When was Messiah’s Community at its best? When it first became the religion of the Roman empire? At the beginning of the Protestant Reformation? Today? My answer: Messiah’s Community was it its best when it first started. This morning, let’s consider Acts 2, which describes what Messiah’s Community was like at its beginning. Let’s learn from the Lord’s first followers and hopefully, become more like them.
I love that Messiah’s Community started on a Jewish holiday. When the day of Shavuot came: This was 50 days after Messiah’s resurrection. 10 days before this Messiah had ascended, from the nearby Mount of Olives, to Heaven, to the right hand of God the Father, where He is right now, ruling over the universe, and supplying His people with all the grace they need to live successful lives.
When the day of Shavuot came, they were all together in one place (‘they” being no more than 120 people). Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
A violent wind came from Heaven: This teaches us that the Holy Spirit comes from Heaven. He comes from God the Father and from Messiah the Son. The Holy Spirit is heavenly, divine, just as much God as the Father and the Son.
The Spirit came like a violent wind. Just as a violent wind affects us and can move us if strong enough, the Holy Spirit wants to influence us and move us in the direction He wants us to go. Won’t you open yourself fully to Him and allow Him to move you?
Tongues of fire rested on them. The presence of God is often associated with fire – like the fire of the burning bush and the fire on Mount Sinai. The presence of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, was with them.
Fire is a symbol for holiness. This Heavenly Spirit is holy – pure, separate from evil. And He wants to make us holy.
The Holy Spirit filled them. He enabled them to be full of God, to really know God, to be very close to God, to be focused on God. We need to be filled with the Spirit.
This Holy, Heavenly Spirit enabled them to speak languages they never learned. The purpose of the languages was to show that God was with them, giving them supernatural abilities.
And the purpose of the languages was to show them that this was the beginning of the reversal of the confusion of the languages that began at Babel; this was the beginning of the reunification of humanity; the beginning of the one new man, the new united humanity, united to the Three-In-One God and united to one another.
And the purpose of the languages was to help them engage in evangelism; to help them proclaim the Good News.
Messiah’s earliest community was a Spirit-filled community that engaged in evangelism. We need to be filled with the Spirit and engaged in evangelism – regularly, all the time; making use of every opportunity – which is what happened next. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jewish people from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jewish people and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Proclaiming the Good News results in some being interested – and some being opposed. Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” This earliest community wasn’t intimidated by opposition. In fact, they used it to further proclaim the Gospel. They understood that every knock is a boost.
The earliest community was focused on evangelism. And along with proclaiming the Good News, they warned people about the bad news – which we also need to do. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jewish people and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Peter responded to the mockery of the opposition by quoting a prophecy from Joel about the Last Days: with the coming of Yeshua the Messiah, the Last Days, the final period of history leading to the return of the Son of God, had started. The languages they were speaking were not drunken ravings but part of the supernatural outpouring of the Spirit in the Last Days. And everyone who called on the name of the Lord would be saved; everyone who professed allegiance to the Lord would be saved – which means that everyone who didn’t call on the name of the Lord would not be saved.
And Yeshua is the Lord they must call on if they were to be saved. Peter reminded them of recent events that they were aware of that proved that Yeshua is indeed the Lord: “Fellow Israelis, listen to this: Yeshua of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. Yeshua’s miracles were God’s validation, God’s seal of approval, divine proof that Yeshua is the Lord.
However, in spite of God’s accreditation of Yeshua, He was rejected and crucified. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. Yeshua’s death, although carried out by evil people, was part of God’s plan to save us from the things we can’t save ourselves from – Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell.
After Yeshua died, something unique happened to Him that also proves that He is Lord. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Apart from Enoch, death has been able to hold all people, because all have sinned. The Father’s resurrection of Yeshua is God’s way of letting us know that Yeshua is uniquely sinless and is the Lord we must give our full allegiance to.
