Providence Church (CREC)
May 31st, 2009, 18th sermon
Sermon: The Prophethood of all Believers
Text: Acts 2:1-21
Pastor Uriesou T. Brito
Text: Acts 2:1-21
Prayer: Our Lord and God, You have ascended to heaven, so Your Spirit would be sent to fill Your Church with power and might. May Your church declare your praises and may we ascend into the heavens to feast in Your presence. Amen.
Sermon: People of God, it is safe to say that sometime around the year AD 30, the promise of our Great Lord was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the people and thus introducing a new age in human history. Jesus’ physical presence was now departed from the presence of the disciples and the Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, would now take a more preeminent role in the life of the New Israel, the Church.
Pentecost was the most spectacular sign to the Jews and to the other nations present that there would be no more exclusivity when it comes to the effects of the gospel message. It was a sign that the promise was not only to you and your Jewish children, but to all those who are afar off.
Pentecost was a Feast Day for the Israelites in the Law of Moses. It was the 50th day after Passover. This was also the Feast of the Harvest. What we are considering in this Pentecost Sunday is the Pentecost of all Pentecosts. In fact, we can say that Pentecost in Acts 2 is the great fulfillment of all previous Pentecosts. The Old Testament Feasts lead us to this exact moment of redemptive history in the first century. The Great Harvest Feast is now being fulfilled and God is harvesting the nations, and since Christ is sitting at His Right Hand, the nations are being given to Jesus Christ as an inheritance.
Jesus has gone on high; He is exalted above all. Pentecost tells us that though Jesus’ earthly ministry may be done, His public work continues through His chosen vessel, His Church. This work is being done through the power of the Spirit. Pentecost is a mighty moment in history. It shall never be repeated again, but the consequences of that day will unfold and will continue to unfold until the coming of our exalted King in the end of Human History.
What Pentecost brings to our attention is a shift from Israel-centricity to Ecclesio-centricity. In other words, a shift from Israel as the means to bringing the world to right to the church as the main vehicle God uses to bring sinners to repentance. This is an introduction to an entirely new era in Redemptive History.
We see that when Pentecost arrived, there were both visible and audible signs. In verse 2 there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind and that it filled the entire house and tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on them. These signs serve to tie together the OT imagery with Pentecost as the great sign of the newness of this empowered Church. The Church always existed from the days of the Garden of Eden, but on the day of Pentecost it received power from on high. The Church follows the pattern of Messiah. Messiah was baptized with the Spirit to launch his public ministry to Israel; now the Church is baptized with the Spirit to launch her ministry to all the nations of the earth. We see this as a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that God would baptize the nations. We see that in Acts 2 the Spirit is like a rushing wind. Throughout the Scriptures, we see that the Spirit and Wind are the same word. In John 3, the work of the Spirit is like a wind that blows wherever it wishes. Here is a description of the work of the Spirit in bringing to life that which was dead. The Old Covenant was dead in its unfaithfulness. Israel was dead. They had killed the prophets. Israel needs to be re-made into a new creation. The Old World needs to die, so that a new world can be made alive.
There is a glorious picture of this in Ezekiel 37. There we find the vision of the dry bones, picturing the exile. In that passage, the breath/the Spirit/the wind of the Lord came into these dry bones and brought life. The Spirit rushes over them and brings them from the dead; brings them new life. Behold, all things are become new! Where the Spirit/Wind is there is life. We can even go back to the creation account to see this manifested. The Spirit of the Lord rushes over the creation week and makes new that which was empty and void. And so, Pentecost is revealing to us the full life of this new age.
