What Pentecost Did To The Church
May 1st, 1983 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT PENTECOST DID TO THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-1-83 10:50 a.m.
And welcome once again to the multitudes who share this hour with us in the First Baptist Church, on radio and television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled What Pentecost Did to the Church. If you would like to turn in your Bible to the Pentecostal chapter, Acts 2, the second chapter of the Book of Acts, we begin reading at verse 41, Acts 2:41: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized . . ." Always, in the New Testament, that immediately followed a confession of faith, they were immediately baptized:
And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued steadfastly . . . in the didachē, in the koinōnia, in the eucharisteō –
the thanksgiving of breaking bread, and in the proseuchē –
in the teaching the doctrine.
They gave themselves to it. In the koinōnia, the togetherness, the unity of the fellowship, the communion; in the breaking of bread, the eucharisteō, the thanksgiving to God; and in the prayers, proseuchē, the intercessions before God.
"And they, continuing," in verse 46, "daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house" [Acts 2:46]. If I can understand the Scriptures at all, they observed the Lord’s Supper every day. They ate an agape feast and closed it with that thanksgiving to God for the gift of His love and grace on the cross. "And they did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God and having favor with all of the people. And the Lord added to the church daily." Luke wrote it, "those who were being saved" [Acts 2:46-47]. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" [Acts 2:47]. You cannot imagine with what gratitude to God I came to realize in these present months: we have a baptismal service every day in our dear church.
What Pentecost did to the church: all of my life, ever since I was a youth, coming as a teaching from all Christendom, I have heard them say, "Pentecost is the birthday of the church, this is the day the church began," Pentecost! I would have no quarrel with that personally, if that is what they teach and believe. As a youth, I doubted it, questioned it, and in all of my studying through the years since, in my own heart I am confirmed in the persuasion that Christ built the church, organized it; He did it! He said, "I will build My church" [Matthew 16:18]. He did it! John the Baptist gathered the material, our Lord organized it into a church [Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18], and Pentecost quickened it; breathed the breath of God into it [Acts 2:1-4].
I have, for example, made a list here of twenty-seven characteristic identifications of the church before Pentecost; such as, they had the ordinances, baptism [Matthew 3:5-6], and the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28]; they had an organization, they had a discipline [Acts 1:12-26]. They had the ordinances. They had the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20]. They had everything that we have and know as a church before Pentecost. But Pentecost breathed the Spirit of life and power, the quickening presence of God into the organized life of the congregation [Acts 2:1-4]. It’s the same kind of a thing as we’re told in the second chapter of Genesis. The Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground, and he was there before Him, complete. Then the Scriptures say, "God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul" [Genesis 2:7]. That’s what God did at Pentecost. Or again, in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophecy of Ezekiel: he sees a great valley of dry bones [Ezekiel 37:1-2], and the Lord says to him, "Prophesy!" [Ezekiel 37:4]. And those bones joined each to the other, and sinew upon them, and the flesh to make it fair [Ezekiel 37:8].
Then God said, "Prophesy to the breath of God" [Ezekiel 37:9]. "O breath of God, breathe into these dead bodies!" [Ezekiel 37:9]. And God’s breath entered their dead bodies and they became a standing great army. That’s what happened at Pentecost: the Holy Spirit of God breathed the breath of life into the church Jesus built and organized [Acts 2:1-4].
