church with the early church is through this devotion to continually seek God in prayer. This became the shared foundation of the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-4), and it became the primary instruction from Paul to Timothy for building an effective ministry.  (2 Timothy 2:1-8) 

I want to stress this point, God gives His marching orders to His church through extended Prayer Meetings and not through elongated Board Meetings.  Unity grows out of prayer meetings and not congregational meetings.  God speaks to His people as they wait on Him in prayer and not as they focus on self agendas.  The fire and fuel for ministry comes from prolonged times in Gods presence.  By contrast, fleshly ministry is exhausting and leads to division and burnout. 

These verses at the beginning of the book of Acts set the focus for the early church. Their primary calling was to seek God in prayer and from the resulting deep relationship forged with God they were to embark on ministry in the world. The early church was God-centered and not man-centered.  It was God-focused and not self-focused.  It prioritized Prayer Meetings far above Planning Meetings. 

The Demise of Judas: Acts 1:15-20
“15) At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, 16) “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17) For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” 18) (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. 19) And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, And let no one dwell in it’; and, ‘Let another man take his office.’” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭15‬-‭20‬ 

The name “Judas” was a popular name.  It is from Greek origin and means “praised.”  It fell from prominence for centuries because of the disciple who betrayed Jesus.  Lady Gaga brought it back somewhat to popularity when she released the track Judas in 2011.  Her use of the name was selected promote the dark side of Judas.  The name is associated with insubordination, rebellion and ungodliness.  

The actions of one man can stain and ruin a name.  The same happened to the names “Benedict” and “Adolf.” Both abruptly dropped from popularity because of treacherous men who ruined their names. The name “Jezebel” suffered the same fate. 

The opposite is true of good and godly people whose life adorned their names.  Many biblical characters made their names popular for centuries for both women and men.  Examples of popular names for women might be  “Sarah”, “Rachel”, “Deborah”, “Esther”, “Ruth” and “Mary.”  There are also many examples for men like “Joseph”, “David”, “Daniel”, “Isaiah”, “Peter”, “James”, “Mark”, “Paul” or “Timothy.” I might ask; “What are you doing to your name.” 

The actions of Judas became well known.  He was greedy and became a traitor.  He became the guide to those who arrested Jesus.  From verses 16 and 21 we discover that his actions fulfilled prophecy.  This often feeds a lively discussion of human free will and the Sovereignty of God.  I see them walking hand in hand through the pages of Scripture.  Judas was responsible for his actions and yet God knew the end from the beginning. 

The end result was Judas took his own life. He attempted to hang himself and evidently something went wrong to the point that he fell down a cliff and burst open so that his guts spilled out.  It was a gruesome death.  Satan always turns on those who side with him.  John 10:10 says he is like a thief who comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  Judas is a sober warning to any who come close to Jesus only to turn their back on Him. 

The monument of his life became the field of blood purchased in his name with the very money he received for betraying Jesus.  It became a burial place for strangers. (Matthew 27:6-10) Money obtained by falsehood, fraud and corruption is never blessed.  Proverbs 22:1 says; “A good name is more desirable than great riches.”  You cannot buy salvation or a good reputation.

The Vacant Office Filled: Acts 1:21-26
“21) Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22) beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23) So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24) And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25) to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26) And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.” Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭21‬-‭26‬ 

This is one of those texts which at first glance seems trivial, but is actually monumental.  The actions of Peter and the other Apostles in this text are often criticized as being presumptuous.  The critics say they acted too quickly and Paul should have been the twelfth Apostle.  I personally disagree with that opinion and believe Peter and the early leaders got it right for the following reasons. 

First, Peter and the 120 had just devoted themselves to prayer for many days.  If they did not discern the leading of God rightly on this action, no subsequent decision should be trusted either. 

Second, there are two groups of Apostles in the New Testament.  There were the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb who were all selected by Jesus prior to the Day of Pentecost (Revelation 21:14), and there was the spiritual gift of “apostle” or those “sent out” by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:11) I look at this as the missionary gift.  Biblically distinguishing between the two groups is important. They are radically different.  

This again begs the question; “When did the church age or the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit begin?”  Most scholars agree that it was on the Day of Pentecost when the promise of the Father was poured out.  The offices of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb had to be filled prior to that significant transition.  Putting Matthias in office was the last major action taken prior to the Day of Pentecost.  The timing was both right and very significant. 

Third, the qualifications to fill the position that Judas forfeited were twofold: 1) having accompanied Jesus during His entire public ministry, 2) being a personal witness of the resurrected Christ and His ascension.  (See Acts 1:21) Paul did not come close to meeting these qualifications. His name doesn’t show up in a search of disciples of Jesus Christ in the four gospels. Technically, Matthias doesn’t either, but he was well known by the Apostles.  He was part of the 120 faithful followers of Jesus Christ were with him to the very end.

Forth, this position had to be filled prior to the Day of Pentecost to occupy the ministry and apostleship from which Judas had gone aside.  (Acts 1:25) Their ministry was to validate the public teachings of Jesus and provide eye witness testimony of His resurrection and Ascension.  Again, Paul did not meet this qualification.  

Fifth, the selection by lot meant that Jesus did the selecting and appointing for this office.  It was not done in haste. It followed prophetic guidance. (See Acts 1:20)  Matthias was put into office prior to the Day of Pentecost.  Let me emphasize again, the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb were chosen by Jesus Christ Himself.  They were not sent out by the Holy Spirit as a spiritual gift after Pentecost. 

Sixth,  Saul was not even a believer in Jesus Christ at this time.  In fact, he was about to lead an intense persecution against Jesus and the early church.  He had many Christians put in prison and some put to death.  (Acts 8:1-3) The conversion of Saul may have taken place two or three years after the start of the church.  Then he spent time in solitude in Arabia before going up to Damascus. (Galatians 1:18) His spiritual gift as an apostle to the Gentiles was not confirmed by Peter, James and John until 14 years later. (See Galatians 2:1-10)

Seventh, Paul and Barnabas were both commissioned and sent out by the Holy Spirit from the Gentile church at Antioch.  (See Acts 13:1-4)  Keep in mind, the word “apostle” means “sent out.”  In these verses it was clearly the Holy Spirit sending them out to carry the gospel to new regions.  They immediately left for their first “missionary journey.”  

Eight, both Paul and Barnabas as well as several others were referred to as “apostles” in the New Testament. (Acts 14:4, 14) These were a separate group of apostles and clearly distinguished from “The Twelve.”  They were missionaries entrusted with the gospel.

The biblical evidence seems overwhelming that Peter and the 120 who prayed in the day of Pentecost got it right.  The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb were in office prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the dawn of a new age.

Meaning of the Day of Pentecost: Acts 21
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬ 
The day of Pentecost marked the beginning of the early weeks of harvest.  It was one of three annual Jewish festivals.  The word “Pentecost” is the Greek name for what the Jews called the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. It is mentioned three times in the Books of the Law. (Exodus 23:14-17; Numbers 28:26-31 and Deuteronomy 16:9-17) It was seven weeks or 50 days ofter the Passover.  It was celebrated for seven days. 
This gives us an anchor for how long the gathering in the upper room waited and prayed.  After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to them over a period of forty days and then ascended from the Mount of Olives.  He gave them instruction to wait for the Promise of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:3-11) As I count off the fifty days between the Passover and Pentecost, the gathering in the upper room competed the fifty days.  That means it lasted between seven and ten days depending on how you include the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection.
Keep in mind, Pentecost marked the beginning of the harvest.  This becomes significant.  Without realizing it, they were waiting for a new kind of harvest.  It would be sparked by the giving of the Holy Spirit.  This would be a harvest of people continually coming to Jesus through the Gospel.
If we stand back and take a broad look, this particular day of Pentecost marked the beginning of a harvest that has lasted nearly 2,000 years.  Acts 1:8 again becomes important.  The giving of the Holy Spirit was going to launch the Gospel from Jerusalem and Judea to the remotest parts of the earth.  Technically, this season of harvest will last until Jesus returns. 

The harvest for the Gospel is always in season. I believe Jesus picked Pentecost to pour out the Holy Spirit to signify the beginning of a new kind of harvest.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is closely tied to world evangelization.

I am not well versed in the Jewish calendar and festivals, but something beautiful is beginning to come into focus.  There were three annual Jewish festivals in the Old Testament. The first was the Passover where the lamb was sacrificed.  The four Gospels end with Jesus as the Lamb of God being crucified on the Passover.  He fulfilled the first festival. 

The second festival was the feast of weeks or Pentecost.  It marked the beginning of the Harvest.  The book of Acts records the explosive beginning of the harvest with the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The imagery of the second feast is still being fulfilled.  The harvest is still happening.  With the next feast, things are about to get very interesting. You may already be suspicious of what is coming with the next festival. 

The third festival was called the Feast of Booths or the Day of Assembly.  It is recorded in Leviticus 23:33-44.  This is when all the people gather to celebrate the completion of the harvest.  The book of Revelation points to the Day of Assembly when the harvest of the Gospel is complete, the wheat has been separated from the chaff and all believers enter into Gods heavenly storehouse.  I admit, this is a very simplified look at the three festivals, but also very profound! 

So where are we on God’s calendar?  I believe the harvest is wrapping up soon and the Day of Assembly is about to begin. I believe we are in the last days of the harvest. 

The Public Witness of God: Acts 2:1-2; 6
“1) When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2) And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” “6)And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.” Acts‬ ‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬-‭2‬; 6

We are now faced with a dilemma surrounding the text.  Where were the believers gathered?  Were they gathered in the solitude of the upper room or were they meeting in a more public house closer to the temple grounds? Why do I ask this question? 
When the Holy Spirit was poured out and the sound of a violent rushing wind occurred, many people heard the phenomenon.  Also, as the believers were speaking in other tongues, the multitudes who came together heard them speaking in their own language.  The description sounds very public.  This points toward a location other than the privacy of the upper room.

The timing was also significant.  It happened during the festival of Pentecost when Jerusalem was filled with visitors from numerous counties. The news of this event was quickly going to spread far and wide. 

This might be a trivial point, but the text stresses that what happened was witnessed by many people from many places.  Though God does some things in secret, He often works openly and very publicly. In fact, He sometimes shows off His glory and power to shame the adversaries and adorn His glory.

For example, the signs of Moses in Egypt were done openly as a witness to all the people.  They affected everyone!  God was openly humiliating the gods of Egypt.   The miracles of Jesus and most of His teaching were in the open and in public.  The crucifixion was very public. 

Before we get into the details of what happened on the day of Pentecost, I want to emphasize the point that God wanted it to be known by all people.  The Promise of the Father was poured out only on believers, but it was witnessed by crowds of people. 

God does not want us to hide the gospel or our testimonies.  We are the light of the world and like a city set on a hill.  (Matthew 5:14) God wants to be known.  God wants you and me to know Him.  He wants us to make Him known.  

Unless you live under intense persecution, God does not call you to be a “secret agent” as a Christian. He wants you to be real, sincere and open about your faith.  He wants people to talk about Him as a result of your witness.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit and Fire: Acts 2:1-4
“1) When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2) And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3) And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4) And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬-‭4‬ 

This was the second time in three years that the Spirit of God descended from heaven.  Matthew 3:16-17 records a similar event at the baptism of Jesus; “16) After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17) and behold a voice out of heaven, saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” 

When we compare this to Acts 2:2-4, there are some striking similarities. First, in both cases the Spirit of God descended from heaven.  In the case of Jesus, He came in the form of a dove.  On the day of Pentecost, He came with the sound of a violent rushing wind.  The Greek word for “wind” is “Pheuma”.  It is the same Greek word used for “Spirit.” It can also be used for breath. Jesus was breathing life into His Church.  

The “violent rushing wind” was a fulfillment of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:5-8.  In these verses, Jesus described those who are born of the Spirit.  He said in verse 8) that “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  Note the comparison between wind and the Spirit of God. 

Second, both cases were connected closely to prayer.  In Matthew 4:1, the Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days of prayer and fasting.  In Acts 2:1-2, the Holy Spirit was poured out after an extended time of prayer by the 120 who gathered to pray for the Promise of the Father to be given.  

Third, both cases were accompanied by speech.  At the baptism of Jesus, a voice out of heaven said; “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  On the day of Pentecost, those speaking in tongues were “speaking the mighty deeds of God.” (Acts 2:11) Both were an indication of belonging.  The Father was claiming His Son, the early believers were proclaiming their God. 

Forth, in both cases it was a widely witnessed event.  The baptism of Jesus was at the Jordan River and was witnessed by the crowd gather around John the Baptist.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and was witnessed by sojourners from many nations and languages. 

Finally, both marked the launching of an era of new ministry.  The Spirit coming on Jesus started His public ministry to the lost sheep of the House of Israel..  The Holy Spirit coming from heaven on the Day of Pentecost launched the church into the ministry of World Evangelization.  No wonder there were tongues of many languages.

However, the were some differences.  First, the Spirit that descended on Jesus like a dove was gentle and peaceful.  By contrast, the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost sounded like a “violent rushing wind.”  The occasion emphasized the power of God.  

What an appropriate fulfillment of the words of Jesus about the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8; “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Those baptized by the Holy Spirit were endowed with power.  They were changed.  They were no longer merely religious. 

Second, there was no fire present at the baptism of Jesus.  Why? John baptized with water, but Jesus was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John the Baptist repeatedly made this distinction between Himself and Jesus.  (See Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5) It is very important to highlight that distinction.  There is no record that Jesus Himself baptized anyone with water. (Read John 4:1-2) His baptizing ministry is with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 

The presence of God is often associated with fire.  A prime example is Exodus 3:1-4 and Moses at the burning bush.  He was on the mountain of God and encountered the fire of God’s presence. 

I am shocked at how many churches urge water baptism which was associated with the ministry of John the Baptist, but shun away from the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire which is associated with the ministry of Jesus.  Something is tragically wrong! 

I personally want everything Jesus has for me. I make no apology, I want to be on fire for Jesus Christ.  I don’t want to be cold or lukewarm. I don’t want to be religious but lost.  I want to be hot, and that comes from the fire of the Holy Spirit. (Revelation 3:15-16)

Finally, there was only one language heard at the baptism of Jesus, but many languages on the day of Pentecost.  Why?  I suspect it was related to mission.  Jesus as Messiah was send to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  By contrast, the Great Commission to the church is world evangelization.  God wants us to reach every nation, tribe and tongue with the Gospel.  

Various Gifts of Tongues: Acts 2:5-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-19
“5) Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6) And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7) They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8) And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9)  Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10) Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11) Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12) And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13) But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭5‬-‭13‬ ‭

We now discover an amazing phenomenon on the day of Pentecost.  This manifestation of tongues represented known languages.  The visitors in Jerusalem were hearing their own native languages and dialects being spoken without the need of a translator.  

The day of Pentecost reversed what happened at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9.  People were able to clearly communicate the Gospel in languages they had not learned.  God was sending a message to Israel that He had a plan for every nation, tribe and tongue. The gospel was no longer just for the Jewish people.
But this brings up a huge controversy that has divided the church for many decades.   If tongue are known languages, how to you explain those who claim to speak in tongues, but they use unintelligible speech?  This text in Acts seems very clear that they were speaking in known languages.  
To answer this issue, more texts of Scripture must be studied.  The New Testament talks about both “known languages” and “unknown languages.” Let’s unpack some things that might be helpful.
Acts 2:5-13 is clearly talking about known languages.  They were the known languages and dialects of people visiting Jerusalem from surrounding countries.  It was a unique phenomenon.  No translation was needed. 

