The Church: A World-Changing Movement - Radical

The Church: A World-Changing Movement

Many people think of the church simply as a building or a place while failing to see God’s purpose for His people. God is changing the world by using ordinary people to share the greatest news in all the world—the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this sermon from Acts 1–2, David Platt urges us to commit ourselves—by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit–to fulfilling Christ’s commission until He returns.

 

It’s hard to believe it’s a coincidence that we would be in Acts 1 and 2 for our Bible reading—the story in the Bible that describes the planting of the first church ever—on the exact same week we just so happen to be celebrating the start of one new church in the District and sending out another new church to start next week in northern Virginia.

My heart is full today, not just with these new churches starting. There are some things I want to share at the close of our time that flow from what we’re about to read. I’ve spent some recent days in totally unplugged, uninterrupted time with my family, with God—phone off, texts off, email off, just focusing on Him and them, praying for you and for us. When I came back this week and picked up at the beginning of Acts in our Bible reading, it just went to a whole other level. So I want to jump right into this story in the Bible, because I want to show us this is not just a story in the Bible. This is our story, meaning you and me and this church, McLean Bible Church, spread across Metro Washington, DC, in Fairfax County, Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William and Montgomery County.

I want to show us in the Bible that church is not a building to see. This is how people often talk about church, right? “See that church over there, that building? You know, the one with the parking deck, or the one on Park Lawn Drive, or Riverside, or Battlefield Parkway, or near the Rosslyn Metro stop— that church over there.”

No, the church is not a building to see; the church is not a place to sit once a week or once in a while. “I go to that church on Sundays. I go to that church when it’s convenient, when it works with my schedule, when it works with my family’s schedule. I go to a service there. I go to that church.” That is not what the church is either.

There are several places in the Bible where we see different pictures of the church, but here’s the one we’re going to see today. The church is not a building to see or a place to sit; the church is a movement to join. If you are a part of this church, I want to remind you today of the movement that we are a part of. If you’re not a part of this church today, I want to invite you to join the movement— specifically, the movement that is advancing from McLean Bible Church into Metro Washington, DC.

Acts 1–2 teaches us the church is a movement

You say, “What do you mean—this church is a movement?” Let me show you in God’s Word. There is so much here in Acts 1 and 2, so for the sake of time, we’ll be a bit selective in reading different parts so we get the big picture. Start with me in Acts 1:1:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he 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, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said…

Stop there. At this point, they carry out a process by which they replace Judas as an apostle with a brother named Matthias. Jump down with me then to Acts 2:1. Imagine this scene.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.”

How about that for the first line of the first Christian sermon? “They’re not drunk! It’s only 9:00 in the morning. Not that they would be drunk later on in the day, but they’re definitely not drunk now.” That was his intro. So then he preaches the sermon. We won’t read it all, but jump to the climax in verse 36, where Peter says: “Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

That’s a good day for a church plant. Acts 1 said there were 120 people gathered together in the upper room. By the end of the inaugural sermon in Acts 2, there were 3,000 people. For those doing the math, that’s a 2,500% growth. Using round numbers for simplicity, let’s say we have 10,000 people gathered today at MBC. That would mean that by the end of today, 250,000 people would be lining up to be baptized. That’s a good day!

I’d call that a movement—and this has been the story of the church from the beginning. Historians estimate that Christianity grew by approximately 40% per decade for the first three centuries. The total population of Christians by 350 A.D. was over 33 million people. They started with 120 and within three centuries they were over half of the Roman Empire and beyond. From its inception, the church was a movement that literally changed the world.

What I want to remind you of today is that we are a part of it. This movement is still going strong 2,000 years later and MBC is a part of it. We are not a building to see or a place to sit; we are a movement to join. What kind of movement is it? Let me show you.

What kind of movement is the church?

From the start, the church has been a movement of ordinary people. Now, you might think differently. You might hear names of disciples like Peter or John, and women who stood so faithfully with Jesus. You might think, “Those were extraordinary people.” But that’s not what you would have said if you had known them in the first century. Listen to Acts 4:13 describing the crowd’s reaction to Peter and John: “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.” Did you hear that language? Common and uneducated. Meaning, if you were going to start a world-changing movement, you would not have chosen this group. They were commoners, ordinary people. And not just ordinary people, but ordinary sinners.