Now in the subject, what Pentecost did to the church, there are four things that I see as I read the Holy Scriptures in the Book of Acts; four things Pentecost did to the church that Jesus organized. Number one: there came into the body a holy boldness in the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon them. Before Pentecost, both Matthew and Mark say that when our Lord was arrested, all of the disciples – all of them – forsook Him and fled [Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50]. And four of the Gospels, all four of the writers describe the weak defection of Simon Peter when he was accosted in the trial of our Lord. "You were one of them!" He denied saying, "I do not know Him. I have never seen Him." And a little maid confronted him saying, "But you talk like Him. You sound like Him." And Peter replied, "You say I talk like Him? Then listen to this!" And he cursed and swore, "I never saw Him. I do not know Him!" [Matthew 26:69-74; Mark 14:67-71; Luke 22:54-60; John 18:15-17]. Before Pentecost. Then after Pentecost, I read:
And when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men –
they were not of the rabbinical schools –
they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
The translation says: "That they had seen them with the Lord." They were like the Lord, bold in the faith. Then, in the same marvelous chapter:
And they said, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that we may be bold in our witnessing.
And the place was shaken where they were gathered together;
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness!
[Acts 4: 31]
Pentecost makes the difference. Anywhere, everywhere, in every association, we ought to speak a wonderful word for Jesus. That people could know you and not realize that you’ve given your life to the Lord, to me is unthinkable in the faith! I was never more disappointed than a man talking to me about a member of this church, a deacon in our church. And he said, "He is a member of your church?" And I said: "Yes."
"You say he’s a deacon in your church?" I said: "Yes."
"Well," he said, "that amazes me. I have been doing intimate business with him for twenty years, and I didn’t even know that he was a Christian!" Unthinkable and unimaginable to me! In any group, in any association, there ought to be something of the witness of Christ by word, and life, and deed, and testimony. That’s Pentecost! That’s the Spirit of God in us; boldness in the faith.
Number two: power in witnessing. The pre-Pentecostal church, look at it. Ten of the apostles – ten of them – spoke to a fellow apostle, Thomas, and said, "Thomas, He is raised from the dead, He is alive. He lives!" And Thomas said, "I do not believe it! Dead men do not rise from the dead, and until I could see the print of the nails in His hands and put my fingers in the prints; until I could see His side and thrust my hand into His side, I would not believe!" [John 20:25]. All ten apostles say, "But Thomas, we have seen Him. He is alive!"
"I don’t believe it!"
That’s the pre-Pentecostal church. After Pentecost, the Scriptures say, "And with great power gave they witness to the resurrection of Jesus from among the dead" [Acts 4:33]. And there were three thousand who believed at Pentecost, that one day! [Acts 2:41] Then the Book says, "And there are five thousand andrōn" [Acts 4:4], men in contradistinction to women. There must have been twenty thousand by that time. Then the Scriptures say, "A great throng of the priests were obedient to the faith" [Acts 6:7]. And then Luke loses the numbers, and he speaks of the multitudes [Acts 5:14], the multitudes; power in witnessing to the saving grace of our Lord.
I remember one time speaking at a state evangelistic conference. I was referring to John Chrysostom, Chrysostom, the Greek word for "golden mouth." John Chrysostom, pastor of the church in Antioch, and in 385 AD, John Chrysostom said – I was preaching, saying, he had fifty thousand members in his church there in Antioch – and after the service was over, some of the men came to me and said: "Are you sure about that?"
I said: "I know for sure."
"Well, we just don’t believe it."
So when I came home, I got all my books down, and I reread them and I found that John Chrysostom said he had one hundred thousand members in his church there in Antioch. The power of God was upon him and upon the people; that’s Pentecost! Power in witnessing!
A third characteristic, a third result of the Pentecostal outpouring upon the church: an acceptance of a trusteeship, a stewardship of all that we possess before the Lord. The pre-Pentecostal church: I read here in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew. The occasion was the rich young ruler who would not give up anything for the Lord Jesus, and the disciples were astonished when Jesus let him walk away [Matthew 19:16-22]. He was the finest prospect they had ever seen! He was rich; they were so poor. He had dignity, and position, and social status; and they were so peasant-like. He had everything to give – power, and strength, to the cause of Christ. And the Lord watches him walk away! [Matthew 19:22]. He wouldn’t give up anything for Jesus. Simon Peter begins thinking about that, and finally he said, "Well, that is right, he would not give up anything for Jesus, he should not have anything."