By contrast however; 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 is clearly talking about unknown languages.  Where do we glean that from the text? Verse 2 says; “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.”  Notice that Paul said “no one understands.”  The person with the the gift is not speaking to men, but to God.  In his spirit he is speaking mysteries.  (See also 1 Corinthians 14:14-15)
It took me a number of years to concede this point, but Paul was describing an intercession prayer gift.  “Prayer” by definition is speaking to God.  For this gift to be used in public it needed an interpretation.  By contrast, what happened on the day of Pentecost did not need translation or interpretation. People were hearing their own known languages being spoken very clearly.  We must conclude there are two different kinds of “tongues” presented in the New Testament.
Let me briefly touch on an argument from those who believe that some spiritual gifts were temporary and have ceased. Their main argument says; “If the purpose for which the gift was given was fulfilled, then the gift is no longer needed.”  Then they say that the tongues in Acts 2:1-13 were for a sign to Israel and that mission was fulfilled, therefore the gift of tongues is no longer needed. 
The problem is that Paul said the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:2 was primarily for prayer and intercession.  So, using their own logic and argument, let me pose a question; “Is prayer and intercession no longer needed today?”  Has its purpose been fulfilled? Let that question sink in! 
This may be a small issue for some, but coming from a conservative evangelical background that was dogmatic that the gift of tongues had ceased, this was a huge turmoil for me.  I had some Bible College professors open teach that modern tongues were from the devil.  When I confronted them with Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 and 14:39-40, they confessed theological prejudice and pointed to their Doctrinal Statement. 

I was not persuaded by them, but I did become timid about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  God used three things to help me resolve this conflict. 

First, I had memorized many chapters and even books of the Bible.  I had memorized the book of 1 Corinthians in high school for our churches Bible Quizzing team.  It was very clear to me that my Bible College professors were not rightly handling Scripture related to this subject.  I graciously  pointed out that they were violating their own principles of biblical interpretation in order to embrace their conclusion, yet doubt and cold water was thrown on my spirit. It hindered my freedom in the Spirit for years.

Second, as we launched into itinerant ministry and sought seasoned prayer warriors, many of them had a personal prayer language.  They did not publicly speak in tongues, but they were seasoned intercessors and had extraordinary discernment.  They were godly, biblically rooted and very mature spiritually. I could not deny their anointing, fervor in prayer or amazing insights about what and how to pray.  It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was leading them.  

Finally, we started working interdenominationally and internationally.  We met people from a broad cross section of the body of Christ.  Our eyes were opened.  We discovered godly and nature people in many churches.  We also discovered sinful, worldly and carnal people in every Christian circle.  The mystique came down and the rose colored glassed were removed from every group, including charismatic and Pentecostal.  They all struggled with the same stuff! 

But one thing became very obvious, the mature, godly and consecrated men and women in every group had a deep relationship with Jesus Christ and cultivated a personal walk in the Spirit.  Their Bibles all looked the same… they were nearly worn out.  They did not argue about spiritual gifts or doctrinal differences, instead they developed a deep personal walk with God.

Do I believe every gift of tongues is real? By no means.  The Bible commands us to test the spirit. Nor am I persuaded by hype, emotionalism or showmanship.   Every spiritual gift can be faked or even counterfeited by Satan.  

But that does not nullify the genuine work of the Holy Spirit.  I personally align myself with 1 Corinthians 12-14 on the subject of spiritual gifts and tongues.  Godly, Spirit Filled and gifted people are welcome at my campfire anytime! I consider myself as one of them! I seek, welcome and cherish the fire of Gods presence in my personal life, during prayer meetings, in corporate worship services and during our ministry events.  

The Sweet Wine of the Spirit: Acts 2:11-13
“11) … we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12) And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13  But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭11‬-‭13‬ 

The filling and control of the Holy Spirit is often compared to drunkenness, with none of the negative side affects. Some of those who saw and heard the believers on the day of Pentecost were mocking, and saying; “they are full of sweet wine.”  

They were overflowing with joy as they were proclaiming the mighty deeds of God.  They were excited and without inhibition.  These are the two of the most common side affects of “sweet wine.” 

Ephesians 5:18 makes a similar comparison; “And do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” The next three verses fill in the picture of the positive influence the Holy Spirit has on people; “19) speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20) always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21) and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭19‬-‭21‬) These people are set free by the Holy Spirit to joyously worship God and serve others.  Day dreams during worship are replaced with well springs.  

1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 makes a similar observation about the new believers in the city of Thessalonia; “5) for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6) You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭1‬:‭5‬-‭6‬)‬‬ 

This chapter confirms the powerful and positive influence of the Holy Spirit on these new believers.  They had “Joy in tribulation.” Their joy was a disconnect with the natural and normal response to their negative outward circumstances of persecution.  When they were squeezes by tribulation, the joy of Jesus oozed out from them. 

Galatians chapter five also zero’s in on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Paul observes that the Holy Spirit empowers people to live in freedom over the sinful compulsions of the flesh.  Then he describes the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22‬-‭24‬.  Look at this list:  “22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24) Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  

Again, we see positive qualities of like love, joy and peace. What a stark contrast to the misery, guilt and condemnation of the legalistic Pharisees.  By comparison, the merely religious people come across as bitter, angry and grumpy.  They were not free.  They were not loving or joyous.  They are preoccupied with the mundane things of this life. They are fixated on the world, the flesh and the devil.  

Spirit filled believers are very different from merely religious people.  There is living water flowing from within them.  (See John 7:37-39)   They worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.  (John 4:22-24) They are not forcing it, faking it or fabricating it.   It could be called “enthusiasm”; which literally means “God within!”  They are overflowing with God.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit affects the temperament, priorities and focus of people.  It changes them!  It lights a fire within them! It imparts new life to them! It replaces a timid spirit with boldness and confidence! It fills them with love, joy and peace! A River of Life begins to flow from deep within them! They are in love with Jesus! It is real! They no longer look or act like they were baptized in pickle juice.  They are not controlled by deception, rebellion, anger or bitterness, immorality, cursing or foul speech, chemical addictions, pride, greed or demonic influences. They are free in Christ.  They dance to a radically different drummer. 

Three Groups of People: Acts 2:12-15
“And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭12‬-‭15‬ 

This text holds an amazing lesson on the Christan life.  There were three groups of people in this story: 

  1. Those who received what God was doing! 
  2. Those who watched what God was doing!
  3. Those who mocked what God was doing! 

The same holds true about the gospel and the ministry of the Holy Spirit today.  Some receive Jesus Christ and eagerly embrace the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is where I live today with biblical seat belts in place.  I want everything done decently and in order according to Scripture, but I embrace the Holy Spirit.
The second group believes in the gospel but are very rational and even cautious about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They are usually open and ask good questions like; “What does this mean?” But they stand at a distance.
I was in this group for many years.  I had good convictions and loved Jesus, but I depended on self effort to live my Christian life.  I questioned if God did miracles today and ran to the doctor rather than embracing James 5:13-18.  By the way, many in this group became the second wave to embrace the Promise of the Holy Spirit.
The final group openly mocks the gospel and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  They can be religious, but they make up their own rules, write their own morals, reject the authority of Scripture and know little or nothing about the Holy Spirit.  They are fleshly and worldly minded.  They are often chained to religious traditions, ceremonies and rituals.  This religious group were the ones who opposed and openly persecuted the early Christians.
Luke 11:9-13 became very important in my personal walk in the Spirit.  In the context,  the asking, seeking and knocking in prayer related to asking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was preparing the disciples to trust the goodness, character and promise of God about the Holy Spirit.  He said not even an earthy father if his son asked for a fish would give him a snake, or if he asked for an egg would give him a scorpion.  Now look at verse 13; “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?””
Isn’t that interesting? The subject matter relates to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  These words of Jesus do not square with those who say we are not to seek or ask for the Holy Spirit.  His emphasis was if you sincerely seek the Father about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He will not pull a bait and switch and give a snake instead.  He can be trusted! 
So, let’s take a moment and talk about some basic biblical concepts about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  I personally believe the “sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit” happens at the moment of salvation.  (Ephesians 1:13-14)  I also believe every new Christian is baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.  (1 Corinthians 12:13) However, I see the filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit being an ongoing and growing process.  (Ephesians 5:18) As such, I believe there is one baptism of the Holy Spirit but many fillings. (Ephesians 4:4-6; 5:18) I also believe the Holy Spirit can be grieved and quenched by doubt, sin and carnality in the life of the believer.  (Ephesians 4:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:19) Christian’s can backslide and encounter the loving but firm discipline of God. (Hebrews 12:4-17) (Ok… that was a lot to digest… just take your time, open your Bible and study each text.) 

This leads into one one final observation for this discussion.  Acts 4:29-31 makes the strong point that the filling, unction and power of the Holy Spirit can be reoccurring, deepening and growing in the life a believer.  The group that earnestly prayed and sought God in this text were led by Peter and John who were partakers of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  This was not a second baptism of the Holy Spirit, rather it was a fresh anointing and filling of the Holy Spirit and power.  

The forty days Moses spent on the mountain with God caused his face to glow, but from that day onward he continually went to the tent of meetings daily to seek the presence of God.  I maintain that the filling of the Holy Spirit is a continual and growing process.  Each day is new.  Never be satisfied with yesterdays encounter with God.  Seek Him daily and continually.  
The Prophecy of Joel: Acts 2:16-21
“16) but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘17) And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; 18) Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy. 19) And I will grant wonders in the sky above And signs on the earth below, Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. 20) The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. 21) And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭16‬-‭21‬ ‭

Peter used the phenomenon of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the festival.  He quoted Joel 2:28-32 as the opening text for his message. Underline in your mind that he was anchoring his message and teaching in the Word of God. 

The book of Joel explains the terrible judgement God was bringing on His people because of their sin and apostasy.  The devouring locust was ravaging the land because Israel had forsaken God.  From the priest to the common man, everyone had turned away from God.  Yet Joel was bring a message of revival,  deliverance and hope if they would repent and turn back to God. (See Joel 2:12-17) Joel called for a time of seeking God with a broken and contrite heart, starting with the priests and religious leaders. 

Then Joel promised a time of restoration when God would return with favor toward His people and restore the land. Joel said that this movement of God would be accompanied by something new that was never experienced previously.  According to Joel 2:28-32, God was going to pour out His Spirit on all mankind and their sons and daughters would prophesy, old men would dream dreams, young men would see visions, and even male and female servants would have the Holy Sprit poured out on them.  

These words of Joel were nearly heretical.  The anointing of the Holy Spirit in this way was reserved for kings and priests.  It happened to Moses, David, high priests and prophets, but not ordinary people. This was unknown in Old Testament history.  He was speaking of a new time or epoch not previously experienced in the Bible.  (See the conversation between Jesus to His and His disciples in Acts 1:6-7.  Jesus was preparing them for something new.) 

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Jesus Christ on the Day of Pentecost, Peter immediately connected it to the words of Joel.  A new time, epoch or movement of God had been inaugurated.  The promise of the Father had come.  (Acts 1:4-5) The age of the indwelling Holy Spirit had begun.  (John 14:14-16:15) Jesus was building His Church. (Matthew 16:17-20) 

The full mystery of the church age, salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit including spiritual gifts are developed throughout the rest of the New Testament.  Transitions are difficult, especially one of this magnitude.  We are still in this amazing age prophesied by Joel.  The old wine skins of the Law were being replaced because the new wine of the Holy Spirit had come.  New wine skins were needed. (Matthew 9:17) 

The sermon Peter preached on the day of Pentecost was astounding.  He was starting to unpack the mystery of the church age.  The religious leaders were jealous and filled with rage.  Like Judas, they had forfeited their office and were being replaced.  The book of Hebrews explains this transition in depth.  God was not discarding the old; rather every figure, analogy, type, shadow and form of the Old Testament was being fulfilled.  

Peter and the early believers were the first leg of a long relay race.  I believe we are the anchor leg to complete the task of world evangelization before the return of Christ.  We must run with endurance the race set before us according to Hebrews 12:1-3. We need to set aside every weight and fix our eyes on Jesus.  

Our task can only be completed through reliance on the grace and the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus has provided.  As they began well, we must finish well.  The baton has not changed. The gifts and anointing of the Holy Spirit on every believer remains the same throughout the whole church age.  God is not fickle nor does He change the rules in the middle of the race.  

God wants every believer to study His Word and cultivate their walk in the Spirit.  The gifts, anointing and unction of the Holy Spirit grow and multiply as we go deeper in our maturity and consecration to Him.   These are very exciting days and God is working in extraordinary ways around the world.  Beware lest you minimize Him or put Him in a small box.  His Spirit can be both quenched and grieved.

Pointing People to Jesus Christ: Acts 2:22-24 
““22) Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23) this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24) But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭22‬-‭24‬ ‭

The sign of the Holy Spirit being poured out on the day of Pentecost was used by Peter to preach about Jesus and the Gospel.  He focused on the three parts of Jesus Christ that make up the gospel message. Look at this small outline that grows out from the above three verses: 

  1.  Vs 22 The life of Jesus Christ
  2.  Vs 23 The death of Jesus Christ
  3.  Vs 24 The resurrection of Jesus Christ

Why is this important?  These are the three components of the gospel message. (See also 1 Corinthians 15:1-5)  The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lift up Jesus Christ and advance the gospel.  Peter got it right in his short but powerful message.  

The death of Jesus was not because He was a victim of the Jewish religious leaders.  By no means.  He fulfilled God’s predetermined plan for the redemption of mankind. He was in control of His own destiny.  The resurrection brought an end to the agony of death. Jesus conquered both death and the grave.  

I get concerned in any context when the Holy Spirit is lifted up and Jesus is ignored. The Holy Spirit was not given to bring attention to Himself.  His mission is to glorify Jesus Christ.  (See John 16:12-15) This certainly happened in Peter’s message.  

Keep this basic principle in mind.  The inner ministry of the Holy Spirit is to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ.  If this is not happening, something is tragically out of balance in your life. Avoid the danger of obscuring Jesus and the gospel through an obsession with signs and wonders or spiritual gifts. They are never to be an end in themself.  God uses them to confirm and advance the gospel.  (See Hebrews 2:1-4) 

This comes back to the words of Jesus in Acts 1:7-8.  The Holy Spirit would give power to the witnesses to advance the gospel.  His ministry would undergird the work of world evangelization.  He would point people to Jesus Christ and personal salvation. I’ve seen some people more obsessed with getting people healed than getting them saved.  When this occurs, the outcome is usually that neither happens. Why? They are off mission.

Let me share a spiritual secret; the power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed most on the front lines of world evangelism.  God does miracles to advance and confirm the gospel.  This was certainly the case in the book of Acts.  Jesus and the gospel were the main focus of Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit invisibly but powerfully worked in the background convicting and converting thousands.  He was fulfilling His role as Helper! 

Zeroing in on the Resurrection:  Acts 2:25-32
““29) Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30) And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31) he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32) This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭29‬-‭32‬ ‭

Peter supported this portion of his message by quoting Psalm 16:8-11.  He quickly used this passage to undergird the claim of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:29,  He pointed out that David was not talking about himself since he died and was buried and had been entombed for centuries.  

Then he quickly shifts the focus to Jesus Christ.  In the next two verses he states that David was a prophet and knew that one of his descendants would sit on his throne.  The phrase “one of his descendants” implied that this king would have an eternal reign.  There would be no end to His Kingdom.      

Verse 31 becomes very significant.  Peter states that David was prophesying about the resurrection of Christ.  He was not abandoned to Hades nor did His flesh undergo decay, because God raised Him from the dead. He then drives home a key point… they were all witnesses of the resurrection.  They had spent forty of the previous fifty days with the resurrected Christ.  Their cups were full and overflowing.  

Let’s pause for a moment and review his message.  Peter used the phenomenon of Pentecost to preach the gospel.  He pointed to Joel’s prophetic teaching about the giving of the Holy Spirit, then he pointed to David talking about the resurrection.   His whole message was about the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But he really zero’s in on the resurrection.  Why? 

Let’s be pragmatic, people have dying and placed in graves for all of recorded history.  Both good and bad, righteous and wicked, rich and poor, young and old, male and female… death and the grave ends the life of all people. It is permanent.  Dead people are finished.  It’s over for them. Death is a curse.  Humanity has tried for centuries but has not found a cure for death.  

That’s why Peter zeroed in on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The resurrection is what separates Jesus Christ  from every other religious leader, philosopher or human that has ever lived.  If the resurrection is true, Jesus is the hope of eternal life.  He is indeed “the resurrection and the life.” (See John 11:25) He is the Promised Messiah and King of Israel. He will reign forever as King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is the Savior of the World.  The resurrection validates His claim of Deity. 