Think about Peter, who preaches this sermon where 3,000 people are baptized. He is not the likeliest candidate for this job. If you read the Gospels, you learn that this is a disciple with a foot-shaped mouth. In fact, think about the last time we see Peter. The author of the book of Acts, Luke, also wrote the book of Luke in the Bible. What happened the last time Luke mentioned Peter specifically? Let me read it to you, beginning in Luke 22:54:

“Then they seized [Jesus] and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.”  But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”

In other words, the last time we saw Peter, he was afraid even to say he knew Jesus. Now here he is, standing and preaching Jesus, then 3,000 people are baptized. This is what brought the 120 together, this is what brought 3,000 people to join them that day and this is what makes the church the church. What united all of them is they were saved by grace. What makes the church is not the gifts of an extraordinary few. What makes the church is the grace of an extraordinary God.

Acts 1–2 teaches us the church is a movement full of ordinary people

Why are we here today? We are here for one reason and one reason only: God is gracious. With all due respect, you are not extraordinary. I am not extraordinary. Our God is extraordinary. We deserve separation from Him forever, yet we have been reconciled to Him, brought together by His grace. The church is a movement of ordinary people, saved by grace and desperate for God.

For anybody who’s read this passage before, we are tempted to miss the wonder of these scenes, starting back in Act 1:9.

A pastor friend of mine, Vance Pittman, helped open my eyes to this. These are some of the most humorous verses in the Bible. Just picture this. Acts 1:9: “When [Jesus] had said these things…” What are these things? Verse three says He had been speaking to them about the Kingdom of God. In verse eight, He had just told them that the Holy Spirit is going to come upon them in power, and they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

Imagine the scene. Jesus is gathered with His disciples on this mountain outside Jerusalem, they’re still overwhelmed that He has died and risen from the grave and they’re pretty excited. The gang is back together. They’re rolling again. Then Jesus says, “All right, guys. Here’s the plan. We’re going to start back in Jerusalem.” Think about that. What just happened in Jerusalem? They just killed Jesus there. If you’re a follower of Jesus, the last place you want to go back to is Jerusalem. They hate you there. Jesus says, “That’s where we’re going to start—where they hate you. But that’s not where we’re going to stop. We’re going to go from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria.”

As soon as we hear that, we’ve got to put ourselves in the shoes of these Jewish disciples, because Jewish people hated the Samaritans. Follow this. Jesus said, “Here’s the plan, guys. We’re going start where they hate you, then we’re going to go to where you hate them. But that’s not all. Then we’re going to go to places in the world that you don’t even know exist—the ends of the earth.” They don’t even know what that means. They don’t even know how to get there.”

So feel this. Jesus says, “We’re going to start where they hate you, then we’re going to go where you hate them, then we’ll go to places you don’t even know how to get to.” Then as soon as He says this, all of a sudden, He starts floating up to heaven. Whooooh. What do you do? If you’re standing there, you’re thinking through this news: “Okay, we’re going to start where they hate us, go where we hate them, then go to places we’ve never heard of.” Then the text says, “And a cloud took him out of their sight.” They’re just standing there. Duhhh…

How do we know that’s what they were doing? It’s exactly what verse ten says: “While they were gazing into heaven as he went…” Then these two men show up. “…[B]ehold, two men stood by them in white robes.” Again, put yourself in these disciples’ shoes. You’re dumbfounded, just looking up into the sky, because a man just disappeared into a cloud. Then all of a sudden you look beside you and two dudes in white robes have suddenly appeared out of nowhere. What do you do then? Do you jump back? “How’d you get here?”

I’ll tell you how they got there. Jesus gave this plan to His disciples, took a flight up to the right hand of the Father, sat down, got comfortable, looked down and He saw 120 people looking up into the clouds. He said to two angels, “Go down there and tell them to do what I told them to do.” You say, “You’re making that up.” No, I’m not. Read verse 11. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?”

What kind of question is that? “Uh, well, I’m looking into heaven because the Guy I was just in conversation with levitated like I’ve never seen before, then a cloud took Him. I’m just kind of curious to see where He went. Maybe He’s coming back. That’s why I’m looking up—just in case you’re wondering. And by the way, who in the world are you and where in the world did you come from in your white robes?” These guys say, “He’s coming back.” “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Do you know what the 120 did right then? They did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They went into Jerusalem, gathered together in an upper room, and started praying. Acts 1:14 says, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” Notice the language there. It doesn’t say, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to strategizing. They were devoting themselves to whiteboarding and planning.” No, don’t miss this. These 120 knew that what God had told them to do was so big that there was no way they could do it on their own. They were common, uneducated, ordinary men and women who had just been given a charge to change the world—and they knew they needed God.

