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Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21, 41-46
May 19, 2024

Today is the Day of Pentecost, also called Whitsun or Whitsunday, also called the “Feast of Weeks,” or Shavout in Hebrew. Jewish pilgrims from all over the known world would head to Jerusalem for this feast which occurred 50 days after Passover to offer their first fruits of the spring harvest at the temple, according to God’s command.

And by the way, if you ever hear me call some special church day a “feast” day, don’t get all tied in knots. The term “feast” is the traditional, historic term used both in the church and in ancient Judaism to mark special celebrations on the calendar. The word “feast” comes from Latin and means either “holiday” or “festival” or “a day of celebration.”

The Day of Pentecost is a stark contrast to the day the Lord confused the tongues of the multitude who were trying to build a tower to God, the Tower at Babel, thousands of years before, and even many hundreds of years before Abraham or the first Hebrew people.

On this Day, while Jerusalem was jam-packed with over a million Jews and Jewish proselytes, people who converted to Judaism, God chose to turn the ancient Feast of Weeks, a grain harvest feast, into a new kind of harvest feast – a people harvest feast where sinners were converted to Christ as the first fruits of the new and eternal kingdom of God, the Christian church.

But to do it, the people needed to hear the message preached by the Apostles. Now, what language do you suppose the Apostles were preaching in? Well, the Apostles spoke both Hebrew and Greek, and since they were planning to preach to mainly Jews, they likely planned on preaching in Hebrew.

However, not everyone in Jerusalem that day spoke Hebrew and many of them spoke Greek, Latin, along with other ethnic dialects, and much like one of us going to a middle eastern country or France or Italy, there was not always constant and reasonable communication going on between different groups of people…that is, until the Holy Spirit rested on the heads of the Apostles as flames of fire and the Apostles began to speak.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the speaking Spirit, the teaching Spirit, the Apostles were able to preach in other languages. And there were 12 apostles preaching so it is quite reasonable to assume that each of them was speaking at least one of the many languages and dialects represented in Jerusalem.

It is at this point, however, that we must be careful not to go off the rails. See, among the crowds in Jerusalem that day, there were some skeptics who heard the Apostles preaching and they heard what sounded like drunken speech. They immediately assumed that the 12 men had been on a bender all night and into the morning and that they were speaking gibberish, nonsensical noise. Why they didn’t hear clearly as the others were hearing, I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. Regardless, Peter used this accusation as a stepping off point to preach the first Apostolic Christian sermon.

This also says something about the whole idea of speaking in tongues in general. Since the 1800’s, the notion of speaking in tongues, for some Christians, has turned into something entirely not as described in the Scripture. It’s turned into a meritorious thing where children and new converts are essentially forced to speak in unintelligible sounds to show they are really spiritual or truly Christian. But true, biblical tongues is about proclamation of the Gospel and not about proving ones faith. But I’m probably preaching to the choir here so I’ll move on.

Now, we just heard part of Peter’s sermon in our second reading today. The first thing Peter does is say, “We’re not drunk, it’s only 9:00!” And then he proceeds to explain what’s going on, and he chooses to quote the prophet Joel.

And he starts out with these words: “In the last days…,” and these words tell us something very important about the eschaton, or the return of the Lord to judge the living and the dead. The “last days” began after the ascension of Christ Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. And then the rest of the quote from the prophet Joel puts all of church history, from the Day of Pentecost until the final Last Day, whenever that day is, and shrinks it down into about five verses.

So, Peter makes the claim that the true kingdom of Christ has come and that the doors to salvation and eternal life are now open for all who call in the Name of the Lord.

Then his sermon switches gears and he proceeds to preach as Christ taught him, the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. He tells the people that Jesus of Nazareth – this man that they all heard about because the Jerusalem grape vine is vast – that because of their sins and their Jewish false beliefs, they crucified Him using pagan, sinful Roman hands. See, that’s the Law. You murdered an innocent man, you are a sinner, you are to blame.

But Peter doesn’t stop with the law, but he quickly proclaims the Gospel by preaching God’s answer to their transgression, that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead and has destroyed death, and every one of those men, the other 11 apostles all saw it, that He ascended into heaven just a couple weeks prior, and that this man, whom they crucified, is both Lord and Messiah.

