Acts: The Spirit-Led Church is Unified Through the Spirit

Elder Brian Haferkamp preaches through Acts 2:1-12.

Acts 2:1-12

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

It must have been quite a spectacle that day. The people rightfully asked, "What does this mean?"

It means God has unified those who are in Christ under him as one people. He brought the scattered and the outcast together with the Jews whom he had chosen. In Christ, God took the Jew and the Gentile and created one new man. He created peace where there was no peace. The Gentiles who were far off could now come near to God through Jesus. In the body of Christ we find that the hostilities have been killed.

What we read about on this Pentecost day in Acts 2 is the beginning. A new beginning for God's people united under the headship of the risen Christ.

So what does this outpouring of God's Spirit mean?

It means that God's vision is not for Jew and Gentile to be separate. His vision is that Jew and Gentile become one in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:11-22

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The people who listened to the disciples telling about God's powerful works heard the messages in their own languages. In the midst of this confusion they were perplexed. They couldn't figure it out. What were they supposed to make of it?

The Apostle Paul wrote that the bringing together of Jews and Gentiles under the headship of Christ was a mystery hidden for ages in God.

Ephesians 3:1-6

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Though it was hidden in God there were whispers of this mystery throughout the Prophets.

Isaiah 19:19-22

19 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. 20 It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. 21 And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. 22 And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.

Psalm 117

Praise the LORD, all nations (Gentiles)!

Extol him, all peoples!

2 For great is his steadfast love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

Praise the LORD!

Isaiah 60:1-3

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the LORD will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.

3 And nations shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

And in Christ we find even stronger hints of this mystery.

Mat 10:16-20

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

John 4:19-23

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

And what we see here in Acts 2 is only the beginning of unveiling this mystery. Peter had a vision in which God made it clear to him that the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles had been broken down in Christ. Those things which were once unclean, namely the Gentiles, were considered clean in Christ.

Acts 11:11-18

11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

So it is clear that God's vision for his people is that they would be one.

John 17:20-23

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

The events of Acts 2 also mean that God is gathering his people together under a common language and message--the Word, Jesus Christ.

In Genesis we read that mankind united under a common language without the headship of God. The people conspired to build a city and a tower that would reach to the heavens.

Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The people of Babel were gathered around a common language. They would stand as one and be like God. He scattered the people on the face of the earth and confused their language. Here we begin to see nations, tongues, and tribes form.

In Acts 2, we see that God unified the people once again. This time, however, they were unified under Jesus Christ, the Logos, the preeminent Word. They were gathered by the Holy Spirit under the unifying Word of God. They were gathered together not as separate tribes and nations but under Christ as one nation, one race, one holy priesthood.

Tongues like fire rested upon the disciples and they told of the mighty works of God in languages that were not their own. Those who had traveled to Jerusalem heard the unified message of the Gospel in their own languages.

1 Peter 2:9-10

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Rev 7:9-10

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

In the giving of the Holy Spirit we see that the walls of hostility have been torn down and that we are again unified under a common language--the Word of God.

Finally, what does this mean for us as the Church?

God has brought all mankind together in Christ and made peace where there was once hostility. Christ is our peace. The Gentiles (the unclean) have been brought together with the Jews (the clean) and now we dwell together in unity in Christ. No longer are we at enmity with God and separated from the promises of God. We are now members of the same body, fellow heirs with the Jews, and have been saved from the coming judgment of God through Christ.

Let us consider the story of Noah and the Ark. Let us look at it allegorically; as a type. What is the Ark a type of? Of Christ.

A boat was built that housed God’s chosen family and the animals of the world that God called to the boat. They came inside the boat to be saved from the coming destruction of the world. That world was “cleansed” and the next time the inhabitants of the Ark stepped out of the boat, they stepped into a new world.

Have you ever thought about what it would look like to put all of the different animals into one boat? I’m not talking about logistics. I’m talking about primal instincts. Lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, flies, birds, snakes. These are all animals of instinct. Some are prey and some are predators. Yet they filled this massive boat and lived inside for 150 days. Some speculate that there were many cordoned off rooms in the Ark. The word we translate “rooms” actually means “nests.” So there were places for the animals to be but I don’t know that they were actual boarded up rooms. I don't know for sure but I believe that God created peace between those animals in the Ark. All of the animals did not transform into gentle lambs. Leopards were hunters, birds were prey, elephants remained elephants. But God brought them together in peace; in the Ark; in the salvation of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-7

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

7 The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

Christ’s body is our Ark. We are members of him if we are in him. We are members of one another if we are in him. We are called unto salvation if we are in him.

Brothers and sisters, you might be a lion. You might be an elephant. You might be a caterpillar. You might be an eagle. But in Christ you are called to peace with one another. You are called to live and walk in unity with one another.

Ephesians 4:4-6

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

As our country and our congregation move through this time of transition, let us remember that the Church is unified through God’s Holy Spirit.

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.“ (Ephesians 4:1-3)

As we bear with one another let us remember

“just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less apart of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

The vision of the Church given to us by God through the prophets, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles is unity and peace for all nations, tribes, and tongues who live together in Jesus Christ, our Lord. We are one new nation brought together not by the color of our skin, where we were born, how old we are, what our gender is, or the specifics of our ecclesiology. We are one body with many different parts, baptized into one body, and made to drink one Spirit. 

Therefore, let us hold fast to Christ together as one Body. Let us remember that we all were once far off and now have been given access to God through Christ. Let us remember that through faith in Christ we are all sons and daughters of God. If you are baptized into Christ you have put on Christ. For those in Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. We are all united in Christ Jesus. Christ is our peace.  

If you have erected a wall of separation with a brother or sister in Christ, today is the day to break it down. Confess that to God. Then confess it to your brother or sister, asking forgiveness for erecting a separation that Christ has torn down.  

Let us be vigilant to hold fast to the unity that we have in Christ. Unity that crosses racial, ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. Let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles us. Let we who are in Christ lead in lament, repentance, and reconciliation. Let us not be so foolish as to refuse to ask for forgiveness, nor to forgive those who ask us for it.  

Dr. John Perkins writes, 

"The church in Acts saw the urgent need to deal with any hint of ethnic superiority. When the Greek-speaking Jewish widows complained that they were not receiving the same kind of care that the Hebrew-speaking Jewish widows were receiving, the disciples quickly assembled a group of men (the first deacons) to tend to the problem. And in this church with different ethnicities there was a beautiful picture of how the church is to live out this idea of unity in the body. It was a picture of the vision almost realized--here on earth. They met from house to house, ate together, and met each other's needs, and God added to the church daily. They embraced the vision. They broke down the walls of resistance to loving those who are different." (from the book, “One Blood”)

Let us hold fast then to the vision God has given his Church and  

12 put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)