From verses 4-11, we see the audible part of Pentecost. What do we say about the nature of tongues in these verses? In the 11th chapter of Genesis we see the audacity of the human race as they try to build a tower with its top reaching the heavens. At that time they were united as a people. They were united in one tongue, one language. The people of the earth find themselves in this titanic attempt at corporate self-assertion. They are testing the true God. They are acting like little Adams. Their greatest sin is the sin that overcame the first humanity before the flood. It is the sin of intermarriage. The Hebrews intermarried with the descendents of Ham. In Genesis 9 Ham’s descendents are cursed because of the sin of their father who desired to take the authority of Noah. The sin of Ham in Genesis 9 is the uncovering of his father’s nakedness. The uncovering of his father is Ham’s attempt to shame his father. Ham enters into his father’s tent, which is Noah’s holy place. Ham desired to shame his father, perhaps in public. Ham wanted to take away the authority of his father and perhaps become an equal to him. We see that Noah is in his rest and Ham invades his privacy. Ham’s son Canaan receives the curse. It is a generation curse. So that in chapter 11 we have the intermarriage of the Hebrews and the Hamites. This is equivalent to the sin of intermarriage in Genesis 6. In that situation, the Sethites intermarried with the daughters of man. As a result, they embraced their religion and committed idolatry toward Yahweh. As a result, God flooded the earth and destroyed them saving only Noah’s family. But a similar thing happens in the tower of Babel. The Hebrews marry the descendents of Ham and they all embrace the same faith, the same religion and become idolatrous in their ways. They violated the laws of holiness and now to consummate their idolatrous intermarriage, they wanted to build a house for themselves; a city and a tower that would represent their faith; their idolatrous faith.
In Babel we see that power goes from earth to heaven represented by the tower. But in Pentecost we see the reversal of Babel. Whereas, in Babel the languages brought confusion, in Pentecost, the languages brought union. According to verses 4-13, the different nations who gathered there that day, the Parthians, the Medes and so on, they heard the gospel in their own tongue. Remember that in the Babel incident there is a table of nations given. In Pentecost there is also a table of nations given. Here we have a language miracle with the opposite effect of Babel. As Peter Leithart observes, “At Babel, people were unable to understand each other because of their different languages; at Pentecost, they are able to understand each other, in spite of their different languages.”
“At Babel, men tried to build a latter into the heavens to take it by storm. Here heaven comes down to earth as God’s gifts to His people. Pentecost shows a shift in redemptive history. No longer will God deal with one nation. God is speaking with many tongues. No ethnic divisions.” There is no longer a separation of Jew and Gentile, but we are all one in Christ Jesus; united by baptism and walking by faith and not by sight.
In this Pentecost Sunday, we can say that the gift of tongues continues in a permanent way. Every time the Bible is translated into a new tongue, the Gift of Tongues given to the Church of Christ universal is in operation. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators, there are still 200 million people who do not have the Bible translated into their own language. But if you turn that around, it means that more than 5 Billion people in the world do have a Bible translated into their own tongue. This is truly remarkable! The effects of Pentecost are continuing even in this day and it will not stop until Christ receives all the nations of the earth and His enemies are under His feet.
But what about Peter’s sermon on Pentecost? We see the beginning of this sermon in verses 14-21. Peter tells us that Pentecost is the fulfillment of what the prophets foretold in Joel 2. These miraculous events happen in the “last days” according to verse 17. This is where a proper Reformed understanding can answer a lot of our questions about Pentecost. In the Bible, the Last Days refer to a day of judgment. In Acts 2, tongues serve this very purpose. The work of Pentecost is also a judgment upon Israel, this wicked generation. This prophecy wasn’t about the end of the world. Pentecost is a prophetic declaration to Israel of her guilt. In the Old Testament God brought curses upon His people through tongues. This judgment fell on Israel in AD 70. The temple was destroyed proving that the true temple is His cosmic church where Jesus is declared Lord over all.
These last days spoken in Peter’s sermon refers to those years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem. We need to see that Peter’s words are words of transition. He is introducing us to a new world, which we call this New Covenant, but before this new world can emerge, certain signs need to take place. In verses 17 & 18, we see that when the Spirit is poured sons and daughters shall prophecy, young men shall see visions, and old men shall dream dreams.
