Today’s sermon is a continuation on Pentecost, based on the text Acts 2: 1-21 and Genesis 11: 4.
We talked about the feast of Weeks, Shavuot, which counts 7 weeks (49 days) from the second day of Passover and on the fiftieth day, the Pentecost, Israelites were to present first fruits of wheat before the Lord, along with two loaves of bread made with leaven, and unblemished lambs. If you recall, on the first day of the 7 weeks counting, on the second day of Passover, they were to present the first fruits of barley, so the feast of Weeks actually started with the offering of barley and ended with the offering of wheat on the fiftieth day which is Pentecost. We also covered that barley is a symbol of Israelites and wheat is a symbol of gentiles, both of which are being represented by two loaves that are made with leaven, signifying both of them are sinful in needing of atonement for their sins, so the unblemished lambs of God, type of Jesus, was to be presented before God along with two loaves of bread made with leaven. God had planned salvation both for Israelites and Gentiles; both of them are in needing of Christ’s blood for their salvation, our bible teaches.
In this light, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the fiftieth day, on the Pentecost was significant in understanding the salvation for gentiles. Remember? The fiftieth day, the Pentecost is the day when they supposed to present the first fruits of wheat, a symbol of gentiles? God began his work of salvation for Gentiles with the outpouring of Holy Spirit on his people. But it was after Jesus died on the cross being the atonement sacrifice for both Jews and Gentiles. Making the atonement with the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb, Jesus, for sins of humanity was mandatory for the salvation of humanity.
It was only after Jesus died on the cross, the work of salvation for humanity (gentiles), which was prophesied in the Old Testament book after book finally began. With that said, I cannot emphasize enough that there is no salvation in other religions. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which enabled Jesus’ disciples to spread the gospel, did not come when Hindu as a religion started around 15 centuries ago before Christ, Holy Spirit did not descend when Buddha died around 6 centuries ago before Christ. Atoning sins of humanity takes the unblemished lamb, the blood of the unblemished lamb without sin. In other words, only God can redeem sinful humanity from their curse of being disobedient to God.
Who are Gentiles, where they originated, what made them gentiles far away from God? We have to answer these questions to really understand what had happened on the Pentecost day in the upper room in our text today.
I mentioned briefly Genesis 11 last week, about those people who had gathered in one mind to build Tower of Babel. The purpose of building the Tower of Babel was to “make a name [shem]” for themselves, setting themselves up as being equated with God, not wanting to be under the rule of Yahweh. They were being rebellious against God’s intention to start over. Genesis chapter 9, after the flood, God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). God wanted to start over the world once more, that started in Eden, so God commanded them to be fruitful, multiply, and filled the earth, but instead of obeying and having Yahweh be their God, the people gathered to build the tower, Gen. 11:4, “so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” In other words, these people had shunned God and God’s plan to restore Eden through them, so God disinherited them and they were on their own after their own heart, living as they pleased. Are you under the rule of God being obedient to God’s plan and will for you or are you interested in making your own name, being the center of your life and having your own way away from God’s intention and plan for you?
Those people whom God disinherited at Tower of Babel had become gentiles far away from God. But you know what? God did not completely abandon them. God is so merciful and gracious that God wants to save even those gentiles. God planned to save them through descendants of Abraham who was called out of those gentiles to become God’s own. This is where the concept of “chosen people” come from. Out of Gentiles, God had called Abraham to be God’s own to save the world. Israelites were chosen to bring the Gentiles, the many nations, back to God; that was the whole purpose of being called out among gentiles. The tragedy with Israelites was that they had ignored or mistaken the whole purpose of being called or chosen; they were just being prideful of the fact that they were chosen. They were prideful of their status, but being neglectful of their duties and responsibilities toward gentiles. How about us? The reason we are called out of darkness is to proclaim God’s goodness and his love, grace, and mercy to bring the lost in the world back to God, not just being prideful that we are called out of darkness.