This is who God has called us to be: a group of ordinary men and women whose only uniting attribute is that we’ve all been saved by God’s grace. We know we have been brought together for a task that is so much bigger than any one of us, so much greater than any one of us. So we come together as a people who are absolutely desperate for God.

I wonder though, are we desperate like this? I fear we’re not. I think our tendency is to look at our church and think, “Look at all the people we have. And not just that, look at all the gifted people we have. We have leaders of large corporations, powerful politicians, influencers in our country and other countries, those with all kinds of resources. We live in some of the wealthiest counties in the country— really, in the world.” We can look at McLean Bible Church and think that with so many gifted people and so many resources, this church can shape Washington. It can shape the nations for God’s glory, but that is a totally wrong-headed way to think, and here’s why. It doesn’t matter how many people, gifts, or resources we have. We could have all the money and all the talented people in the world, but it won’t matter a bit if we don’t have the power of God’s Spirit. In fact, the opposite is true. We could have the least number of people, the least gifted people, the least amount of financial resources, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, that kind of church can shake this city and shake the nations for God’s glory.

Do we believe this? Do we believe that we can accomplish more in the power of the Holy Spirit in the next week than we can in all our own power combined in the next century? If we believe this, we’ll devote ourselves to praying in one accord, praying with desperation for God. Ordinary sinners, saved by grace, want to be part of something that’s so much bigger than ourselves, not just business as usual.

When we do, that leads to the next part of this picture which is the church is a movement of ordinary people with extraordinary power. When we get to Acts 2, things get crazier. Jesus’ followers are all together in one place. Let’s picture this were happening in this room right now. Verse two says, “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” The language there is like hurricane-force winds. The sound of a hurricane was in the room.

God, we pray for the men and women in the Bahamas right now and those on the coast who have been affected—some of whose lives have been ravaged this week, who have lost friends and family members. Please, God, show Your mercy. Draw people to the security that is found in You alone. We don’t trust in houses or lands which are temporary. We trust in God. He alone is our Rock. Amen.

Now in this passage, they just hear the sound of a mighty rushing wind —not experience the actual 100-mile-per-hour winds. Imagine that happening right now in this service, in this moment. Then verse three says, “Divided tongues as of fire appeared to them…” What does that mean? What does that look like? Fire tongues appeared to them “and rested on each one of them.” We’ve talked about this before. Just look at the people next to you and imagine fire tongues on them. Is that weird? What do you do? Try to blow it out? “What are you doing?” “You don’t know what’s on your head.” “It’s on you too.” So, there were fire tongues on everybody.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” This was promised in Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and what did they begin to do? “They began to speak in other tongues…”—that is, other languages. They began to speak in other languages “…as the Spirit gave them utterance.” They all started witnessing about Jesus in other languages.

Let’s pause here. I want you to think about the extraordinary power that is now in these ordinary disciples, in two ways. One, they have extraordinary power to obey God’s Word. You’ve got to see this, because most people miss this. Think about it. When did this happen? Acts 2:1 says, “When the day of Pentecost arrived…” Pentecost. Hmm? What is Pentecost? It was a feast that Jews from all over the world came to celebrate 50 days after the Passover. Pentecost literally means fiftieth. Traditionally, it was the day when they celebrated how God had given His people His law, including the Ten Commandments, back in the Old Testament.

Turn with me to Exodus 19. I want you to see this connection with your own eyes. Let’s make sure we’ve got the timeline clear in Acts. We know from the book of Luke that Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover. So now, 50 days later, here we are at the Feast of Pentecost when they’re celebrating the day when God gave His law—His commandments—to His people. Let’s see if there are any similarities or connections between Exodus 19 and Acts 2. Start with Exodus 19:16. This is what happened when God gave His people His law.

“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish.”

Get the picture? God descends on Mount Sinai in fire in such a way that people can’t get near God’s presence on the mountain, lest they be destroyed. Now in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost—when they’re remembering when God brought fire on Mount Sinai and they had to stay away—the Spirit comes and resting on each of them are tongues of fire. Fire! But that’s not where it stops.

