The Birth of the Church
I. The Birth of the Church
1. The Death of the Testator
When Jesus died on the cross, He was the “propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:2). His death was necessary, as it is written in the Book of Hebrews, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Hebrews 9:16–17). Jesus’ death gave humankind the possibility of an inheritance of eternal life.
2. The Promise of the Holy Ghost
Just prior to His ascension, Jesus told His disciples not to begin their ministry yet, but to wait in the city of Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. Without the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the Great Commission would have been a hopeless task to fulfill. The preaching of the gospel was to be done in the power and the inspiration of the Spirit. In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised the disciples power. The Holy Ghost was the power that would extend the influence of the disciples’ ministry to the uttermost parts of the earth. It was to begin at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.
3. The Upper Room
About 120 of Jesus’ disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. Among them were Mary the mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14), His brothers, and the twelve apostles. For approximately seven to ten days, they remained there in constant prayer and supplication. Then the Jewish feast day of Pentecost arrived.
4. The Outpouring of the Holy Ghost
The disciples were all with one accord in their worship and prayer. Acts 2:1–4 records the details of this first glorious outpouring of the Holy Ghost. The place where they were sitting was overwhelmed by the sound of a rushing, mighty wind that came from Heaven. Acts 2:3 records another supernatural event immediately following the wind. Cloven tongues like flames of fire appeared and sat upon each of them. Of the many wonderful things that took place in the upper room, the greatest miracle was the one recorded in verse 4. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues (languages) as the Spirit gave them utterance. When they were all filled with the Spirit, the initial sign of the baptism of the Holy Ghost was given. The disciples began to speak with other tongues, glorifying God in languages they had never learned.
5. The Crowd Asks Questions about the Holy Ghost
The Feast of Pentecost was a holy day in Israel fifty days after the Passover. Jews from all over the Roman Empire were gathered at Jerusalem. The news spread through the city of the events that took place in the upper room. A great multitude gathered to see what was happening. The disciples were still rejoicing and speaking in tongues under the intoxicating influence of the Spirit. Jesus had promised the disciples in John 16:22–24 that the day would soon come when their hearts would be filled with a joy that no one could take from them. The baptism of the Holy Ghost fulfilled that promise. The apostle Peter later described it as “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). As the disciples continued to rejoice, suddenly amazement rippled through the crowd like a wave. The multitude of foreign Jews began to hear the disciples praising God in their own native languages. They knew the disciples had no way of knowing these languages on their own. Some reacted by asking the question, “What meaneth this?” Others dismissed the whole event by accusing the disciples of being drunk.
The First New Covenant Sermon
II. The First New Covenant Sermon
1. Peter Preaches
Peter heard their false accusations of drunkenness and immediately stood up in the disciples’ defense. He was not the same fearful man who had cowardly denied his Lord as Jesus was being led to His crucifixion. It was a strong Simon Peter who stood and addressed the crowd that was gathered to see this marvelous event. It was a man who had been given “power from on high” through the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It was the man Jesus foresaw when He declared that He would give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16. Peter was now ready to use those keys. First, he preached to them about the same precious Lord whom he had denied. This time his words were not words of defeat and cowardly denial but words that rang forth with victory.
a. Peter Preaches with Power
Peter preached with power that only the anointing of the Holy Spirit can give. The other eleven apostles stood with Peter in full agreement as he preached the first sermon of the newborn church of Jesus Christ. His message began: “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” (Acts 2:14–15).
b. Fulfillment of Joel’s Prophecy
Peter declared that the outpouring of the Holy Ghost was the fulfillment of Joel’s wonderful prophecy that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). A worldwide outpouring of the Holy Ghost with the accompanying initial sign of speaking in other tongues would be God’s blessing upon humanity throughout the church age. Peter preached to them the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and told them that their own wicked hands were guilty of Jesus’ death on Calvary.
c. Peter Preaches on the Resurrection
Peter brought his sermon to a climax by declaring that God had made that same Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ. Conviction gripped the hearts of the people as Peter preached his inspired sermon. In desperation and heartfelt sincerity, they cried out to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
2. God’s Plan of Salvation
An honest question deserves an honest answer, especially when people’s destiny in eternity is at stake. Their question, “What shall we do?” was all important. They wanted to know how they could be saved. The responsibility rested squarely on Peter’s shoulders to deliver to the multitude the proper New Testament plan for salvation. Peter had been given the keys to the Kingdom. For the first time, he was about to use those keys to unlock the door of salvation to those present. Without hesitation and with the full support of the other apostles, Peter’s voice boomed forth the answer to the thousands of hungry listeners before him. “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” (Acts 2:38). How beautiful! By simply obeying God’s command to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, they were promised the same glorious baptism of the Holy Ghost that the 120 had received that same day. In the next verse, Peter extended the promise of the Holy Ghost to all believers throughout the church age until Jesus comes again. “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” (Acts 2:39). Peter spoke many other words, exhorting the crowd to save themselves without delay. By the time Peter was finished, the word of God had done its work. Three thousand souls presented themselves for baptism in Jesus’ name. We can be confident that God fulfilled His promise and baptized them all with the Holy Ghost. The mighty blessings of God were falling in Jerusalem.
