SERMON: Extra(Ordinary) Power
TEXT: Acts 2:1-13 (ESV)
It’s good to be with all of you at Gateway Church this weekend. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
And we’re continue our series through the first few chapters of the book of Acts, which we’re calling “Ordinary” because — let’s face it — every follower of Jesus is pretty ordinary — there’s nothing particularly spectacular about any of us — we’re all called to be witnesses — someone who shares the news about what Jesus has done in His life, death, and resurrection — we all have the same purpose — we’re all so — ordinary.
So let’s jump right in the Bible — if you have your Bible, please turn with me to Acts chapter two. We’ll be looking at verses one through thirteen.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question to the number printed on the bulletin or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
And while you’re finding Acts chapter two, let me catch us all up in case you’ve missed the first few weeks in this series. The disciples — the followers of Jesus — number one hundred and twenty people. And they’re in Jerusalem. And it’s been a few days since Jesus ascended to Heaven.
You probably know that Jesus was crucified on a cross, but death could not keep Him in the grave. And for forty days He appeared teaching and preparing His disciples for the mission He was about to give them. And on the day of His ascension — the day He went up to Heaven — Jesus said His last words on earth — and — as you know — people don’t waste their last words on unimportant things.
And with His last words Jesus, “ordered them (His followers) not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4b-5 ESV)
And then He said, “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.” 9 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.” (Acts 1:8-9 ESV)
And with His last words, Jesus gave His disciples their mission and He promised them that they would be given the power needed to accomplish this mission — they would be empowered witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. But this mission wasn’t just for them — the mission to be His witnesses is for every follower of Jesus — even us today.
And our passage today — Acts chapter two — is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise. We’re going to see how we — a bunch of ordinary people — are empowered to be witnesses for Jesus — people who take the news of His life, death, and resurrection to the ends of the earth. Because this isn’t some puny mission we’ve been given — this is global in scale — and it can be overwhelming to think that we’re to take the gospel to people of all nations — us — you and me — there’s something about this mission we’ve been given — that — instinctively we know we can’t do this on our own — we can’t accomplish our purpose in our own power. We need extraordinary power in order to be the ordinary witnesses we’re called to be.
And here’s the truth for you and I. “Because the Holy Spirit has come, all Christ-followers are empowered to be ordinary witnesses for Jesus.” Because the Holy Spirit has come, all Christ-followers are empowered to be ordinary witnesses for Jesus.
So here’s what I want to do — but let me tell you a secret first. I haven’t been at Gateway for very long — just over two years — but I’ve already preached Acts chapter two to you. And there’s a temptation — as a preacher — when you come to a passage you’ve already preached. And that’s to repeat the sermon you’ve already preached. I mean, no one’s going to remember it anyway — except for like one guy in the congregation. In fact, I had a staff member ask me if that’s what I was going to do. But I’m not. I understand how sermons work. Preaching isn’t about one life changing sermon — preaching is about hundreds and thousands of sermons being used by God to change your life.
But as tempting as it was to just re-preach a sermon you’ve all forgotten — that’s not what I’m going to do. So we’re going to take a second look at Acts chapter two together over the next few weeks. And we’re going to allow this passage to add some more sermons to God’s work of transformation in our lives.
And — today — we’re going to answer three questions about the Holy Spirit. We won’t be able to look at everything the Bible has to say about the Holy Spirit, but there are a few things we see in our verses that give us answers to three questions. In fact, both the questions and the answers come from our verses — though we’ll look at some other passages in order to bring clarity to our answers.
The three questions we’ll be answering today are: Where does the Holy Spirit come from? What does the Holy Spirit do? And why does the Holy Spirit do these things?
Where does the Holy Spirit come from? What does the Holy Spirit do? And why does the Holy Spirit do these things?
Let’s begin in verse one of Acts chapter two.
MAIN POINT 1
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they (the one hundred and twenty disciples) were all together one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:1-2 ESV)
So the disciples are all together and as they’re praying, something like a mighty rushing wind comes — Luke’s trying his best to describe this unusual event that’s happening as the Holy Spirit comes.
But notice — in verse two — where the Holy Spirit is coming from. Where did the sound that was “like a mighty rushing wind” come from? Luke tells us that the sound “came from heaven” — the Holy Spirit came from Heaven.
Now what does this tell us about the Holy Spirit? At the very least, we see here that there’s something supernatural going on. Supernatural things comes from heaven — not natural things. But our text doesn’t give us enough information to know much more than that about the Holy Spirit. And — if you’re familiar with the Bible — you know that angels come from Heaven — so is that all that the Holy Spirit is? Is the Holy Spirit just an angel or something like that?
