The Holy Spirit come upon the Church #2

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Title: The Holy Spirit comes upon the Church #2

Text: Acts 2:1-13

Date: January 27th, 2008

Last week I spoke about the need for “speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves” from Proverbs 31 in reference to the unborn and abortion. I told you about that article I wrote for the Post-Journal which they probably wouldn’t print; I was right, they didn’t print it. But even though it didn’t reach the readers it was still worth writing because of the possibility that it might have been printed. Maybe one of these years they’ll print what’s important instead of all the trivial drivel that gets printed. Well, at least I tried. Anyway, this week we are back to the Book of Acts and the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-13 (read). Verse one in the King James Version says, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” I like that translation better than the newer ones that usually say simply something like “they were all together in one place.” The newer translations don’t seem to communicate anything more than they were simply meeting in one place, but the KJV communicates more the idea they were together in one accord in the same place, which I believe speaks more accurately to the unity of the group not just the location of the group. In other words, there is more to the verse than just reporting that 120 Christians were meeting together. It’s trying to show that they weren’t just meeting together but that they were unified in heart, soul and mind also. Why is this important? Because in the Christian Church it isn’t merely supposed to be a gathering of people who call themselves Christians in one location on Sunday morning. It’s supposed to be a gathering of like-minded, unified in heart and soul believers who meet together. Church is supposed to be a unity of a far deeper sort than is typical in churches today. Today, many churches meet with the shakiest of unity, some more ethnic unity than anything else, some more social unity than spiritual unity. Some churches gather with mostly racial unity or economic status unity, or political unity, or other such worldly things in common. But the true church of Jesus Christ should exist with a spiritual unity of heart, soul and mind. That’s what Verse One is saying, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” It’s what every true Christian church should strive for – true spiritual unity. We must not settle for mere social or racial or ethnic or class unity; we must work for true spiritual unity in the church. That’s why I’d like to take more time this Sunday and explain more about this first verse, because it’s so very important to us as Christians and also to us as a Christian church. It doesn’t matter how large or small the church is, if it doesn’t have spiritual unity it isn’t going to accomplish much worthwhile. And with all the break-ups and fragmentation in society, the Christian church has to be a place where people can turn to for true unity of spirit, soul and mind. So let’s look more closely at this idea of unity found in Acts 2:1.

First, they were in one accord in being with Jesus. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Later on in the Book of Acts it says, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus,” Acts 4:12. Notice the phrase, “these men had been with Jesus.” That’s the same unity of spirit, soul and mind the first Christians had on the day of Pentecost – they had the unity of having been with Jesus. They all had personal experiences with Jesus before and after the resurrection. They all knew that he was alive! They all had experienced the risen Christ! That made for an experiential unity of soul that couldn’t have come merely through the intellect or through religious sentiment or feelings. These disciples had a personal experience of Jesus and it produced a great unity of spirit among them. They were in one accord with one another on the day of Pentecost mostly because they all had a personal experience with Jesus Christ. It’s supposed to be the same thing today in the Christian Church. Church is supposed to be a gathering of believers who have had a life-changing, personal salvation experience with Jesus Christ. And not only a one-time, life-changing personal experience with Christ at the time of salvation, but also an ongoing personal spiritual experience with Jesus through prayer, reading the Word of God, praise and worship, fellowship in the church, etc. It’s sad, but many churches today don’t have any spiritual depth because many of the people who attend, even members of the church, don’t have a personal testimony of a salvation experience with Jesus and/or don’t have a living testimony of an ongoing experiential relationship with Jesus today. The only thing many people know is organized religion, religious ritual and empty tradition. Also, today in many contemporary churches, many people know only of an experience with church but not of an experience with Jesus. How can there be real spiritual unity in a church if there is no unity around a common experience with the risen Christ? It’s not enough to believe certain doctrines or even behave in certain way morally; that’s not enough. If we rely only on doctrine, we’ll get intellectual religion. If we rely only on moral behavior, we’ll get moralistic or legalistic religion. In addition to beliefs and behaviors, we need to be with Jesus spiritually on a daily basis. How is that done? Through a devotional prayer time and Bible readying time. Through personal praise and worship. Through personal witness to other of Jesus in our lives. And other means which keep our faith alive and up-to-date. It isn’t enough to enough to be correct in belief and behavior, we also need to be with Jesus experientially, like the early disciples were before and after the resurrection. The disciples were in one accord by being with Christ.

