HAVING CHURCH WHEN THERE IS NO CHURCH

Acts 2:42-44 – And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

We are living in an unprecedented time for our generation. The whole globe is being shut down by this strange virus. The last time anything close to this happened was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Even my friends in the Phillipines and Africa are dealing with the pestilence called Carona. We are being challenged financially, in our health, as well as the unprecedented time of not gathering for our church worship services. The Bible has answers for us in whatever we are facing in life. In today’s passage we can find some answers in dealing with situations where we may not be very comfortable.

There was chaos after Jesus raised from the dead. Earthquakes in Jerusalem during the crucifixion and again at the Resurrection. Many thousands of people were in Jerusalem from all over their world at Passover who were effected by the earthquakes and the spiritual outpouring at Pentecost. Many did not leave Jerusalem for years. It was a time of recovery from disaster and sorting through what the death and resurrection of Jesus meant. The extra population that remained in Jerusalem after that initial outpouring caused major financial problems. Persecution and threats were hindering public meetings. In today’s verses we find their response.

First, they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Today, we are following those same teachings recorded for us in the New Testament. With more time on our hands in our current situation we can dig into God’s word, read some solid spiritual books (I’m still reading the old stuff), and pay close atention to the teaching of the pastors through blogs and livestream meetings. Next, they continued in fellowship. Even though we can’t have many of our physical meetings at this tiime we can still conttinue in fellowship. For example, I feel an amazing spiritual unity in our nightly prayer meetings. I love this nightly spiritual connection with our church. Also, this is a great time to reach out to others in our life groups and other areas of influence. Phone calls of encouragement and zoom meetings can go a long way. You may be isolated but you don’t have to live isolated. The early church also continued in the breaking of bread. This was probably an early form of our communion service. Taking communion regularly and looking to the blood of Jesus for protection is essential in our current situation. His blood still saves us, delivers us from sin, protects us, and heals us of our diseases. They were obviously committed to prayer. Worship and intimacy with God is our very life source. This is where we grow everyday. Finally, they were practising supernatural giving. Property, resources and goods were given and shared. The future looked very unpredictable (like ours today) but giving had become a way of life. There was not only supernatural giving but supernatural harvest as well. We should all get hold of God and His word like never before. Unprecedented days of harvest for our resources and souls are just ahead.

CHURCH LIFE

Acts 2:42-46 – Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them. Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility.

There was something special going on in the early days of the new church born in Jerusalem after the Day of Pentecost. The people had changed, the atmosphere of the city had changed, a sense of new life and new beginnings was in the air. It seemed as if it was a shared or a communal life that was permeating this new community of believers. Everything from prayer, worship, and teaching had taken on a new life. It seems that the large gatherings were just a part of this new life, the private homes were ablaze with new life as well. Here is a quote from the Passion Notes about these home gatherings.

“This was more than sharing meals, but participating together in observing the Lord’s Table. The Aramaic, which can be translated “the Eucharist” or “holy communion,” makes it even more explicit.”

These were more than church pot lucks, apparently they were celebrating communion just like Jesus had taught them just a few days earlier. The homes were filled with life as they celebrated the death and resurrection of the Son of God. Here is another quote about this fledgling church trying to find its way.

“As translated from the Aramaic. The Aramaic word for “church” is the joining of “meet” and “come.” This word is an invitation to enter into fellowship with Christ and his people. The Greek word for “church” is ekklesia, which is “called-out ones.”

These called out ones were the beginning of a new movement that is still alive and well today. The center of it is seen in today’s passage; the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, prayer, and the communion meal. It was simple yet permeated with the power of God.

SUDDENLY

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Revival happens suddenly. A church, nation, or an individual could be waiting for the move of the Spirit for years and in a moment of time everything changes. That is a common thread in revivals throughout history, the Lord began His visitation suddenly and circumstances were immediately changed.

Our church had morning prayer meetings at 6 a.m. from 1979 all the way until 1994. We prayed for everything imaginable in those prayer meetings but one thing that remained constant was our crying out for revival. I can remember praying “one more time Lord” hundreds of times over the years. Suddenly, our world was changed in August of 1994 as we experienced a visitation beyond anything I could have expected. Our church changed and I changed. Not everyone liked it but it was undeniable and unignorable. God was in the house, revival had visited our church. Here is a description of the spontaneity of revival from Arthur Wallis.

