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Living out the Great Commission

Date: 19 February 2023

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan

Sermon Text: Acts 2:1-47



19Feb23 Herald
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Introduction


Blessed Sunday to everyone. Am glad to see everyone here in the hall@Henderson. Greetings also to those who are joining us online. Hope to greet you in person next Sunday.


Have you been given an assignment and unfortunately not given the appropriate tools to carry it out well?


For example, asked to cut the grass with a pair of paper scissors? The scissors definitely can cut the grass. It’s okay for a pot of plants but not if it’s for a football field.


How about having to submit a project of 10,000 words and then giving you a manual typewriter? If it was the 1970s, well that was understandable, but in the 21st Century?


And to top it off, if you have to produce 3 copies and instead of a printer or copier, you get carbon copy paper.


I think for some of us who have gone through National Service, some of the projects we have had to endure come quite close to such examples. With lots of manpower and time, efficiency and effective tools are not considered.


It’s one thing to have an assignment but it is quite frustrating on the other hand, if we are not given the resources to accomplish it right?


Last week as a church, we began our journey through the book of Acts.


Ps Luwin pointed out that Luke the writer of Luke and Acts, recorded Jesus’ commission for His disciples.


Lk 24:47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.
Ac 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

The assignment was to evangelise to the end of the earth. This worldwide assignment was given to a group of 120 only. And this group consisted of not very educated and influential men from Galilee.


Would not the task have felt impossible? Would not the tools given (just 3 years of walking with Jesus) felt inadequate?


But God who is all wise, all knowing and all sufficient, knows exactly what is needed for the disciples to be His witnesses.


And so Jesus says, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.


It will be the power of the Holy Spirit that will enable you to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.


And this continues to be God’s empowerment even now, 21 centuries later. The Holy Spirit within us will give us the boldness, the clarity of speech and the love for sinners to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Thus, Ps Luwin has summarized that as we move from Luke to Acts, what we are seeing is “The way God is fulfilling his plan to establish his upside-down, outside-in kingdom is through the Spirit-filled ministry of Jesus Christ, which continues through the Spirit-filled evangelisation of the church.”


Since the Holy Spirit plays such a vital role in the church’s witness, as we come to Acts 2, let us have at the back of our heads, some key understanding of the Holy Spirit from our Lord Jesus Christ.


I submit, it will help us not wander to the extremes.


Jn 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me

Jn 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment …. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit will be a Helper. He is the Spirit of truth and that truth is to bear witness about Jesus.


So the Holy Spirit is not to take prominence but Jesus is. The Holy Spirit will point people to Jesus and will glorify Jesus.


Another thing we note is that when the Holy Spirit comes because He is the Spirit of Truth, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.


And I submit that this conviction of sin and righteousness and judgement is a great key test. It will prove whether what we are experiencing is really the presence of the Holy Spirit.


These 2 points I pray will be observable by us as we go through Acts 2.


What are Spirit-filled disciples empowered to do? (v1-13)


Our Lord Jesus has given all believers the Great Commission. To bring His name to the ends of the earth. How is that going to happen?


Acts 2:1-13 show us the empowerment that the disciples of Jesus received to do just that.


Pentecost is 50 days after the Passover. Pentecost is also the Feast of Weeks. An agricultural feast held annually to acknowledge God’s goodness in the cycle of the seasons and the fruitfulness of the earth.


As Israel brought their firstfruits to God, they were reminded that they can trust God for the harvest.


At the last Passover, Jesus the Lamb of God offered the once for all sacrifice for the sins of man. Now 50 days after, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit on the disciples as the firstfruit, as a reminder that this is the empowerment for the harvest of souls.


Let’s look at the first 13 verses and see what the Spirit-filled disciples were empower to do for the Great Commission.


Luke describes the sound of a might rushing wind from heaven (Eze 37:9-10) and divided tongues as of fire (Ex 19:18). And those familiar with Old Testament would immediately recognize them as the symbols of the presence of God.


Now there were 120 that had gathered in this place and it is significant that the tongues as of fire were divided and came upon all of them.


