The Apostles waited; I don’t know how patiently they waited, but they waited nevertheless.
What they did not know that morning as they awoke was that this day would mark a paradigm shift of massive proportion. For those who had been through the ministry of Jesus, His death and resurrection, they had experienced many very highly significant events to say the least, but this day would be the culmination of all that had happened before; on this day of days, the Kingdom would come.
Oh yes, of course Jesus has already brought the Kingdom of heaven to earth with Him; He had been its very embodiment. In fact everything He had done in His ministry, and most particularly in His death and resurrection, had been done to make this day a reality. The paradigm shift takes place when the Holy Spirit comes into the Apostles and into all believers, for when this happens, the Kingdom itself is within us, and together as the Body of Christ, we are the embodiment of His Kingdom on earth.
This was the day of Pentecost, and in the Jewish calendar it is the second of three annual feasts, falling fifty days after the Sabbath of Passover week (Lev. 23:15-16). It has a few names in the Old Testament; the feast of weeks (Deut. 16:10), the feast of harvest (Ex. 23:16) and the day of firstfruits (Num. 28:26). I bring this up because we need to see God’s timing in all of this: Jesus had instructed the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was poured out on them, and so they have waited. Then, the Holy Spirit comes upon them on the very day when the city was filled to overflowing with good God-fearing Jews from all over the known world who had come for the feast of weeks (Pentecost).
You see, the Holy Spirit came when there would be literally thousands of witnesses; this was not something that would happen in secret.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (2:2-4)
The Holy Spirit comes upon them without warning, but He does so in a dramatic way, with the sound of a “violent wind” and an appearance like “tongues of fire” that separate and “came to rest on each of them”. We might want to keep in mind here that “like tongues of fire” isn’t literally fire because of the word “like”; Luke is telling us that in this instance, the Holy Spirit took a form that they could see. He looked something like tongues of fire, but He was most assuredly the Holy Spirit. What we really have here in the coming of the Spirit, is the Apostles receiving the Spirit with such am impact that the people in the neighborhood couldn’t miss it. The Apostles began to speak in “other tongues”, and it is worthwhile for us to note the meaning this statement: The Greek word rendered “tongues” is glossa which means “languages”, thus in this instance the Apostles were not speaking in private prayer languages, and they were speaking human languages that they didn’t know.
In 2:5-8, Luke documents for us that hearing all of the commotion, a crowd gathers, a crowd that is amazed to find a bunch of Galileans speaking languages that the people in crowd, who are in town for the Feast speak. In other words, they are wondering how it could be that mere lowly Galileans can speak their languages. Luke also documents the places the people in the crowd have come from in 2:9-11, and more to the point, he documents what the Apostles were talking about in languages they had never studied:
we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (2:11b)
Needlessly to say, they were amazed and wondered what this all meant (2:12). Yet, as one might guess, not all were amazed…
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (2:13)
Have you ever noticed that there are always the naysayers? As old Solomon wrote long before Pentecost, “there is nothing new under the sun”.
Peter will shortly step up once again and address the wine comment, and as he does so, he’s going to address quite a lot more. When we get back together next time, we’ll see what happens next on that most exciting of days; see you then!
After the ascension of our Lord, the disciples walked the half mile or so back to the city where they entered their lodgings. There they joined the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee, His mother Mary and His brothers, spending their time in prayer; as well they should have under the circumstances. At some point, they were all together with the entire body of believers, some 120 or so in all, and Peter stepped to the fore.
He began to describe how the actions of Judas Iscariot had come about in fulfillment of prophecy, beginning with a rather grisly description of his fate:
(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) (1:18-19)
We know from Matthew’s account (Matt. 27:1-5) that Judas threw the coins back at the priests and then went off and hanged himself, apparently at the property they had bought with the money he had returned. It would appear that his body decomposed quickly in the warm Mediterranean sun and fell apart… a reference to the consequence of sin that is reinforced in 1:25. Continuing with his message, Peter turns to the Psalms:
“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
“‘May another take his place of leadership.” (1:20)
Then Peter moves to his point; Judas by his treachery, has left a vacancy among the 12; another must be chosen to carry on their mission.
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (1:21-26)
The man who will fill the vacancy must have been along for the entire ministry of Jesus, from His baptism by John up to and after the resurrection; an eyewitness to everything so that he may join with the other 11 to serve as a witness to what he himself had seen with his own eyes. Two men were found who fit this criterion, and they would let God decide which one of them was to become an apostle.
They prayed that God would show them the man He wanted to fill the post, and they cast lots. While this may seem a poor way to decide things to us today, in the Old Testament it was the correct method to discern the will of God in certain situations (Num. 26:55; 1 Sam. 10:21-21) and it showed their reliance upon the teaching of Proverbs 16:33:
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
Thus, those 11 dazed and confused young men became the 12 Apostles who would spread their eyewitness account of Jesus Christ for now, the time was at hand for the Spirit to be poured out into this dark world.
