πετροστελος

January 18, 2011

The Descent of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2

Last week, I brought out several points of comparison between the Christians in the Acts 1 and us.  They were losing their leader; they needed to wait and to depend on the Holy Spirit; they were dealing with religious authorities who were acting in disobedience to God; they were living in highly chaotic times; they would be empowered for mission.  Now we see that after 40 days of waiting the Holy Spirit descend upon them, they speak in tongues—languages known to the many hundreds of visitors who had come from Diaspora of the Jews for the feast of Pentecost and 3000 people became Christians

What are the results of the descent of the Spirit in Acts 2?  Should we expect the same today?

1. Speaking in tongues: an extraordinary prophetic gift wherein the disciples spoke in the language of others.  This event took place in the temple, probably in the court of the Gentiles: a large area where many people even Gentiles would be permitted to gather.

A. Emmanuel church belongs to the Charismatic Movement in which the gift of tongues played an important role:  I could recommend some books on speaking in tongues:  Bill and Elisabeth Sherrill, They speak with other tongues; Dennis and Rita Bennet, The Holy Spirit and You.  The experience of speaking in tongues was exciting and helped people to become more focused on God and to deepen their faith.

B.  The gift of tongues in Acts 2 serves the specific purpose of getting the attention of Diaspora Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast.  The Bible required that they come every year, but many of these people lived so far away that perhaps this was their first and only pilgrimage for a life time.  So the Holy Spirit chose the gift of tongues to do an amazing gift.

C. As a personal devotional language Tongues are far less dramatic.  Paul downplays it in favor of intelligible speech while in church (see 1 Cor 12-14).  But in private devotion, he says not to forbid tongues.

2. Mission and evangelism—The Spirit’s descent on the community immediately resulted in the addition of 3000 new members, mostly from the Diaspora.  The Temples was the likely arena for Peter’s preaching.

3. The Holy Spirit descent created a newly expanded of the Christian community was characterized by: unity, sharing, adherence to the Apostles’ teaching, generosity, breaking of bread and prayer, even signs and wonders.  Many of these meetings took place in homes where meals could be served and not in the temple, though large groups could be taught at Solomon’s portico (Acts 3.11).

Some Anglicans leaders believe that the apostles were wrong and that their teaching needs to be revised.  Recently, Gene Robinson, the homosexual bishop in the US Episcopal church, says that the Holy Spirit is teaching us to accept homosexuality as ok with God.  Here is a quote from his article in the Washington Post:

I do NOT believe that God stopped revealing God’s self with the closing of the canon (officially sanctioned as “holy” and official) of Scripture. Some would argue that God said everything God needed and wanted to say by the end of the first century … They would posit a God who, when the scriptures were “finished” bid the world a fond farewell and went off to some beautiful part of God’s creation (the Bahamas, Patagonia, Nepal?!!), leaving us to our own devices, given that everything had been said that needed to be said. I don’t believe that.

In John’s Gospel, which is largely made up of the conversation Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus says: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16: 12-13a) I take this to mean that Jesus is saying to the disciples, “Look, for a bunch of uneducated and rough fishermen, you haven’t done too badly. In fact, you will do amazing things with the rest of your lives. But don’t think for a minute that God is done with you – or done with believers who will come after you. There is much more that God wants to teach you, but you cannot handle it right now. So, I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into that new Truth.”

So Robinson believes that the role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into “new truth”, truth that the disciples themselves couldn’t handle at the time.  But we see from Acts 2, that when the Holy Spirit causes people to adhere to the apostles teaching.  And what did the apostles teach:  they taught what Jesus taught and commanded (Acts 1.8; Matt 28.19), and they taught from Scriptures (several are quoted by Peter).  Here is a statement from the apostles about homosexuality (1 Cor 6.9-11):

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Most attempts to say that Christians must accept homosexuals have to dismiss in some manner what the apostles taught and what Jesus taught.  But Jesus said the Holy Spirit came to remind the disciples about what he had taught:  “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14.26).  It is not a new truth, as Gene Robinson suggests.  But the same old truth, that Jesus and the apostles taught.

So in conclusion, I think what we can say is that the Spirit-filled community experiences unity—with fellowship and breaking of bread, adherence to apostolic teaching, evangelism and mission with numerical growth.  If we are not experiencing these things, we should pray that God would once again fill our community with his Holy Spirit and renew our faith.

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3 Comments »

  1. How does Gene Robinson fit in with the idea of apostolic authority? Is he valid authority or not? If he is, then you cannot refute him and live. (Just kidding).

    Seriously I am interested in just where you think Apostolic authority was compromised. When and where.

    Comment by Sola Yeshua — September 9, 2011 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

  2. Okay, I know a few Anglicans, and I asked a reverend what the system says. He said that each community elects their own leaders and that this is a democratic process. So that you can refute Robinson and still live (just jibing). Since he is not in your community and since
    he is a democratically elected leader who may or may not be deposed in the future (pass away as Gemaliel said of Christ).

    This is a little odd to me, since I have an innate abhorence to majority vote on anything. But I was answered in part – of this section of your blog.

    Comment by Sola Yeshua — September 10, 2011 @ 7:51 am | Reply

    • Well, in a sense the remaining Anglican community does not remain faithful to the orthodox faith when it elects bishops like Robinson. And furthermore, the bishops are elected by synod which consists of lay representatives of parishes and the clergy. So it is not at all as though it is a full democracy.

      Comment by Petros — September 10, 2011 @ 9:41 am


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