In the past, the Spirit of God came upon specific persons, in specific situations and for a specific time.


Instead, now, we see that it has come upon all believers and will permanently reside in them.


An important truth for us to note here - the empowerment to be God’s Witnesses is given to everyone and all the time. Not just for some and not just for certain situations.


We next observe that it gave them the ability to speak in unlearnt languages of the people in Jerusalem at that time. V5 says, each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were so amazed for they knew, these 120 men, they were Galileans.


Before Covid-19, when I had the opportunity to go to FEC to teach, the translation was not just to Myanmese but also to the Chin State dialect. And I’m told the Chin speaking and the Myanmese speaking can’t hold a conversation with each other.

I’m sure the Chin state believer would appreciate it so much more if I could speak in their dialect and share directly with them.


Acts 2:8-11 gives us 15 nationalities. They were both Jews from the diaspora and also proselytes (Gentiles who converted).


Based on the map of the day, basically everyone in the known world of the 2 competing empires (Romans and Parthian) at that time were present in Jerusalem.

God’s timing is perfect is it not? He gave the 120 disciples the ability to speak in all these languages at the time when all of these nationalities were present.


Church are you familiar with the story of Babel from Gen 11?


Gen 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”… 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” … 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Pentecost is redeeming of the judgement of Babel. The one Spirit that God gives, is able to break down the language barriers that separate.


What we have observed so far is that the Holy Spirit is given to all believers, and in Act 2 it empowers them with the ability of speaking in known but unlearnt languages.


Thirdly, we see in v11 that it was for a specific purpose.


Remember the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus and so the nations gathered in Jerusalem exclaimed, we hear them telling in our down tongues the mighty works of God.


Ac 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.

Apostle Peter will explain subsequently that Jesus of Nazareth is the focus of the mighty works of God.


According to bible translation organizations like Wycliff, there are 7000 languages in the world and 724 languages have the full bible, while 2865 languages have part of the bible translated.


The bible in its many translations now reaches nearly 97% of the world.


Today, what we have in the 66 books of the bible is God’s full revelation. The whole counsel of God is found within them. They are sufficient for gospel proclamation and gospel living.


For believers, the Holy Spirit present in us and the Holy Scriptures in our hands are God’s empowerments for us to be His witnesses.


And so, I submit we need to pray for and support organizations that seek to have the bible translated and missions reaching out to every people group.


Lest we get too exuberant, v13, pours cold reality to the proclamation of the Gospel. There will always be sceptics and mockers. Even with the phenomenal of tongues speaking, they mocked that they are filled with new wine.


Reminding us again, it is only by inward working of the Holy Spirit that a cold heart can turn warm towards Jesus.


What are Spirit-filled disciples to believe and how they should respond? (v14-41)


To the mockers, the perplexed and seekers, Apostle Peter gives a sermon which Luke summarises in v14 to 41. We know it is a summary because of v40. Apostle Peter used many other words which were not written down.


To the mockers, Apostle Peter states, it was only 9 am in the morning. So, they cannot be drunk.


Then to the perplexed, this is a fulfilment of the prophesy of Joel.


Informing the first audience and us today as well, we are all in the last days. We are all living between the 1st and the 2nd coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


In these last days, God will pour down the Holy Spirit on all flesh. Again with the backdrop of the Old Testament, that the Spirit was given to certain people, for certain situations and for a certain period.


Joel’s prophesy is that God will pour out the Holy Spirit on all people – both sons and daughters, both young and old, even male and female servants.


Apostle Peter was thus highlighting the significance of the divided tongues as of fire that rested on each of the disciples and the resulting proclamation in the multitude of languages.


Importantly, when the 2nd coming of the Lord happens, all who will be saved are those who have called on the name of the Lord.


Now to the seekers, to those who were amazed, Apostle Peter connects the Lord of Joel, which is Yahweh and Jesus of Nazareth.


Peter explained that to call upon the name of the Lord is to call upon Jesus.

