Perfect Communication – Pastor Neil Wonnacott June 4, 2017

Pentecost Sunday               “Perfect Communication”      June 4th, 2017

Let us pray….the text for our message comes from Acts 2:1-21, which was read earlier for us.

God is a God of communication. He speaks to us plainly. It is because of this that the Bible and other materials are translated into the most obscure languages of our planet. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than at that first Pentecost, which we mark as the birth of the Christian Church. This is now the ongoing work of Christ, to which Luke alludes in his introduction to the Book of Acts: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). The work of Christ continues now through the Church. And that work would require the ability to communicate Christ to the world in a manner that is clear and direct.

  1. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit delivered the word of what God has done in Christ by miraculously clear communication.

This sets up today’s text for our consideration. Fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, the followers of Christ in Jerusalem, about 120 in number, gathered in a house. Some think that it was the same house where they had celebrated the Last Supper. Our text doesn’t tell us why they’d gathered, but it’s not much of a leap to suggest that this was the Divine Service, most likely including the Lord’s Supper. Otherwise, why would the whole Christian community have gathered?

During this gathering, a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. Tongues of fire rested on their heads. The sound of a great rushing wind drew the people of Jerusalem to that place. The followers of Jesus, or perhaps just the apostles, were there praising God in loud voices. They were praising God by speaking of all that God had done in Christ. And miraculously, everyone in the crowd heard them speaking in his or her own language.. But what is key is that they had perfect understanding. They were hearing about what God had done through Christ, and they were understanding it perfectly.

It’s important to make clear that the tongues or languages here in our text were existing human languages. This is not some special Holy Spirit language. The text is crystal clear on this point and even mentions several of the languages. V 6: “Each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia’ ” and all the rest. God is not a God of confusion. He does not want to create chaos. His desire is clear communication. This is very different from the supposed speaking in “tongues” that we see in Pentecostal or charismatic churches. This is not a question of interpretation, but the clear reading of the text. Our text is talking about existing human languages and precludes this modern so-called speaking in tongues. The thing we see in charismatic circles was not what was happening here on Pentecost.

  1. This is important because faith comes by hearing the clear communication of God’s Word.

The Church is the people of God—the believers in Jesus Christ. But believers do not exist apart from the hearing of the Word of God. If people are not told about Jesus Christ and what Christ has done for them, they cannot believe it. So while the Church is the people of God, it never exists apart from the marks of the Church—Word and Sacrament. Without the message that Christ died on the cross for our sins, the Church does not exist. And so we see this at Pentecost. The crowd gathered because of the complex miracles that were taking place. The text says, “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ ” (v 12). But the people do not come to faith until Peter has preached the Word of God to them.

“Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. . . . This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh’ ” (vv 14, 16–17). Peter starts in the Old Testament and applies the Old Testament Scriptures to what Christ had done. Peter preached Law and Gospel to them in classic, almost textbook, Lutheran fashion. When they understood what God had done and that they, because of their sins, bore responsibility for it, their consciences were cut open, as though they were a blister with sand rubbed into it. They asked Peter what they were to do, and Peter told them: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38). We are told three thousand were baptized that very day.

Meanwhile, we are also told by many to chase after this gimmick or that method, and you, too, can grow your own mega-church. Whole schools and departments are dedicated to this. But what’s all too often forgotten is what we see on Pentecost. The Church grows because people hear the clear, unadulterated Word of God. It is not a matter of some secret process. It is about communication. God communicates to us through his Word, that is, through Holy Scripture. It worked that way for Peter. If Peter, an apostle, brought people to faith using the Word of God, how much more so will this be true for us today, who are hardly apostles! God speaks to us in human language using words and sentences. God speaks in all languages. He is not like Allah, who can speak only in Arabic. Oh, yes, “Arabians,” but also the languages of “Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene” (vv 11, 9–10). All clearly.

  1. And this is what that Word clearly communicates: that Christ died on the cross and rose again to give us forgiveness and life everlasting.

That is the Gospel right there. Yes, generally we must prepare people for the Gospel by teaching the Law, as Peter did. They must see that they’re sinners who need a Savior. They need to see that they, by their sins, participated in the crucifixion of Christ, God the Son. But once they see their sin, they are ready to hear the message that their sins are forgiven. It’s a message we also need to hear on a daily basis. For which of us is less of a sinner that anyone we see on the street? We also need to be constantly reminded that we have a Savior, Christ the Lord. And so, as this message is clearly communicated, the Church is established, built up, and sustained. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v 21).

Thus we see, from the beginning, from its very birth in this world on Pentecost, the Church is about the Word. The Word, the Scriptures, are at the center of everything. It is that Word that clearly communicates to us all what God has done for us, that we have a Savior, Christ Jesus, by his death on the cross and his resurrection.

 

This Is Pentecost:

Clear Communication That in Christ

We Do Indeed Have the Forgiveness of Our Sins.

Amen!

Now may the peace of God that surpasses human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life eternal. Amen

 

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