Well what we do know — from other places in the Bible — is that the Holy Spirit isn’t an angel sent from Heaven. Let’s look at a few passages that tell us more about the Holy Spirit who comes from Heaven.
In the opening verses of Genesis we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV)
So in the beginning — we see the Spirit of God — that’s the Holy Spirit — actively involved in the creation of all things. So before creation — the Holy Spirit existed. This tells us that the Holy Spirit isn’t created — He is Creator.
Additionally, scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit is present everywhere. In Psalm 139 we read, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:7-8 ESV)
King David knows that there is nowhere he can go where God’s Spirit will not be present. “If I go up to heaven — Your Spirit is there.” And — something you may have not thought much about — but David says, “If I go — not to heaven — but to hell — or Sheol — God — Your Spirit is there.” Some people think of Hell as the absence of God’s presence — and that’s not quite accurate. Hell isn’t the absence of God’s presence — it’s the unfiltered presence of His wrath and justice — by unfiltered — I mean — the presence of God’s wrath and justice without His love and mercy. So God’s Spirit is everywhere.
Additionally, the Holy Spirit knows all things. The prophet Isaiah writes, “Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?” (Isaiah 40:13 NLT)
The implied answer is “no one is able to give advice to the Spirit.” We just don’t know enough, why? Because He already knows everything. I was driving into Gateway a few weeks ago, and I remember thinking, “God, You know what I’m thinking right now. That’s incredible. You know my desires, my hurts and pains, my hopes and dreams...You even know my darkest secrets. But You also know what the person driving that car is thinking. You know their desires, their hurts and pains, their hopes and dreams, their darkest secrets...You know everything about them too.” And then another car passed and God knows everything about them. And when you think of all of the people who are alive today and — right now we’re just limiting ourselves to what people are thinking, hoping, dreaming about — that’s just a small slice of the knowledge pie — yet God knows the thoughts and desires, hopes and dreams, and darkest secrets of the seven and a half billion people who are alive today. That’s absolutely incredible — the Holy Spirit knows all things.
In Hebrews chapter 9, the Holy Spirit is called the “eternal Spirit.” We touched on this a bit earlier when talking about creation — but the Holy Spirit — not being part of creation — means that He existed before creation — even before time — because time is part of creation. And to exist before time is to be eternal — to have no beginning or end. The Holy Spirit is eternal.
Now we could keep going, but let’s pause and ask ourselves what all this adds up to. Regardless if you consider yourself to be a Christian or not — what do all of these things add up to? The Holy Spirit is Creator, present everywhere, knows all things, and is eternal. So what does that mean? That the Holy Spirit is God, right?
So the Holy Spirit — coming from heaven — isn’t just supernatural — like an angel or something — the Holy Spirit is God coming from Heaven — just as Jesus promised. When Jesus left earth to go back to Heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit from Heaven to earth — and that’s what we see happening here in Acts chapter two.
Now for some of us — who are followers of Jesus — the Holy Spirit may be the least familiar and understood person of the Trinity. As Christians we believe in One God in three Persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the church typically has done a better job of helping us understand the Father and the Son, and left the Holy Spirit to be this sort of mystery.
So let me offer two book recommendations to you, if you want to learn more about the Holy Spirit. The first, is a bit more technical — scholarly — kind of book. It’s written by Sinclair Ferguson and it’s titled “The Holy Spirit” — it’s part of the Contours of Christian Theology series. A more accessible book — less on the technical side, but still very helpful — is Francis Chan’s “Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.” Either of these books would be a great addition to your book collection and your understanding of the Holy Spirit.
We’ve been asking the question: Where does the Holy Spirit come from? He comes from Heaven and — more importantly for us — this tells us that the Holy Spirit is God.
MAIN POINT 2
Now on to our second question. What does the Holy Spirit do? Now that He’s come down from Heaven to earth — what is the Spirit doing? Let’s begin in verse three.
“And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.
Now remember the mission Jesus gave His disciples. They were to be witnesses to the ends of the earth — meaning to all nations — and here the nations have come to the disciples at the exact moment the promised Holy Spirit has empowered them. And in verse six we read…
6 And at this sound (the sound of the Holy Spirit coming like a mighty rushing wind) the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one (in the crowd) was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
And to give us an idea of the nations that are represented — in verse nine — we read that there are…
9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians
We’ve got people from Northern Africa, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and modern-day Iran. And look at what they’re all hearing in their own language. Finishing verse eleven…
— we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”” (Acts 2:3-13 ESV)
What does the Holy Spirit do? Again — more could be said than what we find in our verses — but here we see two things that the Holy Spirit does. He fills believers and He gives spiritual gifts.