The Law and the Gospel.

And then some of the people were cut to the heart. In other words, the Law which they heard brought them to their knees, they were humbled, they repented, they realized their sin and they cried out for help.

And what does Peter say? Repent, in other words, “turn from your Judaism and your false beliefs, and yes from our sins,” and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Christ Jesus, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter doesn’t say, “Make your decision for Jesus,” or “Let’s do an altar call” or “commit your life to Christ, promise to stop sinning so much, give at least 10% to the New Jerusalem Church,” or anything of the sort. Instead, he offers them the forgiveness of sins through repentance and baptism. And who does he offer it to? Just the adults, just the men, just those who have the mind power to reasonably understand it all? No, but to “you and your children, and to all who are far off,” in other words, to adults, to teens, to children, to infants, to all near and far, to all people of all ages whom God has called.

And then what resulted for those first 3,000 converts to Christianity? Well, most importantly, God provided what He promised: salvation, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit. But what did the gift of salvation and forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit lead to?

It literally led to these new converts walking away from the first fruits offering at the temple according to Jewish Law, to instead sitting at the feet of the Apostles and offering their attention to the Word of God, to Christian unity in doctrine and practice, to Christian worship, and to the Lord’s Supper. They learned and learned and learned, they were in one accord because they all believed the same things, they received the Lord’s Supper in a repentant and unified way, and they worshiped together according to the new traditions they were making. Learning, fellowship, breaking of bread, and the prayers.

It is here where we see the stark, night and day difference between the one true Christian faith, and the false religions and their false believers.

False religions, and this includes the false, spirit of antichrist religions found in the Christian church, by the way, false religions always place the focus on the individual. And we should not be shocked at this, not at all, because this is the tactic the devil is hellbent on using, all the time. Just go back to the Garden of Eden, back to Genesis 3, and that’s where the devil shows his cards and we just do not ever need to be shocked at how he plays the game. And here it is…

God says, “Trust me and my Word, abide in me, remain in me,” and what does the devil say? “Don’t trust God; don’t trust His Word; don’t abide in Him, but trust yourself, trust your feelings, trust your opinions, trust your gut, trust what you perceive as true and good, because you know better than God, and this makes you like God.”

We should not be shocked at this because it’s always the same. Do we see this in the Christian church? ABSOLUTELY we do! Jesus says, “believe in Me and you shall have eternal life,” right? But then the spirit of antichrist comes in and says what? “Ah, it’s not enough to just believe, no, but you have to speak in tongues, then you’re ‘really’ a Christian. You have to work out a deal with God, show Him you really want to be saved and bring your best game to the altar call, only then can you be saved. You have to promise to increase your giving by at least 10% over the next year or you’re not really a Christian. You have to get your life right and stop drinking and fornicating, right now, or you’re no true believer. You have to give 100% of your time and commitment to the church right now our you’re not really a follower of Jesus.”

That’s the spirit of antichrist – the focus is on you and what you do. And where do we see this? Everywhere, right? Everywhere. Spend just a little bit of time listening with discerning ears to preachers of different church bodies and what you will find MOST often these days are preachers preaching about YOU and how YOU can have a better, happier, healthier, more fulfilled life – “Because that’s what God wants for you” – if you do certain things or make certain changes. And it’s all antichrist, a message, a man, a method, a mantra which seems like it’s Christ, seems like it’s Christian, but in truth is far, far from Jesus and His Word. Everybody loves it, EVERYBODAY loves it because our sinful nature is drawn to such false teaching, but it does not lead to eternal life.

This is, in fact, what Jesus is talking about when He says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” This is what Paul is saying when he writes, “For there will come a time when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, because they have itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in line with their own desires.” They will get mad at a pastor and a church because they don’t like what he’s teaching, and they’ll run off to find some church that tells them exactly what they want to hear and practices how they want to practice, even if that church is filled with the spirit of antichrist and false teaching.

