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Acts 1:1-36

Lesson Focus: We receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit so that we might go forth and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Catch up on the story: Acts begins where Luke leaves off. Jesus is about to ascend into heaven when his disciples (who still don’t quite get that the Kingdom of God is not a nation-state but a way of being and living in the world) ask him when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored. Jesus responds by telling them it’s not their place to know, not yet anyway. Then he commissions them to take the message he has been proclaiming to the world. Jesus, while still speaking, is taken up into heaven. After this, the disciples returned to Jerusalem, where they were instructed to stay, and met with other followers, and chose someone to replace Judas as a disciple. Now they are waiting for the promised Holy Spirit to be sent.

The Text: Pentecost, at the time of Jesus, already referred to a celebration. The Feast of Weeks occurred on the fiftieth day after Passover. Pentecost was a one-day festival, which involved offering special sacrifices connected with the first fruits of the harvest. There is also a chance that the Festival, by this time, had become associated with the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.[1]

So, the disciples are gathered together on the Day of Pentecost, perhaps in the same room where they had cast lots to choose Judas’ replacement. Suddenly, from heaven came a sound, which was like the sound of a violent rushing wind. It filled the whole house, and divided tongues that were like fire came and rested on the heads of those present. All of them were immediately filled with the Holy Spirit. Witherington points out that there is no indication that the outpouring of the Spirit was intended just for the 12 disciples as an empowering for leadership. Instead, the Spirit is given to all of the believers at that time.[2] Pentecost happens during a corporate gathering of believers. The power that is given is meant to propel the mission as a corporate endeavor. The church will need this gracious gift if it intends to bear witness to Christ. Of course, this does not mean that we cannot seek to be filled with the Spirit, but that is not the focus of this text.

The main focus of this text is the filling of the body of believes so that they might proclaim a word for God. As the wind and fire settle on the followers of the crucified yet resurrected and ascended Jesus, they begin to speak in languages that were not their own. Even though it is not explicitly noted, the scene changes from the room where the believers gathered to the area surrounding the Temple. This is the only place a crowd the size mentioned could or would be gathered.[3]

These Spirit-filled followers of Jesus began to proclaim the good news to anyone who would listen. Those who were listening found, with much amazement, that they were able to understand what was being spoken in their own language. Those in Jerusalem from other parts of the known world began to hear the good news proclaimed in their language. It was wondered how it was that these men from Galilee could be speaking so many different languages. Some supposed that the men had already had too much to drink.

Peter then stands to set the story straight. With the eleven standing behind him, Peter begins to speak. No, Peter declares, these men are not drunk! It’s only 9:00 in the morning! Peter then begins to quote a passage from Joel. Peter makes it very clear that the gift of the Holy Spirit will not just be for a few, but for all of God’s people. Witherington believes that we are supposed to see here is the fulfillment of Israel’s hope for the permanent giving of God’s presence and power to God’s people.[4]

If we read a little further in the passage, we find that the real focus of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost is not necessarily the Spirit. At its heart, Peter’s sermon declares the good news about Jesus as the one who was crucified yet raised from the dead. Not only was Jesus raised from the dead, but also he has been given dominion and authority over everything.

In verse 22, Peter addresses, specifically, the Israelites. Peter is addressing those who had rejected Jesus. Peter begins to make a case, calling on one of Israel’s greatest heroes, King David, to testify to the greatness of Jesus. Even David, who is still dead today, believed there was one coming who would die but would rise again (verse 30-31). This is precisely what has happened. Now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. Peter is calling on Israel to proclaim that the Messiah they had been waiting for has not only come but was crucified yet raised from the dead.

So What? Today we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift that gives us, as individuals and as the church, the authority and the power to proclaim the good news concerning Jesus. If we read Peter’s entire sermon, we find that it is as much about Jesus being King as it is about the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is one purpose for this gift of the Spirit; it is so that we might proclaim Christ crucified but yet risen from the dead. We have no other message than this. Christ is King, and now, as recipients of the Holy Spirit, we must go forth and boldly proclaim it.

Critical Questions:

  1. How does this text reveal to us the nature and character of God/What is God doing in this text?

  2. God is faithful to his promise not to leave us as orphaned children. The Spirit is given so that the early church might go forth to proclaim the good news about Jesus with strength and boldness.

  3. What does holiness/salvation look like in this text?

  4. If the giving of the Spirit is to ensure that we, as the church, faithfully proclaim the message of Jesus Christ, then holiness looks like, as a church, proclaiming Christ in a very central way. That Christ became human, still being fully God, that he lived and taught, that he forgave sins and healed the sick, that he was faithful and selfless even to the point of death on a cross, that he rose from the dead and ascended to sit at the right hand of God the Father, that should be our only message.

  5. How does an encounter with this story shape who we are and who we should become?

  6. If we are serious, as a church, about being what God has called us to be and if we are serious about doing what Christ has called us to do, then everything we say and do will point to Christ. The work of the Spirit in our life is not just for our own holiness; it is so that we might go forth and proclaim the kingdom of God until Christ returns.

Ways to Go Forth to Proclaim that Christ is King…

  1. Pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to direct you. We should do this as a church and as individuals.

  2. This week, read the entire book of Acts. Make a list of the ways in which the Spirit used the disciples and apostles to proclaim the good news concerning Jesus. How might