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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Birthday of The Church

Robert Jeffress - The Birthday of The Church

Robert Jeffress - The Birthday of The Church
TOPICS: Unstoppable Power, Church

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". To most Christians, the church is something that has always been around. There are new churches, historic churches, large churches, small churches. You name it. But sometimes we forget that the church is relatively new. In fact, we can point to the exact moment in history when it was born. My message is titled, "The Birthday of the Church," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

When each of my daughters was born, I had the privilege of being in the delivery room with my video camera to record the whole event. I was thinking of that this week, as I prepared the message from Acts chapter 2 about the birth of the church. Remember both Acts and Luke, the gospel, were written by a physician, Dr. Luke. And in Luke chapter 2, he allows us in the delivery room, the stable, to see the single most important birth of all time, the birth of Jesus Christ. It's fitting, then, that it was Dr. Luke who was also the one to record the multiple births that occurred on the Day of Pentecost, when not just one individual or even triplets were born. Three thousand people were born again on the same day, and the reverberations of that miraculous event still reverberate in our lives today.

That's what we're going to talk about, today, as we talk about the birthday of the church. If you have your Bibles, turn to Acts chapter 2. We're studying the account of the early church and its mission to take the gospel into all the world. And this week and next week, we're going to look at Acts 2, what we call the Day of Pentecost. And there's an overriding theme I want you to write down. It's not on your outline, but this is the theme of both this week's and next week's message. If we desire to be a supernatural church, one that turns the world upside-down with the gospel, there are three characteristics of a supernatural church. It is spirit empowered, it is Christ-centered, and it is mission-focused. And today we're going to look at the first of those three characteristics. A true supernatural church is spirit-empowered.

Now, to get the setting for what we're going to look at today, let's rewind the tape just a few verses back to Acts chapter 1, verses 4 to 8. Remember, Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. He spent 40 days with his disciples on earth, teaching them about the kingdom of God. He's ready to ascend into heaven. And verse 4 says, "Gathering them together, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' Jesus said, 'you heard from Me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.' So when they had come together," that is on the Mount of Olives, "they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time you're going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It's not for you to know the times or the epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.'"

After Jesus ascends into heaven, before their very eyes, they return to that upper room where they had been, and they did two things: they prayed, but they also selected a replacement apostle for Judas. And now they were ready and waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We see the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit beginning in verse 1 of Acts 2. "And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place".

Now, the word Pentecost comes from the... it's a transliteration of the Greek word pentekoste, which means 50, 50th. The Day of Pentecost was one of the Jewish feasts. It was known as the Feast of the Harvest, and it came 50 days after the Passover. Remember, at the Passover, that is when Jesus was crucified for our sins, and the Jewish celebration of Passover meant that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews had come to Jerusalem to sacrifice a Lamb for the Passover. And then 40 days or 50 days after that, they were there for the celebration of Pentecost. Probably, some people stayed over, who had traveled a long distance to celebrate both of those feasts. "When the Day of Pentecost had come..."

Now think about it. They had been with Jesus for 40 days after the Passover until he was ascended into heaven, so this means 10 days after that. Ten days after the ascension, they were all together in one place praying. And verse 2, "And suddenly," not incrementally, but "suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting". They were in that upper room. They were praying, and out of nowhere they hear this violent what sounds like a rushing wind, and it filled the whole house. And then look at verse 3. "And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each of them".

There were about 120 people, Luke tells us, in that upper room. The earliest disciples of the Word, including Mary, the mother of Jesus. And it looked like a fire from heaven came down, and then it separated into 120 different tongues resting on each of those individual disciples. And what is it they were experiencing? They were experiencing what had been promised for hundreds of years: the baptism with the Holy Spirit of God. Now, you may be saying, "Where do you get that out of this"? It doesn't say baptism with the Spirit. As we'll see in a moment, when Peter looked back on this experience later, he referred to it as the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Remember, Jesus had promised in Acts 1:5, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now". And it was exactly 10 days later that this happened. Remember in Acts chapter 11 when Peter was trying to convince the Jews that Gentiles were now capable of being saved, too, he talked about the experience he had witnessed when he preached to a group of Gentiles. In Acts 11, verse 15, it says, "As I," Peter, "began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning". Peter was looking back to this Day of Pentecost. "That's when the Holy Spirit fell upon us, and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'"

Ladies and gentlemen, this had been a promise that God's people had been waiting for, for hundreds of years. Even in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 31:33, God said, "'This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the LORD, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.'" In other words, "There's coming a time when my people won't obey me because of a list of laws on a stone tablet. My law will be written on their heart. I will indwell my people". That's the promise of the Holy Spirit of God.