The Holy Spirit does not draw us to abide in whatever word or teaching we please. And let us not get confused about this; let us not conclude that how we feel or what we personally opine about what is taught or not taught is what makes the teaching good or bad. Instead, the Holy Spirit draws us to the Word of Christ, which is the same way as saying the Word of God, which is the same way as saying the Holy Scripture.

Now, let’s just call a spade a spade. If a church or church body rejects the Scripture as the infallible, inspired Word of God, such that they play silly puddy with the Bible and add and remove things as they please, that church, that church body is no longer Christian; it is antichrist, and we have no business defending or frequenting that church. Further, if a church or a church body rejects the most important doctrine of the Scripture which is justification by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and they teach in some way, shape, or form that man is saved by some merit or work of his own apart from or along with God’s grace, that church has embraced the spirit of antichrist.

And as the Scripture tells us, many, many people will leave orthodoxy, reject the teaching of Christ and His apostles in the last days.

Paul writes, “In the last days there will be terrible times. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemous, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, not able to reconcile with others, slanderous, without self-control, savage, haters of what is good, treacherous, reckless, puffed up with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to an outward form of godliness but denying its power…Some of them are people who worm their way into households and gain control over vulnerable women who are overwhelmed with sins, led astray by various evil desires, always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This is the world today. This is people today. And this is the spirit of antichrist infesting our churches and many people in the churches who claim to know something but have no understanding of the truth, because this is what the spirit of antichrist does. He blinds people and confuses people and turns people inward, looking into themselves for salvation and assurance and hope, and all the while they never find it because it’s not there.

But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, He is only interested in your salvation and forgiveness and eternal life. He does not ask you to perform a song and dance for Him, to speak in some angelic languages or play holy roller in the aisles. He doesn’t ask you to make yourself completely perfect before you die in order to be saved. He doesn’t ask you to bring your best to God so that God might consider giving you His help, and He doesn’t promise you health, wealth, and happiness in this life if you commit to Him and unlock the secret blessing codes in the Bible.

In fact, the Holy Spirit comes and asks for your worst, your darkest, your most evil and sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. He asks you to repent, in other words, don’t protect your sins and transgressions, don’t fight to keep them, but hand them in, turn them over, throw them on the shoulders of Jesus. The Holy Spirit leads you to the cross where you see your bloody and dying Lord suffering for you, dying for you – taking your place and giving you by water and blood, giving you His perfect righteousness. The Holy Spirit calls for you to believe and trust that Jesus forgives and gives you paradise.

Let’s just be clear, we are all responsible for the sordid death of our Lord on the cross, every one of us. We are responsible because we are sinful. But in the end of the day, we are innocent because Jesus died. We are responsible, but He is condemned for it. We should suffer God’s wrath for every sin we commit, but He is charged and convicted. We are the actual sinners in our thoughts, words, and deeds, but He is the adulterer, the liar, the murderer, the thief, the slanderer, the coveter, the man who can’t stop using cuss words and using His Lord’s name in vain, the sloth, the drunkard, the addict, the fornicator. We did all these things, but He takes the blame.

This is the message of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ and what we see in Christ is our sins being taken with Him to the grave and left there forever when He rises again. As Paul writes, we were buried with Christ in our baptisms and raised up with him to new life.

Brothers and sisters, graduates who are about to head off to college and adulthood, repent and turn from the spirit of antichrist and turn from the desires of your flesh and vices of sin and darkness, and believe that Jesus IS the one, true Savior who has saved you and given you true, lasting freedom.

Hear the words of the Spirit of Christ as He comes and calls you to believe and trust in the cross and resurrection of Jesus your Lord. See the steep price for your sinning and rebellion, and then remember what God has done for you in your baptism, how He has called you by name, made you His child, and given you His kingdom eternal. Because this promise of salvation is for you and for your children, and for all to whom the Lord God shall call.

And then, brothers and sisters, by the power of the same Spirit of God, abide in Him, fall at His feet to learn and to grow. Practice engaging in the fellowship of God’s people, being in church, hearing the Word and receiving the Lord’s true body and blood in the breaking of the bread. No longer live as the world and by the spirit of antichrist who has come into the world, but now, dearly beloved, live as Christ, suffer with Christ, and when the day comes, enter your sleep of death in the certain hope of a resurrection. Amen.