The Bible is full of symbols and many of these symbols relate directly to God Himself. God the Father is known as a fortress, a gardener, a potter and a rock. God the Son is symbolized as lamb, a lion and a shepherd. God the Spirit is seen as a dove, oil, wind, and fire. Two of these symbols for the Spirit are used in tonight’s passage –
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Pentecost was a feast celebrated annually by the Jews. Yet ‘the Day of Pentecost’ has become known as the day when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples and thus formed what Christ called ‘His church.’
Last week we saw that when the Spirit anointed Jesus, He manifested Himself in the form of a dove . Here we see Him coming upon the church in the form of fire. Why fire? To better understand this, let’s take a brief look at some of the ways God manifests Himself in scripture in the form of fire.
♦ What comes to your mind when you think about God and fire? ____________________________________________________
♦ What does God representing Himself as fire say to you? ____________________________________________________
♦ If someone said – ‘The church needs to get on fire’ – what would they be saying? ____________________________________________________
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
First they heard the sound of a mighty wind rushing into the place where they were praying. Obviously they looked up to see what was happening and when they did they saw what is described ‘cloven tongues of fire.’ Tongues is plural indicating that many tongues of fire were present. Why many tongues? Note vs. 5
Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Jews from all over the known world had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Apparently the Spirit was revealing to the disciples that the gospel message was to be taken into all the world.
A second reason for tongues being plural is show that each disciple in the church had a part in this great duty.
Acts 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
We can only imagine what must have gone through their minds as they saw this. There was now no way that the could doubt that God’s will for their lives.
God has often used fire to represent His presence. Consider the story of Moses –
Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed . 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
When I think of fire in the church, three truths come to my mind: Power, Purity and Passion.
We read in Hebrews 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire. God has revealed through fire many times in scripture. Consider the story of Elijah.
1 Kings 18:36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
There is not going to be another Day of Pentecost. God is not repeatedly sending His Spirit from heaven. Jesus told His disciples that the Spirit would abide with them forever. (Jn 14:16) The Spirit is here and will remain here until the purpose for His coming has been fulfilled. Nor did the disciples pray down the Spirit. Their prayer meeting was very important, but God sent the Spirit on Pentecost because that was His divine plan and will.
The power of God is here. The Holy Spirit resides in the heart of every believer tonight. Why then is the church not experiencing more of the power of God? Paul prayed for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. The strengthening power of the Holy Spirit is linked to three very important commands Paul gave to the church:
1. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. (Eph 4:30) i.e. – do not bring sorrow to the Spirit by willfully walking in sin
2. Do not quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:19) i.e. – do not resist His will and His working
3. Be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) i.e. – seek to live every moment of every day under His power and control
♦ How do you believe that these three commands relate to the church’s experiencing the Spirit’s power?______________________________________________________________
God’s fire has also another characteristic. God’s fire has the characteristic of purity. Consider the association of fire and purity as it is found in the risen Christ.
Revelation 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.
♦ What does John’s vision of Christ say to us about the Lord? ______________________________________________________________
♦ How does this relate to the day when we as believers will give an account for how we have lived the Christian life? ______________________________________________________________
1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is . 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss : but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
I believe that the same fire that will examine our works is the same fire that John saw when he looked upon the risen Savior. It’s the fire of absolute and total purity.
The church needs a fire today; the fire of power and the fire of purity. Here is a great spiritual truth – THERE IS A DIRECT LINK BETWEEN GOD’S POWER AND OUR PURITY. Our lives need to be examined by the Lord and all the impurities burned away. How can this happen? We read in Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
If you want God’s power upon your life – get into His Word and let His Word get into you.
♦ What do we mean when we refer to a Christian or to a ministry being on fire? _______________________________________________________ Are we not saying that they are serving the Lord with a burning passion?
Although the word ‘passion’ is not found in the King James Version of the Bible, the call for a passion in our Christianity is. Consider what the Lord said to the church of Laodicea –
Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
The root meaning of the word ‘zealous’ is to boil with heat or to be hot. In other words – ‘Repent of your lukewarmness and get on fire for God.’ The Spirit resides within us to produce such a passion. Paul told the Thessalonians – Quench not the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:19) The word ‘quench’ means to extinguish or to suppress. One commentary states – “Stop putting out the fire of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore it seems that quenching the Spirit is the same as putting out His passion.
The Spirit wants to start a holy fire in the church, yet believers were quenching His influence by suppressing Him with their sins. Compare this to what Paul wrote to Timothy – ‘Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.’ (2 Tim 1:6) The phrase ‘stir-up’ means to kindle into a blaze. In other words – ‘Get on fire for God.’
♦ What are things we as believers need to be doing in order to stir-up the Spirit’s work in our lives and thus not quench Him? ______________________________________________________________
I believe that it was more than coincidence that the Spirit manifested Himself as fire on the day He baptized the church. I believe that the tongues went beyond the gift of tongues so many think of. I believe that the Lord was revealing to the church that it was now time for the disciples to become passionate about going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. I believe that the Lord needs to light a Holy Ghost fire in His church.