Second, they were in one accord by believing God’s truths. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” They not only had a unity of spiritual being with Christ, they were also in once accord through all believing the same truths from God. This speaks of the unity of doctrine. Not in saying that they were in one accord in unity because they all believed the same truths, that doesn’t mean that in every little bitty thing they all believed the same. No. They all believed the same spiritual truths from the Bible, they all believed the same things from the teachings of Jesus. They were together on spiritual doctrine, but not necessarily everything else. They probably had their own opinions about politics and economics, on many other things. No doubt they all probably had their own personal preferences about food and clothing, about music and art, etc. They even probably had their own favorite Bible heroes in the Old Testament scriptures, favorite verses, favorite teachings, etc. They may have had differences on minor doctrine issues, but in the important doctrines of the faith and even probably in the minor doctrines of the faith, they were in unity. Now today if we look around at churches we don’t see this kind of unity because we live in a day and age of diversity. We live in a land that values freedom – freedom to live, believe anything one desires. That same attitude carried into the Christian church and produces doctrinal diversity even within the church. In the so-called mainline denominational churches there is so much doctrinal diversity that they’ve given up on achieving any unity around truth, so that now in the major denominations, especially the so-called liberal churches, unity is achieved at the expense of truth, it is achieved through tolerance. Everyone just accepts and tolerates everyone else’s beliefs whatever they are. I was raised in such a church, a liberal United Methodist church. You would be shocked to find out what some of those people believed. My mom and dad were teaching a Sunday School class, going over basic Christian doctrine when a long-time church member admitted that he didn’t even believe in the Trinity. A long-time member of this church didn’t even believe in such a basic thing as the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There was no unity of doctrine in that church. And that’s the way it is in many churches, maybe most churches, maybe not as bad as that example, but who knows, maybe it’s even worse. That example is from 30 years ago. Today it may be worse. But the early Christians, that first Christian church, had unity of doctrine. That’s why it’s so important for Christians to join a good, solid, Bible-teaching church, so that there can be unity of doctrine.

Third, they were in one accord in their behavior, in their obedience to God. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Those early Christians were in one accord, in unity, through being with Jesus, through believing the same doctrine, and finally, through behaving the same way in obedience to Christ. The Great Commission that Christ left the church is found in Matthew 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey every thing I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very ends of the age.’” This verse perfectly summarizes the three area of unity that we see in Acts 2:1 – they were in one accord in being with Jesus, “And surely I am with you always, to the very ends of the age;” they were in one accord in believing the same doctrine and behaving in the same morality, “Therefore go and make disciples . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” It wasn’t enough to teaching people doctrine, the command from Christ is to teach both doctrine and morality also. Many churches teach the same doctrine and members are united on the same doctrine, but neglect Christian behavior. Consequently, it’s hard to tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian in America today because they may behave just about the same. Take for example the problem of divorce. Statistics show that the divorce rate is about the same with Christians as it is with non-Christians. The divorce rate of people who attend church is about the same as the divorce rate of those who don’t attend church. What’s the problem? Churches aren’t in one accord, they aren’t in unity on Christian moral behavior. They may all believe the same doctrine, at least on paper, but in the area of obedience to God’s Word, it looks like there isn’t much unity. But the early Christian were not only unified around their common experience of Christ and their common commitment to doctrine, they were also in one accord over right behavior. And when you have a group of Christian who are united in their experience of Christ, their doctrine and their morality, you have got a spiritual powerhouse! It’s no wonder why the Holy Spirit came in power upon these Christians gather together at Pentecost. We hear talk of revival, we pray for revival, but there will be no revival until we as Christians get serious about spiritual unity amongst ourselves. What will it take for you to be in greater spiritual unity with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Whatever it takes, do it. You won’t ever experience spiritual revival until you do.

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