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The Outpouring of the Spirit

Published: 3 weeks ago- 28 April 2024
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Every community has a defining day.

Just this week, our communities celebrated one of those days.

In the early hours of the morning, on April 25th 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed at Gallipoli in the face of darkness and death. Whilst these men didn’t know it at the time, this day was going to define their nation for many years to come. It was going to be a defining day.

As one person wrote this week:

“[This day] encapsulates our community’s essence-forged in war’s crucible, hardened by adversity, and united by indissoluble ties of mateship and solidarity.”.1

Every community has a defining day.


This morning, as we continue our series in the book of Acts, we see another defining day.

As Theophilus and the early church face their own challenges-leadership transition, false teaching, and sporadic persecution-Luke pens what is another defining day for the people of God. Last week, we heard about the day when the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven. This week, we’ll hear about the day when the ascended Lord Jesus poured out the Spirit upon the earth. What we’ll discover is just how defining a moment this day really was… … and how it should still define us today in the midst of our own challenges.

When a church faces serious challenges, there’s no question that it can deeply affect our perception of who we are and what we should be on about. Whether its financial struggles, internal conflicts, or declining attendance, we can begin to switch to ‘panic-mode’ where we forget our identity and our purpose.

It begins as we lose confidence in God and the gospel, resulting in a subtle pessimism about the church’s future for growth and impact. Then, we can slowly begin to lower our expectations, leading to an assumption that church gatherings will be uninspiring; or that church leadership always has an ulterior motive; or that the community doesn’t want to change or doesn’t want to grow. As we lose confidence, as we lower our expectations, then we can become complacent and disengaged. Then, we eventually become bitter, disappointed, or even resentful.2 When a church faces serious challenges, there’s no question that it can deeply affect our perception of who we are and what we should be on about.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. I’m sure some of us might be there right now. I’m sure that others of us could be there sometime in the future.

So, how do we live in the midst of this struggle? How do we look forward in the midst of these things? How do we regain or hold onto our sense of identity and purpose together?

Well, that’s where Acts 2 comes in. We let that defining day (there and then) remind us of who we are and what we should be on about (here and now).

So let’s do that.


As Luke puts pen to paper for Theophilus, his story arc follows three basic questions, followed by a conclusion: (1) What happened? (2) What’s this mean? And (3) what should we do?

1a. What happened? (v1-13)

Here’s ‘what happened’ on that defining day.

It was Jerusalem’s annual festival. At that time, it was called “Pentecost”, otherwise known as the “Festival of Weeks” (cf. Exodus 34:22). On that day, the apostles (and the one hundred and twenty) were “all together”, in the same place at the same time. Just as Moses had once commanded them, all of Israel were here to celebrate this seven-week long festival. As the city embarked on this celebration, the streets of Jerusalem were filling with more and more people. God-fearing Jews from every nation (men, women, and children) were flooding the city. To celebrate God’s goodness for giving them the earth’s seasons and the land’s fruit (cf. Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12).

But unlike previous years, the disciples’ hearts were brimming. They were filled with expectation and excitement. They’d only just witnessed the ascension of their Lord, days prior (cf. Acts 1:9). And he’d only just told them to wait in Jerusalem, until he’d baptised them in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:8). Something was going to be different this year, something extraordinary (something defining) was going to happen. And it did.

Suddenly, the apostles (and the one hundred and twenty) heard a sound. A sound coming from heaven. It was a heavenly sound, but it had an earthly tune. The sounds was like “a violent and rushing wind”. And this sound filled the whole house where they were all sitting, it was as if God was making himself present. And as they looked around in awe, they could see something. They could see fire, something like tongues of fire. And these tongues of fire were spreading out across the room. They were dividing, splitting, moving until they rested upon each one of them. They were all engulfed in the flames, yet somehow unharmed. It were as if they were experiencing something like the stories of old, something like Sinai (cf. Exodus 3:2-5; 19:18; 24:17; 40:48). The promised gift of the Holy Spirit had come in a tangible and visible form. They heard him, they saw him, and they felt him in the depths of their souls. The Father, through the ascended Son, sent the Spirit from heaven. All of them were filled, baptised, immersed, with the Holy Spirit.

