Sunday, September 18, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Before Pentecost"

“Before Pentecost”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
September 18, 2011
Acts 1:12-26

Last week, we started our newest sermon series on the book of the Acts which we are calling, “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania.”

We’re going to read and study the entire book of Acts from cover to cover and understand better how we got here.

How did the gospel come all the way from Jerusalem to Pennsylvania?

Jesus died. Jesus rose again. And last week we saw that Jesus gave his followers a mission.  V.8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Even to Clearfield County Pennsylvania.  (Ok. I added those words. They aren’t in verse 8.)

And then Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father.  And someday will return the same way.
In verse 4, Jesus told his apostles to not leave Jerusalem just yet. They weren’t supposed to head out to the ends of the earth the day that Jesus left.

They were to wait.

What for?

They were to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Which it turns out was going to be in just about 10 days, at the feast of Pentecost.

They had to wait.

Do you like to wait?

I hate waiting!

I like things to get done, not to hang around.

I like things to move right along.

I even hate waiting rooms!

I like to make decisions, and hate it when I have to wait for some key piece of information.

I decided the other day that I had to mull on something instead of choose.  I hate the wait of mulling over a decision.

Do you like to wait?

Some people do.

I have a hard time imaging the apostle Peter enjoying the wait.  Peter was such a do-er and a hot-head. He probably struggled with this waiting-time. Waiting for the Spirit to come.

But just because they were waiting, doesn’t mean that they were inactive before Pentecost.

By the way, that’s our title for today: “Before Pentecost.”

After the Ascension and Before Pentecost. The time in between.

I used to think (up until just a few days ago) that there wasn’t very much here in this passage between verse 11 and chapter 2 that was worth very much.

It felt like filler to me.  Maybe because of the waiting aspect.

And maybe because of some of the interpretive questions that swirl around these verses.

But this week as I studied it, I began to see lots of more there that was of use for my life and yours.

The Spirit had not yet come in His fullness, but that doesn’t meant that there wasn’t anything good going on.

In fact, I have 5 things I want to point at for us that we can see in this early group of followers, this church before the church, before Pentecost.

5 things that I think we can learn from today.


When you have to wait for something, a great thing to do is to pray!

You can do that anywhere, anytime.

Let’s start reading in verse 12 and go through 14.

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. [This is immediately after Jesus’ ascension. They walked back to Jerusalem to wait.] When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

This small group comes back to an upper room. It might be the same upper room as the one from the Last Supper. We don’t know.

And the first thing they think to do is to pray.

And pray. And pray. And pray.
Verse 14 says that they joined together in constant prayer.

Now, I don’t think that they stopped eating or doing anything else, but they returned again and again to prayer.

And prayer together. Corporate prayer.

One of the things I love about this church is your commitment to corporate prayer.

This is a praying church.

We have a great prayer meeting on Wednesday nights which grows even when some of the regulars have to leave the prayer meeting and work in the Family Bible Night programs.

By the way, if you come on Wednesdays and drop off your kids in the program, please consider joining the prayer meeting from 7 to 8pm. There is no pressure to pray out loud. It’s not a weird time in any way.  It’s just 8 to 15 Christians who get together and lift up their hearts to the Lord and intercede for needs.

And, of course, that prayer meeting isn’t our only prayer meeting.

One time I counted up all of the prayer meetings and prayer ministries of the church and it was quite a long list.

We have prayer in these services.
Our Link Groups pray.
Our Sunday School Classes pray.
The kids pray on Wednesday nights.
We have prayer phone tree and a email prayer broadcast.

And so on.

Constant prayer.

Notice who is praying here.

It’s these guys: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bart, Matt, Jim, Simon, and Judas Jameson.

But it’s also these faithful women. Jesus always had great relationships with women who believed in him.

And his natural biological family. Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers.

Both of those are interesting.

Here’s what’s interesting about Mary. This is the last time she is mentioned by name in the Bible.

The apostle John was tasked by our Lord with taking care of her. I sure he did it.