Check this out. Starting in Exodus 19:20, we have the law. It goes all the way to Exodus 31. Skip over to the very end of chapter 31, verse 18. We have God’s law given from Exodus 20 to Exodus 31. We get to verse 18 and the Bible says, “And [God] gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” His law was written on these tablets of stone.

Then in Exodus 32 we have a story about how, while Moses has been meeting with God on top of the mountain, God’s people down at the bottom of the mountain have constructed an idol, a golden calf, and they are worshiping it. God says to Moses, “They deserve My judgment.” In Exodus 32:28, look at how many people die under the judgment of God: “And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell.” Hmm. So in Acts 2—on the day when God’s people were remembering how His law was given and 3,000 people were struck down by the judgment of God—the Spirit of God comes down, the fire of His presence rests on His people, they proclaim His Word and how many people just so happen to be saved? Three thousand. Boom!

This is not a coincidence, because the Spirit of God just changed everything. God had given His people His law and it was clear that they could not obey it by themselves. But now, just like God had promised in Ezekiel 36 and 37, “I will put my Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27). Now in Acts 2, it’s happening. A people who did not have the power to obey God in their flesh, who were susceptible to sin and deserving of judgment, now have the Holy Spirit in them so they can walk with God in victory over sin and experience His salvation from it completely.

Acts 1–2 teaches us we have the Holy Spirit in us

Do you realize this? We could spend the rest of the day right here. But let me just summarize by saying to every follower of Jesus: you have the Holy Spirit of God living in you, empowering you to experience life as God has designed you to live it. Jesus left in Acts 1 so that in Acts 2 He could send His Spirit to live inside of His disciples.

Another good pastor friend of mine, J.D. Greear, wrote a book called Jesus Continued. The subtitle is so great: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You. Do you realize that having the Holy Spirit is better than Jesus being here today?

How awesome would it be to have Jesus here? “I went to MBC today, and guess Who came? Jesus. He was sitting next to me.” That would be awesome! But no. I have so much better news than that. Jesus lives in every single one of you. He’s in you. He’s in each one of us who have trusted in Him as Lord. Better than Jesus beside a few of us, Jesus is inside each believer. This changes everything in our lives!

I was reading a biography of Hudson Taylor last week. He was a missionary to China who started China Inland Mission, a movement that changed the history of one of the largest countries on earth. His biography is called Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. The spiritual secret he talks about in this book came on the day when he understood what we’re talking about here. It was the day he realized that Christianity was not about him trying to do a bunch of things for Jesus, but Jesus living in him. He wrote, “Oh, it is joy to feel Jesus living in you.” I just ask you, Christians, as I read this quote, does this describe your life? Taylor wrote:

It is joy to feel Jesus living in you, to find your heart all taken up by Him, to be reminded of His love by His seeking communion with you at all times, not by your painful attempts to abide in Him. He is our life, our strength, our salvation. I am no longer anxious about anything, for Jesus I know is able to carry out His will—and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me.

For in the easiest position, He must give me His grace. And in the most difficult position, His grace will be sufficient. So if He should place me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance? In positions of great difficulty, much grace? In circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength. I have no fear that the resources of Jesus will be unequal to the emergency—and His resources are mine, for He is mine and is with me and dwells in me.

I ask every one of you who call yourself a Christian, do you feel this? Do you feel the joy of Jesus living in you? I want you to feel this. I do not want you to live what you think is the Christian life, just trying to do stuff for Jesus, and miss the beauty of Jesus’ in you. Some of you have been Christians for decades, but you’ve missed this. Today I want to call you to it. I want this more and more in my life. I have come away from these last days praying this for you and for me. I’ve prayed that you would experience over this next year a deeper union with Jesus than you have ever experienced before.

Do you want that? I’m assuming every follower of Jesus wants that. If you don’t want that, I question whether or not you’re a follower of Jesus. I’ve been praying that for you, because this is life. This is Christianity.

One more quote from a man named Ian Thomas:

“Beware, lest even as a Christian you fall into Satan’s trap. You may have found and come to know God and the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving Him sincerely as your Redeemer. Yet if you do not enter into the mystery of godliness and allow God to be in you, the origin of His own image, you will seek to be godly by submitting yourself to external rules and regulations, by conforming to behavior patterns imposed upon you by the particular Christian society you have chosen and in which you hope to be found acceptable. And you will, in this way, perpetuate the pagan habit of practicing religion in the energy of the flesh, and in the very pursuit of righteousness commit idolatry in honoring Christianity more than Christ.”