What is going on here? What we see here is a picture of a family. The Bible says that sons and daughters, older man, male and female servants. Pentecost constitutes a new family. The Church is being constituted as a new creation; the old Jewish family is dying, but a new world-wide church family is emerging from the old. But what else is this new family doing? They are having dreams, they are prophesying, they are seeing. In the Scriptures, we see that kings have dreams, prophets prophecy and priests see. Notice how all these things happen in a community. We have all heard of the priesthood of all believers. To be a priest means that we have one another to help in our understanding and application of the Bible. But what Pentecost introduces is the prophethood and kinghood of all believers. Believers in covenant with Christ are prophets, priests and kings. So, what takes place at Pentecost is a picture of what is to take place today.
This is how we shall then live:
The Blessing of Pentecost is that the Spirit comes to the whole church. “In the Old Covenant, God poured out His Spirit on certain people to equip them to be priests or kings or prophets. But now He has poured out His Spirit on the whole church. Every one of us is equipped by the Spirit to be priests and kings and prophets.” That has everything to do with how we view each other. There are no second-class citizens in the church. One way we do this at Providence is by inviting all our baptized children and baptized adults to come and eat the bread and drink the wine together. In Christ’s Church all are nourished. In Christ’s Church all covenant members are prophets, priests and kings. There are still special offices. There are those who minister in Word and sacrament. There are those who are deacons. Not everyone serves in those roles. It’s not as if the elders have the Spirit and the congregation members don’t. It’s not as if older people have the Spirit and children don’t. It’s not as if we can look around the congregation and say, “I think she has the Spirit, but I’m not sure about him.” God has given His Spirit to the whole church.
And that means that He’s equipped the whole church to bear witness to Jesus. We don’t all do it in the same way. We don’t all have the same gifts or the same callings. But God has made every member of His church into a prophet (JB). Now, we don’t speak in tongues today nor do we utter prophecies that are inspired by God, those gifts were temporary. They served as a foundation to the Church.
This morning, we are not all prophets as the prophets of old who spoke the inspired word of God. But we are prophets in other senses: We all have the Spirit and the Spirit’s power to bear witness of Jesus Christ. Since the Spirit is in us, we get to come and speak in Jesus’ name and we get to speak for Jesus and His kingdom. When you proclaim the gospel to one another, it is accompanied by the Spirit’s power; when you read the Bible to your children or even to your new born, believe me, the power of the Spirit accompanies that reading.
In I Chronicles 25, the word “prophecy” describes what the choirs of Levites were to do in the temple. But in this new world, in this New Covenant, singing and playing instruments is not limited to the Levites. We are all a great choir singing in the New Temple, the church of God. “That’s why we work so hard learning new songs and learning to sing them well. We don’t have the Levites to “prophesy” in song for us. We are the choir. We are the prophets who have been given the Spirit to play instruments and to sing and to proclaim God’s wonderful works.”
Brothers and Sisters, though we may not all have the same abilities, Pentecost calls us all to come and join this fiery/Spirit-led Church to attack the enemies of God as prophets who proclaim the Excellencies of our Ascended Christ. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Many of these observations come from Rich Lusk’s sermon on Pentecost at Trinity Presbyterian. Used with Permission.
 See The Reformation Study Bible, pg. 27 (footnotes).
 Following Jim Jordan’s thinking on this matter, we can say that there are five great linguistic scatterings in the Bible. The first in Genesis 11, the second in the Exile of Isaiah 28, also in Daniel 5and finally culminating in Pentecost (Acts 2).
 Many of these thoughts come from Rich Lusk. Peter Leithart’s excellent introduction of the Old Testament: A House for My Name is a treasure.
 A House for My Name, pg. 68.
 Rich Lusk, sermon on Pentecost.
 Taken from Jim Jordan’s BH newsletter.
 See Deuteronomy and Isaiah.
 I have expanded some thoughts from Peter Leithart via personal correspondence. Some of these are original thoughts. I am fairly confident of its validity, but may mature my position in the years to come.
 Some of these thoughts come from a personal correspondence with Rev. John Barach. John is one of the most insightful pastors in the CREC.
 Barach, Sermon on Acts 2:14-21.
 Though I hold to a three-office view of the Church, Providence’s Constitution is still a two-office congregation.
 Barach, Acts 2:14-21.