And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
I. The congregation in that upper room was the representative, or, as it were, the seed-germ, of the whole Catholic Church of all the centuries and of every land. For a symbol of this, its world-wide significance, the little Church rehearsed the praises of redemption in all the tongues of all the lands over which God had scattered the tribes of Israel. This polyglot praise was the consecration of heathen speech to the service of Israel's Jehovah. It foreshadowed the catholic grace of God which has turned common and unclean tongues to holy use. It meant, though they knew it not, the gathering in of the Gentile races to the God of Jacob. Let us, then, not be fond of uniformity that is false Catholicism. Let us seek the higher unity which rests on freedom and variety. In the true Catholic Church which stands in our creed, and is dear to our heart, there are many tongues and forms of utterance—tongues so diverse that, alas! we often fail to recognise one another; yet is there only one Spirit, who inspires, and having inspired, interprets; who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
II. We are the heirs of Pentecost. Then first the waiting Church below was linked tight in uttermost unity of life to its reigning Lord above. One Spirit embraces the throne in heaven, and the upper room on earth. To each Christian man in every Christian age, there has stood, and still stands open, the unrevoked grant of the fulness of the Spirit; such fulness as will fill him, if he be willing to take it in, up to his capacity. To each of us it is, and has been, according to our faith. If we are carnal, cold, timid, desponding, servile-hearted, fearful, it is not because we live under the law, not because God has set bounds to His grace, nor because the Holy Ghost is not yet, as if Christ were not yet glorified. It is because we have either no heart to desire, or no faith to expect. We have not now, because we ask not. "Ask and ye shall receive."
J. Oswald Dykes, From Jerusalem to Antioch, p. 43.
I. It is said in the text that the disciples began to speak. The first effect of the outpouring of the Spirit on the disciples was to prompt them to speak. A man may have a little of the Holy Spirit and observe silence, but if he is filled with the Spirit he cannot hold his peace.
II. The disciples began to speak with other tongues. The Lord descended to Babel and confused the tongues—He there and then set a train of circumstances in motion which necessarily resulted in diversity of languages. The Lord descended to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost—unified the tongues again—He there and then set a train of circumstances in motion which inevitably led to a better understanding between the nations, and a more thorough knowledge of each other's languages. The miracle of the Pentecost will gradually neutralise the miracle of Babel.
III. The disciples began to speak with other tongues the wonderful works of God. The wonderful works of God are, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These formed the grand topics which the disciples construed into other tongues; not nature, but the gospel; not creation, but redemption.
IV. They spoke to men of other nations. Increased life always demands increased scope for its exercise. The fire first burns into the heart of the disciples, then it begins to extend its area, and now it threatens to burn up all the stubble of the world.
V. The disciples spoke to other nations, that they also might be filled with the Holy Ghost. "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
J. Cynddylan Jones, Studies in the Acts, p. 20.
References: Acts 2:1-13.—J. Oswald Dykes, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iv., p. 124. Acts 2:1-21.—Parker, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 316. Acts 2:2, Acts 2:3.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 255.
Acts 2:2-4The Christian's Interest in the Day of Pentecost
I. At the day of Pentecost a new era did manifestly break upon the world; not an era during which human reason was to be more vast than it had been, but one during which there was to be a supernatural ascendancy, such as had not been vouchsafed under the former dispensation. The Spirit of God descended in greater measure, and in a new office, and the Gospel seemed irradiated, and mind sprang into comparative energy. Let the Spirit be withdrawn from the Church, and we thoroughly believe that men might become like the Jews, idolaters, with the truths of the Old Testament in their hands, and, like the Apostles, ignorant of redemption, and the facts of the New. While long before this visible descent the Holy Ghost had renewed our depraved nature in the elect people of God, yet at Pentecost He came in such measure, such fulness of purpose, such largeness of justice, and with such developments to unfold the mystery of the Gospel, as to put into the shade every previous communication, when, according to the description in our text, with the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, He became the instructor of the Church.
