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Click here for the reading: Acts 2:1-21.

There is enough Scriptural allusion packed into Acts 2 to keep a preacher busy his entire life. Whether this or that connection makes its way into the sermon, a feature of Pentecost not to be missed is the fulfillment of things promised and foretold. With Jesus so recently departed from our midst, we rejoice to hear that the Helper he promised (John 14-16) has indeed arrived. He is a helper who is especially tasked with reminding us of this: “that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

The Gospel, however, is not just for those who were with Jesus from the time of his baptism. It is not just for those who have seen and believed. Luke’s table of nations (cf. Gen. 10) reflects the harvest of the first-fruits that was celebrated on Pentecost (Ex. 34:22). These Jews from every nation were bewildered as they heard the mighty works of God preached in their own language. They believed and repented and 3,000 were baptized (2:41), a plentiful harvest that previews the in-gathering that is yet to come.

The indiscriminate out-pouring of the Spirit as described by Joel is another feature of Pentecost. It unpacks for us the import of the crucifixion. The curtain of the temple was torn in two signifying the access that humanity now has to God in Christ Jesus. But what are the qualifications for entrance into that most holy place? Must you be a priest? A Jew? A man? Pentecost makes clear the absolute and unqualified character of God’s gifts. His Spirit is to be poured out on all flesh, on every class and standing. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.

Therein we can see the simplicity of the Church’s mission, for all that is required for the mission to proceed is that that the name of the Lord be proclaimed. That simplicity is, however, met with the mockery of the scoffers. “They are filled with new wine” (Acts 2:13). Are these apostles also among the prophets? The declaration of God’s mighty works is a stench to those who are perishing, and they write it off as tomfoolery. But for those who are being saved it is the aroma of life even as the Spirit breathes new life into God’s fallen creatures.

The prophecy of Joel puts every sign and season, all the comings and goings of men, and even the activity of the prophets in perspective. As wonderful as may be the display in the heavens and on the earth that accompanies the pouring out of the Spirit, there is yet coming a greater day – the great and magnificent day of the Lord. On that day, the harmless fire of Pentecost will give way to the fire of judgment. The work of the Holy Spirit’s purifying fire will be complete. The nations will stream into the kingdom, nations who heard the voice of Peter on Pentecost, nations to whom the apostles were sent in the early days of the Church, and nations to whom the call still goes out today by the voice of God’s faithful and prophetic people.

We present the audio from Rev. Willie Grills’ recent presentation in Paducah, Kentucky, on mission in the Book of Acts. Acts not only shows us how the early Church carried out the mission of the Lord, but also shows us the way forward as we carry out that mission today.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Episode: 136

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What did St. Luke intend when writing The Acts of the Apostles? What is the testimony of the early Church? Does Acts speak to the Church today? In an overview of Acts 1-10, we talk about some of the most famous events in church history and discuss why this historical book continues to guide the Church today.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Episode: 18

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While the book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke are closely connected and written by the same author, Luke seems to have composed them separately.  Luke 24:50-53, for example, includes a brief synopsis of the Ascension, while Acts 1:1-3 equally briefly recounts the events of Luke 24.  The purpose of each book, however, is different.  In the Gospel, Jesus begins to work and teach, while in Acts, Jesus continues to work and teach through His Church.

The ascension, therefore, is not Jesus disappearing from the scene until the Second Coming.  Christ ascends so as to be nearer to His Church.  “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth:  it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).  The sending of the Holy Spirit closely follows, because Jesus sends His Church into the world to be His witnesses.

Christ ascending into heaven also figures as one of the most important events within the New Testament, ranking next to His death and resurrection.  Having gone up into heaven, He sits down at the right hand of God.  In this moment, Christ receives the glory and the reward for His work.  All things have been put under His feet (Ephesians 1:20-23; 1 Peter 3:22).  “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).  Christ’s victory also consoles His Christians in the world.  Paul, for example, connects all three as proof that Christ intercedes for us (Romans 8:34).  Those who belong to Him seek the things which are above, because Christ is there at God’s right hand (Colossians 3:1).

It is, however, easy to misunderstand the purpose of Christ’s ascension.  The disciples, thinking in terms of the world, imagined that Christ’s enthronement meant that all things would be set in order immediately.  They did not understand that Christ reigns in the midst of His enemies (1 Corinthians 15:25).  While Christ’s reign is perfect, it still expands and grows through His work in the world.  When the fullness of the kingdom will come is not for His Church to know.  But how this will come to pass is the work of the Church in this age.  The power of the Holy Spirit sends the Church out to the very ends of the earth to bear witness about what has been seen and heard.

The angels who gently rebuke the apostles point toward this reality.  Christ disappearing behind a cloud is not the end of His work.  He “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” when He returns to judge the living and the dead, an office given to Him as a consequence of His death and resurrection (Romans 14:9).  Prior to that judgment, however, Christ sends the Spirit to send His Church.  “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).  “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:48-49).  “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20).  This mighty, living, active Word continues to grow in the world, because the ascended Jesus sits at God’s right hand.