“With the brevity and simplicity characteristic of Scripture, we are shown in four words the source of the outpouring: “There came from heaven . . .”. Revival is spontaneous, because it is “not forced or suggested or caused by outside agency.” It is the result of a divine and not a human impulse. In language plain to all, it cannot be “worked up”. It is true that spiritual conditions must be met before revival can be expected, but fulfilled conditions do not provide the motive force of revival. At Pentecost it was “the windows of heaven”, not the windows of the Upper Room, that were opened. The source of the blessing was the heart of God, not the heart of man. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that such “seasons of refreshing” have always come “from the presence of the Lord”. We may believe that during those ten days of waiting, there were revived hearts in that Upper Room, but there was no revival; there were empty vessels but no outpouring. When it came, it came direct from heaven and found in that waiting band a channel through which to flow.”

What do you do when God Himself walks into the room? Your own plans and agendas seem quite insignificant, Greatness had made His way into our world. Sometimes you have to stop, be still, and know He alone is God.

INSPIRED SPEECH

Acts 2:4 – And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

I am grateful to the people the Lord used to disciple me in my early Christian walk. They were young men and women who had been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit in the charismatic renewal; more particularly the Jesus movement back in the early 1970’s. Praying in the Spirit was a huge part of our experience. We understood that the word utterance in today’s verse is describing something totally supernatural. Speaking in tongues is not babbling in some incoherent, insignificant tongue. When we pray in tongues we are praying heavenly mysteries and intimacies from the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. The word utterance describing this prayer language is the Greek word apotheggomai. It has an interesting meaning described in these definitions listed below.

Passion Notes

“The Greek word apotheggomai literally means “to ring out” (like a bell). It can also mean “carried along” or “inspired.”

Kittel

“To speak out loudly and clearly, or with emphasis” (of philosophers, ecstatics, prophets, singers, and prophets)”

Thayer

“to speak out, speak forth, pronounce, not a word of everyday speech, but one belonging to dignified and elevated discourse”

What I have discovered by praying in tongues daily for the last forty-six years is that this supernatural gift opens up the world of the supernatural to me. The more I pray in tongues the more the world of the Spirit becomes real to me.

One of the results of this initial outpouring of the Spirit and the one hundred and twenty disciples praying in tongues was the supernatural message that Peter preached. It begins to describe this event in Acts 2:14.

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”

Here is the amazing thing about this event, where it says Peter “addressed” them the word is the same used in vs. 4, apotheggomai, to describe the supernatural prayer language. In this verse Peter is describing what the prayer language was, a supernatural sign to this generation. The powerful prophetic message that Peter preached that day began to release the harvest of the earth that continues today. Peter’s preaching was supernatural in the same way our prayer language is supernatural. So I say pray in tongues. Pray in tongues a lot. Pray in tongues everyday and you will also be caught up in the supernatural visitation that is touching our world today.

PORTAL TO EXTREME JOY

Acts 2:28 – For you have revealed to me the pathways to life,and seeing your face fills me with euphoria!’

Reading today’s verse in context, Peter is quoting a prophesy from Psalm 16 about the resurrection. It clearly says that Christ would not be abandoned to the grave but He would be raised up into the joy of God’s presence. If you think about it Christ had enjoyed the joy of His Father from eternity; so what is the point? Christ came to earth to rescue sinners like you and me. He became a man, died as a man, was raised from the dead as a man, and entered into the joy of heaven as a man. He did all of that so we too could enter the joy. Peter’s application of this verse in his preaching is astounding. He says that the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh makes this joy available to us. In other words, we don’t have to wait until we die to access this joy. Supernatural joy is available to us now as we drink deeply of His Spirit. This is what the Passion Notes says about this joy.

“This Greek word (euphrosune) occurs only here and in Acts 14:17. It is the spirit of joy, an ecstasy that comes from God. The Aramaic is “You will fill me, O Sweetness, with your presence.”

The joy of the Lord is the Spirit of joy. Praying in the Spirit will transport you into this incredibly happy place. Here is today’s verse from the Message followed by the Amplified version.

“You’ve got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around.”

“You have made known to me the ways of life; You will enrapture me [diffusing my soul with joy] with and in Your presence.”

The Message Bible connects the joy to the face of God. That is exactly right. The Hebrew word for face is the word for presence. As we seek His face, we come into His presence of unspeakable joy.

The Amplified Bible describes being enraptured. Enraptured literally means to be delighted beyond measure ! Wow ! Unmeasured joy is what my soul longs for. The Amplified also uses the word diffusing. Diffusing means “ to spread or cause to spread over a wide area or among a large number of people”. When we begin to tap into this unspeakable joy it fills every part of us and overflows to others. What I think is amazing is that we were created with an enormous appetite and capacity for joy. Tapping into the anointing by praying in the Spirit will bring you there.