II. Note the connection of the gift of the Spirit with the exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The great event which Whitsuntide commemorates was but the act of a victor celebrating His triumphs and distributing His gifts among the people. He gives, not gold and not silver, but something incalculably more precious; He sends His own Spirit to renew the sons of the earth, and to transform the heirs of death into the heirs of immortality. Nay, He scatters pardon, peace, acceptance and happiness—whatever He had taken flesh to procure for mankind, seeing that the result of His mediation cannot be appropriated to us except through the Spirit; so that to send the Spirit was to make available the merits of His obedience unto death. For the men of every clime, in every age of the world, did the Spirit of the living God enter with the sound of the storm, and the flame of fire; and we ought to rejoice at this witness of Christ's resurrection, and give thanks that we have not been left to the uncertainties of oral tradition; but that we are as thoroughly informed of the doctrine of our Lord, as though with our own eyes we had seen, and with our own ears we had heard the author.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1520 (see also Voices of the Year, vol. i., p. 514).
References: Acts 2:2-4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1619. Acts 2:3, Acts 2:4.—W. B. Pope, Sermons, p. 270.
Acts 2:4The Birthday of the Church
I. In histories of this kind we are always under a temptation to seize upon the most extraordinary feature of the story—to take that as the essence of the whole. Thus the popular idea of Whit-Sunday is that it commemorates the gift of languages to the Apostles, by which, though uneducated men, they were qualified in a moment of time to preach the Gospel in every nation under heaven. But, indeed, this gift of tongues is but a small part of the matter. The true idea of Pentecost, that which makes it a festival for all time, is that it was the birthday of the Christian Church. What Sinai was to Israel, the making them into a people, that Pentecost was to Christ's disciples, the gathering them into a Church.
II. But a second point presses on us. If the fact of the Holy Ghost being shed upon the Apostles, on the very day when the giving of their law constituted the Jews to be God's people, leads us to fix this day as the beginning of the Christian Church, so does the conduct of the disciples, when the fiery tongues lighted on them, bring out a great principle of Christian life. The first use of speech under the prompting of the Holy Ghost was the praise of God. Was there, then, no preaching to the mingled multitude around? Doubtless, but the preaching was not by many mouths, but by one. There was no confusion in that first assembly of the saints. It was not a discordant sound of many voices speaking at once to the wondering throng. What the multitude heard, as they streamed together down the streets of Jerusalem to the chamber where the Apostles were, was one harmonious outburst of praise. And then, when the first terror began to subside, and the startled mind of the bystanders recovered its balance, then it was that St. Peter stood forth from amidst the Spirit-bound assembly and calmly and rationally argued with the people. First comes the deep sense of God's presence and goodness, the lifting up of the soul unto Him, then the going forth to preach unto others; first the realisation of truth to ourselves, then the making it known by our lives, by our words, to our brethren; first the soul's speech in praise to God, then its speech for God; first the thought of heaven, then the pleading to heaven to earth.
Bishop Woodford, Sermons on Subjects from the New Testament, p. 67.
References: Acts 2:4.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 171; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 269; H. Maclaren, Sermons in Union Chapel, p. 249.
Acts 2:7-8I. There are but two postulates necessary to the faith of Pentecost, or Whitsuntide: the first, God is Almighty; and the second, Christianity is of God. Given these two principles, all is intelligible. The new Gospel was a word, was a message, was a testimony, was a proclamation; these were its names for itself. Therefore it must find a voice and it must get a hearing. It was a failure if it did not. There must be a miracle. Men's eyes and ears must be made cognisant of God's intervention, must be appealed to, as St. Peter appeals to them on this occasion, "He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." I know not how else the Gospel could ever have got out of little Palestine; how else the Gospel could ever have gained, in the first instance, the attention of mankind.
II. These Galilæans speak still. Each one of them, being dead, yet speaketh. No philosopher, no poet, no orator, ever spake as they speak. To have written a page in the Bible is to have an immortality of speech. There is no book like it, its enemies themselves being judges. Men feel that the Bible is something to them which none other book is. It has words of eternal life, which must be heard in their integrity, and heard in the birth-tongue. How is this and why? The Spirit of God touched their lips and therefore it is life or death to listen.