As the Spirit filled them, they began to speak. They began to say things. But, astonishingly, each one of them began to talk in languages they’d never learned. The were Galilean’s, but they spoke in other languages! Like the Prophets of old, the Spirit came upon them and they spoke about the wonders of God (cf. Ezekiel 2:2). They praised God for his greatness, his beauty, and for the great and beautiful things he’d done in the ascended Lord Jesus.

As they spoke about these wonders, those staying in the city heard them. Slowly but surely these wonderful sounds made their way into the people’s ears. As Israelite upon Israelite were brought together, they became bewildered, confused, perplexed, amazed-because each one heard their own language being spoken. They didn’t know it, but they were experiencing the undoing of the ancient past, the undoing of Babel’s curse (cf. Genesis 11:7-9).3 But as the crowds saw what happened, some laughed; some joked; some sneered-“they’re drunk” “they’ve had too much wine”. But others, others saw what happened and asked one another: “What’s this mean?”

1b. What’s this mean? (v14-37)

When they asked “What’s this mean?”, Peter stood up with the other apostles, and he addressed the crowd.

Peter said to them: “Fellow Jews, listen up!” “They’re not drunk, no this was God’s plan!”. Peter reminded them, “Remember what God said in Joel 2:28?” How “In these last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people”. Peter reminds them: this was God’s plan. These believers (the one hundred and twenty)-these “sons” and “daughters”, these “servants” “both men and women”-they’re prophesying (they’re speaking God’s wonders!) because God has poured out his Spirit. These are the days of God’s kingdom restoration, these are “the last days” says Peter. These are the days where “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. That’s what this means!

But who is this Lord, you might ask? Who is this Lord, that you need to call upon? Who is this Lord who saves? Well, Peter tells them. “Fellow Israelites” “Listen up” “This Lord is the man, Jesus” “You actually know him!”. “There were miracles” “There were wonders and signs” “which God did through him” “as you yourselves know!”. And “this man, Jesus” “was handed over to you” “by God’s deliberate plan”, “but you” “you put him to death by nailing him to a cross”. “But then God” “God raised this man from the dead” just as King David once said in Psalm 16.
Now just remember, “David wasn’t speaking about himself” “I’m sure of it!”. When David wrote Psalm 16, David wasn’t describing his own experience. No, way! David was talking about Jesus. How do I know? Well, “David died and was buried” “Just go look at his tomb!”. Instead, David spoke “of the resurrection of the Messiah” “of how death couldn’t keep Him down”. David spoke “of this man, Jesus” “who you crucified”, “who was raised to life”, “who was exalted to the right hand of God in heaven”, and “who has now poured out the promised Holy Spirit”… … which is everything “you see and hear”. Now, don’t get this wrong, “David didn’t ascend to heaven”, no Jesus did! That’s the only way to make sense of David’s other Psalm, Psalm 110! Once again, David wasn’t speaking about himself. No David was speaking about Jesus. Jesus is “the Lord” who was invited “to sit at God’s right hand” in heaven.

So, Peter concludes: “Therefore” “all you Israelites” know the truth, know what has really happened, know what all this really means: “God has made” “this man Jesus” “who you crucified, both Lord and Messiah”. Who is this “Lord” who you should call upon to be saved? Well, it’s “The one you crucified”, but God “raised and exulted”.

And as the crowd of Israelites, hear Peter’s words-the words begin to move. They begin to move from their ears to their innermost being. As they are confronted by the “you” “you” “you”, but “God” “God” “God”… … Something happens to their hearts. As they’re confronted by their utter foolishness (for crucifying God’s Lord and Messiah), their hearts are “cut”, “stabbed”, “stunned”. Their hearts are pierced, as if by a two-edged sword. In the midst of their helplessness and remorse, “they ask Peter and the other apostles”-“Brothers, what should we do?”.

1c. What should we do? (v38-40)

When they asked “What should we do?”, Peter told them.

He said: “Everyone of you” needs to “Repent”. To “be sorry”, to “change your mind about Jesus”, to “reorient your life around him”. You need to “Express sorrow for rejecting the one that God has made “Lord and Messiah”. “Repent”. Peter also said: “Everyone of you” needs to “be baptised”. To be baptised “in the name of Jesus”. To go through water baptism “for the forgiveness of your sins” “and to receive the Holy Spirit”. “Be baptised”. Peter offers one the most wonderful and gracious replies to this pack of murderers: He says: “It’s simple: repent and be baptised”. “If you want to be forgiven, for crucifying Jesus… If you want to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit-which you now see and hear… If you want life and restoration in the kingdom of God… If you want to “be saved”… … “everyone of you needs to repent and be baptised-to call upon the name of the Lord.”
But Peter’s got more to say. He assures them: “Don’t think that this is just for you!” No, it’s not! This is for everyone and anyone who comes after you” “This promise is for you, your children, and your children’s children-for all who are far off”. The blessing of salvation-of being filled with the divine Spirit-is “for all who the Lord our God will call”.

