Those Who Calls On The Name Of The Lord
Key Verse 2:18
“Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”
Throughout church history there have been periods of notable advances and breakthrough in the gospel work. Though the church is always advancing, there’s no doubt been seasons of mercy, where the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the church and large strides have been taken to fulfill the great commission. The overall advance in spreading the gospel has not been a steady one. Bursts of it have happened here and there. The history of the church does not reflect equal infiltration of the kingdom of darkness year in and year out. Reading about church history proves this. If you read Christian literature, you may have noticed that certain authors from previous time periods seem to have a passion and devotion that aren’t present in other times. Many of those authors may be from times or places of different revivals or awakenings. Church history shows that there are great renewals of grace, and after that periods of calm. And this cycle seems to repeat itself again and again.
About 200 years ago there was a great awakening of the church that was led by Jonathan Edwards. He said, “From the fall of man to our day, the work of redemption in its effect has mainly been carried on by remarkable (or, extraordinary) communications of the Spirit of God. Though there [is] a more constant influence of God’s Spirit always in some degree attending his ordinances, yet the way in which the greatest things have been done towards carrying on this work, always have been by remarkable effusions (or, outpourings), at special seasons of mercy.” (A History of Redemption, Works, vol. 1, p. 539) We like to call these seasons mercy, or revivals. Therefore, from time to time, our Heavenly Father has been pleased to pour out fresh new, uncustomary, outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Today we call it “revival”. Earlier, it was called “renewal”. And even earlier yet, it was called “reformation”. Whatever we call it, there is something that we need to understand about its nature. We cannot make it happen! The Father pours out his Spirit as he pleases. One of the great speakers of today, Paul Washer, admitted that he sometimes feels the anticipation of carrying a revival in his pocket when he is asked to speak elsewhere. But revival is the sovereign work of God when He pours out his Spirit on the spiritually dead or stagnant. This is something we ourselves cannot do. It is the Father’s Spirit to pour out. He does it sometimes on the whole church, sometimes on a specific denomination, or sometimes on a specific place. But it happens. He stirs up his people to cry out to him, sometimes for a long time before he pours out this fresh new awakening, and transformation. And he does it for the purpose of effectively calling people to receive Christ as Lord and Savior and so be saved.
This passage in Acts is the very first outpouring of the Spirit. Though it is God’s sovereign doing, we learned from the first 120 believers that we do have a responsibility in this. Though Jesus didn’t have to say it, we can tell just by observing them that our duty in this matter is to pray! In the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke18:8) If we are wondering where the revival is then the question is, have we prayed? Have we cried out to God day and night? Have we sent up heart cries asking Him to break through the heavens, and come down and so empower us as he did the early church so that we might transform our college, our neighborhood, and even our nation? I can honestly say that I haven’t. When I looked at my list of things I cried for this past year, I’m sorry to say that revival was far from making that list. But I come with the conviction that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit is not just for the birth of the early church. And that is not so distant and unrepeatable that we shouldn’t seek it. We actually have much to gain in observing this passage.
Let’s read chapter 2 verse 1. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” Why did the Holy Spirit come on Pentecost? Why did our Lord Jesus choose to pour out the Spirit this day? Why not the day before, or the day after, or three weeks later? Pentecost means “fiftieth.” It was a celebration feast of the Jews fifty days after Passover, where the Jews were required to show up in Jerusalem. Verse 5 tells us that there were “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” in the Jerusalem. Therefore, the Lord knew that there would be travelers from all over the known world. Some scholars take it a step further when looking at the meaning of the feast of Pentecost. According to Exodus 23:16 it was the festival of harvest where the Israelites would bring the best of the first fruits of their harvest to the house of God as an offering. But there was also a spiritual harvest that day. When the out-pouring of the Spirit happened, Peter explained that this was already prophesied in the book of Joel chapter 2. Many were cut to the heart! And verse 41 shows that there was a great harvest of about 3000 souls that day where many passed from spiritual death to new life in Christ. Some think that while Passover pointed to the death of Christ, Pentecost pointed to the harvest brought about by the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Before we move on to Peter’s address, let’s read verse 2. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Let’s focus on the word “suddenly” for just a moment. Let’s be reminded that the Holy Spirit is sovereign and unrestricted. He doesn’t submit to our timing or technique. He is free! He has never submitted to anyone’s will. Rather he submits us to himself! That is our hope anyhow. If he comes into anyone’s life, it will most likely be sudden. Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Though we are to pray day and night for revival and awakening, we can’t make the Holy Spirit show up. We can’t predict when or how he will arrive. Like the wind he blows wherever he pleases. He is God. Though he serves us hand and foot, he works in his own timing and for his own purpose.