Repentance is an essential part of salvation. To repent means to experience godly sorrow and conviction for past sins and to turn resolutely from them. Repentance is the act of turning away from a life of sin to God. The Scriptures stress in the strongest terms that repentance is absolutely necessary.
1. Sodom and Gomorrah
Because these cities failed to repent, they were destroyed by fire and brimstone (Genesis 19).
The people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. Jesus said this fact would condemn those who refused to repent in our generation (Matthew 12:41).
3. John the Baptist
John the Baptist commanded everyone in Judea to repent and prepare their hearts for the kingdom of Heaven.
4. Jesus Christ
Jesus proclaimed, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
5. The Great Commission
The last words of Jesus before His ascension commanded repentance (Luke 24:47).
6. The Day of Pentecost
Repentance is an essential part of the plan of salvation preached by Peter and the other apostles (Acts 2:38).
IV. Water Baptism
1. Born of the Water
Peter’s next instruction to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost was to be baptized. Scripture is emphatic that baptism is essential to salvation. When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he sought guidance. Jesus told him “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
2. Changes Our Identity
By following Peter’s command, the believers took on the covenant name of Jesus. Paul wrote, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). This “putting on” of Christ changes our identity. Baptism is a public declaration of our intention to follow Jesus.
3. Saves Souls
Other Scripture verses demonstrate the importance of baptism with regard to salvation.
Mark wrote, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). First Peter 3:20–21 compares Noah and his family being saved from the Flood to the waters of baptism. “Eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.”
4. Death to Flesh
Repentance in the Bible is symbolic of death to sin and to the ungodly life before the encounter with Jesus Christ. Spiritually speaking, when a person repents, he is actually coming to the cross of Calvary. The old carnal nature is crucified with Christ. After death to sin, a person must be buried. Romans 6:4 says, “We are buried with him by baptism into death.”
In Jesus' Name
V. In Jesus’ Name
The Word of God prescribes only one mode of water baptism: immersion. The word baptism is derived from the Greek word baptizo, which means to dip, to plunge, to immerse. Immersion is important because only this mode preserves the significance of baptism as a burial. In baptism a person follows Jesus to the grave. But how are people buried? Are they sprinkled with a few handfuls of dirt at burial? Of course not! Proper burial requires complete submergence. (See Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:38–39; Romans 6:3–4.)
2. In the Name of Jesus
Moreover, Christian water baptism should be performed by invoking the name of Jesus. Jesus commanded the apostles in Matthew 28:19 to baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are titles of the one God that reveal aspects of His relationship to humanity. God has revealed Himself as Father in creation. He revealed Himself in the Son for our redemption. And He is the Holy Ghost (Spirit) who regenerates and dwells within the believer. There is one supreme name of salvation that encompasses these three titles and the works they represent. That name is Jesus. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The apostles understood when they received the Great Commission that they were to baptize in the one singular name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and that name is Jesus! The Father was revealed in the name of Jesus (John 5:43). The name given to the Son was Jesus (Matthew 1:21). The Holy Ghost comes in the name of Jesus (John 14:26). Jesus opened the disciples’ understanding to this great truth of the name of Jesus. (See Luke 24:45–47.) For this reason the apostles always, in every place in the Scripture, obeyed Matthew 28:19 by baptizing in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16).
Holy Ghost Baptism
VI. Have You Received the Holy Ghost?
The last part of the plan of salvation given to us in Acts 2:38 is to “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
1. Jesus Commanded It
Jesus foretold this glorious experience in John 3:5 when He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” This verse establishes the absolute necessity of receiving the Holy Ghost.
2. Paul Proclaimed It
The essentiality of receiving the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost is further emphasized by the words of the apostle Paul: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9). Receiving this gift is a beautiful privilege, purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is the greatest experience a person can have. Christ actually comes and takes up His abode in a human body (temple). That body becomes the very temple of the almighty God.