And then he had another idea: "We have given up everything. What are we going to get?" The Scriptures say, "Then answered Simon Peter and said: Behold, Lord, we have forsaken all and followed Thee. What shall we have therefore?" [Matthew 19:27]. "What are we going to get out of it? And that is the carnal heart and life of the whole world: what does it mean for me? What do I get out of it? That’s the pre-Pentecostal church and the pre-Pentecostal life. What is it for me? Now after Pentecost, reading again and again here in the Holy Scriptures:
Neither did any man count what he possessed as his own – not one –
But those that had houses and lands brought them at the feet of the apostles,
the money for which they were sold, and laid it down at the apostles’ feet.
And it gives an illustration of Joses, whom they surnamed "son of consolation," Barnabas – who, having land, sold it and brought it and laid it at the apostles’ feet [Acts 4:36-37]. "Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own" [Acts 4:32]; it belongs to God. A stewardship, a trusteeship before the Lord: in a way that I pray God will bless, let me try to present that to our hearts.
When I was a boy, a little fellow, a very small boy, I was taken one hundred twenty-five miles from the northwest high plains to Amarillo; there stayed in a godly home, and listened for a week to a revival meeting held by the pastor of this dear church, George W. Truett. As I look back upon that day, not in any imagination of which I could ever have thought for, would I have supposed that someday, for forty years, I would stand in his pulpit and preach the unsearchable riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. I sat there as a little boy, listening to that great, marvelous, golden-mouthed Chrysostom preacher. Then, of course, in the years after, I heard him many times in other revival meetings, in great worldwide convocations. And always, the same impression upon me as was made when I listened to him as a little boy; profoundly moved.
Last week, I was in a meeting, a meeting of preachers, and they said to me, "How is it that Dr. Truett had such a profound impression upon you?" In other ways, I tried to explain; but this way, this morning, illustrates that third Pentecostal difference: the change in human heart and life concerning a trusteeship before God. It was this: listening to Dr. Truett, at one of those times he spoke of his preaching to the cowboys in West Texas in an annual camp revival meeting. Every summer he’d leave this church and go out there and hold a camp revival meeting for those cowboys. He said upon this day, after the morning service, he was invited to eat dinner, noontime, with a big cattleman. And after they had broken bread, the rancher asked the pastor if he would walk with him. So the two walked, and Dr. Truett said they walked a long, long way. And as they did, the pastor said the big chest of the cattleman began to heave with a great inward anguish and agony.
And when they came to a ledge of rock by the side of a little hill, and walked behind it, they stopped. And the cattleman turned to Dr. Truett and said, "Dr. Truett, until this morning I thought all of these thousands of acres were mine. Now I learn that they belong to God, and I am God’s trustee and God’s steward. Until this morning, I thought all of these thousands of head of cattle were mine. But this morning, I learned they belong to God, and I am God’s steward and God’s trustee. Now Dr. Truett," said the cattleman, "I want you to kneel down here, and I want you to tell God for me that I give Him back all of these acres and all of these cattle, and that I’ll be a good trustee and a good steward of what God has given me. Then pastor, after you’re through, I have something I want to say to Him for myself."
So Dr. Truett said he knelt by the cattleman and he told God what the cattleman had said. All of these thousands of acres and all of these heads of cattle belong to God. He’ll be a faithful trustee and steward of what God has given him. Then when the pastor had done his talking in behalf of the cattleman, the cattleman began speaking to God for himself, and this is what he said: "O God, I have given You this day all of these thousands of acres, and all of these thousands of head of cattle. And I have promised I’ll be a good steward and a good trustee of what God has placed in my hands. And now, Lord – and now, Lord, could I also give You our bad boy? He has broken the heart of his mother, and he has brought my spirit down into the dust of the ground. O God, would You take also our bad boy?"
