The Spirit-Filled Church - Acts 2:1-40

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 10th October 2021.

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Acts 2 v 1-41 “The Spirit-filled Church”



Have you ever been given a job that you knew from the outset you weren’t able to do? You knew immediately you didn’t have the skills, talents, abilities or conviction to do it and so it proved!


A couple of examples in my own life spring to mind. I remember during my first year at secondary school being selected during a PE lesson to come to the front and dance with the teacher to demonstrate what we were learning that day. It was horrifying – probably no one else remembers it now but it is burnt into my mind. I am not and never will be a dancer!


Later in school I had joined a string orchestra and a soloist on the violin was needed to play the Sailors Hornpipe in a concert at the front of school – ‘please don’t pick me and please don’t make me wear a dickie bow in front of all my friends’. But they did pick me and they did make me wear a bow tie and if you know the Sailor’s hornpipe from the last night of the proms, it is supposed to get faster and faster. I started playing at the pace of a lame slug and managed to speed up to around the pace of an overweight snail. But I knew that when they asked me – it was a job I was simply not able to do.  

Back at the start of 2020 (seems like decades ago!) we did a sermon series on God’s big plan for the church. And in that series we came face to face with some amazing truths revealed throughout God’s word; The church is far more important than most of us think because it is the Temple of God, it is the Family of God, it is the Jesus’ Bride, it is the Body of Christ; the Church is not just on a mission but it is THE Mission of God. Amazing.

But then reality strikes. We look around at our local church and what do we see? We see people whom we love yes, and people whom God has saved and is using yes, but what we mostly see when we look clearly at each other is people who are completely out of their depth when it comes to trying to be something as important as the Temple of God (the place where God especially meets people); how can weak strugglers like us match up to the calling to be God’s family, Jesus’ bride, Christ’s body, God’s mission? We simply do not have what it takes.


But God does. And he doesn’t want people who think they are strong and talented and skilful, he wants people who know that they need him. People who realise that Jesus had to die for their sin. God wants men and women, boys and girls who admit their failure and sin and weakness - he has promised to do incredible things through them. God himself comes to live within people like that and so CC Riverside, it is as a Spirit-filled church that we can move forward with confidence, excitement and expectation about what God is doing right here.  

          1) The Holy Spirit brings life and understanding


In Acts chapter 2 God the Father sends the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, to live within his people and we see immediately that the Spirit brings life and understanding. The disciples’ ministry had died and now it goes into turbo (v4 they stand up and declare God’s word to thousands of people), people who for years had read the law now understand the Old Testament in a way that they never did before (the prophet Joel v17-21 and King David’s writings v25-28 and 34-35 suddenly crystallise in this amazing point of time – this is what the prophets were pointing to, this is the gospel that was a mystery up to now), and then thousands of people are given a brand new life of following Jesus (with dramatic and immediate consequences for their life). The Holy Spirit brings life and understanding.


And this should be no surprise because the Holy Spirit carries on Jesus’ work – in the gospel accounts we see that Jesus consistently brought life and understanding in his life on earth, and life and understanding is what Acts 2 v32+33 tell us that the Triune God accomplished through Jesus’ death and resurrection;


“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

Back in Genesis sin brought death and confusion. Evil and hatred spread across the world and languages were confused at Babel because of human rebellion and pride. But here in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit comes, fulfilling many promises from the Old Testament, including those exciting words in verses 17-21 from the prophet Joel, the impact of sin upon this world begins to be reversed. The people listening to the disciples preaching in their own languages are amazed and perplexed but Peter can explain to them exactly what is happening. And exactly why it is happening. And verse 21 is a great summary; “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


Through God’s proclaimed word and by the gift of His Spirit, God offers real spiritual life and clear spiritual understanding to anyone who will call on the name of the risen saviour Jesus Christ. Anyone. The disciples were mostly uneducated unqualified men, but more than that, like every other human being since Adam and Eve and Genesis 3, they were sinners who deserved God’s anger and they were sinners who couldn’t understand Jesus’ teaching about the cross, and yet here God poured life and understanding into them. And through them he offered this same life and understanding to ANYONE who would put their trust in Jesus.


That includes every person hearing this sermon – if you call on the name of Jesus you will be saved and God’s Spirit will give you life (eternal life) and understanding (relationship).

          2) The Holy Spirit brings power and gifts


And when God saves a person, he doesn’t just save a person. The Holy Spirit lives in Christians and brings God’s power and gifts so that every single member of God’s family can get on with the task of living to please him and living to proclaim Jesus to others. There is a lot said about the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to people in the church (healing and tongues and so on) and different Christians have different opinions on this matter. But Acts 2 is not fertile ground for these sort of arguments because in this amazing chapter of the bible it is clear that the gifts that the Spirit equips God’s people with are all about the task of gospel proclamation and church-building.


Verse 4 is a hugely significant verse as we try to get our expectations clear about what the Holy Spirit will do in us as individuals and as a church; “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.” So there was a violent wind, tongues of fire and then what was the first thing that happened when God came to live in his people? They began to speak. That really matters because from the day of Pentecost onwards, hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ is how people have come to receive salvation. Each one of us who are Christians here today are Christians because at some point someone spoke to us and explained to us who Jesus is, what he has done, and why we need to go to him in repentance and faith.  

The disciples stood up to speak and the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in different languages so that people from many nations could hear what they had to say. Yes, the ability to speak in different languages is amazing and supernatural, but the emphasis is not on that ability so much as on the content of what they proclaimed and the ability of people to hear it and respond. They spoke, they spoke to people from many nations, and they proclaimed Jesus Christ from Scripture. Glance through verses 22-36 and it is one long, powerful, passionate plea and declaration of the gospel, explaining from God’s word the utter seriousness of the message.