Quoting Ps 16 in verses 25 to 28, Peter tells them that King David had already prophesied that Jesus will be raised from the dead.


And quoting from Ps 110 in v34 and 35, Peter explains that King David was referring to Jesus who is David’s descendant. And Jesus has now been exalted and is seated at the right hand of God.


Therefore, Peter sums it up in v36 – let the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.


Jesus is the fulfilment of all of God’s promises.


Peter did not speak in tongues during this sermon, but I submit he too had the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for giving him this ability to speak with boldness and clarity.


Remember, this is Peter who denied the Lord 3 times. Remember it has only been 50 days since Jesus was crucified by the Jewish Leaders with the Roman authority’s help.


Yet, it is with boldness that Peter stood up with the 11 disciples and addressed the crowd, proclaiming that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and the eternal king from the line of David.


Only the empowerment of the Holy Spirit can change timid Peter of Luke’s Gospel to the Peter we find now in Acts.


Secondly, we see clarity.


In Acts 4:13, the description of Peter was that they were uneducated and common men. Peter was a fisherman by trade.


Yet, through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, he was able to explain using Old Testament Scripture from Joel and the Psalms what was actually happening.


Now to the seekers, Peter said to them, hey, don’t think that just because you are a Jew, you are saved. No, it is you who crucified Jesus.


Jew and all of mankind, by our sin, by our disobedience towards God, we have nailed Jesus to the cross.


Spirit-filled believers are to accept that we are sinners who put Jesus on the cross to bear the wrath of God.


Thus we sing:


Behold the man upon a cross,

My sin upon His shoulders Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice,

Call out among the scoffers It was my sin that held Him there,

Until it was accomplished His dying breath has brought me life,

I know that it is finished


So, when seekers become Spirit-filled, Scripture says, their first reaction will be ‘to be cut in the heart’. They will be convicted of their sin.


And for those of us who are just a few steps ahead, we can thus inform them - to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to repent and be baptised in His name.


In His name, Spirit-filled believers receive the forgiveness of sin.


In His name, Spirit-filled believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Meaning the Holy Spirit is the gift. His abiding presence in our lives.


Now thus far, we have seen that Spirit-filled believers need to know they are sinners regardless of their background. And that salvation is found in no one else but in Jesus the Christ.


May I add one more to the list. Peter’s sermon also shows us the providential sovereignty of God.


Everything about Jesus was sovereignty ordained by God.

  • V23 reveals that Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.

  • V24 God was the one who raised Jesus up from the dead.

Even the revelation that Prophet Joel and the Psalmist was prophesying about Jesus, supports the providence and the sovereignty of God.


I pray that this will help us to gain confidence in God’s Word, for it is truth. That the bible we hold in our hands is reliable.


May the truth of God’s sovereignty deepen our faith and increase our trust in Him. Why? Because nothing is out of His control.


Thus, we can keep trusting in Him for all the challenges we face each and every day.


From 120 the Lord added another 3000. A huge jump, a significant number.


Now the population in Jerusalem at that time was estimated at about 100,000 and with the diaspora Jews, could swell up more than 3 to 5 times during Pentecost.

3000 is a huge jump, but a small percentage of all that were in Jerusalem at that time.


Again, highlighting that objection and mockery of the Gospel will be ever present. Jesus has already said in Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.


Let us thus not be discouraged when people reject our witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.


What does a Spirit-filled community of disciples look like? (v42-47)


Through Peter’s sermon, we have just seen what a Spirit-filled believer should believe and how they are to respond. Earlier in the first 13 verses, we observed what a Spirit-filled believe is empowered to do.


Now, in these final 6 verses in Acts 2, Luke informs Theophilus, what a Spirit-filled community looks like.


It is significant I submit, that in a chapter that describes the wonderful gift of speaking in many languages, Luke records instead 2 things.


Firstly, a very well thought out sermon by Peter and secondly, does not even include the gifts of speaking in multiple languages in his summary description of the early church.


Instead, he gives us very ordinary things which they did.


Firstly, the Apostles teachings, secondly fellowship, thirdly the breaking of bread and finally prayers.