What is the baptism with the Spirit? Let me give you this definition, because it's key to understanding what this is and what it is that happens to us, as well. The baptism with the Holy Spirit (write this down) is the supernatural act of God in which Christ immerses believers with the Holy Spirit, joining them to himself and to other Christians. It is a total immersion of our lives with the Holy Spirit of God; and when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we are joined together with the body of Christ. Baptism with the Spirit is how we become joined together with the Head of the body, Jesus Christ, and by the other parts of the body, fellow Christians, as well.

1 Corinthians 12:13 says, "For with one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and we were all made to drink with one Spirit". And that leads to the question, "Who receives the baptism with the Holy Spirit"? Well, you notice in this upper room, where the 120 were praying, when the Holy Spirit fell, he fell upon each one of those disciples. And when did this happen? What is the timing of the baptism with the Holy Spirit? It's when we're saved. Again, 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For with one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body". There were no Corinthians who were sitting around the church waiting for the Holy Spirit yet to come. He came at the moment of salvation.

Now, I know there's some of you Bible students who are probably saying, "Well, wait a minute, Pastor. Aren't there some times in the Bible when the Holy Spirit came after a person's conversion? Didn't he come sometimes a long time after their conversion"? There are only three times in the book of Acts where it appears that the Holy Spirit came later. Let's look at those real quickly. The first time is in the passage we're looking at right now, Acts 2:1-4. These 120 disciples who were in the upper room, they had been following Jesus Christ for three years, and yet they had not been filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Why is it that the Holy Spirit came later? Well, that's easy. Jesus told us that the Spirit couldn't come until he went back into heaven.

And so there had to be a one time when the Holy Spirit came. It was a one time coming after Christ ascended into heaven. The second instance of a delay in the coming of the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 8:14-17. There were some people who lived in Samaria, who became Christians. They trusted in Christ, but the Holy Spirit did not come immediately. In fact, he didn't come into their lives until the Jewish leaders of the church (Peter, John, and others) came to visit them in Samaria. Only then did the Holy Spirit come. Why is that? Remember, the Samaritans were half Jews. They hated the Jews, and the Jews hated them. And it was inconceivable to the Jewish apostles that God would save Samaritans. And it was inconceivable to the Samaritan Christians that they would be under the authority of the Jewish leaders of the church.

And so to create the unity and to show how the church was a whole new organism, God waited to give the Holy Spirit until the Jewish leaders of the church could come to Samaria and witness for themselves the fact they had been baptized with the Holy Spirit. It was also a way of saying to these Samaritan Christians, "You are under the authority of the church, even though it's Jewish leaders". There was a unique reason for waiting. The only other time there's a delay between salvation and the baptism with the Spirit (or there appears to be a delay) is in Acts 19. This is so interesting to me.

Remember in verses 1 to 7, the Apostle Paul was traveling through the upper region of Ephesus, and he came across a group of men. And like any evangelist, he wanted to know whether they were saved or not, whether they knew Christ as Savior. He asked these Samaritans, "Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit"? To him, that was the norm, that was the greatest sign whether you're saved or not, because the norm for every Christian is if you're saved, you've been baptized with the Spirit. How did they answer that question? They said, "We don't know what you're talking about. What Holy Spirit"? Paul told them, "Hm, we've got a problem here". So, he says, "Well, now, have you been baptized"? "Yeah". "Into whose baptism"? "We were baptized by John the Baptizer". "Oh, that's the problem. No, you have to be identified with Jesus, baptized with Jesus's gospel. That's the problem".

The reason they hadn't received the Holy Spirit is they weren't saved, yet. They were followers of John the Baptist, but not of Jesus Christ. He preached the gospel to them, they were saved, and they were immediately baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. Since Acts 19, the pattern is the same. Every true believer was baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. Now, look at verse 4, the sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Now, they were in the upper room when they received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In that white space (look at it in your Bible) the white space between verse 3 and verse 4, I think something happened. It's not recorded, but it's inferred, and that is they moved from the upper room to the temple area.

You say, "How do you know that"? Because when we get to verse 4, they're obviously in the presence of unbelieving Jews. So, something happened. The unbelieving Jews weren't a part of the upper room. They went down the hill from where we think that upper room is to the temple area, where there were thousands, and thousands, and thousands of Jews there to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Look at verse 4. "And they were all filled," controlled, "with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven". Some had moved to Jerusalem permanently. Some were there for the Pentecost celebration.