3. Peter Preached It
The apostle Peter spoke in Acts 2:38 about the Holy Ghost experience. He later described the feeling when the Creator dwells within His creation through the baptism of the Holy Ghost, saying it is “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). Paul described it as “righteousness, and peace, and joy” (Romans 14:17). The baptism of the Holy Ghost is promised to all who obey God’s command to repent and who exercise faith in Jesus Christ.
4. Have You Received It?
The apostle Paul traveled to Ephesus where he found disciples who had not yet received the Holy Ghost even though they believed on Jesus. Although they had been baptized unto John’s baptism, they had not been baptized in the name of Jesus. Paul instructed them in their need to be baptized in Jesus’ name, “and when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues.” (See Acts 19:1–6).
The Initial Evidence of the Holy Ghost
VII. The Initial Evidence of the Holy Ghost
Acts 2:1–4 records the initial outpouring of the Holy Ghost, when the believers in the upper room spoke with other tongues. Do all speak with tongues when they receive the Holy Ghost? This is a legitimate question and one that deserves sincere and honest consideration. In considering the necessity of speaking with other tongues, the Bible is our sole source of information. Who spoke with tongues in the Scriptures?
1. Everyone in the Upper Room Was Filled
Acts 2:4 records that on the Day of Pentecost the waiting disciples were “all” filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. None were excluded. All 120 of them spoke with tongues as God gloriously filled them with His Spirit. Among the 120 were Mary the mother of Jesus, Jesus’ four brothers, and all the apostles.
2. Samaritans Received the Holy Ghost
The Samaritans received the same experience, and a miraculous, outward sign occurred to tell everyone when people received the Holy Ghost. Even Simon the sorcerer knew they had received a heavenly gift and sought to buy the power to bestow such a miraculous sign. (See Acts 8:13–19.)
3. Gentiles Received the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and other Gentiles, and they spoke with other tongues. This sign convinced the skeptical Jewish Christians that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost, and this sign alone was sufficient for Peter to proclaim that the Gentiles had received the same Pentecostal experience. (See Acts 10:44–48; 11:15–17.)
4. Disciples of John the Baptist Received the Holy Ghost
In Acts 19:1–6, a group of John the Baptist’s disciples were rebaptized in Jesus’ name by the apostle Paul, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost as evidenced by speaking with tongues. The accompanying sign of speaking with tongues is either stated or strongly implied in every outpouring of the Holy Ghost recorded in the Book of Acts.
The Purpose of the Holy Ghost
VIII. The Purpose of the Holy Ghost
1. The Spirit Gives Eternal Life
The baptism of the Holy Ghost bestows the very power that resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead. According to Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (See also Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 15:51–53.)
2. The Spirit Gives Power
The baptism of the Holy Ghost gives the believer tremendous power to witness for the Lord. Without the Holy Ghost, the early disciples would have been powerless to save the hostile world of their day. But through the power of God within them, they were able to conquer even the mighty Roman Empire with the good news of Calvary. This same power is available if people will only have faith to reach out and claim it. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.”
3. The Spirit Teaches
The Bible is not merely a product of human thinking and ability, “but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21). Since it required the inspiration of the Spirit for the writing of the Scriptures, it also requires the inspiration of the Holy Ghost to understand God’s Word fully. Jesus promised that the Spirit would “teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
4. The Spirit Gives Righteousness, Peace, and Joy
(Romans 14:17) The Holy Ghost not only gives power to live a holy, clean life but also accompanying joy and peace that only God can give. It is “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). 5.The Spirit Imparts the Love of God Romans 5:5 says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” The gift of the Holy Ghost is a baptism of the love of God, a boundless love that proceeds from God Himself, fills our souls, and then overflows from our lives like a mighty, rushing river. It is a love that cries earnestly to every thirsty heart, “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
Floating one summer night down one of America’s rivers, a man and his companion sought vainly for the sign of a human habitation where they could spend the night or a place along the steep bank where they could pitch their camp. At last, wet and cold and exhausted, they drew up their boat on a sandbar. There, groping in the darkness, they gathered together a few pieces of driftwood and, after several ineffectual attempts, succeeded in lighting a fire. How carefully they tended that fire, brooding over it until they were certain that it was going to burn; and when at length it began to burn briskly and brightly, illuminating their dismal surroundings and warming their cold and weary bodies, they realized as never before what a friend fire is to humanity. The Bible uses the metaphor of fire when it says, “Quench not the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19). Truly, the indwelling Holy Spirit, with power, is the most valuable treasure and friend we could have.