And this is probably the most significant bit of doctrine about the Holy Spirit that we should listen to and accept today. The Spirit and the word always go together. The Holy Spirit takes the word of God and changes the people of God. Sunday by Sunday we seek to proclaim God’s word faithfully in this church, and day by day we want all the Christians in this church to be working together to proclaim the gospel to each other and to the world around. God gifts us for this task by living in us, God gives us the power and the strength needed to do it. And he does this because it is as God’s word is preached that the Spirit works in the human heart. (Chatting to a friend you want to speak the gospel to, you miss your chance, they walk off, what do you do? Pray for the Spirit to work anyway? No - Run after them and speak the gospel to them!!!)


The Holy Spirit enables puny little people like you and me to do the life transforming job of gospel proclamation into people’s lives. The disciples proclaimed Jesus from scripture and then they called on people to be saved by going to Jesus. We MUST do this for the people in our lives. We MUST and we CAN because that is exactly what God’s Holy Spirit enables us to do. Let’s say you have gone on an overnight trip and left your kids at home when you remember that you have left the gas fire on at home. What would you do? Would you pray that God helped your kids to see it and then work out how to switch it off? No, you would ring home and tell them exactly what to do.

And yet, many of us when it comes to matters of life, death and eternity, we are far too vague with the people we love in our life (pray that the Spirit changes them). But we don’t need to be – the Holy Spirit who brings life and understanding USES the proclaimed word of God to make new believers. He equips us as a church with gifts that we are to use as a church (tell people about Jesus) and then by his power he produces new life in those people. The Spirit and the word go closely together. 


          3) The Holy Spirit brings courage and conviction


Life and understanding, Power and Gifts; is that all that is needed for the church to grow? Look around at each other – is there still a missing ingredient? Praise God that the Holy Spirit also brings Courage and Conviction.   

Who are the people in your life that right now you would love to explain the gospel to? On a Sunday when you are fired up and surrounded by your brothers and sisters, who are the people you are desperate to become Christians and be added to the church? The God who has saved us promises to use us and as we look at the disciples and the people in Acts 2 it is so very encouraging because;


  • In verses 23 and 26 the disciples are filled with courage to speak the offence of the gospel. Look at all the “you’s” in those verses – “you” crucified Jesus, you are guilty of sin, you need to be saved. That is the work of the Spirit transforming the timid disciples into courageous speakers of the truth. The same Spirit is at work in us. The same courage can be the outcome.


  • In verse 36 the disciples are filled with confidence in God’s word and his promises. “Let all Israel be assured of this..” So often CC Riverside we are quieter than we should be because compared to the self-confidence of the people around us we don’t think we have that much to offer. But we have the words of eternal life. We have a living relationship with the death-crusher. The God of the Universe lives within us. Even within the shyest and meekest one of us. The same Spirit is at work in us as was in the disciples. The same confidence can be the outcome.  


  • And then in verse 37, possibly the verse we need to hear most this morning, the unbelievers listening were filled with conviction about the gospel. “They were cut to the heart and said Brothers, what shall we do?” Have you given up with some of the people in your life? If so hear this verse, pray with your church family about the people in your life, and then go away and tell them the gospel again, or drag them to church (maybe the guest service in the 7th November). Because God’s Holy Spirit is in the business of bringing deep conviction when the gospel is proclaimed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God gives you the chance to answer that question from one of your friends or family – what must I do to be saved? Repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. The Spirit who lives in you brings conviction of sin. 


Trinity Church Scarborough: The word charismatic is a Greek word which means grace gift. God the Father is a generous divine parent who gives wonderful gifts to his children. We rejoice in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that when we believe we are given the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14). We need the help of the Spirit to read and understand the Bible. We need his power to change us from the inside out. And we need his gifts if we are to serve and worship God together. We value all spiritual gifts at Trinity  Church, and we trust the wisdom of the Spirit as he distributes them to each member of our church family.

Acts 2 v 1-41 “The Spirit-filled Church”


Intro: The Temple, the Bride, the Body, the Family, the Mission: A job we are not able to do?


          1) The Holy Spirit brings life and understanding


The Spirit brings life and understanding:

  • Life brought to the disciples’ ministry
  • Understanding brought about the Old Testament
  • A new life of following Jesus for thousands




This is simply carrying on Jesus’ work in his life, death and resurrection:

  • Gospel accounts
  • Acts 2 v 32-33




This is completely reversing the impact that sin has had upon the world:



          2) The Holy Spirit brings power and gifts


Power and gifts for the task of gospel proclamation and church-building:



Verse 4 hugely significant:


  • “they began to speak


  • They spoke to people from many nations


  • They proclaimed Jesus Christ from scripture


  • They called on people to be saved by going to Jesus




The Holy Spirit EQUIPS (gifts) and PRODUCES (power)



          3) The Holy Spirit brings courage and conviction


  • Courage to speak the offence of the gospel (v23 and 36 you, you, you)




  • Confidence in God, his promises, his word (v36 be assured of this)




  • Conviction in sinners lives (v37 cut to the heart)



Conclusion: Are we a “charismatic church”?


Home Group Questions from Acts 2 v 1-41


1) In what ways do you feel unfit for the ‘job’ of being a Christian? In what verses in this passage do we see the Holy Spirit bringing life and understanding to people?



2) Which verses of this passage show the link between the Holy Spirit and the word of God? When you miss an opportunity to speak the gospel to someone you love, why should you run after them to speak rather than just praying for them?



3) Read verses 23-26 and 36-37. With which people in your life do you need the Holy Spirit to fill you with courage and confidence and them with conviction? Get your Home group praying for you  and for them this week.

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