III. The Spirit of God is not dead but living. The miracle of Pentecost was a token, was a symbol, was a proclamation—of what? Of the advent of the Holy Ghost, in all His fulness, to abide with us for ever. We want still God's Holy Spirit; and still, as in times of old, He lives and works in Christ's Church. Not in the Church as an establishment, as an institution, as an aggregate of humanity or a centre of worship. It is by making the separate stones temples that the Spirit builds into one the great temple. It is by opening to the praying soul the secrets of Scripture, that the Spirit causes these long dead Galilæans to speak and preach to us. By bringing a spiritual ear to the spiritual utterance, so that spiritual things may be interpreted to the spiritual in that which is the common, the unchangeable language of hearts and souls.
C. J. Vaughan, Temple Sermons, p. 35.
Acts 2:2, Acts 2:17(with John 2:20)
The Fourfold Symbols of the Spirit
I. A rushing mighty wind. In this symbol we have set forth the highest work of the Spirit—the communication of a new and supernatural life. In this sign lies the thought of a life (1) derived, (2) kindred with the life bestowed, (3) free like the life which is given, (4) a life of power.
II. The fire of the Spirit. The emblem of fire is selected to express the work of the Spirit of God, by reason of its leaping, triumphant, transforming energy. The metaphor of fire suggests also purifying. Get the love of God into your hearts, and the fire of His Divine Spirit into your spirits to melt you down, as it were, and then the scum and the dross will come to the top, and you can skim them off. Two things conquer my sin; the one is the blood of Jesus Christ, which washes me from all the guilt of the past; the other is the fiery influence of that Divine Spirit which makes me pure and clean for all the time to come.
III. The symbol of water. The Spirit is (1) cleansing, (2) refreshing and satisfying. Our thirst can be slaked by the deep draught of the river of the Water of Life, which proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb. (3) Productive and fertilising. In Eastern lands a well of water is all that is needed to make the wilderness rejoice. The one means of lofty and fruitful Christian living is a deep, inward possession of the Spirit of God.
IV. The oil of the Spirit. The reason for the use of such a symbol, I presume, would be in the invigorating and in the supposed, and possibly real, health-giving effect of the use of oil in Eastern climates. Whatever may have been the reason for the use of oil in official anointings, the meaning of the act was plain. It was a preparation for a specific and distinct service. And so when we read of the oil of the Spirit, we are to think that it is that which fits us for becoming priests, prophets, and kings, and which calls us because it fits us for these functions.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 99.
References: Acts 2:12-37.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 279. Acts 2:14-16.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 165. Acts 2:14-26.—J. Oswald Dykes, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iv., p. 193.
Acts 2:14-36The first Gospel Sermon
There are four links in St. Peter's chain of evidence. The first two, lying within the knowledge of his hearers, are briefly handled; the last two, being facts lying outside their observation, are confirmed at length by Scripture and living testimony.
I. God's hand first appeared in the public ministry of Jesus by the miracles which He had wrought. On these proofs the preacher had no need to dwell. They were known to all.
II. But now came the stumbling block with the audience. This Man of Nazareth, the fame of whose words had filled Palestine, had been by the national rulers solemnly adjudged a cheat and a blasphemer; and the people in a fickle hour had turned upon their former favourite, and demanded His blood. Nakedly Peter recalls the harsh and horrid deeds of seven weeks before, and bluntly charges them on the crowd before him, so that each man's share in that Friday's work might rise up out of memory before his soul and tear his conscience with remorse and shame. Only his proof of the Messiahship of the Crucified is still far too incomplete to justify his dwelling on so irritating a theme, and therefore, without giving time for pause, or even breaking off his sentence, he goes on to announce—
III. That novel and astounding fact of resurrection, by which God had set His seal for ever beyond all cavil to the innocence and the claims and sonship of the Lord Jesus, "whom God raised up." What any devout and thoughtful Jew ought to have been looking for, as the chief mark of Messiah when He came, as God's crowning attestation to David's Son, could not be a thing incredible when at last affirmed of a Man who declared to the death that He was Messiah. If Jesus should be after all what He said He was, God must have raised Him up; but God had raised Him up, "whereof," adds the preacher, "we all are witnesses."