Going back to the story of Tower of Babel, when these people were building the tower to make their own name, God confuse their language. Until then, they spoke one language. They could not understand each other, as a result. Nowadays people gather together in one mind talking about peace and harmony building bridges and tearing down walls that seemingly separate people from people. Hillary Clinton said in her election campaign that it is not time to build walls but to tear down walls to live in peace and harmony with people around us. People talk about coming together in one mind building the global village living in peace and harmony with one another. But you know what? Without God, there is no true peace and harmony. Nowadays in the states, it seems like tolerance is the highest virtue one should have. People talk about being tolerant toward people who might have different value, religion and beliefs from your own, except for one thing; people are being intolerant toward Christianity. Christian prayers and meetings are discouraged at public school settings. People being discouraged to pray in the name of Jesus at public settings, at hospitals, and in the military for the fear that it might offend people of different religions. At colleges, you can join circles of foreign religions so easily, if not encouraged: Baha’i faith, Islamic faith, Eastern religious practices, –Yoga and meditation circles. But Christian circles? Very difficult to even get a room to meet in. All these people who talk about peace and harmony name Christianity as the enemy to the world peace they want to promote. Street evangelism is being banned. I saw a youtube, –a man being arrested for street evangelism. People are building “Tower of Babel” making name for themselves away from God. Peace without the blood of Jesus is not peace at all; it cannot simply happen. The only peace offering God accepts is the blood of unblemished lamb of God, Jesus the Christ.
God confused the language those people spoke; they could not understand each other. As a result, they had scattered away from God and from one another filling the earth, being disinherited and abandoned by God until Christ died on the cross being the sacrifice for the atonement for sins of many.
On the day of Pentecost, on the fiftieth day, when Jesus’ disciple gathered and joined together constantly in prayer, Holy Spirit descended upon each and every one of them in the upper room.
In order for us to receive the Holy Spirit, we have to join together constantly in prayer, –seeking, knocking and searching earnestly and wholeheartedly for Holy Spirit to come upon us, as Jesus’ disciples had done in the upper room. Just once or twice asking for Holy Spirit won’t do. We have to pray for Holy Spirit as if our lives are depending on it.
When his disciples were praying, verse 2, “suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. Verse 3, They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”
The description of wind mentioned in verses 1 resounds in many places throughout the Old and the New Testament. The sound of the wind “rushing” and “mighty” is referring to the power of wind signifying God’s control. (Exodus 10:13; Psalm 18:42 and Isaiah 11:15, Matthew 14: 23-32). The wind, ruach, also refers to life in the Old Testament (Job 12: 10f) and Spirit in the New (John 3:8). Spirit-filled life, otherwise dead life, is generated by the Holy Spirit.
In verse 2, fire is often associated in the Old Testament with the presence of God (Exodus 3:2; 13:21-11; 24:17; Isaiah 10:17) and with His holiness (Psalm 97:3; Malachi 3:2). Meaning God’s presence and holiness are implied in the Pentecostal tongues of fire. Moreover, in Revelation 1:14; 19:12, fire is identified with Christ Himself, which explains the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as talking/teaching the things of Christ. Holy Spirit caused people to talk about Jesus in Spirit, “the wonders of God.” The biggest wonder of all God has done is sending his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross to save sinners like us, gentiles deserving death. Verse 11, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues”.
When Holy Spirit descended like a mighty wind rushing and like tongues of fire appeared cleansing and purifying their impure lips, they were able to speak the language of God and His wonders in Christ. That is what happens when Holy Spirit comes to us, we no longer talk about making name for ourselves; we no longer speak the language of rebellion against God. But we praise our God, his goodness and wonders He accomplished through his Son Jesus the Christ. Our lips become purified holy and true.
When Holy Spirit descended upon his disciples, there was no confusion, no misunderstanding, no communication cut off, but when they spoke in Spirit, people around them were able to understand what is being said about Jesus, about God’s wonders. Disciples and other believers were all united in understanding the purpose of their beings: to praise for who God is and his goodness. Holy Spirit helped them to understand about Jesus, those people, representatives of all nations (15 in total), who could not hear and understand about Jesus until then.
Without receiving the Holy Spirit, our talk about God and his wonders would sound like foreign tongues to those people we bring good news. Only with the help of Holy Spirit, those things that people could not comprehend, the mysteries of God, — the virgin birth, God incarnate, God in the flesh, his death and resurrection…,– they would all make sense in their hearing. That is the work of Holy Spirit. Do you see how important it is to receive the Holy Spirit? Without Holy Spirit’s help, we cannot know of God, we cannot understand God’s love shown through his son Jesus Christ. Without Holy Spirit, we cannot accomplish our God-given mission; we cannot make spiritual growth in our faith journey.
I pray that you would have heart’s desire to receive the Holy Spirit. Amen!
When the Holy Spirit