First, the Holy Spirit fills believers. Look again in verse three. “And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:3-4 ESV)
And skip to verse twelve. “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”” (Acts 2:12-13 ESV)
If you were here at Easter, you may remember the story from the gospel of Mark where Jesus talks about old wine and new wine and how new wine needs to be stored in new wineskins. And here — as the Holy Spirit comes and fills the disciples in a new way — I find it interesting that one of the responses of the crowd — of those who were resistant to what they were seeing and hearing — one response is that the disciples were filled with new wine — that they were drunk.
And how wrong and right they were. They’re wrong because they assume the disciples are drunk on actual wine. But they’re right, because the disciples are filled with new wine — the wine we saw Jesus speak of on Easter weekend — the wine of His Spirit filling His disciples so they are empowered to be His witnesses.
Now the Bible shows us that there are two parts to this filling of the Spirit. The first is when you initially believe in Jesus. God’s Spirit then fills you — comes in you — takes up residence in you. The second filling is more of a spiritual boost. There will be times when we may fall back into depending upon our own strength, or get distracted by the things of the world, maybe have a sickness that wipes us of our spiritual energy — and then — we experience a personal revival — a new filling or empowering of the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean we’ve been saved again — just that we let our spiritual tank get a little low and God decided to fill it back up. But if you believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit has filled and is filling you.
Second, the Holy Spirit gives believers — disciples — spiritual gifts. Look with me in verse four. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4 ESV)
And as you know, the crowd — this crowd made up of people from many different nations speaking many different languages — could all understand the disciples even though the disciples hadn’t “downloaded the app that millennials are raving about because it can teach you a new language in under three weeks” — at least that’s what the advertisements say. But what we’re seeing here is a preview of how the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to every follower of Jesus. Here the gift is speaking in tongues — speaking in a known language they couldn’t previously speak in — so others hear the Good News about Jesus in their native language.
And throughout the New Testament we find passages that tell us about these gifts of the Spirit — gifts, talents, special skills, even some that appear to be rather usual behavior — but anointed gifts given by the Spirit.
So what are some of these gifts? There are quite a few passages on the gifts. One — written by the apostle Paul — is, “Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this…To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have...Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages. 29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not!” (1 Corinthians 12:1, 8-11, 28-30 NLT)
Wisdom, special knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in unknown languages, interpretation of the languages, apostleship, teaching, helping others, and leadership are just the gifts of the Spirit listed in this passage — more gifts are listed elsewhere.
But notice four things about the gifts of the Spirit. First, we need to be informed about them and be aware of them. Paul doesn’t want there to be any misunderstanding about the gifts — nor ignorance. It’s hard to properly use something if you’re ignorant about it.
Second, the Holy Spirit is the giver of the gifts. Who gets what gift is up to Him. We’re to desire the gifts. We’re to pray for the gifts. We’re to use the gifts. But which gifts we have or don’t have isn’t up to us. The Spirit alone decides which gift — or gifts — each person should have — implying every believer has at least one gift.
Third, no one has all of the gifts and no gift is given to all people. We see this in Paul’s repeated question “do we all have?” and his answer being “of course not!”
And fourth, no gift is better or more important than any other gift. All are needed because all the gifts are given for the building up of the church. In another of his letters, Paul writes, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT)
Here we see the purpose of the gifts given to us. Now the gifts given to us here are given by Christ — but notice that many are the same gifts given to us by the Spirit — which is Paul’s way of saying all of the spiritual gifts come from God. Sometimes the work of the persons of God are distinct and sometimes they overlap — here’s an example where the work of Jesus and the Spirit overlap.
But here we see how these gifts are meant to build the church up to maturity in Christ. So we need you — if you’re a believer — no matter your age or gender, socio-economic or educational background, single, married, or divorced — if you’re a believer in Christ we need you using the gift — or gifts — the Spirit of God has given you for our maturity.
But — Josh — how do I know what gift — or gifts — I’ve been given? Well there are spiritual gift tests you can take for free on the internet, but I find them to be only sort of helpful. One of the easiest ways to figure out your spiritual gift is to ask other believers — who know you — what they think your gifts may be. Sometimes we can be blind to what seems to come naturally to us — so blind — that we don’t realize that it’s not natural — it’s supernatural. Others will see that. Also, pray for the spiritual gifts — that’s biblical. Pray for God to reveal to you the gifts the Spirit has given you. But always allow others to confirm the gift. Sometimes we need confirmation to encourage us to use the gifts we’ve been given. Other times we need others to tell us — lovingly — “that definitely ain’t your gift.”