Dr. Truett said that night, that night, while he was preaching to the cowmen in that camp revival, that night in the middle of his sermon that boy came down the aisle, walked over to his father and mother and said, "Dad, Mother, I cannot wait until that man has done his sermon. Dad, Mother, I have found the Lord. I have been saved! Christ has come into my heart and into my life." Dr. Truett said the scene was indescribable! "Heaven came down, our souls to greet, and glory filled the mercy seat," ["The Mercy Seat"; Hugh Stowell, 1831]. That is Pentecost! That’s the presence and power of God!
Lord, nothing I have is mine,
All I possess is Thine.
And Lord, I’ll be a good trustee;
I’ll be a good steward of what God has given me.
Isn’t that what it says? "Neither said any one of them that aught they possessed was their own," it belonged to God [Acts 4:32]. The Pentecostal difference; Lord, how You change our souls and our eyes. That’s the way we ought to be, filled with the Spirit of God. These things, all we possess, belong to Him.
The fourth, the Pentecostal difference: the first one was boldness [Acts 4:13, 29-31], the second was power in witness [John 20:25; Acts 4:33], the third was trusteeship [Acts 4:32, 34-37], the fourth is koinōnia, communion, fellowship, unity, singleness of heart, loving the brethren, one in the faith and in the Lord [Acts 2:42, 46-47].
The pre-Pentecostal church: you know, last week in reading it and preparing this sermon, in reading the Scriptures, I came across a word in Luke 22:24 that I could never remember having seen again, philoneikia; philoneikia; I found out it is the only place in the New Testament that is ever used. Used by Dr. Luke, Philoneikia. And he uses it in Luke 22:24 to describe the apostles, the disciples of the Lord, philoneikia; and he uses it to describe them like this: it is translated in your Bible, "contention," contention; he uses it in describing the apostles. Even when they came to the Last Supper [Luke 22:11-20], and they were seated there in the upper room at the Passover meal, at the time the Lord instituted the Eucharist, the thanksgiving service, the communion service, the Lord’s memorial supper. He uses that word to describe the apostles, philoneikia [Luke 22:24]. Well, what does it mean? Well, I struggled to put everything together that the word refers to. It refers to eagerness in strife; it refers to an abounding energy and zeal in contention. They liked hating one another, and hitting one another over the head with a club, they liked jostling one another for the chief seats. That’s the occasion of it there in Luke’s story. Very apparent what happened: when they sat down at the Last Supper, they were contentious with one another and eagerly abrasive toward one another as to who was going to sit on the right hand, and who was going to sit on the left hand, and all of the arrangement of the seating [Luke 22:24-27]. Now, that is the pre-Pentecostal church.
After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God [Acts 2:1-4], the description of these people is one of heaven itself. With singleness of heart and with gladness, they break bread together, praising God [Acts 2:46-47]. And the Lord added to them daily those who were being saved, "in the didachē, in the koinōnia, in the eucharisteō, in the proseuchē" [Acts 2:47]. O Lord! When God added to them such great throngs and such great numbers, there was not one of them to upbraid, or denounce, or to find fault for they had been washed from their sins in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5]. And the common denominator for all of the believing disciples was, "We have been saved in the love and grace of the Lord Jesus" [Galatians 2:20].
The church was not a gallery for the exhibition of perfected saints. But the church was a school. We got a wonderful school man here, a school to teach imperfect Christians the love and grace and the Lord – Lordship of Christ. What a communion! What a fellowship! What a joy divine! Meeting together in the didachē, in the teaching; meeting together in the koinōnia, in the fellowship, the unity of the spirit; meeting together in the eucharisteō, in the thanksgiving to God, Lord, Lord! [Acts 2:42, 46-47]. Had it not been for Jesus, how lost I would be! And there’s an article there, as Luke wrote it: in the prayers, in the intercession before God, Lord, Lord! How heavenly a fellowship, how precious a people! [Acts 2:42].
