As we embark on a new work here in Moscow, we must begin by getting our thinking in line as to how God builds. History is the story of how God built His house. He didn’t do a cost/benefit analysis. He built it despite all the conniving of hell & earth. He built it without outside investors. He built it at the cost of His only Begotten Son. And, as we shall see, He’s now filled it with fire.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:41-47).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
As the miraculous day of Pentecost concluded, the shockwaves were only just beginning. At the end of Peter’s sermon a multitude (3000 to be precise) gladly received his word and were baptized (v41); this is a callback to the first “Pentecost,” when 3000 Israelite idolaters were cut down after the Golden Calf debacle (Ex. 32:28).
The early church is described in its corporate worship as being steadfast in the Apostles’ teaching––the basis for their fellowship––breaking the bread, and prayers (v42). The remarkable signs & wonders continued––fulfilling the prophetic word in Joel 2:19, 30––and great awe came upon every soul (v43).
Their corporate worship, daily in the temple, spilled over into the rest of life. The Believers were marked by generosity without compulsion, which manifested in a particular care for the host of sojourners in Jerusalem (vs.44-45). Not only did they gather daily in the temple, but also from house to house. The fellowship which they enjoyed through the Apostles’ doctrine spilled over into a joyful singularity of heart (v46), and faithful praise to God. The fruit of their faithful diligence in formal & informal worship & fellowship was favor amongst the people. This, in turn, produced rapid growth (v47).
THE GOD WHO SCATTERS
The day of Pentecost is unmistakably mirroring the ancient events which took place at the Tower of Babel. Babel was man’s attempt to climb into heaven to obtain a name for himself. Whereas God had tasked Adam & Eve to fill the world with His glory & name. The project of Babel was to find a unifying principle for the universe in man apart from God. So God scattered this blasphemous work. He confounded their language, fulfilling their worst fears (Gen. 11:4) of being scattering across the face of the earth.
This imagery is picked up later in the warnings to Israel, when the Lord threatens them with being scattered due to covenant breaking. “And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you (Deu. 4:27).” Israel was also to be God’s means of frustrating and scattering the city of man, which we see in their battle hymn, “And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee (Num 10:35).”
When man sets out to build apart from God, and in rivalry to God, God will scatter him. The Hebrew word used for “scatter” means dashing a vessel into a million shattered pieces. When man sets himself in rivalry to God the end result isn’t unity, it’s all the unity of a tornado in a trailer park. If Israel, the household of God, abandoned God and sought to build the kingdom apart from their Covenant King, the result would be what we find in the book of Acts: an Israel scattered to the four winds.
GATHERED TOGETHER IN CHRIST
The nations which are represented at Pentecost echoes the Table of Nations in Genesis 10. These Seventy nations had been scattered and frustrated in their opposition to God’s redemptive purposes. Now, however, these scattered nations, represented by Jews from the Diaspora, are gathered together as one by the mighty work of the Spirit.
Peter warned the Pentecost crowd to flee from this wicked generation (Acts 2:40), referring to unbelieving Israel, which itself had become a new Babel, of sorts. The Lord Jehovah who’d descended upon Altars, and the Tabernacle/Temple as a flaming fire (Cf. Gen. 15:17, Lev. 9:24, Jdg. 13:20, 1 Kg. 18:38, 1Ch 21:26, 2Ch 7:1ff), now sent His Spirit to dwell in a house of people; even people from all nations.
What marked these early Christians as a result of the Spirit’s working? Fidelity to the Gospel as taught by the Apostles, fellowship, breaking the bread, prayers both spoken and sung, hospitality, glad simplicity, and praise to God.
This was (and is) the secret sauce to church growth. Modern Christians think they can build the kingdom of God by using the bricks of Babel. We see it in the way evangelical leaders capitulate to the talking points of godless politicians. We see it in the way worship services are turned into entertainment events. We see it in how the plain Word of the Gospel is dulled and blunted in order to nuzzle into the same space as Oprah, Dr. Phil, and the self-care counselors on TikTok. We see it in the way we ignore the plain command to show hospitality, considering it an inconvenience to our personal schedule and possessions.
But God gathers people into His house by the faithful preaching of the scandal of the Gospel. The house of Israel crucified Jesus, the promised Messiah, the rejected cornerstone. But God wasn’t thwarted in His purpose. That same Jesus was now exalted to be the true & eternal King of Israel. His first act was to accompany the preaching of His Kingdom with the power of the Spirit to enable His citizens to joyfully obey their King.
FILLED UP TO WORK OUT
The Spirit was poured out, and the people weren’t idle. Just as the Spirit equipped the ancient saints with skill to build the tabernacle, the Spirit now fills His people to build a temple of people. People in whom God pleases to dwell. The Spirit’s outpouring became a flood of good works: fellowship, praise, covenant faithfulness, hospitality, and simplicity of heart.
So, what is the work that God has set in front of you to do? The progression of our text makes one thing plain, the Apostles’ doctrine was inseparable from the practice of the saints. The Word went forth, and the people lived out the Word. The works of righteousness followed the Word of the Righteous One.
Nothing, in principle, has been altered since that day of Pentecost. The description of the early church is what the true church is & always shall be defined by. Pentecost displays in vivid detail how God builds. God builds by scattering the proud and their vain imaginations. Then, just because He can, He gathers up the humble as a house of people.
God then filled that house with fire. The Spirit’s fire equips the saints with His presence, the presence of the Almighty. Thus we’re enabled to minister in His house. God’s household isn’t a silent, empty cathedral; it’s full of the bustle & hum of joyful saints busy with sacred work.
And what is that work? Our first duty is to believe the Apostles’ teaching: God has made Jesus, whom the House of Israel crucified, both Lord & Christ (Acts. 2:36). Secondly, we faithfully worship. Third, we throw the best parties.