IV. One more proof, and only one, remained. David had not ascended into heaven to sit there in the seat of supreme, celestial monarchy and thence subdue all earthly foes; but Peter was prepared to say that Jesus had. In the change which the anointing Holy Ghost had wrought, the disciples were living proofs that their Master, though refused, baffled, slain on earth, had been exalted and enthroned in heaven, and had received of the Father—what He had now sent down to them—the promise of the Holy Ghost. Pentecost itself is the supreme demonstration of Peter's thesis that Jesus is the Christ; for on Jesus' friends, and. on none else, has come what prophets promised and the just have waited for.
J. Oswald Dykes, From Jerusalem to Antioch, p. 63.
References: Acts 2:14-17.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 126. Acts 2:16.—C. Molyneux, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 353. Acts 2:16-18.—W. Ince, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 243. Acts 2:17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 816; Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 31; E. Conder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 241. Acts 2:17-21.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 167. Acts 2:22.—W. M. Taylor, The Gospel Miracles, p. 3.
Acts 2:20-24, Acts 2:32-33The first Christian Apology
I. The audience which St. Peter addressed were familiar with the main outlines of Jesus' life as recent and notorious events. We assume them also. For the truth of the theory that Christ was God the Church offers one test-proof—the resurrection. Virtually, St. Peter does so in these early sermons of his. If God Almighty did raise the Lord Jesus from the dead into glorified and unchangeable life, as no other man ever was raised, then Jesus was the Son of God as He claimed to be, His life as Divine as it professed to be, His miracles genuine, His teaching true, His pretensions valid, His death innocent, His passion propitiatory and atoning. But if, which is the only other alternative, the alternative of unbelief, if God did not raise this Man, the Christian advocate throws up his case, our faith is false, our fancied Saviour an impostor, and we are in our sins like other men.
II. Even a Christ who became alive again is not enough, if He has so withdrawn Himself that in His absence He cannot help us. A Christ removed out of reach of men were as good as no Christ at all. Our Christ is not out of reach; withdrawn as He is from sensible contact with matter, into that spiritual world which on every side encompasses and perhaps touches this earthly life of ours, Christian faith feels herself more really near to Him now than when He was present to sight. It is because the Spirit of power, and purity, and peace flows into her, from her no longer accessible Head, that the Church exists, and possesses the unity of a spiritual organism, and does effective work as the bearer of a regenerating Gospel. Her word, her work, her very being, hinge on the fact that the Holy Ghost inhabits her. We have here an advantage over an apologist so early as St. Peter. In proof that his newly-departed Master had sent down the Holy Ghost, Peter had nothing to appeal to but one unique and startling phenomenon just happening in his hearers' presence. He had the rushing noise, the flames of fire, the foreign tongues. We have the gathered spiritual experience of eighteen centuries. Christianity is not so small or so new a thing that it should be hard for any man who tries to track its working in detail on innumerable men, and gather up even its secret fruits. The Gospel is not a dead history, but a living power. It is not far off, but nigh us. God's breath is in it, and moral miracles attest the perennial contact with our sunken race of a strong Divine hand—a hand more strong than sin's—always at work to uplift and to heal.
J. Oswald Dykes, Sermons, p. 1.
References: Acts 2:21.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 214. Acts 2:22.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 83. Acts 2:22-24.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 321. Acts 2:23.—C. J. Vaughan, The Church of the First Days, vol. ii., p. 95.
Acts 2:24St. Peter says Christ was raised from the dead because it was not possible that He should be holden of death. Let us consider what were the reasons for this Divine impossibility.
I. First, we find the reason which lay nearest to his conclusion, and which was intended to convince his hearers. It was not possible, because David had spoken concerning Him, that He should rise from the dead. It was their Jewish prophecy which forbade Christ to remain in the grave, and made His resurrection a Divine necessity.
II. But the second reason which would have shaped St. Peter's language lay in the character of Jesus Christ. His character, not less than His miracles, drew hearts to Him, and led men to give up all for Him. Of our Lord's character the leading feature, if we may reverently use such an expression, was His simple truthfulness. It was morally impossible for Him to hold out a prospect which could not be realised, or to use words which did not mean what they appeared to mean. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ had again and again said that He would be put to a violent death, and that afterwards He would rise again. If He had not risen, He would not have kept His engagement with the world. This was the feeling of those who loved Him best, and especially of St. Peter. All was staked on His rising from the dead; and when He did rise, He was proved to be the Son of God. Thus it was the character of Christ, more than the force of prophecy, which made the idea that He should not rise impossible to His disciples.