The message Peter preached on the day of Pentecost was simple but profound.  He took the current events of the public ministry and senseless crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the Passover 50 days earlier and fit it into the context of Old Testament prophetic revelation.  He preached Jesus to them and the Holy Spirit added illumination, power and persuasiveness to His words.  God used a common fisherman from Galilee to launch His plan for human redemption by faithfully preaching the Gospel. As we shall see, the results were Supernatural.  

Both Seen and Heard: Acts 2:33
“33) Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”  Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭33‬ 

Peter now includes the ascension and glorification of Christ in his message. He proclaims that Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God.  It is His rightful position.  This was a significant claim of Jesus about being the Christ, and it infuriated the Jewish religious leaders.  This claim sealed His condemnation by the chief priest.  (See Matthew 26:63-65) 

Then Peter again speaks of the promise from the Father related to the Holy Spirit in his message.  As mentioned previously, this is a consistent theme in the early chapters of the book of acts.  Take a moment and compare Acts 1:42; 2:33 and 2:38-39 and Galatians 3:14.  This promise was foretold by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:12) and by Jesus in John 14-17. 

A beautiful outline now emerges about the progression of the gospel.  Look at following three points: 

  1. The Father sent Jesus.
  2. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Holy Spirit sends believers. 

You can add many Scriptures and fill in sub points to this outline, but it speaks volumes.  All members of the Trinity and the body of Christ are connected to the gospel. It must be very important.  Be willing to be sent… even if it’s to your neighborhood, workplace or community.  

Peter them emphasizes another point about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in this verse.  It was both “seen and heard.”  It was not obscure or done in secret.  It was not hidden. It became a public spectacle.   In fact, it became momentous and spread rapidly.

Satan and the world has the churched gagged and silenced today around the lie that “faith is a private and personal matter.”  Many have bought into this deception, but it doesn’t fit the biblical narrative. I will not argue that many precious encounters with God happen in the prayer closet or in times of solitude, but the great outpourings and workings of the Holy Spirit happen in the open.  

Signs and wonders are to be seen and heard.  They are God bearing witness of Himself and the gospel.  (See Hebrews 2:4) The signs and wonders performed through Moses were in the open.  They were intended for all to see and hear. The same is true of much of the public ministry of Jesus.  Take a moment and review what Peter said earlier in this very message in Acts 2:22.  The miracles, wonders and signs performed through Jesus were done openly and in public.  They were seen and heard by many people.

Let me emphasize; God wants His works to be seen and heard.  He wants to bear witness of Himself and confirm the gospel message.  God is the main character on the stage of World Evangelization.  We are merely the narrator on the side of the stage. This might stretch you, but one of the secrets of experiencing the power of God is to live out your faith openly and in public. By doing so, you turn the stage and spotlight over to God! 

The Identity of Jesus Christ: Acts 2:34-36
“34) For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35) Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”  36) ’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.””  Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭34‬-‭36‬ ‭

These verses are a great example of how the early church leaders became Old Testament Scholars.  Peter closed his message on the Day Of Pentecost by quoting another Psalm from David.  This time it’s Psalm 110:1.  

In this verse,  David points to the Deity of the Christ.  When he said; “The Lord says to my Lord” it almost sounds like double talk, but apparently David had a personal relationship with the second member of the Godhead. He knew Jesus Christ. 

Notice also that he mentioned the ascension and His  position at the right hand of the Father; “Sit at my right hand, until I make all Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.” Verse 36 directly ties this into the glorification of Jesus Christ;  “God has made Him both Lord and Christ— this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Peter left no doubt of the Deity of Christ.

In Matthew 22:42-45, Jesus used Psalm 110:1 in His debate with the Pharisees.  It utterly silenced them!  Jesus pointed out that even David called Him Lord.  

There are a three more profound references to Psalm 110:1 in the New Testament.  1 Corinthians 15:25 refers to it in passing.  But Hebrews 1:13 is a direct quote in a passage that is defending the Deity of Christ.  The whole chapter is worthy of detailed study. 

Then the writer of the book of Hebrews again points to Psalm 110:1 in Hebrews 10:12-13.  This quote from David has far reaching implications.  It became the spike Peter used to close His sermon on the Day of Pentecost.  

Again, I want to emphasize that Peter’s entire message on the Day of Pentecost was about Jesus Christ and the Gospel.  Jesus was the One who poured out the Holy Spirit.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lift up Jesus Christ and empower the Gospel message.  He illuminates the Gospel.  

What was the outcome to Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost? Stay tuned.  
Pierced to the Heart: Acts 2:37
“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?”” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭37‬ 

Ok, it’s time for a serious conversation.  This verse exposes some serious problems with the modern gospel.  Pour a cup of coffee, sit down and open your heart, mind and spirit. Don’t feel rushed.  This is important.  Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you!  

In this verse we see a ministry of the Holy Spirit that is tragically minimized in today’s approach to evangelism.  When Peter finished his message; “they were pierced to the heart!” Another rendering could be “smitten in their conscience.”  Something very deep was happening in these people.  This wasn’t shallow.  

According to John 16:7-11, the Holy Spirit was going to “convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgement.”  Apart from the deep conviction ministry of the Holy Spirit related to personal sin, it is doubtful that true conversion takes place.  

People cannot be talked into becoming a Christian.  Salvation is far more than merely making a “decision” to trust in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit does a deep work of conviction and conversion in the heart of those being truly born again. He stops people, gets their full attention and wrestles with them about their sinful and lost condition.  

Listen to these words Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Thessalonica; “5) for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  (1 Thessalonians 1:5) This does not sound like Paul was talking them into “making a decision for Christ”; rather the Holy Spirit was wrestling inside of them with deep conviction.  He was bring them to the repentance that leads to true conversion.

I have heard numbers as high as 85% of those who make “decisions for Christ” at modern evangelism endeavors do not go on to live a Christian life.  In fact, nothing changes.  They continue as lord of their own lives and Jesus merely becomes a good luck charm they can make an a wish upon when they get in trouble. We talk about “reaching the unchurched.”  The Bible talks about “converting the lost.”  

The New Testament was filled with people who were religious but lost.  The role of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts was to deeply convict and thoroughly convert people.  It was powerful and it was life transforming. People turned from sin and to God on His terms.  They were thoroughly converted by the Holy Spirit.

Not only is our modern gospel watered down, but we don’t allow people to weep, grieve or mourn over personal sin and lostness.  Contrition is no longer in our vocabulary.  We seldom hear preaching about sin, nor do we hear calls to repentance.  Modern evangelism appeals to either human emotions or intellect rather than the human conscience.  

What happened on the day of Pentecost stands in stark contrast the way we count decisions for Christ today.  I have no question that the Holy Spirit is converting people today, but we spend a lot of time and effort trying to give assurance of salvation to lost people.  They jumped through our “decision for Christ hoop” or “my church background hoop”; but they were never truly converted by the Holy Spirit.  

When someone comes to me and says; “I have doubts about my salvation, what should I do?” My response is usually something like; “Let’s review the Gospel and make sure you’ve been born-again by the Spirit of God!” More often than not… their doubts were real.  If the Holy Spirit is “piercing their heart” about their true lost condition, I’m not going to hinder the process. 

Over the years, I have seen numerous pastors, elders and even seminary professors finally yield to the Holy Spirit in true conversion.  There is nothing unusual in the Bible about people being religious but lost.  In fact, that was the condition of most people both among the Jews and also among the Gentiles in Bible times.  The same is true in our modern world.  

However, I am equally ready to discern if the accuser of the brethren is working people over with condemnation and shame.  One of Satan’s schemes is to torment genuine believers.  The recourse for both groups of people is to point them to Jesus Christ and the inner work of the Holy Spirit.  

If the Holy Spirit is wrestling with you through this verse, cry out to Jesus.  If you are living in sin, do as Peter said and “repent.”  The more you rationalize, excuse and justify your sin, the further you are running from God.   Put your faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him alone to save you! Salvation is on His terms and not yours.  

The Promise 2:38-39
“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. 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.””
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭38‬-‭39‬ ‭
The word “repent” means regret accompanied by a true change of heart toward God.  It is a change of mind and heart.  It includes a change of morals and direction in life. It is an aligning with Gods morals, character and holiness from our own sinful ways.
The importance of baptism is that it is an outward expression of something inward.  Peter said this baptism in the name of Jesus Christ was for “the forgiveness of your sins.” By contrast, those baptized by John the Baptist were most likely baptized in the Name of the Father strictly as an expression of repentance.  Something very beautiful is starting to take shape. 
When Jesus gave The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, He talked about baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Here we see the Trinity. This threefold baptism started in earnest after the Day of Pentecost. I believe it involves a unique relationship with God through each member of the God-head. 

Repentance is best pictured by the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He had a genuine change of heart and mind.  He humbled himself and went back to his father with no demands or conditions.     True repentance was the basis of everything else that happened in the story.  As a result, he received the following three things: 1) Acceptance illustrated by the embrace from the Father, 2) Forgiveness illustrated by new clothes, and 3) Power illustrated by the family ring.

This is more than coincidental. These lines up with baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  They represent three very important aspects of salvation that are an immediate reality at the moment of salvation, but need to be worked out in depth over time in the life of the believer. 

Let me say it another way.  Your growing relationship with the Father will enable you to embrace total acceptance and family identity.  Your growing relationship with Jesus will enable you to enter into the full realization of forgiveness and freedom.  Your growing relationship with the Holy Spirit will enable you to experience power and anointing. Relationship with each member of the God-head is important.  

I see all three of these promises being offered in Peter’s message.  Receiving the gospel results in a relationship with God unknown in Old Testament times.  Only through the gospel can people can be fully reconciled to God. 

This Promise is for everyone who receives the gospel. Let me emphasize; “16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17) For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬-‭17‬) 

Exhorting People To Respond To the Gospel.  Acts 2:40
“40) And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!””  Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭40‬ 

As Peter closed his message, the text says he “kept on exhorting” or repeatedly urged people, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”  He was calling them to repentance and faith in Christ. He preached toward a response! 

This verse opens the door for a brief discussion about the role of giving an invitation for people to respond to the preaching of the gospel.  Unfortunately, there is considerable tension among scholars on this issue.  

One side argues that the elect are saved by the sovereignty of God with no human initiative being involved.  The other side argues that saving faith is a human response to the conviction and promptings of the Holy Spirit.  

I believe strongly in the sovereignty of God, but I also see the Bible consistently calling for a human response.  Let me give some biblical examples while consciously keeping this short.

Isaiah 55:6-7 calls for significant human response.  It includes “Seek the Lord”, “Call upon Him”, “forsake his way”, and “return to the Lord.” This is one of many Old Testament calls for a human response or action by the prophets.  They preached toward a response. 

John 1:12 says; “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”  This verse talks about “receive” and “believe.” These are both human responses. 

John 3:16 says; “… whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  Again we see a human response to the Divine initiative of God sending His only begotten Son. 

Our text for this study in Acts 2:38-40 includes “Repent”, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”, and “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Again, we see a human response to the gospel.

Ephesians 1:3-14 talks about the work of all members of the Trinity in our salvation.  Verses 1-6 talks about the work of the Father in our salvation.  It includes both choosing us and predestining us to adoption as sons.  He planned our salvation.  Verses 7-12 talks about the work of the Son in our salvation. In grace He redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sins.  He preformed everything needed for our salvation.  Verses 13-14 talks about the Holy Spirit sealing us.  He perfects out salvation.  But wait, verse 13 also talks about the human role in salvation.  We listen to the gospel of truth and believe.  Again there is a human response to the Divine initiative.  

Ephesians 2:8 clarifies that salvation is not earned or merited by our good works.  It is “by grace through faith.” Again, we see faith being the human response to the Divine initiative of grace.  This principle is taught throughout the New Testament. 

But what about the concept of giving an invitation or urging people to respond?  This is often the point of contention.  Let me briefly site numerous “invitations” or “calls for response” in the New Testament.  This is by no means a complete list. 

Jesus invited the disciples to “Follow Me” and the thirsty to “come unto Me!” (Matthew 4:18-22; 8:22; John 7:37-38)

After his message, Peter kept on exhorting the people to be saved.  (Acts 2:40)

Paul “persuaded men” and “begged” people to be reconciled to God.  (2 Corinthians 5:11; 20-21) He told the jail keeper to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ”, along with his whole house.  (Acts 16:30-31)

James urged people to both “submit to God”, and “Draw near to God.” (James 4:6-19) 

It is not our job to save people.  That is the role of the Holy Spirit.  But we are called to clearly preach the gospel and urge people to repent and put faith in Christ.  Some people object to calling  people to repent. But look at the next text.

In Acts 26:19-20, Paul explains his consistent practice of preaching the gospel.  Notice, he always called people to repentance and to put faith in Christ.  He preached toward a response. 

Also, take  some time and study Romans 10:1-15.  Look at the goal of Paul’s preaching.  Again, he preached toward the response of people putting personal faith in Jesus Christ or at least confessing Him as Lord.

When preaching the gospel, I follow the example of Paul.  I urge people to respond to Jesus Christ.  I have no problem inviting people to repent, believe, or put their faith in Jesus Christ.  I encourage them to “receive” Jesus Christ into their life.  

I believe it is both negligent and irresponsible to preach the gospel and not urge a response of personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Preaching toward a response leaves the results with the Holy Spirit.  He will both call those He wants to  save and He will save those who are called through the clear preaching of the gospel.  

We will not resolve all the mysteries behind this tension, but we can follow the example of Jesus and the early preachers of the gospel.  They preached the gospel while urging people to respond.  

The Instant Mega Church Acts 2:41
“41) So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭41‬ ‭

The response to Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost was unfathomable.  3,000 people responded to the gospel, received his word and were baptized.  The crowd that rushed together was huge.  

This is on par with Jesus feeding the 4,000 and the 5,000, with the exception that this crowd was multinational.  They came from many countries and spoke many native languages.  Let that sink in for a moment.  The multitudes that Jesus fed were localized gatherings.  They were regional gatherings.  Following this festival at Pentecost, the gospel was about to be carried in many directions and to many places. This had explosive potential.

Another pattern also emerges, baptism in the New Testament was always for believers.  They received or believed in the Gospel first and then were baptized.  Assuming that each of the 12 apostles assisted with the baptizing, they each had to baptize 250 people.  This may have taken several days!  It captured the focus of the festival.  

This was a God-sized movement. In Acts 2:33, Peter said that Jesus “poured forth” the Holy Spirit. What an apt description of the giving of the Holy Spirit.  When water or wine is “poured out” it spreads or disperses quickly. The only way it can be contained is if it is poured into cups, glasses, jars or other containers.  On the day of Pentecost, people became the containers.  They were “filled” to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.  

It is impossible to calculate how many of the 3,000 disperses back to their own towns after the festival and how many remained in Jerusalem.  It appears that some lingered longer in Jerusalem than others.  The rigid daily temple service was now matched by very alive daily activities for believers.  They lacked formal structure and organization, but as we will see in the next few verses, they overflowed with activity, a sense of awe, enthusiasm and excitement. 

This was an organic movement from its inception. It was alive.  The church is often compared in the Bible to a living building, a body or even a flock of sheep.  It is important to observe that Jesus did not start another static organization, He breathed His Spirit into a living organism.  

There are no equivalent books to Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the New Testament. Moses was a micro-manager with detailed instruction on everything, including marriage relationships during the wife’s monthly cycle and how to use a spade to cover up one’s daily bio duties. The Law was extensive, rigid, detailed and controlling.  The Law literally sucked the life and energy out of people. 

By contrast, what Jesus started on the Day of Pentecost was very alive, liberating and fluid.  Let me stress again, the church was a living organism and not a static organization.  It was holy, morally pure and had doctrine, but it was not weighed down with detailed and extensive policies and procedures.  Unlike the Law which imparted death, the Spirit imparted life. (Read 2 Corinthians 3:12-18) 

Becoming A New Testament Church: Acts 2:42
“42) They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭42‬ 

There it is in one verse!  We have the prescription of what it takes to be a New Testament Church. But before saying, “Amen” and closing your Bible, let’s take a deeper dive into the evolution of the early church.  

At the inception of the church, the believers embraced five essential activities. They continually devoted themselves to: 1) the apostles teaching, 2) fellowship, 3) the breaking of bread, and 4) prayer. It can be assumed from Acts 1:8 that 5) they also spontaneously witnessed and preached the gospel to unbelievers.  They focused on both “in-reach” and “out-reach.” These were the two basic functions of the early church.

