The Book of Acts begins with a bridge carrying us from the record of Jesus’ life into the record of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles. That earlier record had concluded in his death on the cross, his burial, and his return to life on the third day in magnificent glory! Then Jesus spent 40 days preparing his disciples for the promised power of the Holy Spirit. That event happened on Pentecost.
Doctor Luke begins the second book with a description of Jesus’ ascent into heaven. He had assured his disciples that they would not have to work alone. He promised them that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and enable them to do the work of the kingdom of God.
During those last days Jesus spent on earth before his arrest he repeatedly promised he would never leave them as orphans. Let’s look at one example of that teaching Jesus said…
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:15-18.
After Jesus had prepared his disciples over 40 days he ascended into heaven in their presence. As they stood looking into the heavens where Jesus had ascended suddenly two men stood by them. Those two were angels who had observed Jesus’ teaching. They knew what Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit. In amazement the angels asked, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11) These angels lived in a world of obedience to the Father! They could not believe that the disciples were still standing there. You see, Jesus had laid out the plan of ministry and it certainly seemed the apostles should be getting on with it!
Ten days after his ascension into heaven the Jews observed the feast of the harvest — Pentecost! This is the best way to celebrate harvest. When people come to faith in Christ it is because the Holy Spirit has begun the work in them. And that day of Pentecost was a very special one! The Holy Spirit would begin his work of bringing the gospel to the world through these men. That would result in a great harvest beginning that day.
When the day of Pentecost came the disciples were together. They heard the sound of a rushing wind! They saw the room they were in filled with the Spirit’s fire! They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in languages they did not know!
They left the upper room where they had been and hurried to the temple courtyard where they found a great crowd of people prepared to celebrate the harvest. The people at the temple that day were amazed because each one of them heard the gospel in their native language.
Some were prepared to hear the gospel some just made fun of them.
In order to make sense out of what was happening Peter stood to explain and in that explanation he preached the first Christian sermon! Peter began with a passage from the prophet Joel. Then he turned their attention to what this was really all about — Jesus of Nazareth! Peter pointed out that Jesus had established his authority with mighty signs and wonders. It may well have been that many of those standing in that courtyard that day had stood on the pavement in Pilate’s judgment hall crying out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” (John 19:15). Peter’s sermon caused them to be convicted of their guilt.
We do not have the full text of the sermon Peter preached that day we are simply told that “with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them” (Acts 2:40).
The result of the Holy Spirit’s work that day was the baptism of about 3,000 new believers. Wow, what a harvest! Now this leads to a problem — a problem every pastor would like to have! How do you baptize 3,000 people? I wasn’t there, so I cannot prove what I’m about to say. Remember, in that upper room there about 120 disciples. With 3000 new converts that works out to about 25 new believers for each disciple. Twice, in my ministry I have baptized about 20 new believers at one time. The first was when Pastor Don DeGarmo and I were re-establishing Buck Creek Baptist Church in Mississippi. The second was when we were beginning this church! That leaves us with another minor problem. Where could 3,000 people be baptized the same day?
The answer to that question is in the archaeological findings below the temple mount. Cherlyn and I were with a group that came to the steps that Jesus, and Paul, along with many other people we know about, had ascended into the temple. The great doors of the temple are now filled with stone but they were open in the first century and before. If you will come to the bottom step and look about you will see there are several mikvah located there. “What is a mikvah?” You might ask. I’ll tell you a story to explain.
Several years ago we had a wedding here at our church building. The bride and groom were not members of our church. But they were friends of mine. During the set up in preparation for the event some of the children discovered our baptistery. In this particular wedding party the bride was Jewish. One of the men in her family came up to the group of children. He told them that the Temple they attended on the Sabbath had one of those! He called it a mikvah! And it is used as part of the purification rituals of their faith.
Now, back to the first century! When these 3,000 new converts required baptism it was a simple matter of lining them up at the foot of the steps, paying the mikvah owner his fee and passing through the water with each disciple baptizing several new believers.
After the addition of these new converts, Doctor Luke tells us what their lives were like afterward. The record is found in Acts 2:42-47.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’
We must remember that “they” are the apostles and other disciples of Jesus. The new church, or assembly, is made up of those who had walked with Jesus from the very beginning when John the Baptist had proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) The next day two of John’s disciples followed Jesus and the church began to be formed. Now, on the day of Pentecost, the church had a tremendous growth spurt! This new gathering of believers devoted themselves. Devoted? The King James translates verse 42a, “And they continued steadfastly”. I would say that the mark of a true Christian is that they are faithful in the fellowship of believers.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
If Satan can’t keep a person from accepting Christ he will do everything possible to keep that person from the fellowship of believers. There are many ways that he does this and we don’t have time to go into all of them now. We must remember that the church forming in the Book of Acts was a fellowship that had several characteristics that should have gone on until today. One of those characteristics is a love for the word of God and a desire to understand it.
They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching — the Bible! Certainly not a Bible like ours but no less the word of God! The Bible they had consisted of the Old Testament. Now, a lot of people reject the Old Testament. In fact, there are churches that designate themselves as a New Testament fellowship. Anyone who knows me knows that most of my sermons are based on the New Testament. But these believers did not have a New Testament! They were blessed with the same Bible that Jesus preached from. The same Bible that Peter, Paul, John, and the other apostles preached from.
The twelve were blessed with having spent three years with the author of that book. Two of them, on the road to Emmaus, had walked with Jesus, though they did not know it, during that walk Luke tells us, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27). What a wonderful opportunity! To have been instructed by the Son of God about all the things in the Old Testament that concerned him. The author of the book was explaining it and they didn’t realize it until he was gone. These two must’ve surely been used of God to teach the new believers following the day of Pentecost.
They devoted themselves to fellowship. This characteristic in the original language is koinonia. It is often translated as “communion”. And we might mistake its use here as indicating the Lord’s Supper. I don’t believe that would be the correct understanding. Here I believe it should be translated “fellowship” or even “partnership”! These people having been born again, were spending their time with each other. They were devoted to God the Father and to the fellowship of the Son. They were steadfast!
They devoted themselves to breaking bread together! I believe this indicates the Lord’s Supper! I suppose there are many people who might not agree with me but that’s all right, we can disagree, so long as we do it agreeably. I suspect that these first century believers broke bread in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice and shared wine in remembrance of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for our salvation.
A fourth characteristic of that fellowship was “prayers”! Some translations use the word “prayer”. I’m not quite sure why because the original language is clearly plural. They didn’t just mumble a prayer they spent time on their knees together with many prayers offered to the Father!
Right now, around the world the horrible consequences of a serious viral infection is spreading. That’s a negative consequence! Also, around the world laboratories are working on the cure for this virus. When that happens that will be a good consequence.
The entire human race comes into the world spiritually dead. The evil consequence of Adam’s and Eve’s sin. When they sinned they condemned all their unborn children — including us. That’s a bad consequence. However, God showed his love for us in this — while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The consequence of his death is our only hope of salvation. He died once for all in order that those who put their faith in him might receive eternal life.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10) The Scripture says everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. (Romans 10:11) Are you having trouble with the idea of faith? Go to the word of God and read. Again the Scripture says faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17)
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.