Spirit & Power
Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 2. Today’s devotion will be thoughts from across this chapter, I encourage you to read it before you jump in.
Acts 2 tells the account of the powerful beginning of the early church. It shouldn’t surprise us that the events following the assention of the risen Lord were miraculous! Today, I want to make a few comments on the events of Acts 2 that I pray will help us get a good start on the rest of the book.
- The shift in Peter and the other apostles is incredible. You may remember that on the night Jesus was arrested, Peter cowered and denied his relationship with Jesus three times. He wasn’t alone in this, all of Jesus’ followers appear to have abandoned him as he went to the cross. Then, the Spirit comes as wind and fire and moves those who used to be enslaved to fear to speak boldly.
- The ministry of New Testament preaching is established. Starting in verse 14, Peter stands up and delivers the first sermon of the church. There is so much here we could say, but note that it is a biblical thing for a man to stand, open the scriptures, and declare, “Thus says the Lord.” This is the task of preaching. Beware of preachers who’s tone communicates, “Thus suggests the Lord.” We have the Word and we have the Spirit, we should expect to hear from God through preaching!
- The gift of tongues meant speaking in intelligible languages. This is both important and controversial, but I want to speak clearly on an issue that is often muddled. I do not believe that the Bible ever affirms the use of any kind of private angelic prayer language like that promoted by charismatic teachers. I don’t want to belabor this, but there are a few things we should notice. First, the word translated “tongues” simply means languages. Because of the modern Charismatic Movement, we think of this word as meaning something mysterious. It simply does not. They spoke in languages. So the question is, what sort of languages? Verses 5-11 make it exceptionally clear that what was being spoken was the language of those who were listening. Certainly this is miraculous! What an incredible gift! Yet, because of confusion that is spread on this topic, I think it important to note what very clearly wasn’t happening. This is the first instance of the “gift of speaking in tongues.” And it was not an angelic language, it was just languages. Acts 2 is the inception of the undoing of the Tower of Babel. It is the introduction of a new Kingdom under which people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation worship and praise the Lord Jesus together despite their language barriers. Finally on this topic, 1 Corinthians 13 states that there will be a time when the gift of tongues will end. There is some debate on when that will happen. Perhaps that could be a future blog post. Full disclosure, I believe the gift of tongues has ceased. I also believe that when it was a gift, it was speaking in real, intelligible languages other than your own. All that said, I have brothers who think differently on this topic. I love them, and am happy to see them working to advance the Kingdom. I simply disagree on this point.
- We see the focus of the early church. Peter preaches his sermon, and around 3000 people are saved! What do they do? Verse 42 gives us a wonderful statement of what they were focused on: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (ESV)” Notice their commitment to simply learning, and loving God and one another.
- Faithfulness is the path to fruit. The result of faithful preaching and Christian living is that the church grows. The chapter closes with verse 47 and says that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” It is interesting that no great evangelistic strategy or plan. They simply lived vibrant Christian lives and God used that to draw others to himself through them. It is easy for churches to become enamored with the latest and greatest in church growth techniques. We want to stick to faithful preaching and faithful christianity. God provides the growth.
So what does all this have to do with you? First, I hope it’s a helpful start as we get into Acts. Also, be encouraged and challenged as you see the power of God working through the church. The resurrected King Jesus has given us the Spirit by whom we have great power. We are a community of people who live in a miraculous sort of community that draws the outside world in. The Spirit in you is no different than the Spirit that filled the early church. Even if his work is expressed in different ways. Finally, keep the focus of the early church. Devote yourself to learning the Word, fellowship in the body, celebration of the gospel, and prayer. What a wonderfully simple and joyful plan!
Grace & Peace.