Really, It’s Not What You Think…

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:14-21 ESV)

It’s hard to explain things that don’t make sense, at least from a human perspective. When something happens that is outside of our experience or our understanding then we try and explain it as something we know or, at least, something that fits within our understanding of reality. When the residents of Jerusalem encountered the living and powerful presence of almighty God as demonstrated in the actions and words of the Apostles, they have only one explanation… they must be drunk. They had no other explanation. Nothing else made sense, at least in their minds.

But Peter tells them that their explanation is entirely wrong. What they believe to be caused by the intoxication of new wine is actually the result of the outpouring of God’s Spirit. In fact, it is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel that “in the last days” God would pour out His “Spirit upon all flesh.” So, I want us to consider the implications of Peter’s sermon and the fulfillment of the prophecy.

First, notice that the crowd made the mistake of assuming something they didn’t understand and couldn’t comprehend as a result of the disciples “being drunk” and not what it actually was, the power and presence of God. To be perfectly honest, I think the fear of doing something embarrassing is a huge factor in our willingness (maybe just my unwillingness, but I doubt it) to completely submit ourselves to the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. We may fear what “the Spirit” might cause us to do and that some of the actions we’ve seen attributed to the work and presence of God’s Spirit could be a bit embarrassing, if not downright ridiculous. The reaction of the crowd in our text is a prime example. Are you willing to be viewed as “drunk on new wine” by those outside the church in order to be filled by, submissive to and useful in the hands of God’s Spirit?

While I recognize that we all have different personalities and even different spiritual gifts, the overwhelming power of God’s Spirit was physically evident in the lives of each of the Apostles and all of the disciples. I think we read this account and assume that ALL of the disciples spoke in tongues, but the text doesn’t specifically state that. It states they were ALL filled with the Spirit and began to speak in other tongues “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (them = those who were actually empowered to speak; notice the absence of “all” in this instance)

Remember, as I stated last week, the emphasis here is NOT on the ones speaking or even on how they are saying it, but it IS upon the one who is giving them something worth saying. You may be tempted to assume that to “utter” something is to speak in a manner that is indistinct or even unintelligible like muttering, and that would be entirely wrong. The word “utter” is the word used to describe the words spoken by a prophet or spokesman of God, just as Peter does in this passage. Words that are direct, precise, carefully chosen and intentional, because they are God’s words. This event was NOT about what these men had to say or even how they said it (in other languages) but this event IS all about what God had to say to the crowd gathered there.

So, I started this section by suggesting we might be reluctant to submit to God’s Spirit because it could prove to be embarrassing, but it can also prove to be dangerous. When these men and women were enabled to speak they spoke the very words of God. That’s why the Spirit gave them “utterance.” They spoke with the power and authority of God because they spoke the very words of God. As Peter begins to speak, he clarifies that the actions the crowd attributed to being drunk are, in fact, the fulfillment of God’s prophetic words through the prophet Joel.

Joel prophesied that in the “last days” God would pour out His Spirit “on all flesh” and that they would prophecy and have dreams and visions from God. Peter is declaring that the crowd was witnessing the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy and that the “last days” of God’s judgment had arrived. Joel’s prophecy made several bold declarations that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. This doesn’t mean that everyone would receive and be filled with God’s Spirit, but that the power and presence of God’s Spirit would no longer be confined to the Jewish race but would be available to all peoples and nations, regardless of their ethnic heritage.

In fact, Joel points out that God’s Spirit would come upon men and women, old and young alike. The prophecies, dreams and visions wouldn’t be limited by age or gender, either. Then Joel takes it even beyond that, God’s Spirit would even come upon the household servants. In other words, God was going to move in and through even those who were often considered unworthy of God’s Love. This is the very truth of God’s Word and the heart of the Gospel. God is bringing salvation to all men through the God-Man, Jesus. Jesus breaks down all of these barriers, ethnic barriers, gender barriers, age barriers and even socio-economic barriers. God loves each of us the same, but do we love Him?

This truth often proves to be the issue that causes division among men and hatred towards the Gospel. It causes division because we humans want to make our relationship with God something that we deserve, earned by our own goodness and moral virtue. Certainly not a gift of God’s grace and the outpouring of His mercy and forgiveness. Forgiveness? What do WE need to be forgiven of? This is the very same resistance Jesus met from the Jewish religious leaders that led to His death and the same resistance His disciples are beginning to face. The truth has a way of making people uncomfortable and even angry.

The Church is facing a challenge in our modern era and culture not unlike the one these disciples faced. A challenge to be bold, obedient, and Spirit-filled in proclaiming the truth of God’s Word without barriers. In fact, the church has faced this challenge in every era and every culture in which it has been proclaimed but she often stayed within the man-made barriers. Jesus faced a violent reaction when He spoke truth without barriers or limits and we will face the same. This is the very reason that so many reject the exclusive claims of Christ and try to make Him one of many “paths” to God. And yet, it is also the very reason Jesus’ message is unique among religious and even non-religious beliefs.

All other human belief systems have devised a plan whereby they can reach God (in whatever form or lack thereof their belief in God may take). But the Gospel of Jesus declares that man is incapable of achieving the moral goodness or righteousness worthy of God’s love and favor. So, God gave Himself to satisfy the moral demands of the law and now offers man grace and forgiveness by placing our faith in Him and His sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection. This is the gospel that Peter declared to those gathered in Jerusalem that day and it’s the very same message I declare to you. God’s love is bigger and broader than any barriers we might place upon it.

Let me close with one last insight from this passage, the day of Pentecost was the beginning of these “last days” and God’s grace is still available. But an ending to these “last days” is coming when God will call each of us before Him for judgment. In many of the prophets the day of judgment is called simply “that day.” Joel calls it “that great and magnificent day” when only those who have called upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

What does it mean to “call upon His name” and saved from what? I’ll answer those in reverse order… 1) We are saved from eternal judgment and separation from God. How? 2) When we are judged for our sin (our failure to live according to God’s commands and to love Him above all others) then we “call upon the Lord” or declare that our sin has already been covered by Jesus atoning death we are made alive by the power of His resurrection. What I’m unable to do for myself, God has already done for me and I’m trusting Him with my life and my death.

What about you? Are you trying to reach God through your own actions and abilities? How’s that coming? Falling a little short on the perfection scale? That’s where Jesus steps in and where He really excels. He fulfilled the law’s moral demands but gave Himself as our sacrifice so you and I could know and experience the love and forgiveness of God. Call on Him today while we are still living in between the beginning of the “last days” and the coming of “that great and magnificent day” of God’s judgment. Choose Jesus while you still have time.

Oh, by the way… once God gets hold of you don’t be surprised if people think you’re acting a bit different than you did before. God has a way of changing you so that you begin to act, think and even look more like Him each day. You can’t help it, it’s a family thing.

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