Many of us are familiar with Dwight L. Moody’s life. He had a church in Chicago in 1871, and there were two women in his congregation who watched him. They began to pray for him that he would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Dwight L. Moody took notice of them and began to be irritated seeing them praying all the time in the front row while he was preaching. But finally he humbled himself and began to meet with them every Friday and pray that Lord would give him extraordinary new power for his ministry. On November 24th, 1871, Moody’s church burned to the ground with about a third of Chicago in the great Chicago fire. This was a terrible tragedy where many homes had burned down including Moody’s own home. From Chicago he then went to New York because he knew of some good friends who could assist in rebuilding his church. But he knew that he needed power more than he needed a building. He would walk the streets praying. He would pray, prepare me and baptize me… over and over. Here’s his description of what happened. One day, in the city of New York—oh, what a day!—I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name . . . I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world— it would be small dust in the balance. (W. R. Moody, The Life of D. L. Moody, New York: 1900, p. 149) Moody prayed, and was an obedient pastor, a hard worker and a soul winner. But he knew that he needed more if the needs of the 1870s would be met and the world would be ministered to. He cried out for more but it didn’t happen for a long long time. But it did come and when it came, it was suddenly and it brought a harvest. We may not know if he ever spoke in tongues or did any miracles, but we know that he brought in an extraordinary harvest for the Lord. Therefore, we can conclude that the Holy Spirit imparts a clothing of power to witness, and that He comes when He pleases. We can ask that he comes, but we cannot dictate his way or his timing.
Look at verses 5-13. We see that the filling of the Holy Spirit caught the attention of the God-fearing Jews nearby. Some were pleasantly curious, while others thought that these disciples were celebrating the feast just a little too early with much wine. Like these men, we sometimes have a hard time believing and discerning the work of God, even when it’s happening before our very eyes. Let’s read verse 14-16. “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:” Peter was at one time so afraid he couldn’t admit that he knew Jesus even to a young girl. (Mark 14:68) After denying him, Peter probably thought he’d be the last person to step up and lead. But at this time he doesn’t look so fearful. He fully accepted God’s love and forgiveness from the heart. And now he stood up boldly in front of a large crowd to share that same love and forgiveness in this life-giving sermon that saved about 3000 people. Like Peter, all the disciples were paralyzed at one time. They were too timid to show their faces in fear that the Jews would persecute them. But now they could stand up with Peter, with hearts heavily burdened for these sheep who had no shepherd. When the Holy Spirit descended on these fearful men they had boldness and love to see this large crowd, not as intimidating but as desperately in need of God’s love. And so Peter began to address this crowd with the words of Joel the prophet.
Let’s read verses 2:17-21. “In the last days…” What are the last days? Are we in the last days? There are many descriptions that are found in scripture that speak of the last days. The Bible describes this world like a terrible place that’s about to get much worse. We are in these last days. According to Joel, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit sparked the beginning of the last days of the age. And in the face of all that’s coming, God is going to continually pour out His Holy Spirit in great blessing and power. Why? Because it will take something extraordinary to finish the great gospel work which Christ began. In the face of the coming hardship, it will take something beyond us to prevent us from growing cold in unbelief. As the Bible warns, there will be some who will abandon the faith even for trivial things. But not all will abandon the faith! Some will burn with the passion of God, and will finish the work Christ began. Without passion, without boldness, without love, there’s no way anyone can finish the work Jesus promised will surely be finished before the end of the age comes.
