Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.
Jewish men who lived within a 32 kilometre (20 mile) radius of Jerusalem were expected to attend three great Jewish Festivals during the year – Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. On the day when the Church first came into being, Pentecost was being celebrated. It was a feast that was celebrated fifty days after the Passover (when the sacrificial lambs had been slaughtered prior to the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt). It commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai and was an expression of gratitude to God for the harvest. It happened in the early summer months and so many people could travel in the better weather. This is why so many countries were represented when Peter preached his first sermon. The people who heard his message on that day would have been able to take the Gospel with them to their homelands. Luke did not actually witness the coming of the Holy Spirit. He wrote about what he had been told by those who were there. Whilst the account is brief, leaving many questions unanswered, it is the only account that exists of the birth of the Church. The symbols of wind and fire represent the Holy Spirit. The wind signifies the fact that the Spirit is gentle, powerful, invisible and represents the breath of life. Fire is symbolic because it provides light, warmth, purifies any contamination and represents God Himself.
Some scholars state that speaking in tongues was unnecessary as the people in the crowd would have been Jews and at most two languages would have been needed – Aramaic and the universal language of Greek, However, Luke recorded the event as people hearing Peter’s message in their own language. The power of the Holy Spirit had come down on the apostles and enabled each of them to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that those hearing it could understand. In spite of the amazement of many in the crowd, some people ridiculed the event concluding that it was only happening because the apostles were drunk. Peter put a quick end to this suggestion.
Now Peter, the impulsive, rough fisherman from Galilee, takes the lead in accordance with Jesus’ promise to him that he would have ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ and he flings the gates of heaven wide open as he preaches the first sermon in the Church age. And what a sermon it was, describing simply the way to salvation for everyone and resulting in the baptism of three thousand people!
The Jews had long ago realised they would never be able to achieve their status as God’s chosen people by themselves. God would need to intervene for this to happen and so they waited for the Day of the Lord when He would do so. Peter preaches that this Day has come for God has indeed intervened by sending His son, Jesus, for the salvation of all mankind and now the Holy Spirit’s power, guidance and help are available for all who believe. The wonders Peter listed were terrifying to his listeners – and even to those who hear them in the 21st century. But Peter concludes this part of his message by offering the hope of grace and forgiveness of those who call on Jesus’ name and who belong to Him.
What Christmas present or raise or promotion have you hoped for that you received? How did you feel when you realised your hope was being fulfilled? Or perhaps your hopes were not fulfilled. How did you feel then?
• How do you feel about hope today? Are you still dreaming and planning, or have you lost hope? Share briefly with the group how the pandemic has affected your dreams and hopes for your life.
• How would you describe your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Is He active in your life – or are you hesitating to let Him be involved? Why?
• How have you allowed the power and equipping of the Holy Spirit to help you keep hoping, dreaming and serving God? What can you see in your future that seems impossible for you to manage? How do you feel about asking the Holy Spirit for His help?
• What would you love to do to serve God and minister to His people yet feel it is beyond your ability to do? How can other people help you? Perhaps you need to attend a course, or chat with those already involved, or read some books. Perhaps you need to stop learning theories and step out boldly like the disciples did and just do it. What if anything is holding you back?
• How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?
Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, especially for those who want to invite the Holy Spirit to take an active role in their lives. Pray also in regard to any other needs of the group.
Spend time this week with another Christ-follower and pray together for the infilling of the Hol Spirit then, following His lead, step out boldly and minister to others. Be prepared to share with the group next time you meet as to what happened.
Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostles, The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh 1987
Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Acts 2”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Bible”. https://
www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/acts-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.