These are some of the most wonderful and amazing verses in all of Scripture, yet sadly, they are among the least understood, for over the years many have seen fit to twist them to their own personal purposes, while others have bristled at the notion of submission to anyone. This is sad for a number of reasons, but I think the saddest of all is that those who react this way miss out on some of the greatest blessings of all.
It really isn’t my purpose here to go through a definitive study of this passage; I have done so more than once on TLP already. However, I would like to give a brief overview of the passage in light of our ongoing topic of naked before God in community, for these few verses shed a great deal of light, and lead us to our next and last area of discussion in this series.
Paul set the context in the first verse: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Notice that no one is in a position to dominate or abuse any other person; in our metaphor of “nakedness”, everyone is “naked” in this context. Then Paul moves on to instruct wives to submit to their husbands in vv. 22-24. This is where many today are likely to object, for they see an inequality between husband and wife, and I will admit that if you only look a 22-24 you have a good point, but the context is set by 21; they submit to one another Paul simply spoke to the ladies first.
He turns his attention to husbands in vv. 25-29: Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Christ sacrificed His life for the Church, and husbands are to sacrifice their lives for their wives. Where is there room for childish, selfish, self-centered, domineering husbands to abuse or dominate their wives in this? Unless you can find the self-centered, childish and selfish Christ, there isn’t. Paul in this passage is giving us an illustration of what it means to “submit to one another” which dear reader is a partnership, not a dictatorship. In other words, it is naked before God in a very special community of two.
You also will notice that in the husband remarks, there is more comparison between the husband and Christ Himself, for husbands are expected to act accordingly. Yet I have heard of husbands who do not quite behave like Christ, claiming that they are the ones firmly “in charge” of everything because of verse 23: “ For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church”. Obviously this view is taken outside of the context of verse 21, and even worse, it omits the rest of verse 23 which reads in full: “ For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” How did Christ become the Savior of the church? By sacrificing His life for her!
Paul goes on in vv. 30-31:
for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
No doubt you will recall that in our study of the image of God, we saw the tremendous significance of this as it relates not only to God’s purpose for marriage, but for His purpose in creating humanity as bearers of His image, for it is only when husband and wife come together as one that His image finds its full expression.
So there is a glance at the section about husbands and wives, but Paul is going to throw us a curve:
This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (5:32-33)
From the beginning of this passage in verse 21, Paul’s instruction to married couples was actually Paul illustrating the relationship between Christ and the church.
In his writings, Paul often uses the word “mystery” to refer to a truth that was long hidden from Mankind, and which has now been revealed in Christ, and the same is true here, for all along marriage has been an illustration of what would come in Christ; it is an illustration of the relationship God wants between Himself and His people. This is a relationship that is so close, so intimate in every way, and which is so expressive of God’s nature, that the most ideal relations between husband and wife are but a picture of the fullness He has in store for us as a Body of believers.
So there you have it, a process by which Christ increases in us, beginning with our learning to be naked and unashamed before God, and then learning to be naked and unashamed before God in community, and then the community itself being naked and unashamed before God (where “naked” is understood in the metaphorical sense). This quality of intimate relationship is there for us to have in this life, in the here and now, and even more so at the culmination of this age.
We’re very close to the end, the thrill-packed series finale, and I can hardly wait for the excitement to begin!
As I mentioned earlier, Luke begins his second book with a prelude, much like the one with which he began his gospel (1:1-3). Again, he addresses himself to a man named Theophilus. Sadly, there is no way for us to know for sure who this guy was; Theophilus was a rather common name at the time. It is important for us to note, however that it is a Greek name. This fact has resulted in the widely held belief that Luke wrote his account of Jesus’ ministry for a Greek audience, and of course it would seem reasonable to suggest that Acts was written as a second volume for the same audience.
He begins Acts at about the point where Luke leaves off; the gospel ends with the ascension of Christ and Acts begins just before the ascension as though Luke wished to remind his readers of where they had wrapped up with a short transition into the second part of the saga.