Such activities can be carried out even today and anywhere in the world where believers are able to gather.


In the first century, they only had the Old Testament. The Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament was still being compiled. What a privilege position we are in today.


Just in English, we have it in many versions and also on different platforms.


Let us never take for granted the access we have to God’s revelation in our own language. And that in Singapore, we have the freedom to read and share it.

As we think of their fellowship, we must not equate it with what we do after Communion Sunday with our tea fellowship.


Biblical Koinonia or Fellowship is described for us in v44 – 47. There was togetherness, there was distribution to cover everyone’s needs, there was regular gatherings both in a corporate setting as well as in homes.


They were intimately involved and deeply committed to the lives of each other.

Hermon is attempting to cultivate biblical koinonia with our support of Ps Boomna and family.


Remember at the last Comms Day, we highlighted that we have included him as a recipient of our Benevolent Fund. This is because he has now left Thai-Ezra ministry and thus has been cut off from any possible support from them.


Church, we are living out v45 – we are distributing our financial resources to those in our faith community who are in need.


Thank you for helping to build biblical koinonia through your financial stewardship.

For the Breaking of Bread, we can look at 1 Cor 11 for reference. Paul describes for us the agape feast that happened in their gatherings. It was a fellowship meal that incorporated the Lord’s Supper.


All Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted. We can gather as Hermon each first Sunday of the month to participate in Holy Communion and now also have no restrictions to meet in homes for meals.


May I encourage us to seek to exhibit the Christian habit of hospitality. It will definitely be one step forward in us portraying the outside-in and upside-down Kingdom of Jesus.


Finally being prayerful. The Trellis and Vine has reminded us that unless there is prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, we will not have any power to live for Christ.


In Hermon, we have the platform of our twice a month prayer meeting and the weekly prayer page in the Herald.


Can you and I make use of it to increase our prayerfulness as a community?

Now notice with me that Luke gives some further description about how the believers approached community living.


Luke says they were devoted to doing these 4 things. To be devoted means to persist, to persevere and to hold fast to.


What do you think that would translate in terms of priority, effort, consistency? I’m sure it would be high priority, significant effort and steadfast consistency.


These verses describe the community that is truly attractive. This verses describe the community I’m sure we all want to be part of.


Church, this is a community I would love to build together with each one of you.

The Holy Spirit that has opened our eyes to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, is the same Holy Spirit that will enable us to build this Acts 2 community.


It is the Holy Spirit in each one of us that will enable us to journey together with glad and generous hearts. It is the Holy spirit who will enable us to have favour with one another.


Favour here is Charis which is another word for Grace. It means we will be able to be gracious with one another.


I want to be part of this community and I pray you will to.


Conclusion


Our Lord Jesus Christ has given believers the Great Commission. It’s such a huge responsibility and importantly He has not short-changed us in fulfilling it.


Jesus has given the church His very self in the person of the Holy Spirit to empower us to fulfil the evangelization of the world.


As we have seen, the Holy Spirit has redeemed the curse of Babel. Now everyone can hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his or her own native language.


The Holy Spirit has given boldness to His disciples that they may be His witnesses.


The Holy Spirit has inspired the writing of God’s Word so that now, we can share the full revelation of God.


The Holy Spirit has united all believers into the church, thereby creating an attractive community to shine for Him in this dark and cold world.


Church, what a blessing we have received as Spirit-filled believers. Church what empowerment we have been given as Spirit-filled believers.


And when we follow God’s blueprint. It is He who will add to His Kingdom, all whom He has called to salvation.


Amen.


 

Reflection Questions


The Holy Spirit was poured out on believers for the proclamation of Jesus Christ, how evident has His power been manifested in your life? How can you more fully submit to the Spirit’s presence, function and transformative work in your life?


Luke describes for us the priorities and lifestyle of a Spirit-filled, Jesus-believing community. How does this match up to your experience in Hermon, and in your CG? What more can be done to live up to the model recorded for us in Acts 2:42-47?

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