“What should we do?” Call upon the name of the Lord, who calls you.

1d. The Conclusion (v41-47)

And that’s what these “God-fearing Jews” do.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, and at the news of the ascended Christ-many call upon the name of the Lord. Those who “accepted the message” were baptised. From street to street, the apostles plunged people into the waters. About “three thousand” were added to the number of disciples that day. You see, the one hundred and twenty becomes three thousand, one hundred and twenty. This community becomes one of deep devotion. They remain “committed”, “dedicated”, “devoted” despite difficulty. The community devote themselves to the “apostles teaching”, to “fellowship”, to the “breaking of bread”, and to “prayer”. Across the remainder of the festival, this new-Spirit filled community “meet in large gatherings” and “small gatherings” “in the home” and “at the temple courts”. In some sense, the new temple is beginning to meet in the old temple. The new humanity amongst the old humanity. The new and restored kingdom amongst the old kingdom. Now, those who were once cut to the heart, now receive “glad and sincere hearts” “as they praise God”. The impact is that they are such a positive, on their society that “they receive favour from all the people”. The residents of Jerusalem loves this new community. Appreciate its existence. These spirit-less people become Spirit-filled and Spirit-formed.

As Theophilus turns the page in another chapter, I’m sure he would have been deeply impacted. This was a defining day for the people of God. This was the moment when his heavenly Father, through the ascended Son, poured out the Holy Spirit upon the church. It was the moment when the Holy Spirit filled and formed the church. This was a defining day, and I’m sure Theophilus knew that.


So, this morning/evening, how should this moment define us? As we face our own challenges, complexities, and uncertainties as the church-what should this moment teach us about who we are? Or what we should be on about?

Well, we’re reminded that we’re a community that has and is being filled and formed by the Spirit.

2a. We’re a Spirit-filled community

First, this is one great reminder that we’re a Spirit-filled community.

Sometimes it might not seem like it, but by his grace our heavenly Father, through the ascended Son, has filled us with the divine Spirit. To use Luke’s words, we’ve been “baptised in the Spirit”. But, sometimes it can be so easy, as followers of Jesus, to miss this important reality.

  • Sometimes, we can tend to think of our relationship with God as simply “transactional”. God gave Jesus for me, so I give back to him.
  • Or at other times, we can tend to think of our relationship with God as simply “exemplary”. God leads by example, so I follow him.

Now, whilst there’s truth in both of those things, we also need to remember that our relationship with God goes much deeper. In some mystical way, God has chosen to actually dwell in us by his Spirit. We are, in some sense, in union with God.

Whilst we haven’t received the Spirit in the same extraordinary way as the apostles (and the one hundred and twenty), the promise of receiving the Spirit is still open. Like the crowds of God-fearing Jews, we too can ordinarily receive the Spirit by calling upon the name of the Lord. So, if you haven’t already, “repent” and be “baptised”. Accept the message of the ascended Jesus. Come to him, call out to him. Be filled with the Spirit. Enter in a relationship with God that is more than just transaction, more than just following an example-a relationship of union and communion.

We are a Spirit-filled community.

2b. We’re a Spirit-formed community.

Second, this is a reminder that we’re a Spirit-formed community.

Simply by following the flow of the story, we quickly discover that the Spirit not only fills the church, but also forms the church. What this means is that we are “a divine reality”.4 Every aspect of the life of the church has been brought about by God.5 Whether we’re in a small church, or a large church, or a church plant, or a church revitalisation-the community is filled and formed by the will of the Father, through the ascended Son, and by the divine Spirit. Our Christian community comes into existence when the gospel of the ascended Son is preached and the Spirit of God enters our lives by faith and repentance. We’re a Spirit-formed community.

2c. We’re to live a Spirit-shaped life together.