If you notice in Luke 24, the last things Jesus spoke to the disciples about was that they should remain in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:46-49) and then He ascends. Luke’s Acts account begins:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (1:4-5)
With these words, the first and second volumes of Luke’s message slide together nicely to form one larger saga that tells not only of “what you have heard from the beginning”, but what the result of the message turned out to be. The next few verses share a piece of that same conversation that did not appear in the gospel:
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:6-8)
As unbelievable as it may seem for those of us who have the 20/20 vision of hindsight, the disciples seem to have believed that Jesus’ Messianic mission was to restore the glory of Israel… even after the resurrection. You’ll recall that over and over in the gospels, Jesus tries to disabuse them of this notion, for His work was far greater in scope and magnitude than simply restoring Israel to the pantheon of nations, Once again, Jesus sets them straight, telling them that such things are not for them to know. In a sense, he sidesteps their question and answers the one they should have asked in verse 8, and it is here that Luke tells us of the theme of everything that will follow; He ascends into heaven in verse 9.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (1:10-11)
He was gone into heaven, just as He and the prophets before Him had foretold; the only thing left for them to do was to wait, for the Holy Spirit of God was waiting in the wings and would shortly burst upon the scene.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
With this prologue, the action begins in this historical work that chronicles the early church for roughly its first 30 years of existence. This then is the story of how 11 young and dazed men became 12 Apostles who challenged the existing order both in Judea and throughout the known world of their time and overthrew the whole order of things, based on the teachings of a relatively obscure Jewish carpenter/teacher, a work that still has a massive impact on the world of today. Oh yes, this is nothing if not an unlikely story, in fact in human terms it is essentially an impossible story, yet these young men had something within them that was the quintessential game-changer, for they quickly became the very embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The author of this account did not identify himself in his writings, but we know who he was because of another New Testament book that he wrote, one that bears his name. Actually the prologue to that book provides us an interesting parallel to the one found in Acts:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Tradition holds that Luke was a physician, and whether this title would have meant quite the same thing in his day as it does today is probably a matter of conjecture, but one thing is certain; whoever Luke was or whatever his profession may have been, he was certainly a well educated man, as evidenced by the quality of his Greek. It is also clear that he was an associate of Paul, as we will see later on in the story, an eyewitness to many of the things he describes here.
The theme and overall context of Acts rings clearly through the ages:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (1:8)
Acts has multiple phases and deals with many trials, tribulations… and triumphs, but this will remain the major theme, that they will receive power with the Holy Spirit, power to be the very witnesses of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Thus, we might accurately consider Acts to be the book of Genesis of the Church itself, for what was begun way back in Luke’s day, is an ongoing story from that time until this very day, a story in which both you and I have a part to play.
Our journey through this epic story begins today right here at The Life Project; I hope you’ll decide for the entire ride!
The other day, I asked for your comments at the end of the post “Naked Before God: In Community (2)”, and I would like to thank those of you who commented. The reason I asked was that I believe that this topic has almost run its course, at least as much so as I am going to take it for now, and I wanted to see if someone would mention something I should have covered.
Many thanks to Steve B. who gave me the comment with the subject I hadn’t thought to address: Introverts.
The really ironic thing about it is that like Steve B., I am INTP-A on the Briggs test. That’s right gang, I am one of those introverted characters who hates parties, social events and… community in general; I would much prefer to be alone and unnoticed. The funny thing is, quite a few people that I know, have no idea that I am an introvert, particularly if they only know me from seeing me in front of a room full of people, for being in front of a room (public speaking in other words) has never been even the slightest problem for me; maybe that’s because of the “A” part which stands for assertive.
At any rate, in my mind, being introverted is sort of a given, and it hadn’t even occurred to me to mention it.
Most of the time, spiritual gifts and personality traits are more or less in harmony, so that extroverts are more likely to have leading gifts like leadership, exhortation or teaching. They might also have gifts such as hospitality, while introverts more commonly have serving gifts like helps or service or mercy. Yet for some of us, God has seen fit to give leading gifts to introverts like me. As a result, we are called to serve in the place where our service is uncomfortable; that is my story. I can truly tell you that God is strong where I am weak, and thus, He is glorified by my weakness in certain areas. While this is encouraging, it is still uncomfortable.
I really don’t know why God gave me a personality that doesn’t want to be noticed, and called me to leadership where you must be noticed… but that is the reality of my situation. Yet I can tell you that even though I dread those situations, when the time comes, He more than compensates for what I lack and people seldom suspect there’s a problem. The long and short of it is this: When God calls you to serve, go where He leads you secure in the knowledge that He will sustain you. Where God has given you spiritual gifts, use them, even if it’s scary, for God will be glorified in your discomfort.
The whole theory of naked before God in community however, is not really dependent upon our personality types, for it is instead dependent upon the quality of our relationships with Him. Please note that I haven’t called this “naked before the community”, I’ve called “naked before God in community”. In community with other believers, God is present in the midst of His people, and our nakedness is before God. It follows that our spiritual nakedness will spill over into our relationship with the humans who are also present. The key is for us to perceive His presence in the midst of the people, and as believers in the promises of Scripture, this perception is not as difficult as one might assume at first, once we have a little practice looking for Him.
Does this sound abstract or theoretical to you? Please believe me when I tell you that it isn’t; it is entirely practical. If you’ve never read it, or even if you have, please read a very short little book called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence; you can find it online for free. It is a classic of spiritual discipline that is on required reading lists in Seminaries of every denomination, and it is so simple and easy to understand that a child can master it in an hour or two. Brother Lawrence will tell you how to be naked before God in community.
I know that for the introvert, this whole subject can seem a little bit daunting, but in truth, we introverts have a decided advantage over the extroverts, for we do not crave attention, and are unlikely to perform in front of others, thus we must rely upon God in social settings… or just hide in the darkest corner of the room until we can escape. We also have more time available to be alone with God, and this gives us an enhanced opportunity for a deeper personal relationship with Him. If we recognize that our apparent disadvantage is actually an advantage, with a little effort and a degree of faith, we can let God do amazing “naked” things in and through us.
Once again, please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think!