It is easy to loose balance between “in-reach” and “out-reach.”  When this happens, the church usually becomes introverted.  It gets  so absorbed with inner activity that it becomes a sub-culture movement and closes its eyes to the needs of the world around it.

The New Testament stresses that every believer needs to be plugged into a local church.  (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4) This is where a sense of community develops, a support network is formed, solid doctrine is taught, corporate worship is lifted up, spiritual gifts are exercised, the ordinances are observed and leadership is developed.  The church is the primary place for disciple making. Every believer needs to be plugged into a local church to maximize spiritual growth and development. 

Yet Jesus has a mission for His church.  They were to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (Matthew 5:13-16) They were to carry the gospel from Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, to all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Jesus never intended for His church to remain as a holy huddle in Jerusalem. 

To remedy this tendency, God allowed persecution to disperse the believers and launched the phenomenon of planting local churches even in predominantly Gentiles regions.  (See Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-5) These churches became autonomous, self governing and had the freedom to develop their own personality within accepted theological and moral boundaries.  (1 Corinthians 12:4-7) They embraced the basic dynamics of Acts 2:42, but developed their own identity and community life. 

These New Testament churches embraced the same gospel message, had recognized leadership, developed basic organization and structure, shared defined doctrine, and ascribed to moral holiness; but they remained flexible with methodology.  They retained the identity of being a living organism rather than a static organization.  They were not “cookie cutter” churches. They did not strive to be “the same.” They had freedom to develop their own church personality.

This phenomenon allowed the church to adapt to local culture but continue as salt and light in the world.  The tendency of the western church in missions is to export western church traditions, form, function and architecture rather than the pure gospel.  A western church in Asia, India or the jungles of South America is cumbersome and awkward. It is anti-cultural.  

In many places people are not rejecting the gospel, rather they are resisting being westernized. This is a serious problem.  World evangelization is very different from trying to westernize the world under the banner of Christianity.  I maintain that the early church got it right.

They embraced a common gospel message, insisted on sound biblical doctrine and held to a high and holy moral code, but they granted the freedom to contextualize church format and structure to the local culture.  Thus the Gentile Church in Antioch was different from its Jewish counterpart in Jerusalem. This tension led to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.  It was decided to grant freedom and flexibility to Gentile churches. 

This whole discussion grows out from the early chapters of the book of Acts.  It begs the questions; “What does a Christian church look like?”  “How is it to be organized?”  “Does it have to embrace certain building architecture?” “What should be included on the weekly activity calendar?” “Is Sunday the only day prescribed for corporate worship?” “What is the purpose and mission of the local church?”  I think you’re getting the idea.  The quest to be a New Testament church is not an easy task.

Loosing  a Sense of Awe: Acts 2:43
“Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭43‬ 

This verse lines up with Acts 2:22; “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—”. It seems that the Holy Sprit picked up where Jesus left off.  Being the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit has the same power and attributes as the Father and Son.  

Though no description is given in this verse of the kinds of wonders and signs that were taking place, it can be assumed that they lined up with those performed by Jesus during His public ministry.  Hebrews 2:4 connects this with God giving confirmation to their preaching and teaching.  Acts 5:12-16 includes healing and casting out unclean spirits. 

At first glance, it appears that on the day of Pentecost the signs and wonders were restricted to the twelve Apostles.  As the church grew and spread out, the book of Acts extends these manifestations to others.  By the time we get to Acts 6:8, we discover that leaders like Stephen were also performing great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 8:6 describes that Philip the evangelist also performed signs.  We later discover that similar signs also accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys.

Some question if miracles still happen today or were these unique powers and works done through the Apostles and early church leaders? It is a good question and has some biblical precedent.  The signs and wonders done through Moses in Egypt were restricted to his calling and ministry. However, there were men like Elijah and Elisha who also performed extraordinary miracles though not on the level or magnitude of Moses. 

But, keep in mind, Pentecost marked a new age or Epoch which Joel said would be accompanied by the Holy Spirit working through ordinary people.  (See Acts 2:15-21) That’s what makes the church age unique.  The Holy Spirit would indwell every believer and give them power and gifts.  Pentecost marked the beginning of a new era. 

It must be emphasized that the Holy Spirit was the One performing these signs and wonders through these men.  In fact, in Acts 14:11-18, Paul and Barnabas went to considerable lengths to attribute signs of healing to God and not themselves.  At Lystra, the sign of healing caused the people to call them gods.  They started calling Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes.  They wanted to offer scarifies to them, but the missionaries cried out that they were ordinary men. They quickly attributed the miracle to God. 

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Paul gives a list of spiritual gifts given within the body of Christ.  He emphasized that these gifts were “manifestations of the Holy Spirit.” The list includes things like faith, healing and effecting of miracles.  In fact, all of the gifts listed are extraordinary.  Why is this significant? By this point in early church history, signs and wonders had spread beyond the Apostles.  In keeping with biblical prophesy, the Holy Spirit was working in and through many believers. 

The rhetorical questions Paul asked in Galatians 3:3-5 are even more intriguing.  Look at verse 5; “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” What an amazing question.   It appears that the Holy Spirit was working in miraculous ways among the believers scattered throughout Galatia.  

So now we are faced with a modern dilemma.  The bigger question might be; “If we are still in the church age and signs and wonders are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, why is nothing happening in some segments of the Christian Church today?”  I maintain the problem is not with God, rather it is with us.  

God has not changed!  The Holy Spirit is not running low on power or burning out as we approach the end of this age.  Let’s be honest, the whole notion that God no longer does miracles borders on blasphemy.  It is equivalent to saying; “God is no longer Divine!” Or, “God has limited power.” Or, “God is no longer sovereign.” 

But there may be another potential cause for the problem.  The biblical answer is that we are most likely grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit.  (See Ephesians 4:30, and 1 Thessalonians 5:19) How does that happen? 

Maybe we quenching the Holy Spirit by stuffing God in the small box of naturalism and holding the Holy Spirit at arms length.  Or maybe we are grieving the Holy Spirit because we are full of sin and compromise.  Could it be that in keeping with Romans 1:18-32, God is standing back?  Or maybe, we are preaching a message of doubt instead of faith.  Or maybe we have become so affluent and self sufficient in the western church that we have become like the church of Laodicea!  We no longer need God.  (Revelation 3:14-22) Or maybe… it’s a combination of all of the above! There is no doubt that we have lost our sense of awe toward God.

When word from the Lord was rare and visions were infrequent in the days of Eli the priest, it pointed to a tragic spiritual problem among Gods people. (1 Samuel 3:1)  It wasn’t because “God no longer worked that way!”  It was because Gods people were in spiritual decline! Gods silence was sending them a strong message.  What is God trying to say to the western church by His silence today? 

Christian Community: Acts 2:44-47
“44) And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45) and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46) 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, 47)  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭44‬-‭47‬ 

As we study these four verses, we discover that the early church became an organic living body.  They developed a strong bond because of their common love for Jesus Christ. There were three primary characteristics that described them: 

  1.  A deep commitment to Christian Community typified by interdependent relationships.
  2. Unity in the Spirit expressed by daily fellowship and worship of God in awe and holiness. 
  3. Abundant fruitfulness described by favor with all the people and spontaneous growth on a daily basis. 

It can be concluded that these characteristics were based on the genuine fruit of the Spirit among them. (Galatians 5:22-26) They fulfilled the words of Jesus recorded in John 13:34-35; “34) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35) By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Many groups over the years have tried to emulate the early believers.  They usually become exclusive rather than inclusive and often take on cultish tendencies.  Because Jesus Christ and agape love was the glue that held the early believers together, they were not dominated by a charismatic dictatorial leader that emotionally controlled and spiritually abused the people. Everyone from the Apostles to the newest believer practiced mutual servanthood. 

I see this text as being descriptive and not prescriptive.  I do not believe God wants every local church to become communal.  I believe Ephesians 4:1-16 captures the essence and spirit of Christian community that God wants to create in every local church.  This text in the book of Ephesians should be studied side by side with Acts 2:41-47.  

Continual and Spontaneous Growth. Acts 2:47
“47) … And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭47‬ ‭
Acts chapter two closes with reference to “The Law of the Sower.”  The principle says, “As you sow you reap.”  If you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.  If you sow abundantly, you will reap abundantly.  If you sow continually, you will reap continually.  If you seldom sow, you will seldom reap.  The Law of the Sower says; “As you sow you reap.”  
Th Law of the Sower is anchored in several portions of Scripture.  Jesus based His parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-25 on the Law of the Sower.  Paul based his philosophy of giving on the Law of the Sower in 2 Corinthians 8-9. He also based his teaching on personal morals and resulting blessings or consequences on the Law of the Sower in Galatians 6:7-8. 

But this begs the question; “Does the Law of the Sower apply to witnessing and evangelism?” Does it factor into church growth?  Did the Lord add to their number “day by day” because they were continually sowing? 

Paul seems to support that reasoning in 1 Corinthians 3:6 when he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”  Romans 10:14-15 adds to the case when Paul asked the questions; “How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?” He was stressing the point that without sowing there will be no harvest. 

Notice that all of these texts attribute the growth to God, but the sowers were very busy.  They sowed continually.  The Law of the Sower says the harvest will not exceed the sowing.  

Jesus added substantial weight to this discussion in John 4:34-38 when He talked about the harvest.  His disciples had just come from spending much of the day shopping in the city of Sychar and they came back empty handed related to spiritual harvest.  Why? They hadn’t talked to anyone about Jesus. 

Meanwhile, Jesus invested His day witnessing to the Samaritan woman.  What happened? She left her water pots and went into the city and told everyone about Jesus. She was sowing abundantly. John 4:39-42 records the story that she returned to Jesus bringing many people from the city in tow to meet Jesus.  Her harvest was abundant and plentiful. 

What was the difference between the barren disciples and the very fruitful Samaritan woman?  Answer: The Law of the Sower! 

The big difference between churches that grow and churches that stagnate and die is rooted in the Law of the Sower.  The truth is that when churches stop sowing they start dying.

It is amazing how several churches in the same geographical region can have totally different results.  Some may be stagnant and dead while others are thriving and growing. One church is closing its doors and boarding up its windows while down the street another church is in the midst of a thriving building program.  Why? 

The answer comes down to the Law of the Sower and the undergirding inner dynamics of the church.  Let’s try to wrap our minds around the full context of this chapter in the book of Acts. 

The inner dynamics of the early church are recorded in Acts 2:42-47.  They focused on solid biblical preaching and teaching, prayer, meaningful fellowship, inspiring worship, fostering encouraging community life, godly character and the power of the Holy Spirit.  

The outer dynamic was that the people were in awe of God and were spontaneously and continually sowing the gospel message. The people were on fire for God. The result was: “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” 

Instead of trying to become an illusive “New Testament Church”, it might be more productive to embrace the Law of the Sower.  Then undergird abundant, spontaneous and continual sowing of the gospel in the world with the inner dynamics of body life as described in Acts 2:42-47.  I highly suspect the results will be very similar.  

Extraordinary Healing of the Lame Beggar: Acts 3:1-10

“1) Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. 2) And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. 3) When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. 4) But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” 5) And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6) But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” 7) And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8) With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9) And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10) and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” Acts‬ ‭3‬:‭1‬-‭10‬ ‭

God got huge mileage out of this one miracle.  Most of the preaching and witnessing in Acts 3-4 was the result of this one miracle.  Healings and miracles happened in the book of Acts, but they were not ordinary and they seemed to always pave the way for the gospel.  There is no way of estimating how many needy people Peter and John passed on their way to the temple that morning, but only this lame beggar was healed.  Let’s take a moment and look at this healing.

First, it was extraordinary.  The healing was performed on a man who had been lame from birth. His condition was long term and severe.  He had zero mobility.  He had to be carried everywhere he went.  

Second, it was very public.  It happened at the ninth hour at the Beautiful gate of the temple.  Crowds passed through this gate every day.  The daily sight of this beggar had become part of the decor.  

Third, he wasn’t seeking healing, he was seeking money.  His healing actually ended his lucrative career.  He had to vacate the best begging spot in Jerusalem because he was healed.

Forth, the initiative for the healing came from Peter and John.  They fixed their eyes upon him and pronounced healing.

Fifth, the healing happened in “the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene.” Acts 3:16 gives all credit to faith in the name of Jesus Christ for this healing.  The healing was used to validate the resurrection and identity of Jesus Christ.

Sixth, the healing happened instantaneously.  His feet and ankles were strengthened immediately.  He started “walking and leaping and praising God.” 

Seventh, God got all the credit for the healing.  The healing became the platform to preach about the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It opened the door for the gospel.

Eighth, the healing was self validating and publicly confirmed.  The people took note of him as being the one who used to sit and beg at the entrance of the temple.  They were all filled with wonder and amazement.

Finally, Peter immediately began to preach an open air meeting with the subject matter being the person, work and identity of Jesus Christ.  This is important; he didn’t preach about healing and he didn’t start teaching about the Holy Spirit… he preached about Jesus Christ.  Faith in the Holy Spirit is not the avenue of salvation.  He is the helper for those who have been saved.  

Everything about this healing stands in stark contrast to many modern “faith healers.”  They organize huge rallies, glorify and promote themselves, often stage fake healings, leave Jesus and the gospel out of the message and use the occasion to exploit money from people.  They are fakes and frauds.  I utterly despise them! 

Do I believe that God performs healing today? Yes; but they have to be measured by the standard of Scripture.  They need to pass the test of glorifying God, advancing the gospel, being offered freely, being genuine and self validating, pointing people to Jesus Christ for salvation and not making healing an end in itself.  I reject the health, wealth and prosperity gospel that turns the preacher into the beggar at the gate of the temple and exploits poor and vulnerable people.

Miracles are miracles because the are extraordinary and not ordinary.  They serve a Divine purpose.  They are door openers for the gospel or matters of affirmation and edification for the body of Christ.  Miracles are miracles because they are miracles.  That’s what got the attention of the crowd as they went into the temple at the hour of prayer.  Something extraordinary had happened.  They wanted to know why? Peter preached the gospel to them.

Introduction to Peter’s Second Message: Acts 2:11-15
“11) While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12)  But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13) The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14) But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15) but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” Acts‬ ‭3‬:‭11‬-‭15‬ 

Peter seized the moment to preach His second message.  He did not have time to retreat to his office and write a sermon.  It was impromptu and it was very anointed.  We need to be ready whenever the Holy Spirit opens a door to share the message of the gospel.

As we analyze this message, there is much to learn about biblical preaching and the gospel.  Let’s take a moment and study the introduction to Peter’s Second Message.

First, the sermon was delivered in the “portico of Solomon.”  This was the very location recorded in John 10:22-42 where the crowd demanded that Jesus tell them plainly if He was the Christ.  That event and Peter’s sermon seem to be connected.  They are worth reading side by side. 

Second, Peter tied his sermon to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  (Vs 13a). In doing so he underlined the fact that Jesus was from God and fulfilled the typology of Abraham offering up Isaac in Genesis 22.

Third, Peter pinned the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus on the crowd.  (Vs 13b) He pointed out that Pilate had decided to release Him! The guilt was not on Pilate.  He washed his hands of the whole ordeal.

Forth, Peter reminded them that they disowned the Holy and righteous One, and asked for a murder to be granted to them in His place.  (Vs 14) This this might stand as the single greatest enigma of the trial and crucifixion of Christ.  They embraced a violent sinner in place of the Savior.  So does everyone who rejects Christ to embrace a life of sin.

Fifth, Peter pointed out that they put to death the Prince of life.  (Vs 15a) By demanding the release of a murder in place of Jesus, they became murderers.  

Sixth, Peter pointed out that they were witnesses of all the events that transpired around the rejection, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  (Vs 15b) The boldness of Peter in this message is a stark contrast to the coward that denied Jesus three times.  
The direct and hard hitting nature of his introduction is almost frightening.  It has been said that you need to get people lost before you can get them saved. The demeanor of Peter can only be attributed to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It utterly transformed him. 