FIRE-HEADS

Acts 2:1-3 – On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place. Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear! Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them.

Fire has always been a picture of the Holy Spirit. The author of Hebrews actually said, “For our God is a holy, devouring fire!” Heb.12:29. On the Day of Pentecost there was an actual physical manifestation of the fire of God appearing as a tongue, or pillar, of fire upon each of those gathered in the upper room. Reminiscent of the pillar of fire in the Old Testament or the fire that fell at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, this fire was falling on the followers of Jesus. This would change everything. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“This was the pillar of fire that led Israel from bondage into the promised land. The same pillar of fire manifested here to initiate a new beginning from dead religious structures into the powerful life of the Spirit. Each believer received an overpowering flame of fire, signified by the shaft of light that engulfed them. It was as though each one received his own personal pillar of fire that would empower him and lead him throughout his life. This was the promise Jesus gave to his disciples of “the one like me”, who would be sent by the Father and never leave them. Today every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. This was the birthday of the church of Jesus Christ.”

The fire of God speaks to us about several functions of the Holy Spirit. His fire purifies us. The more we are effected by the anointing the more His holiness permeates our lives. The fire speaks of God’s power. Like Jesus said, we would be filled with power after the Holy Spirit comes upon us. The fire of the Spirit empowers us to do the works of the Spirit. Fire also illuminates. The Holy Spirit fire begins to bring new revelation into our lives. Fire also warms our hearts filling us with passion for the Lord and a passion for souls.

Send your fire Lord!!! Light us up like pillars of fire to penetrate the darkness.

GUSHING AND SPLASHING

Acts 2:15-17 – These people are not drunk like you think they are, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. This is the fulfillment of what was prophesied through the prophet Joel, for God says:

‘This is what I will do in the last days —I will pour out my Spirit on everybody and cause your sons and daughters to prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will experience dreams from God.

God’s word is very descriptive and can often be seen as we focus in on key words in the scripture. In this passage the phrase “pour out” is very descriptive and and gives us a glimpse into the way the Holy Spirit works as He falls on us in fresh outpourings. Here is how the Passion Notes describe this phrase.

“Or “gush forth,” or “run greedily.” The Aramaic can be translated “I will be splashing my Spirit-Wind over all flesh” (humanity).”

So this phrase describes the Holy Spirit as gushing and splashing over all flesh. This awakens pictures of a dam that has been breached and is flooding over everything in its path. It also causes pictures of the splashing of the Spirit, everyone who gets close will end up getting wet.

The Kittel Word Book adds some more insight into this passage.

“Lavishing divine gifts or powers in fulfillment of Joel 3:1-2 is the point in Acts 2:16. As in the OT the outpouring of the Spirit means both ecstatic inspiration and inner renewal, so the same word occurs both for the giving of tongues (Acts 10:45) and the granting of the Spirit in baptism (Tit. 3:5). In Rom. 5:5-6 the overflowing love of God shown in Christ’s death brings us constant assurance by the Holy Spirit.”

I love this connection to the Old Testament. Kittel says that the Old Testament outpouring on the prophets would cause ecstatic inspiration and inner renewal. That’s exactly what we are in need of today. I need daily renewal by the Spirit to keep me satisfied, filled, and walking in the ways of the Lord. We need inspiration by the Spirit to walk in His plan for our lives as well as to have a message to impact our world. That’s exactly what the Spirit does; He gushes and splashes all over us that we may have inspiration and renewal.

RUSHING MIGHTY WIND

Acts 2:1-3 – When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

This is the classic passage of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that birthed the New Testament church. I wonder if these manifestations were more than just spiritual sensations? I believe they were. It seems that the outpouring was so dramatic that it effected the physical world. Apparently there was fire literally seen on the heads of those gathered in the upper room. It also indicates that there was a noise, a violent rushing wind. This violent wind seems to have made a real sound. Adam Clarke seems to agree. Here are some interesting comments from his commentary.

“The passage of a large portion of electrical fluid over that place would not only occasion the sound, or thunder, but also the rushing mighty wind; as the air would rush suddenly and strongly into the vacuum occasioned by the rarefaction of the atmosphere in that place, through the sudden passage of the electrical fluid; and the wind would follow the direction of the fire. There is a good deal of similarity between this account and that of the appearance of God to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:11,12, where the strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire, were harbingers of the Almighty’s presence, and prepared the heart of Elijah to hear the small still voice; so, this sound, and the mighty rushing wind, prepared the apostles to receive the influences and gifts of the Holy Spirit. In both cases, the sound, strong wind, and fire, although natural agents, were supernaturally employed.”

