This chapter describes “The Big Bang Theory” a.k.a. “The Birth of the Church”. The Day of Pentecost was, of course, the Jewish festival that celebrated the firstfruits of harvest. How appropriate that the seeds of discipleship that Jesus had ‘planted’ over a period of three and half years should now blossom into a great ‘tree’ or ‘vine’ that we know as his church, later to become his ‘bride’. This was a sovereign act of God, pouring out his Holy Spirit into the bodies and souls of his redeemed people and turning them corporately into what elsewhere in scripture is called the Body of Christ (He himself being the ‘Head’ of that body).
This was the ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ that Jesus commanded his disciples to wait for patiently, before doing anything else. In my view it is an integral part of the ‘package’ of salvation that every believer receives by grace – through faith. It fills the Christian with spiritual power over sin, the world and the Devil, and it joins the Christian by invisible yet powerful cords to each and every other child of God in existence. 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV) puts it clearly: “For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body… and we were all made to drink of one Spirit”. The operative word is ‘in’, not ‘by’; since the Holy Spirit is not the agent that does the baptising (that person is Jesus himself, see Luke 3:16), he is figuratively the ‘substance’ we are immersed in.
Logically, then, we cannot be baptised in the Holy Spirit more than once since our whole lives remain joined and immersed into him. However, we can and should be ‘filled’ with the Spirit time and time again – empowered for particular times and tasks in our Christian life. See examples of this in Acts 4:8; 4:31; 13:9; 13:52; and Ephesians 5:18.) It is not about us having more of Him each time, but He having more of us!
A humble fisherman who has followed his Rabbi around Israel for a handful of years suddenly becomes empowered to speak and to recall scripture in front of thousands of god-fearing and God-seeking Jews. Many of them were the ones that fifty days previously had shouted for crucifixion, and over whom Jesus had pronounced forgiveness from the cross. They were getting their forgiveness right now! To become a saved follower of Jesus, you must repent (acknowledging him as the rightful Lord), believe that he rose from the grave and can forgive your sins, and get baptised in water. God’s part of the bargain is to forgive you and to baptise you in his Spirit, joining you to Jesus and to his church for ever.
Three thousand new converts needed urgently to become disciples (and yes, there is a big difference!). What would you have done if you were Peter? They were mentored in groups of different sizes, from big gatherings in the Temple courts, to households, or even smaller groups. In these multi-sized gatherings, they focussed on learning about Jesus, on loving living together, on listening and praying, and on the Lord’s Supper. Everything else radiated out from these four ‘pillars’. They practised generously giving their time and money, including the sharing of possessions. They met up daily in homes and community centres (the Temple courts). They shared meals. They praised God. They grew rapidly, as God added to their numbers.
2 SAMUEL 5 and 6
Two main events occur in today’s readings: the battles against the Philistines and the bringing of the Ark into Jerusalem. The Books of Samuel and Chronicles deal with them in a different order, because of the different emphases of each book. The Chronicles account is not chronological!
The Philistines hear that David is now king over all Israel and realize that this is serious for them, since the northern trade routes are again being controlled by Israelite military forces. So they go for an all-out attack before David has completely established himself in his new kingdom. Twice, before each of the two major battles, David does the right thing, by enquiring of the Lord’s will for him. Each time, the Lord gives him strategic military advice which – of course – makes David’s army completely successful. The Philistine idols are captured and then burned to ashes. As we seek God before making key decisions in our lives, we will guarantee success, for two reasons: Firstly, because God knows the best course of action for us; and secondly, because by seeking God’s will, we are honouring him – so he honours us too.
The second battle involved the army of God marching directly against the Philistines, with David’s troops only providing the rearguard attack. God’s army comprised angelic beings, with the Lord himself as their commander; he is known as the ‘Lord of Hosts’, or the ‘Lord of Heaven’s Armies’. Revelation 19:11 speaks of the Faithful and True One, who leads the armies of heaven, whose name is ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’. He was the same as the Commander who confronted Joshua by the side of the Jordan (in Joshua 5:13-15). Since He is our commander too, why do we engage in so much spiritual warfare without seeking our orders from above?
Then David made arrangements for bringing the Ark to Jerusalem from the place in Israel where it rested when the Philistines sent it back (it was a curse to them!). The day started so well and then ended so badly. Uzzah, one of the sons of the man who had cared for the Ark all those years, reached out to steady the Ark when the cart tilted on the road; God put him to death for that ‘irreverent act’. David was very angry with God and also very frightened since the Lord seemed so unpredictable. Consequently, the Ark did not continue the journey that day, but was left in the household of Obed-Edom for three months – which gave him three months of amazing blessing!
The presence of God, as represented by the Ark, cannot be taken for granted and cannot be presumed upon. Too often in our church gatherings and in our private lives, we treat His presence with contempt and with a lack of respect or awareness. I am not referring to special places in special buildings, but to the Lord’s glory and holiness in our lives, individually and corporately today. In the Book of Acts, Ananias and Saphira died when they lied to the Holy Spirit. When the Lord is moving in power, it is as though the ‘stakes are raised’ and unholy behaviour is punished more harshly than at other times. So watch out!
After the three months were up, David wanted the blessing that God’s presence provides and brought the Ark up to Jerusalem the correct way this time. Oxen pulling a cart was the Philistine way of doing it, whereas the Lord had specifically commanded that his Ark must be carried on poles by Levites on foot (see Exodus 25:12-15). In the Chronicles account, David repents of his failure to be obedient the first time. The king himself dances in front of the Ark to honour God – and incurs the displeasure of his wife, Michal. David does not care what humans think of him; he will lose all dignity in giving the Lord lavish praise and that is exactly what he does. Michal’s punishment is to be barren for the rest of her life. We too need to be careful in how we think about other Christians; it has been said that ‘a fanatic’ is someone who loves Jesus more than we do! Avoid criticizing others, particularly in the way that they choose to serve the Lord; very rarely does anyone in scripture lose out by being too ‘extravagant’ in their devotion to Him. And most critics are rather reticent in their level of their devotion too!