To reinforce the truth that Yeshua had really overcome death, Peter quoted Psalm 16 and applied it to Yeshua. David said about him: I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Fellow Israelis, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. Peter understood that David, the author of Psalm 16, wasn’t referring to himself, because he had not been resurrected. His tomb was nearby and his body was still in it. Peter concluded that David was speaking about the resurrection of the Messiah, who would be a descendant of David.
To reinforce the truth that Yeshua had overcome death, Peter testified that he and his friends were witnesses that what David had predicted would happen, had in fact happened. They had seen Yeshua resurrected. God has raised this Yeshua to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
And it was this resurrected and ascended Yeshua who had poured out the Spirit of God on them, which resulted in what seemed to be tongues of fire that rested on Yeshua’s followers. It was the Spirit that Yeshua poured out who enabled them to speak languages they never learned. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
The Father is supreme in authority. The Father gave the Holy Spirit to His Son, who then poured out the Spirit to those first Yeshua-followers. And who can pour out the Spirit of God other than God Himself? Which means that Yeshua is God – not the Father, but God, divine, deity.
Peter continued: it wasn’t David who ascended to Heaven and gave the Spirit. It was Yeshua. Peter reinforced this truth by quoting another prophecy – from Psalm 110: For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’
The conclusion to be drawn from all this? “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Yeshua, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Peter’s message was true and it was powerful and it deeply impacted many there that day. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Messiah Yeshua for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Faith in Messiah Yeshua, accompanied by turning away from sins results in the forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit – and is to be immediately followed by baptism.
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Messiah’s first followers were passionate about proclaiming the Gospel. They told people the Good News about Yeshua. And they warned people of the consequences of rejecting the Good News. If they didn’t accept the Good News, they would not be saved. They would be lost, condemned, damned along with the rest of their corrupt generation.
We need to be like them: courageously telling people the Good News and the bad news; pleading with people; warning people.
3,000 people responded that Shavuot, and were baptized.
Luke let us know what these earliest Yeshua-followers did to support the life and faith of their community: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. The apostles been taught by the Lord – for three or four years while He was with them before His death, and for 40 days after His resurrection. They understood His teachings and they understood the Tenach – and how old and new fit together.
They were devoted to the fellowship. They shared the most important things in common. They shared the life of God and the values of God. They shared the Spirit of God. And they were devoted to their community of shared life and shared values.
They were devoted to breaking of bread. They ate together, getting to know one another, getting closer to one another.
They were devoted to prayer. They prayed individually and they prayed together.
They were doing all the right things. And they had the greatest leaders, men whom the Lord allowed to do miracles. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
And they took care of each other. They shared everything they had with each other to meet everyone’s needs. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
And they met daily at the temple where they worshiped God, encouraged each other and witnessed to those who needed to know about Yeshua the Messiah. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
And they were very happy. They were full of praise for everything that God had done for them. They were enjoying the favor of all the people of Jerusalem. And they were experiencing growth. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
What a great community! It is our role model for what our community should be like.
This was a community that was bold; that was courageous.
This was a community that knew the Word of God. They understood how the old and new fit together. They knew that the focus of the Word of God is the Messiah.
This was a community who message was allegiance to Yeshua. Their message was not laws, not Torah observance, not Sabbaths and holidays and dietary laws.
This was a community that called on people to turn from their sins, to repent.
This was a community that called on people to be immersed.
This was a Spirit-filled community.
This was a community focused like a laser beam on evangelism.
This was a community that was not intimidated by opposition. It was a community which used opposition to further the Gospel.
This was a community that told people the bad news as well as the Good News; that warned people of the consequences of rejecting Yeshua.
This was a community that was devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This was a community that was focused more on meeting the needs of the people in the community than advancing their own personal prosperity.
Lord, thank You for that great community. Thank You for Luke, who wrote this history so we can know that what that community was like. Lord, help us more and more, be like that great community. Amen.