God, help us realize that Jesus is in us. His life is our life; His resources are our resources. Help us live in this. Better than Jesus being beside us, Jesus is inside all of us.

Acts 1–2 teaches us we’re ordinary people with extraordinary power in us to be His witnesses.

This is the second part. We have extraordinary power to obey and share God’s Word. This is exactly what Jesus said in Luke 24:45–48:

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Do you hear that language? The good news of the gospel will be proclaimed by witnesses. Then Jesus says in Luke 24:49, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Which is exactly what we just read in Acts 1 and 2. The Spirit comes upon them and what’s the first thing they do? They start witnessing, telling people about what Jesus has done. Peter stands up to preach.

You’ve got to see this one too. At the very beginning of his sermon, after stating that they’re not drunk, Peter starts quoting from the book of Joel in the Old Testament. Look at Acts 2:16–21. Does anybody know what part of Joel he is quoting from? Joel 2. What verses? 28-32. Amazing, Bible scholar. Now, they probably have a note in their Bible—and you’ve got one too. You’ve got to see this with your own eyes, too. Let’s do a little sermon evaluation for Peter. We’re going to see how he did in the first Christian sermon.

He starts quoting from the book of Joel, so let’s see if he gets it right. Let’s compare Joel 2 and Acts 2. Joel 2:28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

Let’s stop there and compare it with Acts 2:17: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” Okay, that looks pretty much the same. “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…”—that’s the same. “…and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…” So he switched the order there, but it’s essentially the same. Give him a break, right? It’s his first sermon.

Now, Joel 2:29 says, “Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” Acts 2:18: “Even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” Wait. Wait a minute. Peter just said, “And they shall prophesy.” Did Joel say that? No. Joel did not say that. “Peter, you just added to God’s Word. You blew it. Like, the first Christian sermon and you misquoted the Bible, so 2,000 years later, we are critiquing you for it. What were you thinking?”

Well, before we get too hard on Peter, let’s ask some questions. With the Holy Spirit present and leading Peter to speak, is there anything in Acts 2 that is fundamentally different from Joel 2 that would lead Peter to add that phrase? I think there is. In Joel’s day, in the Old Testament, were a lot of God’s people prophets, or just a few of God’s people prophets? Just a few, right? People like Joel, Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel. Those were the prophets.

But now when we get to Acts 2 and the Holy Spirit comes down, are just a few of God’s people prophesying or a lot of God’s people? A lot. The fact is, all of them here in Acts 2 were prophesying.That’s what Peter is saying. God has poured out His Spirit on all His people and all of them are prophesying. This is exactly what Jesus had promised. He promised that when the Holy Spirit came upon His people, they would do what? They would witness. They would testify. They would speak about Jesus.

Do you realize what this means? To every single follower of Jesus within the sound of my voice, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, you are a prophet. Huh? That kind of gives a new meaning to you in your seat right there. “I’m a prophet?” Now, before you start thinking, “Okay, so that means I’m supposed to go around and pronounce weird things on people”—no, no, no. What is the job of a prophet?

The job of a prophet is to speak for God, to speak what you know God has said. According to what we just read, you have received power from the Holy Spirit of God, so that you will speak for God about what He has said. And what has He said? He has said that He loves sinners and has sent His Son to die for them, so that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached among all the nations. You know He has said that and you are a prophet who speaks that word on behalf of God Himself. Don’t miss this. Every single one of us who is a follower of Jesus, from the youngest to the oldest, has the privilege of speaking His Word for God Himself!

His Holy Spirit is in you so you might have His extraordinary power to tell people that they can have life in Jesus forever. You have extraordinary power to speak in such a way that people’s lives will be changed for all eternity as a result of what you say. What a privilege! This is not just me on a stage once a week. This is all of us, all week long, with everybody we interact with. We are all ordinary people with extraordinary power to share God’s Word, so that people can be reconciled to God for eternal life.

That’s exactly what happens here. Peter shares God’s Word with this crowd. They ask, in Acts 2:37, “What shall we do?” Peter says in verse 38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” That’s bold, isn’t it? To say, “If you do this, you will be forgiven of all your sins before God.” By what authority does Peter say that? By the authority of God. He’s speaking for God. And you have the authority and power to do the exact same thing—to tell people they can be forgiven of all their sins before God by repenting and believing in Jesus. You have that power. That’s why you have the Holy Spirit.