The second part of his message is even more profound.  We will look at it in the next section. But I want to highlight, underline, emphasize and drive home an important point about his message; it was all about Jesus Christ.  

Finally, Jesus was the subject, theme and focus of his message.  Let me say this clearly, the gospel is not being preached when the work of Jesus Christ on the cross dying for the sins of the world is left out!  The gospel is not being preached when people are not convicted of sin or called to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  

These three messages in Acts 2-4 are the standard of true gospel.  Take time and study them carefully.  In 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, Paul defined the gospel.  He nailed down the message that is the basis of salvation.  Let me make a bold point:  Apart from personal faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection… there is no salvation and no conversion by the Holy Spirit.  People can be religious but lost!

I beg you to evaluate the foundation you are trusting in for your salvation. If it is baptism, a church ceremony, church attendance, good works, a miracle, a warm fuzzy religious experience or mere “trust in God”… then you have not been born-again through faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel.  You have not been sealed or filled with the Holy Spirit.  You have not been converted by the power of God.  You might be religious but you are deceived and lost.

Before you take offense, please note that the crowd that disowned Jesus and demanded His crucifixion were religious.  Peter was preaching to religious but lost people.  They needed to clearly hear, understand and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel.  (See Acts 4:8-12)

As much as I welcome miracles and enjoy the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Peter was not preaching about miracles or the Holy Spirit… he was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Receiving Jesus Christ and the gospel is the starting point for everything that follows in the Christian life. Don’t skip the gospel! 

Some of our frustration and dismal results with discipleship may be that we are pouring our time and efforts into unconverted people. Those who are in Christ become new people. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Holy Spirit changes them.  It does no good to send a duck through eagle school.  In the end it’s still a duck.  Make sure your pouring your discipleship efforts into eaglets.  Start with the gospel.

The Meaning of Faith in Jesus Christ: Acts 3:16-18
“16) And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17)  “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18) But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” Acts‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬-‭18‬ 

Peter continued to make His Message about Jesus Christ.  He pointed out that the healing done to the lame beggar was through faith in the name of Jesus Christ.  It was not Peter or John who performed the healing, rather it was Jesus Christ.  

Peter then forces the issue about the person, work and identity of Jesus Christ.  In verses 14 and 15, Peter called Him “the Holy and Righteous One” and “the Prince of Life.” He then  pressed the point that Jesus is “the Christ” and that His suffering fulfilled the words of all the prophets.  
Peter was preaching to the very crowd that had disowned Jesus as Messiah and pressed for His crucifixion.  He came to His own, but they rejected Him.  (See John 1:10-15)
Peter presses an important point; though they acted in ignorance, God was at work through them.  We must go back over and over again to Acts 2:22-24.  Their actions did not put an end to Jesus Christ.   Death did not stop Him.  The grave could not keep Him.  God raised Him from the dead. Gods plan was fulfilled despite human ignorance. 

This sign of healing performed through faith in the name of Jesus Christ proved Jesus Christ is still alive and that He is still doing signs and wonders because He is God! But let’s make a greater connection.

The argument that John made in John 1:1-18 was far greater than the ability of Jesus to perform signs and wonders such as healing people.  John pointed out that Jesus Christ is the Creator.  Yes, He is Healer and miracle worker, but that is because He is Creator God! The sign performed on the beggar proved that Jesus Christ is alive and still in His office.  

Peter stresses that death on the cross did not end Him, rather His suffering and resurrection validated everything the Old Testament prophets said about Him.  Peter’s message was not about healing or the Holy Spirit, rather it was about Jesus Christ who is the Savior of mankind. 

The healing opened the door to preach the gospel about the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Peter used it as tangible proof that Jesus is alive and that He has a far greater plan than just healing people.  He came to redeem humanity from the curse of the fall and reconcile them to God!   

I want to make a point that must not be missed.  Peter was not saying; “have faith in Jesus so that He might physically heal you!”  Rather he was saying “have faith in Jesus Christ so that He might eternally save you!”  The healing merely served as evidence that Jesus was alive and had stepped into His Greater office of Savior of the world!

Let me emphasize, the gospel does not say, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be healed!” It says; “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” (John 3:16-17; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 4:12; Acts 5:31-32; Acts 10:42-43; Acts 9:35-37; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 6:22-23; Romans 10:8-10… we could go on and on with many more passages.) 

What is my point?  There is no doctrine of universal healing taught in the Bible, but it does present a gospel of universal salvation to all who put faith in Jesus Christ!  Peter was preaching the gospel of salvation and not a message of healing.  

Do I believe God still does miracles today and heals people? Yes!  Do I believe the gospel in about physical healing? No! The gospel is about the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to redeem sinful humanity and open the door for eternal salvation.  

Peter and John used the healing of the lame beggar to preach the gospel of salvation.  They did not use it to start a healing service.  Please understand that physical healing is temporal, but salvation is eternal.  They are not synonymous.  

The angels in heaven do not celebrate when someone gets healed, but they celebrate every lost sinner that gets saved. (See Luke 15:7 & 10) Do not obscure the gospel through an obsession with physical healing.  

Peter, John and the early church focused on preaching the gospel and in the process watched God perform signs and wonders to validate the message.  (See Hebrews 2:1-4) Healing is optional, but salvation is mandatory! 

The Coming Time of Restoration: Acts 3:19-21
“19) Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20) and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21) whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”  Acts‬ ‭3‬:‭19‬-‭21‬ 

Peter boldly called them to repentance.  He invited them to return to the Lord that their sins might be wiped away and that times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord.  They needed to be reconciled to God.  

Times of refreshing always come from being in the presence of the Lord.  This is true of a nation, a church, a marriage or an individual.  Those who seek the Lord will find Him! These times of refreshing are connected to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is a small foretaste of what is to come when Jesus returns to complete His full promise of redemption.  (See Ephesians 1:13-14) 

Peter then talked about the return of Jesus, the Christ and a corresponding period of restoration. This is the literal return of Jesus to earth and His thousand year reign.  Revelation 20:1-10 talks about His earthly kingdom.  It is during this time frame that every prophecy about the Messiah will be fulfilled.  Not one word will be left undone. 

Many today talk about global warming, the new green deal and trying to save planet earth.  Anti-Christ will use this as a cover to manipulate, control and destroy people.  Jesus offers the only plan to save the world.  He starts by saving and changing people.  He will ultimately change the earth back to its pre-fall glory.  

Paul briefly talked about this in Romans 8:18-25.  In this text he talked about the “anxious longing of creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”  (Vs 19) The whole created realm of planet earth is currently subjected to futility.  It is under the curse of the fall.  During the period of restoration, this whole planet will take on Garden of Eden kind of glory.  Verse 21 says; “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of a God.” I can only imagine.  

 Moses and the Promise Land Analogy: Acts 3:21-26

“21) whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22) Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23) And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24) And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25) It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26) For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”” Acts‬ ‭3‬:‭21‬-‭26‬ ‭

It is very important that Peter’s second message was focused entirely on Jesus Christ.  After looking at His public ministry, crucifixion and resurrection, Peter then boldly proclaimed that the entire Old Testament pointed to Jesus Christ and His future time of restoration of all things. 

In verses 22-23, he quoted Moses promising a future prophet and restorer that was even greater than himself.  Think about this, God raised up Moses to deliver His people from slavery to Egypt and lead them to the promised land.  By contrast, Jesus delivered all mankind from slavery to sin, Satan and death and is leading them to a future eternal Kingdom.  This is the true Promised Land for the future redemption of all mankind. 

Then Peter included all the prophets from Samual onward.  (See verse 24)  He pointed out that their unified voice and message pointed to Jesus Christ and a time of restoration.  In other words, all the Old Testament prophets pointed to Jesus Christ.  

Over time this mystery became clearer and clearer to Peter.  Look what he said in 1 Peter 1:10-12; “10) As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11) seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”

Don’t go too fast lest you miss the significance of what Peter was saying.  The Old Testament prophets faithfully pointed to the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow, but they could not grasp it.  

But wait, then in Acts 3:25, Peter takes another giant step backward.  He pointed to Abraham and the covenant God made with him.  Listen to the specific words of the covenant; “… And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The “seed” that was going to bless the whole world pointed to Jesus Christ.  

Look at how Peter wraps up this message; “ 26) For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.””  Peter was saying to the crowd; “everything the Old Testament promised is happening right before your eyes.” Jesus wants to save you from your wicked ways. 

Let me take a moment and dig a little deeper.  Are you ready for this?  Every example, analogy, sign, type, shadow, festival, promise and prophecy in the Old Testament is being fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  (Hebrews 8:5; 9:24) I am speculating, but that might mean that the Exodus under Moses, the wandering in the wilderness and the conquest of the Promised Land might be a pattern for what God is doing right now and in the future.

Have you noticed the signs and wonders that took place under Moses? The same wording is attributed to the public ministry of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. So let’s see if the Old Testament analogy fits and speculate where we might be at in the story.  

The signs and wonders under Moses in Egypt right through the Passover meal obviously related to the ministry of Jesus Christ, including His death, burial and resurrection.   He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and He was crucified on the Passover.  

Entering the promised land under Joshua may look forward to the future period of restoration referred to by Peter in Acts 3:21. That will be fulfilled in the millennium kingdom with the future reign of Jesus Christ on earth.  

What was between these two events in the Old Testament? Forty long years of wandering in the wilderness and learning how to walk with God. This time was accompanied by the pillar of fire to lead them and amazing provisions by God.  There were many signs and wonders during this time as well including crossing the Red Sea and daily manna.  This may be a picture of the current church age and ministry of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is working to cleanse and purge the bride of Christ for His return, just like God purged the whole generation that came out of Egypt under Moses. 

So where are we on the Old Testament calendar right now?  After 2,000 years of wandering through the wilderness of church history, I suspect we are standing at the Jordan River ready to enter the Promised Land. Jesus is about to return and fulfill what Joshua failed to deliver; a totally Restored Kingdom.  Ironically, the analogy fits and fulfills everything Peter was saying in his second message. 

Time hinders us from going deeper, but I trust the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart to the mysteries and wonders in the Word of God and your walk in the Spirit.  We are living in amazing days! 

The Public Confrontation: Acts 4:1-4
“1) As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2) being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3) And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4) But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭1‬-‭4‬ 

Peter’s Second message took place on the temple ground.  By way of review, the healing of the lame beggar paved the way for an open air gospel meeting.  As the crowd gathered, Peter seized the opportunity to preach the gospel.  The people were very attentive because the Holy Spirit was working. 

This provoked wrath from the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees.  The scene had all the elements of a great open air meeting.  There was a miracle that caught the attention of the crowd, a vocal preacher who eloquently shared the gospel, intense opposition from adversaries of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit at work persuading people. 

The group that opposed the preaching of Peter and John were the key players in crucifying Jesus.  Let’s look at the motives of each of the opposition party briefly.  What motivated them? 

The priests were there fighting for their jobs.  Jesus was about to displace them as the new High Priest and His sacrifice totally fulfilled the sacrificial system making it obsolete.  This transition from the old to the new is the core focus of Hebrews 3-10.  They were trying to stop the gospel because it pointed to the new and living way for people to go directly to God through Jesus Christ without a human mediator. 

The captain of the temple guard was there fighting for his reputation.  He had been entrusted with the task of guarding the tomb and then paid to spread the rumor that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15)  Now he was desperately trying to stop the preaching of the gospel, because its core message focused on his failure. 

The Sadducees were there fighting for their theological dogma. Their core belief system was based on denial of life after death, a resurrection or any form of eternal judgement. (See Acts 23:8) The message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gospel challenged, exposed and obliterated their false teachings.  

God not only allowed their opposition,  He used the controversy to draw greater attention to the gospel. What a contrast!  When Jesus or His disciples laid hands on people, it was to anoint or heal them.  When this group laid hands on people it was to assault or arrest them. Peter and John preached faith.  The religious leaders resorted to force.  The crowd could clearly see the difference. 

The end result was the direct fulfillment of the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8.  The power of the Holy Spirit was unleashed to undergird the preaching of the gospel so that thousands were converted.  Look at Acts 4:4; “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”

So many were becoming believers that they resorted to a different counting system.  Instead of counting every conversion, they now start counting the men.  When the women and children are factored into this verse, a conservative estimate might be 15,000 to 20,000 believers.  The gospel was exploding and many were coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  

How can this be explained?  There is only one answer. As Jesus pointed out in Acts 1:8, the primary ministry and power of the Holy Spirit would be to undergird the spread of the gospel.  This observation is consistent throughout the whole book of Acts.  Every extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts was in some way connected to the spread of the gospel.  

I fully recognize the Holy Spirit has numerous roles, but His primary ministry is connected closely to the spread of the gospel.   If your spiritual life is mundane and dry it’s probably because you have distanced yourself from actively sharing the gospel.  The power of God always shows up on the front lines of spreading the gospel just as Jesus said in Acts 1:8.
Let me give a clarification; you can be busy with good stuff and even do humanitarian work with a packed schedule and still be dry, powerless and barren.  You can be religious and empty.  You can play church and still seldom see God work.  You can even be a theologian and still be an agnostic about the power of God. That describes the priests and Sadducees in this story!  They were on the wrong side of the gospel.

The Holy Spirit is most active and the power of God is most evident when Jesus is being lifted up and the gospel is actually being shared through Gods anointed messengers!  God doesn’t waste miracles, signs or wonders. They are not for human entertainment; they are for Divine engagement.  (Consult Matthew 12:38-39 & Matthew 16:1-4) The New Testament screams that signs, wonders and miracles are very purposeful and are used to promote Jesus, advance the gospel or confirm Gods approved messengers.  (Hebrews 2:1-4)

These four verses at the beginning of Acts 4 set the stage for Peter’s third message and a show down between the religious elite and the Spirit anointed disciples of Jesus Christ.  Stay tuned as the drama builds. 

The Council of Intimidation: Acts 4:5-7
“5) On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6) and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7) When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?””  Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭5‬-‭7‬ 

This reads like the guest list to the Emmy Awards. They took their time, waited until the next day and assemble with pomp and confidence.  There may have even been some formal protocol to celebrate Annas, Caiaphas,  John and Alexander as they entered the council chambers. This was the same Sanhedrin that had assembled and conspired to crucify Jesus a few months earlier.  

But there was a growing rift among them. Joseph, a member of the Council prepared the body of Jesus for burial.  (Luke 23:50-54) Nicodemus “the ruler of the Jews” had become a secret follower of Jesus and even helped prepare His body for burial. He personally contributed a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to wrap the body.  (John 19:39) Even Gamaliel “the teacher of the Law” was beginning to suspect much deeper significance to what God was doing through Jesus Christ and His followers. ( Acts 5:33-40) The seeds of the gospel were beginning to take root and sprout even in a growing number of the priests.  (Acts 6:7) The Holy Spirit was at work even among their ranks. 

It was in this assembly that Peter and John were ushered in and placed in the center for interrogation.  Jesus Himself stood in that very spot during His trial.  What a prolific reminder that we are called to share in the sufferings of Christ. (Philippians 3:10) 

Their questioning was aimed at intimidation.  They demanded to know “by what power or in what name have you done this?” (Vs 7) They were referring to the healing of the lame beggar.  

The question was actually profound, because what had happened was beyond the scope of their authority and power.  They could not perform miracles, signs or wonders.  It was like the magicians of Egypt standing before Pharaoh and concluding that “this is the finger of God.” (Exodus 8:18-19) Biblical history has a way of repeating itself. Unfortunately, a number of the religious leaders were as blind and hard as Pharaoh.

We are now beginning to see one of the purposes for signs and wonders accompanying the preaching of the gospel. I point you once more to Hebrews 2:4.  Throughout biblical history God has always filled the role of bearing witness of Himself through the use of signs and wonders.  He alone sits in the seat of “God.” He judges and humiliates all challengers and skeptics of His glory, majesty and power.

The context of Hebrews 2:1-4 changed me from a skeptic to a believer of signs and wonders accompanying the spread of the gospel.  I cannot deny the clear teaching of the Word of God! I now expect God to work and validate the gospel.  My personal faith and motto has become; “It is our job to tell the story, it is Gods job to move the mountain.”  