III. But we have not yet exhausted St. Peter's reasons for his statement. In the sermon which he preached after the healing of the man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, he told his hearers that they had crucified the Prince of Life. In the truth of our Lord's jurisdiction over life, based on His Divine nature, he traces the third reason why it was impossible that He should not rise again. The buried Christ could not remain in the grave. He was raised by virtue of a Divine necessity, and this necessity while originally and strictly proper to Him, points also to a necessity which affects His Church. We see in it (1) the impossibility for Christians to be buried for ever in the tomb; (2) the principle which is applied to the Church itself as well as to our bodies. It is not possible that the body of Christ, instinct with His force and spirit, should be holden down in death. (3) The principle applies to individual lives. If we are any of us in the tomb of sin, it ought to be impossible for us to lie there.
H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 257 (see also Easter Sermons, vol. i., p. 83).
References: Acts 2:24.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 175; Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 107. Acts 2:25-28.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 323. Acts 2:25-26.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons in Marlborough College, p. 428. Acts 2:29-32.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 324. Acts 2:32.—T. Claughton, Church of England Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 129.
Acts 2:32-33The Church's witness for Christ:—
I. Christ hid in heaven needs a body as well as a spirit by which to manifest His living rule. He needs a body through which He may make Himself intelligible to men, and even to unbelieving men; make Himself felt, certified, effective, enduring. This body He must have, and that body He has with pain secured Himself. And now into that prepared body His Spirit issues from Him, to gather it up into organised life, to inhabit it, to unify its capacities, to regulate its aims, to quicken its impulses, to fix its offices, to direct its gifts, to build up its intercourse, to feed and govern its entire frame. The Church is the witnessing body: it proves Christ's case, it testifies to His victory: and this it does first before God the Father. It manifests His glory by justifying His method of redemption; it bears witness before God that He has not sent His Son in vain; and secondly, it has to witness in the face of men, to prove, to convict, to convince, that even an unbelieving world may believe that the Father did send the Son.
II. And in accomplishing this conversion of the world it has two points—this Church—to prove and testify—first, that Christ is alive and at work now today on earth, and that He can be found of them that believe, and manifest Himself to those who love Him; and secondly, that He is so by virtue of the deed done once for all at Calvary, by which the Prince of this world was judged and the world was overcome, and man given access to God. What proofs can the Church offer for these two points? It has three proofs to give. (1) Its own actual life. This is its primary witness that Christ is now alive at the right hand of God the Father. Its one prevailing and unanswerable proof is, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Christ is alive, otherwise I should not be alive as you see me this day. (2) This personal life of Christ in His Church verifies and certifies to the world the reality of that old life on earth, of that death on Calvary, of that resurrection on Olivet. The living Church bears a book about with it, the Gospel book, the Apostolic witness, the witness of those who so beheld, tasted, handled the Word of Life. (3) Again, the body carries with it a third witness, not only the Apostolic record, but the Apostolic rite, the act commanded by the dying Christ to be done for ever as a memorial and a witness until His coming again. The present life, the unshaken record, the memorial act—these are the three prevailing witnesses by which the body testifies to the resurrection of the Lord.
H. Scott Holland, Family Churchman, June 30th, 1886.
References: Acts 2:32, Acts 2:33.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p 189. Acts 2:33.—Bishop Barry, First Words in Australia, p. 195. Acts 2:33-36.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 480.
Acts 2:36I. The name of Jesus is the name of the Man, which tells us of a Brother.
II. The second name, Christ, is the name of office, and brings to us a Redeemer.
III. The Lord is the name of dignity, and brings before us the King.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 275.
References: Acts 2:37.—Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 205; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 175; W. Thomson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 152; C. J. Vaughan, Church of First Days, vol. i., p. 55. Acts 2:37-40.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 452.