But this is the last time we hear her name.

Notice that she is honored. She is noted as the mother of Jesus.
But she is not glorified. She is not set apart in a special category or treated like a mediator herself as some tried to make her out to be.

The last picture we get of her is that she is praying.

And the interesting thing here about her other sons is that during Jesus’ earthly ministry they didn’t believe.

Read John 7 some time to see what they thought of Jesus’s claims.

But now they do believe.

Jesus appeared directly to his half brother James. And he eventually will write a book of the Bible himself.

And what are they up to before Pentecost?


How is your prayer life?  Do you pray?

Do you pray every day?

What pray for?

How do you pray?

The Link Group that meets in our home has just started reading Paul Miller’s A Praying Life a book that I’ve recommended to you before.  It’s really good. I have a few copies left that we’d love to have some of you read to grow in your prayer life.

Prayer. Constant prayer.

Question. How many apostles were there in the list in verse 13?

Did anybody count them?

Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bart, Matt, Jim, Simon, and Judas Jameson.


How many apostles should there be?

The Lord Jesus told his apostles in Matthew 19, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Did Jesus make a mistake?

He picked twelve. Did he make a mistake in which ones he picked?

He was up all night praying before he chose his twelve.

Is the whole plan of God now ruined because there is one missing?

Here’s our next word.

#2. UNITY.

We’ve actually already seen it at work. Verse 14 says that they “all joined together constantly in prayer.”

The King James says, “with one accord.” (And I don’t think they meant Honda.)

They were together. They were unified.

And they were going to fight for unity.

The Holy Spirit will bring that unity even more when He comes, but they had it already and were practicing it right now.

Our enemy, Satan, hates unity.

He hates the unity that we enjoy in this church.

Hates it. He would love to wreck it if he could.

And he tried to do that with Judas.

The whole point of tempting and then entering Judas was not just to betray Jesus but to break up the plan of God and the unity of the circle of Jesus’ followers.

And it looked like he succeeded.

But Peter has been studying his Bible while he’s waiting for the Spirit, and Peter has seen in the Scriptures that Judas’ defection was not a surprise to God.

In fact, it was all part of God’s plan. V.15

“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) [this is one of those prayer meetings between the ascension and Pentecost where a bigger group has gathered– a group about the size of this group in this room.] and [Peter] said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus–he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.’”

We’re going to deal with this head on.

And Luke explains for his readers who didn’t know the story what happened to Judas. V.18

“(With the reward he got for his wickedness [betraying Jesus with a kiss], Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)”

We’d say, “He bought the farm.”  The farm of blood.

And that’s why the circle of apostles is broken. Eleven, not twelve.

But that is not a surprise to God.  Verse 20.

“‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,' and, ‘'May another take his place of leadership.'”

There are biblical typological patterns in the Scripture that point to this being God’s plan. A betrayer will arise and then need to be removed and then replaced. The Bible says so.

So. V.21.

“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Now, first unity.  And then two more themes out of this section.

Notice how focused Peter is on unity. The circle must not be unbroken.

Blessed be the tie that binds.

We need to have a similar passion for unity.

In my book on resisting gossip, I have an entire chapter devoted to God’s love for unity and how to cultivate it in the local church by rooting out gossip.

Is there anything hindering our unity in this church?

We need to take whatever steps we can to preserve our unity in the Lord.

That’s #3. OBEDIENCE.

Before Pentecost there was obedience.

They prayed, they stayed together, and they obeyed the Scriptures.

Do you see that word in verse 21, “necessary?”

“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men...”

It is necessary.

Why?  Because the Bible points to it.

Peter was convinced that the Bible called them to identify a replacement for Judas.

Now, some had thought that this was a mistake.

And if you think so, I love you, and you’re welcome to think that. There are great people who have in the history of the church.

Some people think that the church should have waited for Paul.  He was coming and would be glad to fill the twelfth seat the table.

But he wouldn’t have fit the definition in verses 21 and 22 either.

“It is necessary to chose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.”