When one man, Peter, spoke for God that day, 3,000 people were baptized. I’m looking today at thousands of men and women in all our services on all our campuses who are filled with the exact same Spirit. The exact same Spirit that did this in Acts 2 is living inside every single follower of Jesus. The Holy Spirit of Acts 2 is the same Holy Spirit of McLean Bible Church today.

I want to share what God has done in my heart in the last few days through this story, in a way I didn’t see coming when I turned this sermon outline in. I spent Thursday morning studying Acts 1 with our staff, then did the same with our young adults that evening. It was glorious. Both times, the Holy Spirit met us in His Word and spoke so clearly and powerfully to us.

I had just read Acts 2 that morning in our Bible reading, and was thinking about those 3,000 people who were saved on that day. I just started praying, “God, I want to see 3,000 people saved. It would be awesome if that happened this Sunday.” Then I started asking myself, “Do I really believe that could happen?” I started thinking, “Maybe not in one day—maybe in a year. But God, would You save 3,000 people through MBC over the next year?” Then—I’m just being honest—my lack of faith totally started to kick in. I thought, “Maybe a thousand.” Or Acts 2:47, where it says, “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Maybe I just need to ask for that—365.

My heart kept coming back to this thought: “Do you believe that the same Holy Spirit Who was working in Jerusalem back then is the same Holy Spirit Who is working in Washington, DC, right now?” I do. I believe the same Holy Spirit is here. I just started to cry out to God, “God, would You give us 3,000 people who will put their faith in Jesus over the next year?”

I want to be careful, because I know I can’t control God—and I’m so glad about that. He is God. He is sovereign. Sometimes He doesn’t work in ways that we desire. But as long as I know that, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to ask God to save a lot of people, so I’m asking God to save 3,000 people between now and this time next year. So do you want to join me in asking God for this? Do we believe that’s even possible? We have thousands of people in this room and in other locations right now who are filled with the Holy Spirit of almighty God. I believe it’s absolutely possible. So why don’t we ask for it?

I was reading Acts 5:14 this week where it says, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” Do you want to see that? I want to see it. More than ever in my life, I want to see more people than I’ve ever seen come to know Jesus. Do we want to see that as a church? MBC, do we want to see more than ever multitudes of men and women in Washington, DC, coming to know eternal life in Jesus? Let’s ask for this and let’s give ourselves to it. Let’s go out and speak for God. Let’s cry out to God for thousands of people to come to know Christ through this church this year. Let’s boldly and humbly ask God for this, then let’s get started—this week.

Here’s what I want to call us to do this week. In light of what we’ve just seen in God’s Word and the movement that we are a part of as a church, I want to challenge you to invite somebody in your life who does not know Jesus to be here next Sunday. Start picturing their faces right now. Then next Sunday, much like we did this past Easter, we’re going to gather together and I’m going to share the gospel as clearly as possible in the power of God’s Spirit and we’re going to call people to trust in Jesus and be baptized.

If you were here on Easter, you remember when we invited people to be baptized that day and to our shock, people were being baptized all day long. I want to call us to that again—so invite people this next week. Invite your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends from school, from the gym, acquaintances you meet this week who you don’t even know. You might meet people this week that God sovereignly puts you in their path. Invite people to be here next week and let’s pray that many people will be baptized as followers of Jesus.

By the way, if you have not been baptized—next week is the week. Bring a towel and some clothes. That would help if you know you need to be baptized next week. The key is to bring somebody who’s not here right now who needs Jesus. And let’s devote ourselves to prayer this week.

So, here at Tysons this next Friday, but we’re going to have a late-night prayer meeting from 8:00 to midnight. We’re going to plead for God to move in power. I know that other campuses are doing different things locally. Keep doing those, by all means. Anybody from any campus who wants to can come here Friday night. Let’s gather in one accord and devote ourselves to prayer. And let’s fast.

I want to call us to fast together on Friday. If at all possible, just set aside food that day. If you can’t do it on Friday, do it another day. But as many as possible on Friday—let’s just cry out to God. “God, more than we want breakfast or lunch or dinner, we want to see thousands of people in Washington, DC, saved from their sins. We want to see thousands of people knowing life in Jesus forever. It’s more important to us than a meal that they would know Your mercy.” So let’s fast on Friday.