"And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and they were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language, to which we were born?'" This is the first instance in the Bible of what we call speaking in other tongues. Did you know, by the way, speaking in tongues is only mentioned in three books of the New Testament? In Mark, when it's prophesied that it would happen, in Acts when it did happen. The only other book after Acts is 1 Corinthians, when it became a problem in the church. It is not a major theme in the Bible whatsoever.

Now, what I want you to see is that the first instance in speaking in tongues, without a doubt, was the ability to speak in a language, a real language that you didn't know. They spoke in other tongues, this passage says, heteros glossas, other languages. It's plural. If this is a heavenly language that nobody can understand, there's only one, it would be tongue, singular. There aren't many heavenly languages. There's one. But interestingly, most people agree with that, that the first instance of the book, of speaking in tongues is the ability to speak an actual language, but people need to answer the question, the question they need to answer is, "How did it change from that into a private prayer language"? Well, I'll answer that in just a few moments. But the original gift of tongues was the ability to speak in a language you didn't know, and it served two purposes.

Number one, the propagation of the gospel. Look at verse 6. "And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language". Apparently, what happened was these disciples, who had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, left the upper room. They came to the general area of the temple, and they were witnessing. They were speaking of the mighty acts of God to these Jews from other countries in the empire that couldn't speak Hebrew. They were there, and the way they heard the gospel before Peter stood up to preach, as we'll see next time, was individuals who were speaking to them in a language they could understand.

Secondly, the authentication of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 12:12, "The signs of a true apostle are performed among you with all perseverance, signs, and wonders, and miracles". The ability to speak in a language they didn't know was a supernatural proof that these apostles were truly speaking the Word of God. I mean, think about it. These apostles were saying to Jews that "What you've been following for the last 1500 years is no longer valid. There's a new way, a new covenant, a new arrangement with God". How did they know these people were speaking truth? How did they know they really were God's representatives? It was their ability to perform signs and wonders.

Today, the way we judge whether the pastor is speaking God's truth is not whether he can raise people from the dead, or speak in tongues, or do miracles. It's whether or not I teach according to the Bible. But in those early days, there was no New Testament. There was no way to judge the authenticity of an apostle. Whatever you believe about tongues, understand this: that after Corinthians, where it was only dealt with in a problem sense, you never hear of the gift of tongues again in the New Testament, never talked about in Romans, the treatise of the Christian faith, it's never mentioned in any of the epistles; and the last epistles, Paul's 2 Timothy or 2 Peter not a word about it. It was a temporary gift mainly for the propagation of the gospel and the authentication of the apostles, and it was a prelude to what we're going to see next week is the first and the greatest sermon ever preached.

Now, let me close today with two timeless truths that these early verses in Acts 2 teach us today. First of all, write this down. As a church, we have been given the same mission as the early church. We have the same mission. The mission statement is still operational. We are to go into all the world and preach the gospel. No, we don't have the ability to speak in languages we don't know, but we've got even greater gifts and abilities. I mean, just think about technology we have that the early church didn't have, transportation we have that the early church didn't have, but it's all for the same purpose. We harness that and use it for the propagation of the gospel. We have the same mission.

Secondly, as individual believers, we have been baptized with the same Spirit as the apostle. We're all baptized into the same body, and we have the same Holy Spirit. And ladies and gentlemen, you don't have to beg, barter, or plead with God to give you his Holy Spirit. He gives that Holy Spirit to you the moment you are saved, and that Holy Spirit of God is available to you right now to do supernatural works in your life that far exceed speaking in another language. You say, "What are you talking about? What supernatural things can God's Spirit do through me"?

Well, first of all, he provides you a peace, a supernatural peace, when the world around you is collapsing. He gives you the supernatural power to say no to sin. Sin has no more power over your life than you choose to allow it to have. The Holy Spirit of God gives you boldness to speak the Word of God to power, with power, to somebody who needs to hear it. It's that Holy Spirit of God that gives you that assurance that one day God will redeem your body when you die. Again, the question is not, "Do you have all of the Holy Spirit"? The question is, "Does he have all of you"? You know, in 2 Peter 2:13, Peter says, "By God's divine power, He has granted to you everything you need for life and godliness," that everything you need for a supernatural life, an abundant life is the Holy Spirit of God.
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