I no longer quench the Spirit nor do I put God in the small box of my theological bias.  He is sovereign and powerful to do whatever, wherever and whenever He wants within the boundaries of His own moral character. The Bible puts no limits on His will, power, sovereignty or timing.  However, He defines Himself as holy, righteous and pure.  There is no sin or compromise in Him.  He is the measure of truth, justice and morality.  He is the Judge. 

This text contains an eerie shadow of many scholars, theologians, seminaries and denominations today.  They celebrate themselves while falsely thinking that God bends to their rationalism, ideologies, theological bias, morals and control.  Like many of the religious Jewish leaders of first century Judaism, they merely exempt themselves from the glory and power of what God is doing all around them. 

They are blind guides of the blind dressed in religious garb while having no presence or power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives.  They willingly  twist scripture to embrace anti-Christ morals and values. They fail to measure themselves by texts like 1 Corinthians 2:4-5.

The spokesman for the Sanhedrin was throwing the best pitch he had! Peter through the filling of the Holy Spirit was about to knock it out of the ball park.  Stay tuned for the third message from Peter recorded in the Acts 2-4.

A Spirit Filled Demeanor: Acts 4:8 

“8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people,”  Acts 4:8 

Before moving into Peter’s message, I want to pause and make a crucial observation.  Pentecost had radically changed Peter.  The filling of the Holy Spirit changed his demeanor.  A few months earlier, Peter melted when two different servant girls accused him of being with Jesus.  Shortly thereafter, when a few other bystanders associated him with Jesus, Peter started cursing and denied that he even knew Jesus. (See Matthew 26:69-75)
Yet in this text in Acts 4:1-12, Peter and John were standing before the Sanhedrin and they were trying desperately to intimidate them, but it had zero negative affect on them.  They were bold, courageous and filled with confidence.  What had changed? 
The answer points to the Promise of the Father.  They had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.  As Jesus said in Acts 1:8, the Holy Spirit filled them with power to be witnesses.  They were anointed and had unction.  The tables were totally turned on the elite religious leaders.  Peter’s words penetrated them like a sword. 
Let me make an observation.  According to Matthew 16:13-20, Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  His theology was right.  Then, according to John 21:15-17, he told Jesus three times that he loved Him.  His heart was right. What was missing?  His spirit was empty.  He was living according to the flesh. 
The baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost radically changed his demeanor. He was like a new man.  Acts 4:8 says; “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…”  Do not miss the significance of that phrase.  
Two things came together in his messages.  First, his focus on the gospel was right.  His message had the right content.  He was speaking the word of God in truth.  But second, he was filled and anointed by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God was working through him with power. 
The combination of these two things are usually present when the Holy Spirit works in extraordinary ways.  The message has to be right and the messenger should to be right with God and dependent on the Holy Spirit.  
However, Jonah was an exception to this principle.  He was out of step with God and yet God accomplished great things.  Philippians 1:15-18 also gives an exception to this principle.  Paul said that some were preaching from wrong motives, yet the gospel was going out.  God is not limited by the messenger.  After all, He used a dumb ass to speak to Balaam in numbers 22.  Sad to say, but some preachers fit that description only to well.  But Balaam proved to be a total disaster.  Have you noticed that there is no record that Jonah had any ministry after Nineveh. There is no value for being in the flesh instead of the Spirit.  It is counterproductive.  
The book of Acts shows what amazing things that can happen when both the message and the messenger are anointed by the Holy Spirit.  There is no excuse for fleshly ministry.  When people are distracted, bored  or sleeping during the message it is self evident that the Spirit of God has been grieved, quenched or ignored by the messenger.  Prayer-less ministry is powerless ministry.  After over 45 years of ministry, I am more desperate for the filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit than any time in my past.  

Only One Name: Acts 4:8-12
“8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9) if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10) let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11) He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. 12) And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭8‬-12

Peter addresses the Rulers and elders of the people with a very bold and direct charge.  He turns the table and puts them on trail. He goes on offense. 

He insinuated that being put on trial for healing a lame man was both spiritually and morally repugnant. Especially because the man had been lame from his mothers womb.  Even infrequent visitors to Jerusalem knew him, because he had sat for years at the Beautiful gate of the temple begging for alms.  

The miracle had an uncanny resemblance to the man born blind from his mothers womb whom Jesus healed as recorded in John 9:1-41.  The disciples asked Jesus; “2) … Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”  Jesus then set the stage for the miracle; “3)… it was neither that this man sinned , nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  His healing turned into the same kind of scrutiny by the religious leaders.  History was repeating itself. 

Peter seized the opportunity to preach Jesus Christ and the gospel to them.  In so doing he made three strong points.

First, in verse 10 he pointed out that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene the healing happened.  He was the very one they had crucified but God had raised from the dead.  To drive his point home, he said: “… by this name this man stands here in good health!” 

According to the text, the formerly lame man was standing next to Peter and John.  The evidence was obvious and indisputable.  A lame man cannot stand or walk on his own.    But the man was totally whole and in good health… and standing right in front of them! 

Second, Peter quoted from Psalm 118:22-24 and charged that the Rulers and elders had fulfilled this prophetic text by rejecting Jesus Christ.  Acts 4:11; “He is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, but which has become the very corner stone.”  

The story of the healing was spreading far and wide.  So was the crucial detail that he was healed “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.”  (Compare Acts 3:6 and Acts 4:10)  Jesus Christ had indeed been rejected by them, “the builders”, but He was now quickly becoming the very corner stone.  He was the focus of Peter’s message! 

Finally, in verse 12, Peter makes the bold claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation!  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Make no mistake, the gospel is very exclusive.  Peter stated that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation!  

This verse is equivalent to John 10:7-9 where Jesus claimed to be both the door of the sheep and the good shepherd.  All who enter through Him are saved.  How could He be both the door and the shepherd? Because at night the good shepherd would lay as the door of the corral.  There was only one way in… and it was through Him.

Peter was saying the same thing in Acts 4:12. Salvation is only through faith in Jesus Christ!  His point was absolutely clear to the Rulers and elders of the people.   Salvation is not through the name of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.  It is not through Moses, Joshua or Elijah.  It is not through David, Daniel or John the Baptist.  They all pointed people to Jesus Christ.  

Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.  It is not through Buddha, Mohammad or the Dalai Lama.  It is not through the Catholic Church, Lutheran Church or Baptist Church.  It is not through the philosopher, psychologist or politician. It is not through the medicine man, witch doctor or warlock.  It is not through Christian Science, Mormonism or Scientology.  It is not through mythology, mysticism or new age religions. It is not through good works, religious rituals or philanthropy.  Salvation is only through personal saving faith in Jesus Christ.  He alone died on the cross to pay for the sins of humanity and He alone rose from the dead proving His claim of Deity. Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation? 

Peter exposes and explodes a common myth and lie that says; “All roads lead to God!”  Let me close by quoting him one more time; “12) And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭12)  

Stamped by the Presence of God: Acts 4:13
“13) Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭13‬

Spending time with Jesus has an affect on people.  As the council listened to Peter and John, they understood they were untrained and uneducated men, but they had unusual confidence, passion and profound insight into the Scriptures.   They reminded them of Jesus.  The anointing of the Holy Spirit was upon them. 

To grasp the difference, it may be helpful to review how the crowd responded to Jesus after He delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  Listen to their reaction; “28) When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29) for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭28‬-‭29‬ ‭His teaching with authority and the confidence of Peter and John was related.  It was not the punchless style of the highly educated scribes and Pharisees.

There is a difference between a “God trained man” and a “man trained man.” There is also a difference between people “sent from God” and those who are merely doing a job or hired for a position.  Paul made this point about himself in Galatians 1:1.  Take a moment and read his credentials. 

Those whom God sends He also anoints. There is a holy unction upon them.  There is a fire burning within them.  They are clothed with the fruit of the Spirit. Like Moses coming down from the mountain, there is a radiance stamped on their countenance.  They are empty vessels that God works “in” and “through” for His glory and purpose in the world. 

This quality cannot be learned or acquired by reading books or taking classes. It comes from spending time in the presence of God and being filled with His Spirit.  It is not rational, it is spiritual.  It is not an acquired skill, it is the mark of God’s presence.  

Paul made the case for these men and women in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.  God works through them to shame the wise and display His power. While the world looks for a great resume to fill positions, God has a better plan.  God raises up men and women stamped with His Spirit, power and glory.  

I am not impressed with human credentials when looking for a leader.  Yes, I look for men and women who who have the right skills, but are also anointed by the Holy Spirit and have godly maturity from spending quality time with Jesus. 

I do not care how impressive the academic resume, if there is no fire for Jesus burning from within… they are not qualified! They need to be stamped by the presence of God! 

I am not moved by men or women who are carnal minded, worldly trained and void of Spirit.  Such was the case of the rulers and elders of the people.  They were empty wells.  They were blind guides.  They were wolves in sheep clothing.  They lacked Gods presence and anointing. They were not qualified to lead God’s people or pour fuel on the movement of the Spirit. 

Do not recruit them to lead your church or Christian organization.  They promote self and not God.  They have their own agenda and not Gods agenda.  They get man sized results instead of  God sized results.  There is no fire within them.  

 Introduction to the Doctrine of Suffering: Acts 4:14-17

“14) And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.  15) But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16) saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 16) But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.”” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭14‬-‭17‬ 
It is counter productive to threaten those who are mighty in spirit with physical harm or punishment.  They have already crucified the flesh in order to walk in the Spirit.  They have set their minds on things above and not the things on earth.  They have made Jesus Christ Lord and Master of their lives. 

The rulers and elders of the people should have learned this lesson from their dealings with Jesus.  He chose the cross above their threats.  The resolve of His followers was multiplied many times over after Pentecost. Those truly filled with the Holy Spirit function at a different level than carnal men.

It is here, in the face of threats of physical harm and punishment that Satan’s ploys are exposed.  He can only threaten on the level of the physical, but the redeemed have already forsaken the fleshly pleasures of this life to pursue God and what is called “Zoe” life in the Spirit.  They have moved beyond mere “bio” life.  

Jesus said; “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭28‬) ‭Satan’s reach is limited.  It is temporal and not eternal. 

I must conceded, all of the disciples feared for their own lives and safety before Pentecost.  The event of being baptized in the Holy Spirit radically changed them.  This fact was instrumental in my reconsidering the meaning and importance of the Promise of the Father as recorded in Acts 1:4-5. I believed in Jesus and loved Jesus, but I lived by my own fleshy efforts. I often failed and lived in fear. 

Peter and John were no longer carnal. After Pentecost, they began to live and function on the level of the Spirit.  They exemplified the teaching of Paul found in 1 Corinthians 2:1-3:3.  God used this text to cut me open and expose that I was void of Spirit.  

In this text, Paul argues that there are three kinds of people.  There is the 1) spiritual man, 2) the natural man, and 3) the carnal man.  Physical treats like those coming from the religious rulers are very effective against the natural man and the carnal man, but they are counter productive against the spiritual man or woman.  

Paul presented the case that inner ministry of the Holy Spirit separates the spiritual man from the carnal man.   They can share the same basic theology, but the inner man is very different.  The carnal Christan is dependent on self effort, intellectual reason and self discipline to live the Christan life.  The spiritual Christian is dependent on the inner ministry of the Holy Spirit for personal transformation and power for living. 

The western church fears persecution.  The persecuted church values persecution because it separates the sheep from the goats.  Leaders in the underground church in China are not honored because of academic achievements, they are revered based on the suffering they have endured for the cause of Christ. Those tested by fire have a purity of devotion to Christ. 

Acts 4 contains the introductory material on the doctrine of suffering for the Christian Church. Sadly, the doctrine of suffering is absent from the modern western church.  Carnality reigns in the absence of teaching about crucifying the flesh to embrace the walk in the Spirit.  

An Anti-Christ Agenda: Acts 4:14-20
“14) And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15) But when they had ordered them to go outside of the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16) saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.  17) But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” 18) And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19) But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20) for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭17‬-‭20‬ ‭
The healing of the lame beggar was so complete and noteworthy that not even the critics could deny its authenticity.  “They had nothing to say in reply.” 

All of Gods works are that way!  Creation is a great example.  The deeper you dive into what God created the more order, design and beautify unfolds.  From the microscopic the telescopic, everything points to Gods superior intelligence, power and glory.  The Laws of Physics adorn the character and nature of the Creator.

So it was with the healing of this lame beggar.  A noteworthy miracle had taken place.  You would think the Council would yield to this sign from God.  It was undeniable!  Instead, what they did was very clever.  They simply rejected the premise that it was done in the name of Jesus Christ or added any validity to the claim of His resurrection.  They defended their anti-Christ bias.  

Let me make a strong observation from the text.  The Council had no problem with the miracle; they simply refused to connect it to faith in Jesus Christ.  They rejected the gospel.  They believed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob performed miracles.  The Old Testament is full of them.  They were objecting to Peter and John tying the miracle to Jesus Christ and the gospel. 

Let me underline this in your thinking one more time! In the New Testament, God performed signs and wonders for the sole purpose of validating Jesus Christ and the gospel.  (Study Hebrews 2:1-4 to punctuate this point) 

Do you doubt me? Let’s examine the nature of the threat by the Council against Peter and John.  Ironically, they did not command them to stop healing or performing miracles.  Instead, they commanded them to stop teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.  They wanted them to stop sharing the gospel.  Beware of any ministry that minimizes the importance of sharing of the gospel. 

This story punctuates my deep conviction that the primary purpose of healings and miracles in the early church was to undergird the preaching of the gospel!  Satan has no problem with signs and wonders as long as Jesus Christ and the gospel are set aside.  

In fact, in the end times, Satan is going to give all kinds of false signs and wonders to mislead people. Just take a moment and study 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10.  The anti-Christ agenda is getting people fixated on signs and wonders apart from any focus on Jesus Christ and the gospel.  This translates to deception and confusion.

Some of my Charismatic and Pentecostal friends accuse me of limiting the power of God because I do not embrace a doctrine of universal healing.  I simply observe that God did not heal everyone in the New Testament.  

However, we do see that signs, wonders and healings were deeply connected to the exaltation of Jesus Christ and the spread of the gospel.  Even the context of Acts 5:16 is connected to the exhalation of Jesus Christ and the spread of the gospel. 

I refuse to put God in any box or within parameter’s that the Bible does not clearly establish.  One example is found in James 1:13 where it says; “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” We also know that God does not lie.  These are biblical parameters God puts around Himself.

When it comes to miracles, signs and wonders, the Bible drops us off at the sovereignty and providence of God.  It is equally as erroneous to say; “God does not do miracles today”, as it is to say; “Gods will is to heal everyone.” Neither view is taught or illustrated in the Bible. 

However, there is one truth that seems constant in the New Testament.  When God did perform signs, wonders or miracles, they consistently exalted Jesus Christ or were used to spread the gospel. Again, this is the punch line of Hebrews 2:1-4. 

So let’s come back to our text.  I stress again that the Council did not dispute the miracle.  What they objected to was tying the miracle to Jesus Christ and the gospel.  

We learn from this text that miracles are not about miracles.  Healing is not about healing.  They are given for two reasons.  First, they validate the identity of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.  Second, they open doors for the gospel and underline the importance of faith in Jesus Christ.  They are powerful and amazing affirmations from God to glorify Jesus Christ and advance the gospel. 

We need to adopt this New Testament standard today.  It is prudent to stand aloft from any ministry that focuses on signs and wonders but totally ignores Jesus Christ and the gospel.  As shown earlier, this agenda is the end time scheme of the anti-Christ. 

The Secret to Unshakable Faith: Acts 4:18-20  
“18) And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19) But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20) for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭18‬-‭20‬ 

This text captures the power, confidence and boldness imparted by the Holy Spirit.  They were not concerned about their own thoughts, feelings or personal welfare. They did not conduct an opinion poll to see what the majority of Christian’s thought.  The only opinion that mattered was Gods! 

They had spent close to three years with Jesus during His public ministry.  The Living Word Himself had taught them the written Word. They watched Jesus willingly suffer and die on the cross at the hands of this same Council.  Jesus had spent forty days with them on numerous occasions after His resurrection.  They were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit.  

Peter’s response was classic; “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard!” 