Finally, we’re meant to live a Spirit-shaped life. Since we’ve been filled and formed by the Spirit, this reality actually does something in our lives. The Spirit creates new priorities and focuses, and moves us away from misguided priorities and focuses.

In his book, Gathered Together, Karl Deenick writes about how easy it is for the church to forget its “so called ‘core business’ and to find yourself doing things that aren’t really important”.6 He writes that we often get our priorities messed up:

“Often, we hope for lesser things [at church]: [like] good music, a short Sunday gathering, a short sermon, slick service leading, good crèche facilities, or a great children’s program. And not only do we aspire to those lesser things, we also see our failure to achieve those lesser things as an unbearable loss. We’re embarrassed by bad PowerPoint slides or dodgy music, while our failure to achieve a community of love, grace, worship and delight in God causes barely a stir”.7

Deenick’s point is that we are often caught prioritising the wrong things at church-sometimes that’s at the fault of the church leaders, and sometimes that’s the fault of all of us.

So, what’s should we prioritise as a church community? Well, Acts 2 gives us a small glimpse of that, doesn’t it?

  • We’re “bold to speak”.8 We’re people who declare the wonders of our God to those around us. We speak as the Spirit enables us, to proclaim the risen and ascended Christ.
  • We’re “hungry to learn”.9 We’re devoted to the Word. We’re a word-centered group of people. We teach the word and we train people in the word.
  • We’re “thrilled to belong”.10 We’re devoted to each other. We love each other because the Spirit of love has been poured into our hearts.
  • We’re “ready to eat”.11 We’re devoted to breaking bread together, eating at both the Lord’s table and also at our tables at home. We put real time and effort into getting across the table from each other.
  • We’re “keen to pray”. We’re devoted to praying together. We pray in pairs, we pray in growth groups, we pray in prayer groups, we pray as a church.
  • We’re “longing to share”.12 We long to share our belongings, to give to those who are in need, to not hold our stuff back.

You see, God by his Spirit, fills and forms the people of God. This is meant to reprioritise our lives. We’re to be a vibrant community which dives deep into the truths of the gospel, a community of rich and constant prayer, of loving relationships, of sharing and generosity. We’re to be a community of faith, hope, and love. A community of joyful and faithful witness to the world. We’re to be a Spirit-shaped community.


I don’t necessarily know where each one of you are at this morning/evening when it comes to church. But when a church faces serious challenges (just like ours these past years), there’s no question that it can deeply affect our perception of who we are and what we should be on about.

So, how do we live in the midst of this struggle? Well, whenever we begin to settle; whenever we begin to expect too little of the church; whenever bitterness, disappointment, or resentment might creep in-we turn to these spiritual realities and priorities. We remind ourselves of the defining day when the ascended Lord Jesus filled his church with his Spirit and formed it into exactly what it should be. We return, again and again, to the reality that God is filling and forming his people by the Spirit, even today.

During the rise of the Nazi regime, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German church minister and seminary professor, spoke out against the “German-Christian’ compromise with the Nazi Government. In order to prepare German pastors for faithful gospel ministry during this time, Bonhoeffer led an illegal and secret theological seminary. Out of his experience of living in community with pastors and those training for gospel ministry, Bonhoeffer wrote a very short book, titled: Life Together. In his book, Bonhoeffer reminds his readers of their true identity as God’s people and what that means for life together.

This morning/evening, we’re going to finish with some of his words, reminding us that our community (however great or small, strong or weak) is a gift from our Tribune God and something to simply delight in:

“Christian community is a gift of God to which we have no claim. Only God knows the real condition of… our community. What may appear weak and insignificant to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as Christians should not be constantly feeling the pulse of their spiritual life, so too the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be continually taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more assuredly and consistently will community increase and grow from day to day as God pleases. Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it”.13

2 Deenick, Gathered Together, 10.

3 The Greek word συνεχύθη “confused” is a linguistic match to the LXX in Genesis 11:9.

4 Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Chapter 1.

5 Peterson, Acts of the Apostles, 158.

6 Deenick, Gathered Together, 50.

7 Deenick, Gathered Together, 13.

8 Green, Thirty Years that Changed the World, 262.

9 Green, Thirty Years that Changed the World, 262.

10 Green, Thirty Years that Changed the World, 262.

11 Green, Thirty Years that Changed the World, 262.

12 Green, Thirty Years that Changed the World, 262.

13 Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Chapter 1.