A preacher was walking down the street, and there was a little court of men, a little knot of men over there. And one of them said, "Hi, preacher. Come over here." And he walked over there in that little group. And the fellow that called him said, "Say, preacher, tell us: can a man go to heaven and not join the church?" And just like that the preacher replied, "Yes!" Well, they all laughed and patted him on the back and congratulated him for being a broad-minded fellow. Then the preacher looked at the fellow and said, "Let me ask you a question, and you answer me just as quickly. Tell me, my friend: why would you want to go to heaven like that?" Why? Why? Why?"
Heaven, where Jesus is and where God’s people are, washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5], where we are. Why would you want to go to heaven and not be with God’s people? Why, it’s the first desire of our hearts, Lord, Lord! I’m running with a new crowd, I’m finding new friends, it is a new day! If it is heaven there, it is heaven here. A little bit of it, gathered together in His name to listen, to learn, to praise, to sing, to pray, to love God together.
I’m so glad I belong to the family of God
Washed at the fountain cleansed in the blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus, as we travel this sod.
I’m so glad I belong to the family of God.
["Precious Lord, Take my Hand"; William J. Gaither, 1970]
I’ll see you there, I will love you here, and we’ll go up together. If we’re raptured, we’ll be raised together [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. If He delays His coming. O Lord, the preciousness and the sweetness of the communion and fellowship of God’s people; that’s Pentecost!
And that’s our invitation to you: to give your heart to Jesus; to bring your family, your children, your home into the fellowship and circle of God’s dear family, to pray with us, to love God with us, to go to heaven with us. May God speak to your heart and bring you to Him and to us this wonderful day.
Choir, would you all stand? And our people, we’re going to remain seated. Join with me in an intercessory prayer.
Our Lord, there is no word that we could pronounce to say it. There is no sentence we could put together to preach it, that would describe the ineffable, indescribable joy that our Lord has brought to our hearts. Lord, as I preach this morning, there have been memories brought back to me of a little church in which I grew up and the fellowship I knew as a child, the encouragement I received from the elders in our church. And our Lord, after sixty some-odd years of the pilgrimage, it’s still as dear and sweet and precious to me as it was then, only more so. Lord, may we grow in grace together in the love of Christ and in the love of each other, and may the unity, the koinōnia, the fellowship, the communion we have with Thee and with our brothers and sisters in the faith be our greatest, and sweetest, and most prized possession.
And while our people pray, a family you, welcome into the fellowship of this dear church. A somebody you, for the first time in your life, "I receive Jesus into my heart as my Savior, and I’m coming to stand with the people of God." Or to answer a call in your heart, make that decision now. And in a moment when we sing our appeal, there’s time and to spare, if you’re in this balcony round, down one of those stairways, on either side, there is one at the back, on either side, there’s a stairway at the front, come! Come, in the press of people on this lower floor, into one of these aisles and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m coming."
And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest we can lay at the wonderful and precious feet of our Savior, in their response this hour; in Thy saving name, amen. While our people are seated and while our choir sings the appeal, just stand up out of your seat, and come.
WHAT PENTECOST DID TO THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Before Pentecost
1. All the disciples forsook Him and fled (Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50)
2. Peter denied Him before a little maid (Mark 14:67-71)
B. After Pentecost
1. They were like the Lord(Acts 4:13, 30-31)
II. Power in witnessing
A. Before Pentecost
1. Thomas unconvinced after all ten testified (John 20:25)
B. After Pentecost (Acts 4:33)
1. Thousands saved (Acts 2:37, 41, 47, 4:4, 6:7)
a. John Chrysostom’s church membership
A. Before Pentecost
1. "What do we get out of it?" (Matthew 19:27)
B. After Pentecost
1. Gave everything to God (Acts 4:32-37)
2. Barnabas (Acts 4:32)
IV. Fellowship and unity
A. Before Pentecost
1. Contention among them (Luke 22:24)
B. After Pentecost