Acts 2:37-41The First Christian Baptism
I. The double condition of baptism is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. (1) Repentance, or the resolute turning and changing of the life, to face right round, away from old sin towards new holiness, was the one demand of John, the first baptizer. Yet even the change of mind, as he preached it, and as the people performed it at his bidding, was a much less thorough thing than the repentance which Peter preached. It was more like a reformation of manners than a renewal of the heart. No mere sweeping of the life as clean as might be (such as John's brief ministry had effected) could turn into saints men whose hands were red with the blood of Christ, whose hearts were filled with hatred to Christ. They must be born again, and the repentance which goes with that means nothing less than a reversal of the innermost springs and sources of moral action; the slaying of one nature, or one set of ruling tendencies, that another may come to life. (2) A second condition Peter asked which John had not asked—faith in Jesus as the Messiah. In this one fact, the identification of the man of Nazareth whom Pilate crucified, with the promised anointed Son of God, lies the centre of gravity of the whole Apostolic testimony; and though the word faith is not once named, yet such a cordial acceptance of this fact, as implies reliance upon Jesus Christ for salvation, is plainly the chief differentia distinguishing Apostolic from Johannine baptism.
II. The difference is not less wide in that which the new baptism expressed and sealed to the faithful. Two blessings are named by St. Peter—remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. There are Christians, indeed, who live today as if the Holy Ghost were not yet given. They believe, as men used to believe, who only hoped for mercy to come. They have no more than half thrown off the shackles of a legal spirit, and are as joyless as if Christ had not risen. But this is their own fault—not the fault of their time. We are Gospel saints; baptized not into John's, but Christ's own baptism. Let us arise and claim our heritage. Let us invoke the Spirit who came at Pentecost to come to us; for "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," there is life, there is joy in the Lord.
J. Oswald Dykes, From Jerusalem to Antioch, p. 81 (see also Preacher's Lantern, vol. iv., p. 257).
Acts 2:39The Meaning of the Gift of Tongues
I. What is the truth to which this gift was the index, of which it was the pledge? Consider the narrative in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and see whether it does not tell us. On a set of poor men, trained to a mechanical calling, despised by their countrymen, but sharing their contempt for other nations, noted for an uncouth dialect—there light cloven tongues as of fire. They have new powers of utterance, men from the province of the Parthian as well as the Roman world hear them proclaiming the wonderful works of God in the language of the lands where they have grown up. Is it a drunken inspiration? Have the orgies of a Dionysiac feast been brought into the Jerusalem worship? No, say the Galilæans, we are the disciples and witnesses of One whom your rulers crucified, whom God has raised from the dead. A great and terrible day of the Lord is at hand. To prepare for such a day, to signify that He whom you rejected as your King is both Lord and Christ, that is poured forth which you see and hear. Repent, therefore, and acknowledge your true King and Lord; be baptized in His name, and you shall receive that gift of the Holy Ghost which we have received.
II. The Spirit of God, teaching of the Father and the Son, leading men out of their narrow notions, can alone guide them into all truth. The missionary, if he is seeking to do his work faithfully, will be brought to confess that God's words are not deceitful words, but words proved in the fire; not words for one age, but words that will last if heaven and earth pass away. But he will come to that discovery because it is the human discovery—the Divine discovery—which each of us will make for himself if we each seek to be honest in our vocations. We, too, must own that that Spirit is not given to any one of us for any faith or virtues of his own; that it is God's gift to Christ, the Head and Corner-stone of a society which we enter when we abandon our separate selfish pretensions and are content to be heirs of a common blessing.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 17.
References: Acts 2:39.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 1; J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 264; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 14th series, p. 69; Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 266.
Acts 2:40It can scarcely be denied that our age is distinguished by peculiar advantages. If I am asked to name the most prominent feature of our days, I at once single out the enjoyment by every one of so much personal freedom.
I. The outcome of this freedom is the unprecedented activity which characterises the religious and philanthropic enterprises of our day. There is, however, no exception to the law which prevails in God's world, and which links together opportunity with danger. Multitudes in our day stand aloof, and take no share either in the labour or in the munificence by which great movements are sustained and made to succeed. Beware of the condemnation of the son who said, "I go sir, and went not."
