The Spirit is given in Acts Chapter 2 and everything for the fledgling church changes. They go from wondering what is next to proclaiming Christ in power. They go from focused on the earthly kingdom to focusing on the Spiritual Kingdom. They go from questions to answers. This all occurs because of the receiving of the Holy Spirit and there is a lot to look at but first, we need to back up.
The giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit are tied to the giving and receiving of the Law in Exodus 24:15-17. We don’t know for sure but the Jewish people of the time and many today believed that God gave Moses the Torah (or Law) Pentecost (Shavuot). The people believed this is when God gave His Holy Law. God gave His Law to Moses and people needed to obey it and hold to the letter of it. The Law was God’s rule book on how covenant people were to behave and live. It gave them guidance on how to maintain the relationship with God. But all along God was working towards something different, something better, something more permanent and inward.
God promised that He would give a New Covenant, one that did not require external enforcement, an external reading, an external commitment. He was going to be as close to the greatest as He was to the least. All people would have the same access and connection to Him. When we read Jerimiah 31:33-34 we see that God was moving towards a relationship that was not based on external but internal and binding in a way the Law could never be. Something that would drive the people in a way they could never expect.
With that background in mind, we can look at Acts 2:1-4. The Spirit is given on this day to bring in the New Covenant. The people were united and of one purpose (accord) they received the promise together. God was fulling His promise to write His law on our hearts and be our God. God was making us complete. He was taking the best He had which was Himself and placing it inside of us. No longer do people have to go somewhere, ask someone, or do something to get direction. The Spirit of God is now living on the inside of us. The promise had come but there was more to be completed.
We have to back up again because what we are reading is the fulfillment of promises. To look at the fulfillment without looking at the issue and the promise is to miss the wonder of the conclusion. It would be like watching part two of a movie after the cliffhanger and thinking you fully understand the second part. We need the rest of the story in Genesis 11:5-7 to see why this is so amazing. The people after the flood were rebellious against God and wanted to not only meet God on their own terms, but they wanted to make God meet them on their terms. God cannot be mocked so He confused their language and broke their unity. God took their gift of unity and broke it to show He is One true God and that He cannot be forced into anything. He wanted to ensure people knew that He had total power and dominion.
When we understand that then we can read Acts 2:6 with a new lens. God was now reuniting all people under His Son. He sent His Spirit so all people would be able to be unified in heart, mind, and spirit. The giving of the Spirit not only put God’s purpose and law on their hearts but united them together externally as well.
The church now has power (the Holy Spirit) and unity. The church can now start her mission to change and disciple the world. Now people do not have to wait for a special moment because we are baptized into the Spirit at the moment, we accept Christ (Eph 1:13; 1 Cor 12:13).
It is in Acts 2:5-26 that Peter gives his big sermon where 3000 people come to Christ. We see a lot of things in this sermon, but one important thing is that Peter tells the people they are guilty of killing the Messiah. The Mosaic Law gives no sacrifice for murder. If you kill someone that is it there is no way to escape the punishment. Add to this that the people killed God’s Messiah and Son. However, what is amazing is that the people hearing Peter ask what can be done. According to the Law, they had no right to ask such a question, but I believe the Spirit was guiding them along. Peter tells them that there is forgiveness available in Christ by believing in Him.
Acts 2:42-47 shows the growing church and how they operated daily. It shows us what it meant for the fledgling church to navigate this new world of unity, power, and forgiveness. Theologians, scholars, and the average man on the street has poured over these verses for two millennia to try and understand how we contextualize or use this to structure our churches. I would argue there is no easy answer. There is no one-stop shopping here because it is incredibly complex. That being said I think there is at least one thing we can take away from it regardless of your context: Unity.
Unity is a central theme in this chapter. The disciples were united in prayer. The people were united in their response to the Gospel. The Spirit coming united people in language. The people are later united in giving towards the cause and for those in need. Unity is what the church needs. I get it there are denominational and doctrinal differences, but unity can still be achieved. We can still be united for the cause of Christ. First, we unite to God being reconciled to Him, after that it should be easy to unite to each other.
Just a thought,