Prayer and fasting 21 days – Acts 2
For the first time the Holy Spirit came and filled believers. Individuals had been anointed by the Holy Spirit in Old Testament times. There had been foretastes. But this was the first time that the Holy Spirit, God Himself, came and impacted a whole body of believers. The Spirit formed them into the first church and empowered the believers to proclaim the good news. Peter preached the gospel for the first time: Jesus is Lord – what will you do about that fact? The church grew as many responded and received the Holy Spirit, at the beginning of their life in Christ, and the Spirit was also the guarantee that they will receive the fulness of salvation (Eph 1:14).
Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit in a life-changing way, so you have power to live the gospel and also to explain the gospel (naturally, as people ask, but with the Spirit inspiring the words).
Pentecost was one the key feasts of Israel, coming 50 days after Passover. It was the early harvest festival, celebrating the first fruits, the very first barley harvest. It was a foretaste of the full harvest gathered in later in the year and celebrated in the feast of Tabernacles. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is given to us as the first fruits, or deposit or guarantee that we will receive the fulness of salvation God intends for us (Paul uses this language of “guarantee” several times to describe what has happened when the believers were filled with the Spirit e.g. Eph 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:22 and 5:5). We experience more of His grace and salvation as we follow the Holy Spirit in the adventures of life, learning to “reign in life” despite adverse circumstances and learning to use the talents God has given us.
Pentecost had also become associated with the giving of the Law in Jewish practice by the time of Jesus. It was a celebration of the Law, which gave the Jewish people their identity as well as their religious, moral and practical direction. Paul’s epistles are clear (he repeated this many times!) that the People of God are no longer defined by the Law but by receiving the Holy Spirit, and are made of both Jews and Gentiles. At Pentecost, for the first time the Spirit filled a body of believers and makes them into the church, the new People comprising Jews and Gentiles.
This is the first time in history that a gospel message is preached. So we can expect it to have some really important, definitive lessons for us in proclaiming the good news.
First, the people of God create an impact. Peter gets up to explain because something has happened that needs explaining. There is no point proclaiming “Christ is the answer” to people who are wondering “What was the question?” These people in Acts 2 were curious and full of questions because something supernatural had happened. In the same way, our proclamation of the gospel needs to start with a lifestyle that provokes questions. It may be directly supernatural – a miraculous healing or deliverance. Or it may be the supernatural life of the Spirit seen in very normal and down to earth ways as God’s people care for the poor or the marginalised, or show friendship to neighbours with such love that questions arise.
Second, Peter does not focus on anything except Jesus. His message is basically very simple: “Jesus is Lord – what will you do about the fact?” We might need to use various different words and ways of explaining things, but in essence our message is Jesus Himself. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the door and the destination. It is all about Him.
Third, Peter does not hesitate to present a clear and challenging way for the people to respond to Jesus. Repentance and baptism are not options and are not part of some “deeper teaching” for mature believers. They are Day 1 requirements for anyone responding to Jesus, and the promises attached are literally out of this world: forgiveness and being filled with the same Holy Spirit of God who has just filled and transformed the first disciples.
So Acts 2 is a chapter full of firsts. Let’s follow the example of Peter and those first believers!