This passage leads us to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit

Let’s pray. If you can, come here Friday night, then let’s invite people all week long. In faith, let’s plead for God to move in power in a way that can only be explained by His Spirit. We are not a building to see or a place to sit, to just go through a routine of religion. No, we’re a movement of ordinary people with extraordinary power to spread the greatest news in the world that has power to change people’s lives for eternity in Washington, DC. Let’s step into this.

I told Heather last night, “I feel like I’m really stepping out here.” Then in my quiet time on Friday, I found myself on my knees, saying, “God, are You leading us to do this?” As best as I can tell, with a flawed mind and heart, I believe He is leading us to do this. So are you with me? Even if you’re not, I’m going for it. This is not just a story from 2,000 years ago; this is our story. So let’s step into it. Let’s devote ourselves to prayer, right now.

God, we in one accord gather all across Washington, DC, this morning. As Your church, saved by Your grace, we are desperate for You. We want to be a part of that which can only be explained by Your hand, Your power, and Your Spirit at work. We are surrounded by people—people we know in our homes, in our workplaces, in this city—who do not know Jesus, who are on a road that leads to an eternity separated from You. We want them to have eternal life in You.

So please, God, just like they prayed in Acts 4, give us boldness this week. I pray for boldness in my own life and for every one of us as we are interacting with people all over this city. Give us boldness to go and share the good news of Jesus, inviting people to come next Sunday. Please, O God, bring many people from this city to our gatherings next week. Cause the gospel to be clear and powerful. Do what only Your Holy Spirit can do. We plead that You would save many people.

God, we will devote ourselves to praying for this all week long, fasting and seeking You, because we know we can’t just say this, organize that and it happens. Only You, by Your Spirit, can do this. So we lay it all before You. God, we’re praying and pleading. And not just this next week, but over this next year, would save more people than ever through this church, more people than any one of us has ever seen in our lives? We’re pleading for that.

God, would You use us toward that end? Use us as prophets proclaiming Your Word, proclaiming Your gospel. And in the process, we pray that You would draw us into deeper and deeper union, life, and joy in You. Help us leave behind a routine, monotonous, manufactured kind of Christianity. We want to experience life to the fullest in You, Jesus.

We pray that we would remain faithful in You as we abide in You and You in us. As we live in You, we pray that You would bear Your fruit through us, fruit that will last forever. God, please do all this, we pray, for Your glory; not for anybody’s name or any church’s name or for any other reason but Your glory. We pray for the salvation of people we interact with, that they might know You, Jesus. So, for Your glory, for their salvation, and for our joy, we pray that You would do this. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people together, in one accord, said, “Amen.”

How can we apply this passage to our lives?

Question 1

What are some misconceptions people have about the church?

Question 2

Why does the Spirit indwell believers?

Question 3

How are we empowered to obey God’s Word?

Question 4

Jesus had promised that when His Holy Spirit would come upon His people, they would do what?

Question 5

Does your life display what you believe that Spirit that was working in Acts 2 is at work today?

 

The church is not a building to see

The church is not a place to sit.

The church is a movement to join.

Acts 1:1–15

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he 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, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said . . .

Acts 2:1–15

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel . .

Acts 2:36–41

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 4:13

. . . when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.

Luke 22:54–62

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Saved by grace.

Desperate for God.

Acts 1:9

And when he [Jesus] had said these things . . .

Acts 1:10

And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes . . .

Acts 1:11

[They] said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:14

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer . . .

Acts 2:2

. . . suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

Acts 2:3

And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

Acts 2:4

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . .

Acts 1:8

. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . .

Acts 2:4

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

To obey God’s Word.

Acts 2:1

When the day of Pentecost arrived . . .

Exodus 19:16–22

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.”

Exodus 31:18

And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Exodus 32:28

And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell.

Better than Jesus beside a few of us, Jesus is inside all of us!

To share God’s Word.

Luke 24:45–49

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Joel 2:28

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

Acts 2:17

. . . in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams . . .

Joel 2:29

Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Acts 2:18

. . . even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy

Every single one of us has the privilege of speaking for God!

Acts 2:37–38

“. . . What shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins . . .”

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

LESS THAN 1% OF ALL MONEY GIVEN TO MISSIONS GOES TOWARDS REACHING THE UNREACHED.

That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs are receiving the least support. You can help change that!