So what does the Spirit do? He fills believers and He gives us spiritual gifts.
MAIN POINT 3
Finally, why does the Holy Spirit do these things? Why does He fill believers and give us spiritual gifts. Look with me in the last part of verse eleven.
The crowd — upon hearing the disciples speak in their language — said, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11b ESV)
Why does the Holy Spirit fill us and give us gifts? So that we will be His empowered witnesses — ordinary people with extraordinary power — who testify about the mighty works of God. Power that enables us to tell others about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ so they might believe and find life in Him.
The Spirit’s goal is to magnify Christ and what He accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit’s goal in filling us — of residing in us — of living in us — is to empower us so we tell others about Jesus. The Spirit’s goal — the reason why He fills us and gives us gifts — is that as we mature as a church — we accomplish the mission Jesus has given us — the mission to take His gospel to our community, our country, and our world — even to the hard places. Places where we may be hated because of our faith in Christ — places where — if we’re honest — we’re afraid to go to.
But — as is said elsewhere in the Bible — “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NET)
When I was in Lebanon, we found ourselves in what I’ve called “Hezbollah land.” We were in an area controlled by Hezbollah — which — if you don’t know — is a terrorist organization stemming out of Islam. Driving into the area, the light poles had Hezbollah flags on them — kind of like the UF Oiler flags on the light poles on Main St here in Findlay. So it was a pretty wild place to find ourselves in — in a country that already has a wild reputation. A week after we returned there was an assassination attempt on someone running for government office. While we were there, the locals kept saying that assassination stuff was all in the past. Guess not.
But while in Hezbollah land, I spoke with a man who was a Muslim and — most likely — had some connection to Hezbollah. And I was amazed because he was talking to me — with great excitement — about the number three — how the number three is found in most religions — he even mentioned God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And this blew me away because — if you know anything about Islam — Muslims don’t think very highly of the Trinity. Yet here’s a Muslim man — living in a community run by a terrorist group — talking to me about the Trinity. A little later he mentioned that his sister had cancer — it was back for the second time — and given our recent conversation about God — I asked if I could pray for her and him. And he said yes. So I was able to pray for this Muslim man and his sister — in a place known for radical Islam — and I prayed to and in the name of Jesus. And the guy shook my hand and thanked me for praying for his sister.
I share that story not to make much of me, but to show you what God’s powerful Spirit can do in any of us. Places like Hezbollah land can be intimidating. They can put you on edge. When we heard AK47 gun fire going off — what the locals called a “domestic dispute” — well — it’s a bit concerning even for this Army vet who’s been to war. But we must remember that we’ve been promised a Spirit of power — not of fear. A Spirit of power to be witnesses for Jesus.
And the Good News for us is that Jesus has fulfilled His promise to us — He has sent the Holy Spirit to empower us. And because the Holy Spirit has come, all Christ-followers are empowered to be ordinary witnesses for Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, you’ve been empowered to be His witness — here in Findlay and even to the ends of the earth.
And dear Christian — no matter your past or present — no matter the mistakes you’ve made or the hurts you’ve experienced — no matter your intellect or how much money is in your bank account — the Holy Spirit has come from Heaven to live in you — to fill you — if you believe — and to give you gifts, so others might hear of the mighty works of God, repent of their sins, and believe in Jesus.
That may sound extraordinary, but it’s not — it’s the ordinary work of the Spirit in the life of those who believe in Jesus. For that’s why He has come — the Holy Spirit has come to empower ordinary people who believe in an extraordinary God. The God who is the Creator of everyone and everything. Who knows all things, is present everywhere, and is eternal. This God empowers everyone who believes in Him — so they can be His ordinary witnesses.
Do you have this power in you? Would you like to? Would you like to experience more of God’s power if you already believe. How about we pray for you to experience the power of God’s Spirit right now? Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, I pray that You will remind us often that all Christ-followers are empowered to be witnesses for Jesus. And I pray that we would remember that Jesus has fulfilled His promise by sending the Holy Spirit to empower us — a bunch of ordinary folk — called to be Your witnesses. And we’ve been empowered to go to all people, as we call them to You, and proclaim Your Word to them.
Father — for anyone who longs for You Spirit’s power — I ask You to guide them in repentance and faith even now as I pray. Give them confidence to tell someone before they leave today that they believe. And God we thank You for being the Giver of life to all who call on Your Name. We pray all of these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.