This response became the standard for the New Testament Doctrine of suffering.  Take a moment and read 1 Peter 4:12-19.  When we are suffer for the name of Christ while doing right and displaying godly character, then the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us.  (See 1 Peter 4:14-16) 

There is a big difference between suffering for stupidity sake and suffering for the gospel.  Joseph and Daniel both suffered for their unwavering godly convictions, but they did it with respect and honor.  They were not mouthy, rebellious or rude.  The same was true of Peter and John in this story. They made their stand based solely on what was right in the sight of God. They were willing to suffer for their convictions.  

Notice Acts 4:20; “for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”  John used these same words in 1 John 1:3; “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also might have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”  

This takes the conversation to the next level.  They were driven by something higher than personal convictions.  They were motivated by intimacy and  fellowship with God. They were walking with God and therefore were wrapped in agape love.  

They were consistent.  They were willing to suffer for Christ and the gospel because they were living every day for Christ and the gospel.  Their focus was not on dying for Christ, their focus was on living in sweet communion with Him.  Their mindset was not “suffering for Christ”; their mindset was “fellowship with Christ.”  As Paul said in Philippians 3:8, his surpassing value was knowing Christ… and that intimate relationship took the sting out of suffering.  

On the rare occasions that I have been privileged to associate with the underground church, I observed that moment by moment intimacy and fellowship with Jesus Christ was the common denominator among them. They were deeply rooted in personal fellowship and intimacy with God.  They sincerely loved Jesus Christ and walked in His Spirit. 

This invitation is for every believer.  We are called into deep fellowship and communion with God irregardless of our outward circumferences.  The walk in the Spirit can be summarized as intimacy with God. 

There was no mystical secret behind the boldness of Peter and John as they stood before the Council.  Acts 4:13 says they were marveling at their confidence and then began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. Their demeanor was the overflow of their inner fellowship and relationship with Jesus Christ. The Doctrine of Suffering is rooted in the greater calling to intimacy with God.

The Unforeseen Benefit of Persecution and Suffering: Acts 4:21-22
“21) When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22) for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭21‬-‭22‬ 

God does not bow to human threats, nor should His disciples.  In Matthew 28:18-20, the resurrected Christ gave authority to His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples and teach all that He had commanded them.  He promised to be with them. 

Here, in Acts 4:19-23 we encounter a battle between two authorities.  The command of the Council not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus Christ was in direct opposition to the command of the resurrected Christ to preach and teach the gospel to the whole world. To obey one was to deny the other. 

Peter and John put the Council on notice that they were going to obey God rather than man.  They refused to back down.  ( See Acts 4:18-20) When we align with God rather than men we trigger the principle that God steps up and does the fighting for us.  But let me give a caution; doing this means that we are prepared to suffer for righteousness sake.  This is the hallmark of disobedience to false or liberal religious authorities for the sake of obedience to God.  

Daniel 3:13-30 is the foundation text for religious disobedience. When King Nebuchadnezzar built his image and issued a command for all to bow down and worship, it placed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in opposition to the religious order of the king.  

Their answer to the king was classic.  It is found in Daniel 3:16-18.  Let me quote;  16) “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17)  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18) But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.””

Sure enough, the king accepted their challenge and bound them hand and foot and had them thrown into the furnace of fire.  They were willing to suffer and die for allegiance to God.   That’s when God stepped up and intervened.  But what if he hadn’t?  Obeying God with a clear conscience was a higher value to them than life.  This is the cornerstone to the doctrine of suffering. God meant more to them than life.  

There is a subliminal subtext to this doctrine.  It comes in the form of two words for “life” in the Greek language. There is difference between “bio-life” and “zoe-life.” The first refers to mere physical life.  The second refers to Spirit life.  

The early Christians were willing to give up physical life for the greater value of embracing the higher spiritual life found through faith in Jesus Christ.  “Zoe” is the word for life found in John 1:4; “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men”  Jesus had deeper life in Him than mere physical life.  The concept of “eternal life” in texts like John 3:16 is also based on the Greek word “Zoe.” 

When I first heard the concept of “Zoe life” it seemed strange and even awkward for me.  Over time it has become very precious.  I now equate Zoe life with the walk in the Spirit.  This is the deeper abundant inner spirit life Jesus promised to give His followers in John 10:10.  

So what does “Zoe life” have to do with the doctrine of suffering? The early Christians understood that threats against biological or physical life could not affect the deeper “Spirit life” found “in Christ.”  Persecution and martyrdom could destroy the physical body, but they had no affect on the soul or spirit.  To the contrary, outward suffering can enrich the soul and spirit.  This physical suffering principle also applies to physical ailments and aging.  (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18) 
We could spend considerable time on this theme, but this is why the threats from the council had no negative affect on Peter and John.  They were no longer living according to the flesh but rather according to the Spirit.  To the contrary, they understood that physical suffering throws spiritual gasoline on inner spirit life.  This can happen no matter the source of physical suffering.  Pruning the flesh can always produces fruit in the spirit… if we respond to it properly.

After they were released, we discover the full extent to which the threats from the Council fueled the awakening that was unfolding.  The next section of the story is very profound and enlightening.  It shows how to cry out to God in the face of persecution and suffering.  God is always magnified through the storm! 
Seeing The Bigger Picture: Acts 4:23-38 
“23) When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24)  And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25) who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples devise futile things? 26) The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ 27) For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28) to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭23‬-‭28‬ 

Upon being released from the Council, they went to their companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  When you squeeze the text about the meaning of the word “they”, something beautiful emerges.  The broader context indicates that Peter and John were accompanied by the former beggar when they stood before the Council.  He was most likely included in the word “they.” This reunion included the healed beggar meeting his new family for the first time as a believer.  He was being assimilated into the family of God.  

After reporting the warnings from the chief priests and elders to their companions, the group with one accord lifted their voices to God.  They didn’t call a committee meeting, instead they launched into a spontaneous prayer meeting.  They were a praying church! They brought the matter to God.  

This prayer meeting focused on two things.  First, they focused on God and His extraordinary works.  They called upon Him as the Lord who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all life forms that inhabit these three realms.  They addressed Him as both Creator and Supreme Lord.  Instead of focusing on the size of their opposition, they zeroed in on the immensity of God.

This point should not be minimized.  Like Joshua and Caleb, they measured their opposition by the size of God.  This is the starting point of prevailing faith.  Make God and not your external circumstances your focus.

Second, they focused on the Word of God and its prophetic significance to their situation.  In their case, the Holy Spirit brought Psalm 2:1-2 into focus.  They understood that biblical prophecy was unfolding in front of them. They were actors in a drama much bigger than their immediate problems.  Divine Providence had written the script.  Gods plan of human redemption was being fulfilled. 

This is always the case.  We are involved in a story much bigger than ourselves.  We may not understand our circumstances, but faith recognizes that God is at work behind them.  It is crucial to yield ourselves to the greater plans and purposes of God.  

I will resist the temptation of going on a tangent, but current events today are very similar to the days of the early church. They were key actors in the first advent of Christ and His birth, earthly ministry, death on the cross, resurrection, ascension and the beginning of the church age.  The Holy Spirit helped them perceive the greater spiritual and prophetic climate unfolding around them.  

By contrast, we are standing on the threshold of the second return of Christ and all the prophecies related to the end times. Things are happening in our world today of Epic proportions.  We are also part of a prophetic story much greater than ourselves.  It is crucial for the church today to again cry out to God for grace, power and understanding.  You are not an island unto yourself.  Let me emphasize again, we are part of a much bigger story.  We have come full circle.  Current events are again major prophetic events.  It is crucial that we set our focus on God and His Word. We need to adopt a biblical world view that includes the signs of the times unfolding around us. 

It is important that we learn from the early church.  We need to pray like they prayed… and in the days to come we will need to discover the importance of Christian community.  The book of Acts contains vital insights for our days.  

Profound Prayer: Acts 4:29-30 
“29) And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30) while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31) Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭29‬-‭30

These are some of my favorite verses in the book of Acts.  The early church faced opposition through prayer.  They asked for grace and confidence in speaking the Word while they trusted God step up and confirm their message with His mighty deeds.  

As my years in ministry have extended into five decades, my philosophy of ministry has changed. It has gotten much simpler, more biblical, less stressful and more joyous.  I now firmly believe that it is my job to tell the story, but it is Gods job to move the mountain.  It is my job to share the gospel, but it is Gods job to save people.  It is my job to share the vision, but it is Gods job to provide in miraculous ways.  It is my job to pray for healing, but it is Gods job to heal people. It is my job to invite people to join us in ministry as supporters or volunteers, it is Gods job to move them to action.  

I came to recognize that I am small, but God is big.  I am weak, but God is powerful.  I am restricted to time and space, but God is omnipresent.  I have limited knowledge and strength, but God is infinite in both.  I cannot fix people or their circumstances, but God can transform both.  I am called to point people to God, but He has to prove to them that He exists, that He cares, that He is powerful and that He invites them into personal relationship with Himself. I stopped trying to play god in peoples lives. 

All of this is wrapped up in this simple prayer recorded in Acts 4:29-31.  They were asking God for the courage and grace to go on preaching and teaching the Gospel, while leaving the healings, miracles, signs and wonders to Him.  They anticipated, expected, believed and trusted that He would not abandon them.  In this text, they were accepting their job description to preach and teach while reminding God that His Job description was to extend His hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. 
This simple formula has been true for Gods servants throughout biblical history.  Review Psalms 78:43; Psalm 135:9; Isaiah 8:18; Jeremiah 32:16-22; Daniel 4:3 and Daniel 6:25-27.  His servants were called to share His message while He stepped up and confirmed His existence and power.  
Actually, times of silence from God and periods of inactivity in the Old Testament were indications of judgement.  The way Elijah humiliated the prophets of Baal was through calling fire down from heaven.  His God did what their god could not.  It should not surprise us that fire came down at Pentecost. 

Let’s dig a bit deeper.  What was the difference between the ministry of Jesus and the scribes, priests and Pharisees?  It came down to the manifestation of the power of God through Him.  He performed signs and wonders while they were absolutely impotent.  

The same thing happened in the book of Acts.  The rulers of Israel had clout, institutional authority and dominion over the people, but zero spiritual power.  The lame beggar had sat for years at the gate of the temple under their jurisdiction and they could do nothing to help him. But then one day Peter and John came along in the name of Jesus and everything changed.  

God was confirming His anointed leaders.  Just like the rod of Moses and Aaron blossomed over night, so the ministry of the apostles was blossoming.  (Numbers 17) God was confirming His messengers in extraordinary ways.  The contrast between the Sanhedrin and the Apostles was obvious for everyone to see. 

This prayer in Acts 4:29-30 was both profound and simple. They were saying; “God, give us the confidence to keep preaching and teaching while You continue to confirm the gospel message with your great signs and wonders.” Another way of saying it might be; “Give us the grace to write the sentences while You add the punctuation marks!” 

These two verses have challenged me for years.  Early in my ministry, I was a “fix it” pastor.  I wanted to help people, but soon realized my strength and resources were tragically limited.  I almost burned out!  Then God graciously used verses like these to reveal my sin and self sufficiency.  

That’s when I developed the motto; “It is my job to tell the story, it is God’s job to move the mountain.”  My praying changed.  My preaching changed.  My faith changed.  My focus changed.  Instead of trying to explain away these verses, I started aligning myself with the biblical principle taught in Acts 4:29-30.  I started seeking God’s grace in fulfilling my calling while trusting Him to fulfill His promises.  To my surprise, mountains started moving in extraordinary ways.  

It is now up to you to capture the spiritual principle exemplified in this simple but profound prayer.  This is where faith meets the power of God.  This is where we become co-laborers with Christ.  

The Filling of the Holy Spirit: Acts 4:31
“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”  Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭31‬ 

I like earth shaking prayer meetings.  I confess, I’ve never been in one where the physical ground trembled, but I have be in numerous prayer meetings where the presence of God was powerfully felt.  During some of these prayer times, I am confident that the powers of darkness were shaken.  Never underestimate the importance of prayer and worship in the spiritual realm.

The key phrase I want to zero in on in this verse is; “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Peter and John and their companions for the most part represented the group that were present on the day of Pentecost and were baptized by the Holy Spirit.  This illustrates the biblical teaching that there is “one baptism” of the Holy Spirit but “many fillings.”

This can be established by looking at Ephesians 4:5 and 5:18 side by side.  The Greek in Ephesians 5:18 should be translated “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Jesus wants to freshly fill and anoint His servants with the Holy Spirit for every task, witnessing opportunity or preaching event.  Notice in Acts 4:31, the filling of the Holy Spirit was directly connected to prayer and seeking Gods power.  I maintain that prayerless ministry is powerless ministry.  When we neglect seeking God in prayer, we are automatically trusting our fleshly talents, abilities or clever programs for the results.  

This is why much church activity today leaves people bored as compared to the sense of “awe and wonder” felt by people in the early church. (See Acts 2:43)  They took prayer and seeking the filling, anointing and outpouring of the Holy Spirit seriously.  

Modern ministry is often void of sincere and urgent prayer. I watch this as I am invited to speak at many churches and events.  I am always pleased when leadership meets to pray with me as the speaker for a few minutes before a service,  But honestly, I don’t expect much of the presence of God during the service from this kind of shallow praying.  I am more blessed when they actually lay hands on me and pray for the filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit over me and my message.  It shows they are on the target.  

On the rare occasions when the intercessors are on duty and the prayer warriors are watchfully praying over the venue during the service, I expect a kiss from heaven.  During these services the presence and power of God is so strong that the Holy Spirit wrestles with people before the message begins and long after the service has ended. I relish being in the presence and power of God.  Some churches build this kind of “God seeking” into their fabric.  The church at Antioch certainly did. (See Acts 13:1-4) I have been in churches like this and experienced the sense of awe and wonder because of the presence of God. 

Like the manna in the wilderness, the bread of heaven must be sought daily. Yesterdays filling and anointing runs out.  The inner cup goes dry and must be filled again.  Yesterdays filling does not carry over into the next day or week.  I seek the filling of the Holy Spirit  every time I preach or teach… no matter how big or small the event.  Those occasions when I neglected seeking God in this way have been dry, empty and disastrous.  

But there is another secret.  We can pray for divine appointments and the filling of the Holy Spirit every day and throughout the day.  I don’t want to go through the motions of life and miss what God is doing around me.  

This is what happened to the disciples in John 4:1-45.  They spent much of the day shopping in the city of Sychar and didn’t talk to a single person about spiritual things.  They concluded the town was closed to God.  

Meanwhile, the Samaritan woman spent so much time with Jesus that her spiritual cup was overflowing.  She left her physical water pots behind and went into the city and talked to everyone about Jesus.  She soon returned with a crowd that was eager to meet Jesus. 

Here is the point, ordinary days can become extraordinary days when our spiritual cups are full. I believe this daily walk in the Spirit  accounted for the mystery recorded in Acts 2:47;  “… and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”   Don’t be deceived into thinking that the Holy Spirit cannot work through you or that He is only on duty for an hour on Sunday morning.  

The Holy Spirit is not restricted by time or space.  He is always present and active, but we are not always “tuned in.”  Acts 4:24-31 praying might not be as much about inviting God into our midst as it is about us entering into His presence and power.  Whatever the mystery, we are called to seek God through prayer and there is a notable difference between prayerless living and prayerful living.  The difference is the filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Speaking the Word of God with Boldness: Acts 4:31
“31) And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭31‬ 

The end result of being filled with the Holy Spirit was that they “began to speak the Word of God with boldness.”  The confidence and courage they pleaded for in prayer was granted.  They were no longer timid, fearful or ashamed of the gospel.  

This is a direct fulfillment of the promise of Jesus in Acts 1:8; “ “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  The mission is world evangelization.  The means is the power of the Holy Spirit. The message is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At some point, God wants His people to start talking about Jesus Christ and verbally share the gospel.  The emphasis in Acts 4:31 is on “speaking” the Word.  This was the validation of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

I have emphasized this point previously;  miracles and signs and wonders are not random.  They are given by God to either open the door for a verbal gospel witness or confirm the message and the messenger. 

If your Christian life or church has become mundane and powerless, I guarantee two things have happened.  First, prayer has been displaced and squeezed out by other “stuff.” Second, the gospel has been set aside and ignored.  