II. What is the effect of personal freedom upon obedience to authority. It may be observed that we are made to feel in many ways, and often in unexpected quarters, that authority must now rest its claims to obedience upon reason, and not primarily on prescription. Is this a gain to us or a loss? Is it an advantage or a peril? Amidst much which good men deplore, there is more that they may welcome with hope. It is no inconsiderable advantage that in our times free discussion can precede change. For although discussion does not always prevent mischief, it is always useful, because it informs and educates men's minds and prepares them for changes which are inevitable. When the dust of strife has settled down, and the noise of disputation has ceased, it is always found that the Almighty is still sitting upon His throne, and that He is the Ruler over all. In His own way He has been accomplishing His own designs, all the time that we, in our weakness and our fear, were trembling lest wrong judgment should prevail, and lest the firmament itself should fall down.
III. We must, however, work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We must not hope to be taken out of the world. We may not suppose that the whole tenor of modern thought will be changed, so as to become accommodated to our weakness or to our fears. On the contrary, we must gird up the loins of our mind and be sober. Whilst we recognise and guard ourselves from the manifold dangers which lurk even in the very forms of our liberty, we shall endeavour to prize and to hold fast the unspeakable advantages which, by means of this very freedom, God has placed within our reach. We have our own duty to do, our own talents to improve, our own devil to resist, our own crown to win. We must do this in the strength of the Lord, and in the power of His grace.
W. B. Hopkins, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, April 27th, 1882.
Acts 2:41-42St. Peter's Pentecostal Sermon
Consider the several points noted in the text, as showing the result of St. Peter's sermon.
I. In the first place, the persons who had been baptized, and so added to the Church, remained in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship; that is, they joined themselves to their company, listened to their teaching, and acted accordingly; they were not ashamed to confess that they belonged to the new society who owned a crucified Master, and they did not wish merely to adopt a new name, and not withal to show by their conduct that their Christian name was a reality. As a general rule, it is clear that the effect of the conversion which was produced by St. Peter's sermon was true and vital; though there were some who disgraced their profession, yet as a general rule, the profession which was made under the influence of St. Peter's words was fully borne out by the lives of the converts.
II. Another point mentioned concerning the converts is, that they remained steadfast in the breaking of bread; this phrase has in the New Testament a peculiar signification, and generally means that which undoubtedly it does mean in this case, namely, the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. And the converts remained steadfast in the partaking of the Holy Communion. In our own days, it is nothing remarkable for a Christian to listen to a sermon, and yet hold back from the breaking of bread; people think that listening to a sermon commits them to nothing, that the breaking of bread does; that the one is amusing, and the other certainly awful. What does this prove but that the heart is wrapped up in impenetrable folds of worldliness, or self-satisfaction, or carnal security.
III. Lastly, those who were converted by St. Peter's address remained steadfast in prayer. This was the proper fruit of a sermon. The sermon is rightly appreciated, it is manifestly blessed by the Holy Ghost, when it leads persons to value and join heartily in the Church's prayers. The prayers are not the mere introduction to preaching, but preaching is intended to make people pray.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 242.
References: Acts 2:41-43.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 454; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 166. Acts 2:41-47.—C. Stanford, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 180. Acts 2:42.—W. M. Arthur, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 91; S. Pearson, Ibid., p. 210; E. Johnson, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 387; C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. i., p. 73; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 41. Acts 2:42, Acts 2:43.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. i., p. 295. Acts 2:44, Acts 2:45.—J. Dawson, The Authentic Gospel, p. 114; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 69.
Acts 2:46-47The Daily Service a Law in God's Kingdom
We have here the very remarkable fact that the Apostles and the whole Church of Christ still continued, after the day of Pentecost, to attend the daily services of the temple. There was nothing contrariant between God's elder and later dispensation. They both worshipped Him in His temple, and offered the eucharistical sacrifice in their upper chambers. The time was not yet come when the daily sacrifice should be taken from the elder and given to the Catholic Church. Until this time came, the Church of Christ daily served God in the courts of the sanctuary on Mount Zion. When the time came that Jerusalem should be overthrown and the Divine Presence forsake His temple, the daily service passed to the altars of the Catholic Church. Consider some of the objections to the daily service which weigh with serious people.