Joel says, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” It really is a good thing that the Lord does not discriminate but makes His Spirit available to all people, men and women, lower and upper class, young and old, skilled and unskilled alike! His Spirit’s work is also to unify the church. Remember how the apostles used to be so divided over small things, but now they stood up together in all their differences— and they did so in order to serve the Lord! The pouring of the Holy Spirit will be so that we can serve the gospel call and serve it together! No one should be left out of this blessing. These are the kinds of things that He will be doing. He will be drawing people together in ministry— not pushing us apart. He gives us our gifts so that we serve together. He will continue to draw us together, making us one in perfect harmony and rhythm of ministry. When the Holy Spirit comes he fills all, he gives gifts to all for building each other up and for ministering to the world. It is not the work of the Holy Spirit when God’s people are divided. Nor is it the work of the Holy Spirit when we say, “I’m not called to minister yet,” or “I’m no longer called to ministry.” Or it’s not for me!” If that is happening in someone’s life or church, it is not of the Holy Spirit. But on the contrary, He pulls old men and young men, men and women, even slaves and masters together in ministry. We are never too old to minister, never too late to dream, and never to young to witness and speak about Jesus to someone else.
Look at verses 19-20. “I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” When the Holy Spirit works, we see many wonders and miracles. These verses talk about natural marvels and wonders that will attribute glorious majesty to the Holy Spirit who is God, at work. However, the greatest miracle and wonder ascribed to the Holy Spirit is His work in our hearts. A life changed by the Spirit power is the greatest miracle of all. It is literally the act of raising one soul from death to life. Jesus told us about this saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:6) The Bible tells us that no one can go to heaven the way he or she is. We need to be changed into a new person, a different person through faith in Christ and in his redeeming work! We need cleansing through the blood of Christ shed on the cross for our sins. We need a transformation which only the Holy Spirit can do in our inner person when the Spirit comes into our hearts and lives, and when we surrender to him. No one can change you, or me. People try to change by reading self help books, or by making resolutions to change. But they all fail! We can’t change ourselves even if we wanted to. You and I need the power of God to change us. We need the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts and we need his sanctifying work to transform us into a Christ-like person.
The world, its evil, its corruption and sin may have their day now. In fact these verses speak of darker days to come. We can agree that many believers today are witnessing a great amount of darkness and the work of darkness. But the judgment day God promised will come some day and it will be all over. The world and its people will be judged, some to eternal life and others to eternal condemnation. But until that day, God has provided a way out for those who love him and who want to escape His judgment. God provided salvation. How? Look at verse 21. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Who is the Lord and how can we call on him to be saved? In the latter verses of this chapter, Peter gave a Gospel message to the crowds who were there in order to bring them to the salvation of their souls. He spoke to them about the Lord Jesus, his life and death and resurrection and ascension to heaven. It was a full gospel message that was meant to reveal to everyone there what Jesus went through in order to save people from their sins. It was a very sweet and gentle gospel. Jesus was crucified for our sins. But God raised him from the dead. Peter knew that that day, there were many among the crowd who never even witnessed Jesus’ life, suffering and death. But it was exactly the message they needed to hear. And they accepted the gospel! They repented of their sins! And they committed their lives to Jesus from then on. And what did God do? God himself gave them what he promised to give all those who receive Christ in faith and commit to him— He gave them the same gift of the Holy Spirit who was poured out earlier that day. Actually that’s all you and I can do! We can live a life of repentance as we call on his name! We can do so when we fully surrender to the Holy Spirit in faith and humility. Surely, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will also be saved according to his promise.