Satan doesn’t care how spiritual you look or how busy you become as long as you neglect prayer and never open your mouth to verbally share the gospel. The filling and power of the Holy Spirit is generated through prayer and aimed at speaking the word of God with boldness.  It’s that simple!  It’s that powerful! It’s that profound! It’s that important!  It’s that biblical! 

Let me quote Hebrews 2:3-4 one more time; “3) how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4) God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”  It’s our job to speak and tell the story of salvation, it’s God’s job to miraculously confirm the message and save lost people.

Stop separating God’s miraculous power from the spread of the gospel.  They walk hand in hand through the New Testament.  Stop being timid and ashamed of the gospel. 

In Acts 1:8, Jesus connected the power of the Holy Spirit to the spread of the gospel.  In Romans 1:16, Paul connected the gospel with the power of God.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul again connected the word of the cross with the power of God.  In 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 guess what happens?  Paul again connects the gospel message to the power of God.  I will resist the temptation to again connect Hebrews 2:1-4 to this discussion.  

If you are zealous to see signs and wonders, start praying like the early Christians and ask God for boldness to speak the gospel.  Then catch every wave God sends past you for sharing the gospel. Soon you will be surfing on the wake of the Supernatural just like the early church did in the book of Acts.

One Heart and Soul: Acts 4:32
“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.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭32‬ 

The wording of “one heart and soul” was an ancient expression of deep bounding, trust and friendship.  The old Hebrew definition of true friendship was “two bodies, one soul.”  Even Aristotle when being asked what is a friend,  answered; “it is one soul dwelling in two bodies.” 

It can be concluded that the quality the ancients longed for in just one true platonic friendship, the early Christians experienced.  But in this verse, the ancient value of “two being of one soul” was being stretched to an unfathomable level.  It was present in the whole congregation of believers.  Luke was treating this as “extraordinary!” 

This phenomenon was so present and real among the early believers that Luke placed it in the category of the power of the Holy Spirit through the apostles in the very next verse.  (Read Acts 4:32 and 33 together.) The expression of genuine agape love among the early Christians was indeed a validation  of the “extraordinary” work of the Holy Spirit among them.

Jesus foretold this phenomenon in John 13:34-35; “34) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35) By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””

Paul also describes the phenomenon of an outpouring of agape love by the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:5; “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
I can biblically make an argument that the spontaneous flow of genuine agape love from the indwelling Holy Spirit became one of the measuring sticks of true conversion in the early church.  In fact, it became more important than the manifestation of sign gifts as the New Testament unfolds.   This is exemplified by 1 Corinthians 13 being right in the center of Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts.  Agape love become his measuring stick of Christian maturity. 

If you want to pursue this concept, take some time and study Philippians 1:9, Colossians 1:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Peter 1:5-7.  Add to this list the discussion the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 and Paul’s dialogue on agape love in 1 Corinthians 13 and this argument becomes very compelling. 
But let’s get back to our context in the book of Acts.  If you take time and carefully read Acts 2-4, Luke was very moved by this phenomenon of agape love and fellowship among the early Christians.  He described it in Acts 2:42-47 and then returned  to it again in Acts 4:32-37.  He actually placed it on the level of signs and wonders in the early church.  He treated being of “one heart and soul” as being truly miraculous.

If this level of agape love and fellowship is missing in your life or church,  you have compelling reason to pray for revival and awakening.  For some reason, you are out of step with God and the Holy Spirit.

The Focus of the Early Church: Acts 4:33
“And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.”  Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭33‬ 
This verse is worthy of carful study.  Let me state the obvious; the “great power” was tied to the message of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. These two are intimately connected in this verse.  But you ask;  “why the resurrection?” What makes it so important?  Let me give a few brief insights. 

First, it is the resurrection that separates Jesus Christ from every other world religious leader. Romans 1:4 tells us that Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.  In other words, the resurrection is the proof of His Deity. The founder of every other world religion is dead and decayed. 

Second, it is the resurrection that validates the gospel message. This is what adds the punch to John 3:16-17; “16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17)  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  God did not leave His Son in the grave. 

Third, it is the resurrection that highlights the mission of Jesus Christ to give life to those who believe in Him.  Take a moment and review John 11:25-26; “25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26)  and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

Finally, it is the resurrection that seals Jesus Christ as the only way to God.  This was the message of Peter and John in Acts 4:9-12 to the religious leaders.  It might surprise some people, but there is only one way that leads to God and that is through Jesus Christ. The gospel is very exclusive. 

No wonder the “great power” was directly tied directly to giving witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This should not surprise us.  This is exactly what Jesus said in Acts 1:8.  He clearly stated that the power of the Holy Spirit would be intimately tied to the spread of the gospel.

God’s grace and power always converge at validating the identity of Jesus Christ and spreading of the gospel. To the extent that Jesus Christ is left out of the message, the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit diminishes and abundant grace evaporates. 

I want to state the obvious one more time; healings, miracles, signs and wonders in the book of Acts and the New Testament were directly tied to lifting up Jesus Christ and the spread of the gospel.  They were not an end in themself.  

The problem with powerless Christianity today is not a lack of faith, it is a lack of focus! Jesus Christ and the gospel are being displaced and obscured by all kinds of stuff.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith.”  This verse has the cure for spiritual impotency today! 

Agape Based Christian Community: Acts 4:34-35
“34) 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 35) and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭34‬-‭35‬ 
In the development of Christian community, agape love translated into action.  It happened inwardly toward fellow believers and outwardly toward the world.  In the process it dignified people.  They quickly took on more value than monetary possessions.  
It seems that the sale of excess lands and houses was voluntary and it may have been a fulfillment of the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21.  He turned away grieved because he was one who owned much property.  He valued much property more than God or people.

It appears that this sense of agape based Christian community emerged in opposition to the Jewish practice of exploiting people for personal profit.  The Jewish business model would often gain wealth by charging excessive interest on loans while quickly seizing the property of widows, orphans and the poor for lack of payment.  The practice perpetuated poverty.  Meanwhile, the Jewish merchants would exploit strangers and aliens visiting Jerusalem for festivals with excessive prices on everything.  It can be assumed that Joseph and Mary paid a premium for their humble abode in the manger.  

The tragic usury of Nehemiah 5:1-13 had become rampant within the Jewish nation again.  As you read this shocking text, you discover it included the trafficking of the poor and needy.  The rise of agape based Christian community in the first century led to the eradication of slavery, human trafficking, forced prostitution for debt payment and orphan exploitation.   

A survey of the whole New Testament reveals that the  early church stressed both caring for the poor and needy while at the same time stressing the development of a noble work ethic. James talked about faith taking action in the face of genuine needs. (James 2:14-26)  Paul stressed dealing with exploiters and freeloaders by giving them a job so they could learn self sustainability. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-13; Ephesians 4:28) It takes both sides of the coin for agape based Christian community to thrive. 

The development of agape based Christian community also prepared the early church for coming persecution and suffering.  This allowed the church to endure severe stretches of persecution and injustice.  This is the biblical recipe for the suffering church.  We need to learn how to provide and care for one another.

As the modern church debates how to deal with social injustice, the answer is right before our eyes.  Things will not change until we as Christians return to the model of agape based Christian community.  Secular government and social welfare started as a biblical value, but they are not fueled by agape love.  The world will never be able to replace the church. 

The Son of Encouragement: Acts 4:36-37
“36) Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37) and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭36‬-‭37‬ ‭

Joseph, who went by the name Barnabas was the real deal.  He was a born-again Levite who came to faith in Jesus Christ through the gospel.  The very translation of his name meant, “Son of Encouragement.”  He went on to become a leader in the early church and was “sent out” to help the church in Antioch.  (See Acts 11:22-26) 

As to the significance of him selling a tract of land and laying it at the apostles feet, it appears that this showed that he was both sincere and single minded in following Jesus. What he did was voluntary and in response to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.  He was a giver and not a taker. It proved that he was not motivated by greed or self interest.  

Later in Acts 11:24, he had the reputation of being “a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”  This brief mention in Acts 4:36-37 of him selling a tract of land displayed his single minded devotion to live by faith. He was “all in” when it came to following Jesus.  

The condition of many today is more like Ananias and Sapphira in the next paragraph.  We want to present the picture of being “sold out” for Jesus, but the truth is that we are double minded and inwardly embrace fleshly and worldly values. These two were motivated by greed and deception and not faith and truth.  They wanted recognition and leadership bestowed on them but they were fakes and frauds. They were motivated by a false and twisted agenda.  

By contrast, Barnabas was honest, sincere and genuine.  He wasn’t campaigning for recognition or self promotion.  He was following the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. He was a humble servant of Jesus Christ.  As his name indicated, he become a source of great encouragement to the early church. He was the man that embraced Saul and mentored him into ministry.  (See Acts 9:26-30; Acts 11:25-26; Galatians 2:1) Barnabas was an effective disciple maker.

I am motivated by leaders who are willing to sacrifice much to follow and serve Jesus.  At some point the glamour of living by faith can wear thin.  Barnabas most likely was not married and was free to follow Jesus with unusual freedom, flexibility and abandonment.  He was willing to work when needed to pay his own way in ministry.  (1 Corinthians 9:4-7) It is no wonder that he was sent out with Paul by the Holy Spirit to carry the gospel to the regions beyond.  (Acts 13:2-4)  I really admire this guy! 

Reverence For God: Acts 5:1-11
“1) But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2) and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3) But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4) While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5) And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6) The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. 7) Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8) And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9) Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” 10) And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11) And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.” Acts‬ ‭5‬:‭1‬-‭11‬ 

This story is shocking!  It stands in stark contrast to the story of Barnabas at the end of the previous chapter.  They both voluntarily sold a piece of property and laid the proceeds at the apostles feet.  There seemed to be something about this public act that indicated total consecration to God.  

But there was a problem with Ananias and Sapphira.  They wanted the public honor and recognition of this act of consecration to God, but they were deceitful.  Like Judas, they were secretly stealing from God.  They made a pact to keep back a portion of the money for themselves.  They were worse than double minded, they were lying to both God and men. They practiced premeditated deceit, deception and fraud. 

When questioned by Peter, they outrightly lied about their actions.  Peter made it clear that they were free to do whatever they wanted with their land and the proceeds, but they were not free to lie to God and treat Him as unholy.  Their offense of lying to God was in the same category of the sons of Aaron who burned strange incense on the altar and Uzzah who reached out to stable the ark which was wrongly being transported on a cart.  They were all met with instant death. 

This biblical comparison may include a hint that Ananias and Sapphira were publicly saying they were being set aside for full time ministry.  That was true of Barnabas in the previous chapter.  It was also true of the sons of Aaron and Uzzah.  James made it clear that teachers will be held to a higher standard. (James 3:1)  If leaders have no integrity or reverence for God, there will be no moral restraint by the people.

God is holy and must be treated with fear and reverence.  Peter addressed this theme in 1 Peter 1:14-19) He made it clear that addressing God as “Father” is no excuse for irreverence, because He impartially judges according to each man’s work.  To the contrary, those closest to God should have greater fear and reverence for God.  

The conclusion to this story catches my attention; “13) And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.” The early church stood in awe of more than just the power of God. This event sent shock waves through the entire region.  They quickly developed fear and reverence for the holiness and justice of God.  

At some point our focus must shift from “what God does” to “who God is!” This event accelerated that vital shift in the early church. 

Momentum Builds: Acts 5:12-16
“12) At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. 13) But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14) And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 15) to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16) Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.” Acts‬ ‭5‬:‭12‬-‭16‬ ‭

Solomons portico was a column that ran the full length of the eastern side of the temple and was open to the court of the Gentiles.  It made for a perfect stage for open air meetings facing the court.  The stone wall of the temple on the inner side of the porch made for perfect acoustics for large crowds to hear the preaching and teaching of the apostles.  This is where the crowd gather to see the lame beggar and where Peter preached to the crowd. (See Acts 3:11) 

The open court was large enough to accommodate several thousand people.  This is where many tourists visiting the temple mound loitered about and where merchants tried selling their goods to the crowd.  It was the hub of much activity and was not considered holy as the name “court of the Gentiles” implies.   Activity there was not closely monitored by the religious leaders. It was for all people from any nation.  Isn’t that coincidental! 

By default, this became the initial gathering place for the early believers. Throughout the day, the apostles would preach and minister to the crowds.  There was usually a constant turnover of the crowd, but a phenomenon started taking place.  It quickly become the destination of people seeking healing and listening to the gospel.  Those who believed were most likely directed to home churches that were springing up throughout the city for teaching, fellowship, worship, prayer and keeping the ordinances. (See Acts 2:42-47) 

God was working in extraordinary ways through the Apostles.  Many signs and wonders accompanied the preaching of the gospel.  Like in the case of all awakenings, momentum was building day by day.  This became the new attraction and destination of people visiting the temple.  Multitudes of both men and women were added to the number of the believers.  

The text seems to draw a contrast between two kinds of healings in verses 15-16.  The first described in verse 15, could be understood as relating to healings from natural causes. These were conditions stemming from such things as diseases, viruses, germs, bacteria or injuries. Because Jesus is the Great Physician, these healings are well within His power, but not necessarily universal.  God created the human body with natural healing ability to heal from many of these conditions. 

The second were healings related to conditions caused by unclean spirits.  The wording in verse 16 is unique.  These healings extended to the sick “or” those afflicted by unclean spirits.  (Vs 16) The wording indicates that all sickness or affliction caused by unclean spirits were healed.  It was universal!  It happened in every case.  It should be noted that the body has no natural defense or healing ability against these afflictions. They will persist until the unclean spirit or spirits are dealt with.  

This second category of healing is based on the fact that Jesus utterly destroyed and disarmed all the works of the devil and unclean spirits on the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15; 1 John 3:7-8) They can be overcome, renounced, resisted, rebuked and removed by the authority “in Christ” given to every believer.  

There should be no exception to these healings because there is no exception to the defeat of Satan or his workers by Jesus Christ.  This is a theological issue! Anyone who rejects this notion rejects the sufficiency of the cross.  These conditions persist only because of ignorance or an unwillingness to recognize the enemy and take authority in the name, blood and cross of Christ. (James 4:7) 
Angelic Deliverance: Acts 5:17-20 
“17) But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy.  19) They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 20) But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”” Acts‬ ‭5‬:‭17‬-‭20‬ 

When God is working in extraordinary and fruitful ways, it often sparks Jealousy in some people.  In this case, it was other religious leaders who became jealous.  The result was that they “laid hands on the apostles and put them in public jail.” 

Have you ever noticed how frequently biblical leaders spent time in jail? The trend started in the book of Genesis with Joseph and continues through the book of Revelation. The adversaries of the gospel can lock up Gods people, but no prison is secure or strong enough to contain God.  

Sometimes God sends an angel to open prison doors.  Other times the prison leads to the gallows for Gods choice servants. God is sovereign. He can be glorified by either deliverance or death.  Every Apostle but John eventually died a martyrs death.  

The text is not clear if there were a few of the apostles or all of the apostles gathered into the public jail, but God had big plans for them.  An angel open the prison doors and told them to go stand in the temple and preach to the people “the message of this life.”  Angelic activity was common in the New Testament. 

Stop for a moment and imagine the scene in  these verses. They include a contrast between life and death.  The apostles were offering the people new life in Jesus name while the high priests and his associates were threatening the apostles with death.  The people were choosing the road that leads to life.  

Upon hearing this, the apostles entered the temple about daybreak and began to teach.  They had a commendable work ethic!  

I can only imagine the stir of activity around the temple.  Merchants were busy preparing their goods for the daily crowd.  The levites were putting their final touches on cleaning the temple grounds. A few lower ranked priests were changing the show bread and preparing the morning sacrifice. The crowds were already buzzing with chat about current events and the arrest of the Christian Leaders.  The apostles were on duty and teaching about anyone who would listen about Jesus Christ and the gospel.  Where was chief priest and his associates?  They were still in their bed chambers with soft pillows wrapped around their ears.  

Answering the call to follow Jesus does not lead to a life of ease.  To the contrary, there will be plenty of sleepless nights followed by early mornings.  Give of your best to the Master.