If you think about it there were other examples of physical effects of the Spirit. In Acts 4 the building where the church was praying shook. In Acts 16, the earth shook and prisoners shackles fell off. In Acts 8 Phillip was translated many miles by the power of the Spirit. Of course people were raised from the dead by the Spirit, many diseases were healed by the Holy Spirit, and John at Patmos (and others) fell to the ground by the power of the Spirit. Our world is ripe for another great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Maybe it will take radical demonstrations like those in the Bible to turn this generation back to the Lord.

TURNED INTO ANOTHER MAN

Acts 2:14 – But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words….”

The world could never be the same after the Day of Pentecost. There was the rushing mighty wind, visible tongues of fire on everyone’s head, and the first example of people speaking in supernatural tongues (Paul called them tongues of angels). There was one other sign that really takes the cake for me. What sign was that you ask? Well…, it was the obvious, undeniable change seen in Peter. Think about it. A few weeks before he was denying that he knew Jesus when confronted by a young girl. He was also cursing. Now we see Peter publicly declaring his faith in Christ. Not only that, he was holding the people of Jerusalem responsible for the death of Christ. What an amazing change in the character of Peter. The only explanation is that this was not the same man. That is exactly the truth. The Holy Spirit had changed Peter into another man. This common fisherman from Galilee had been turned into a Bible scholar, an orator, and a fearless leader of this apostolic band. Peter would never be the same. Here are some thoughts from Johann Spangenberg On Peter’s transformation.

“But what was Peter for a man? A simple, uneducated person: a fisherman. And what became of him? A learned preacher, an exegete of Scripture, an apostle of Christ. Before he could not stand up to the high priest Caiaphas’s servant girl; now he stands up to the entire world. Before a woman’s shadow petrified him, so that he denied Christ; now he freely confesses Christ before all people, Jews and Gentiles. Before he struck Malchus with the physical sword; now he strikes the entire world with the spiritual sword, with God’s word. Is this not the work of God and the power of the Holy Spirit? What human power, wisdom and cleverness could have been able to transform Peter’s disposition so quickly?”

The Holy Spirit is still changing people today. Paul said we could be strengthened in our inner man by the power of the Spirit. What happens when you are strengthened on the inside? You become a different person. No longer are you an alcoholic, a sex addict, a thief or a con. You now have the Spirit on you and in you. He is working on you and through you as you too begin to tell the story of how you were changed.

NEW KIND OF PRIESTS

Acts 2:17 – And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.

One of the great truths discovered and proclaimed in the Reformation was the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. Luther loved and taught this doctrine. The Old Testament priesthood was revoked, the Lord was pouring out His Spirit on all mankind. There was no longer a priestly tribe who dominated spiritual activity. The outpouring of the Spirit was not even limited to those of Jewish ancestry. To make matters even more shocking, even women and young children could receive the anointing and actually minister to and for the Lord. Martin Luther had been a monk and a priest teaching the Bible at a college in Germany. Once he was born again, he began to embrace what he called the priesthood of all believers. Everyone could now be a priest of the Lord. Here are some comments from Luther on this passage.

“Flesh, that is every kind of person. “There will be no distinction, I will pour out the Holy Spirit from heaven, so that all people will prophesy.” Therefore the Levitical priesthood will be revoked and a new priesthood will be established, as he indicates by “your sons, daughters, my servants.” This means “every kind of flesh” or person. I will accept women, young girls, and I will teach them all how they should prophesy. Slaves will enter [the prophetic] office, just like Anna and young girls. Therefore the [old] priestly courses are abolished…. For our preaching office must be correct, and it is not hampered just because it is not from the tribe of Aaron. Peter was not from the priestly estate, nor were any of the apostles, nor was Christ. This new office is not started by priests but by others from the other tribes.”

Luther’s teachings caused quite a stir in the Catholic Church in the 1500’s. Jesus was our only mediator and all of us could be priests unto the Lord. These two doctrines are critical in our Christian walk. We have access by faith into the presence of the Father through the intercessory work of Christ. Because we have been justified by faith, we now have access into His presence. Its from the anointing found in His presence that the Spirit of prophesy falls on us that we too can minister as a priest of God.