Paul didn’t do that.

There is no hint in the Bible that the apostles were barking up the wrong tree at this point.

Everything points to Peter reading his Bible and obeying what he read.

“It is necessary.”

Do you read your Bible and do what it tells you to do?

Do you act on what you read?

Are you obedient?

Peter was a leader in obedience.  Now, in 10 days, he’ll be even more of a leader and he’ll be bold.

But right now, he’s reading his Bible, and he’s doing what he thinks God wants him to do from it.

Is there some area of disobedience in your life right now where you know what you should be doing, but you’re not doing it?

It might be this one. We talked about last week.  It’s number four.


Notice why Peter thinks they need a twelfth apostle. V.22

“For one of these must become a witness with us of his [Jesus’] resurrection.”

Jesus is alive!

And we have to tell people!

Right now, they have to wait.

They have to wait for the Spirit.

But soon they'll be telling everybody in the whole world.

We need to witness.

We’ve already talked this morning about upcoming outreaches.

What are you going to do as part of them?

Here’s our list.


“You will be my witnesses.”

Jesus is alive. We’ve got to tell people.

So, here’s where they are.

They’ve been praying. They are waiting. In the meantime, they are reading their Bibles, and they come to believe that to be obedient and preserve their unity, they need to replace Judas so that there are twelve apostles again.

Now, they will only do this once. After the apostles start to die, they won’t replace them again.

But this wasn’t just a death, it was a defection. So, another must take his place of leadership.

And here’s how they did it.  First they had a nominating committee.

Well, maybe not exactly, but they searched their 120 members for men who fit the qualifications. They had to be eyewitnesses who had been around since the start.

Josephesus says that both of the men they picked were part of the 70 who had been sent out. The Bible doesn’t say that, but it’s very possible.

They picked two men (probably the only two men) who fit the qualifications.

And then they prayed. And then they flipped a coin.

Let’s read it. Verse 23.

“So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

Now, in once sense, that’s very weird.

I don’t think that God is teaching us how to choose our leaders here.

Well, who do you think ought to be church chairman next year?  Let’s flip a coin!

And you don’t read about any more casting lots after the Spirit comes at Pentecost. So that might tell us something, too.

But casting lots was a regular practice in the Old Testament.  The Urim and Thummin were probably a form of lot casting that God appointed for use in the Old Testament.

So, it’s not really that strange.

And here’s why, I think, they did it.

#5. FAITH.

Who wants to make this decision?

Who gets to be an apostle?

Let’s decide.

That didn’t seem right.

How would they decide?  Based on popularity?

The most popular guy gets to be the apostle.

Joseph had was called Barsabbas, probably because he was born on the Sabbath.

It’s like calling a kid “Saturday.”

“You know, Saturday is pretty good guy. Let’s make him the apostle.”

Who chose the other eleven?

The Lord did.

Let’s let him choose this one.

Now, of course, you can’t run around doing that for things that are not equal.

You can’t say, “Lord, I’m going to flip a coin to see if I should commit adultery or not.”

I’m going to roll some dice to see if I should lie to my neighbor or not.


But all things being equal, guess what?

God is sovereign over even the flip of a coin.

Listen to Proverbs 16:33.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

God is sovereign even over the random.

Let me say that again.

God is sovereign even over the random.

I don’t think that God miraculously pushed Matthias’ name out of the hat.

And I don’t think that Peter and the others assumed that he did.

I think that they just trusted that God was sovereign even over the random.

And only one of these two qualified men could serve as an apostle, so casting lots was as good a way as any to establish God’s will.

And they had faith.

By the way, it was a dubious honor at the moment to be an apostle.

Someday, to sit on the throne is one thing.

But at this point, it probably meant a sure and certain death.

The Greek word for witness is maturous from which we get martyr.

God is sovereign over the random.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Life seems random so often. And there is a randomness that is real.

But God is over all of that, as well.

Does you life feel random and out of control?

It could go this way or that way, and who knows?

God is sovereign over the random.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Have faith!