I. As, for instance, it is often said that the daily service is unnecessary now, because of the prevalence of family prayer. We painfully overstate the extent to which family worship has been restored. At the most, it is to be found in the houses of the educated, and of some others among the more unlettered, but more devout of our people. But in the homes of the millions of our population family worship is still unknown. The Church must open a shelter for the desolate, and dress an altar for those whose lot is cast in households where God is unknown.
II. Another common objection is, that the daily service of the Church is unprofitable, because so few are able to attend it. But why should any be defrauded of a blessing because others deprive themselves of it. Why should Simeon and Anna be thrust back from the gate that is called Beautiful, because others see no comeliness in it that they should desire it.
III. It is said that the habits of life are so changed as to make daily service impossible. They are changed—but for the worse. Once the world waited upon the Church, and took its hours and seasons from the hours and seasons of God's worship; but now all is reversed. When once the Church has restored the solemn days of fast and festival and the stated hours of daily prayer, there will be an order marked out for all men of goodwill to follow. No sun should then go down on sins unconfessed, or blessings unacknowledged; and if any be truly hindered, still in their own home, or by the wayside, or in crowded marts, or in busy cities, or in the fields—when the bell is heard afar off, or the known hour of prayer is come—they may say with us the Confession and the Lord's Prayer, and though far from us on earth, may meet us in the court of heaven.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 186.
References: Acts 2:46, Acts 2:47.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 180; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 269. Acts 2:47.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1167; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 52; New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 81.
Acts 2:47 (R.V.)
A pure Church an Increasing Church
I. The profound conception which the writer had of the present action of the ascended Christ. He adds to the Church, not we—not our preaching, not our eloquence, our fervour, our efforts; these may be the weapons in His hands, but the hand that wields the weapon gives it all its power to wound and to heal, and it is Christ Himself, who by His present energy, is here represented as being the Agent of all the good that is done by any Christian community, and the builder up of those Churches of His, in numbers and in power.
II. Notice how emphatically there is brought out here the attractive power of an earnest and pure Church. Wherever there is a little knot of men obviously held together by a living Christ, and obviously manifesting in their lives and characters the features of that Christ transforming and glorifying them, there will be drawn to them—by the gravitation which is natural in the spiritual realm—souls that have been touched by the grace of the Lord, and souls to whom that grace has been brought the nearer by looking upon them. Wheresoever there is inward vigour of life there will be outward growth; and the Church which is pure, earnest, living, will be a Church which spreads and increases.
III. Observe the definition given here of the class of persons gathered into the community, "Those that were being saved." Through all life the deliverance goes on, the deliverance from sin, the deliverance from wrath. The Christian salvation, then, according to the teaching of this emphatic phrase, is a process begun at conversion, carried on progressively through the life, and reaching its climax in another state. Day by day, through the spring and the early summer, the sun is longer in the sky and rises higher in the heavens. And the path of the Christian is as the shining light. Last year's greenwood is this year's hardwood; and the Christian, in like manner, has to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour. So these progressively, and as yet imperfectly saved people, were gathered into the Church.
A. Maclaren, Christ in the Heart, p. 183.
References: Acts 2:47.—C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. i., p. 92. Acts 3:1-10.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xix., p. 376. Acts 3:2.—Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 361; W. Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 244; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., p. 381; Ibid., Forty-eight Sermons, vol. i., p. 105.
We have here the history of the first Christian revival. Let us trace it through, and mark at once its origin and its characteristics.
I. It was ushered in by prayer. Like true children of God, these first disciples waited and prayed, asking evermore, that they might receive the Holy Ghost according to His word. And herein they rebuke us dreadfully, for in our petitions we far too largely neglect the Holy Ghost.
II. The revival began in the Church in the quickening and enlightening of those who were already disciples. To have the world converted, we must have the Church purified and ennobled, through the enjoyment of a rich effusion of the Holy Ghost.
III. The revival was characterised by the preaching of the truth. Peter's discourse was (1) Biblical, (2) experimental, (3) pointed and courageous.
IV. This revival was characterised by many conversions.
W. M. Taylor, Peter the Apostle, p. 170.
References: Acts 2—Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 333. Acts 3:1-10.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 457; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 247.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.