In December 1965, Chuck Smith became the pastor of a 25-member congregation called Calvary Chapel, in Costa Mesa, CA. Before accepting the invitation to become the pastor 12 of the 25 members were in a prayer meeting, seeking God about whether to close their church doors or not, when the Holy Spirit spoke to them by prophecy and revealed to them that Chuck would become their pastor. In a seemingly irrational move Chuck accepted the pastoral call to this small congregation. He convinced the church to modernize the interior of the building and elevating the platform area. They also agreed to pay for broadcasting his Bible teaching. Shortly thereafter he had to stop broadcasting because this small church could not accommodate all the new people he was attracting.
A few years later Calvary Chapel became associated with what is now known as the Jesus Movement. This association began Chuck's daughter introduced him to her boyfriend named John. John was a former hippie who had become a Christian and he introduced Chuck to a man named Lonnie Frisbee, a hippie Christian who would eventually become the key figure in the Jesus Movement and Calvary Chapel. Lonnie moved into Chuck's home, and in a few days, more hippies moved in with Chuck and his wife. People continued to come to the church to hear the Gospel message and people were getting saved by the hundreds.
Smith recalls, “As we were building our new chapel on the Greenville School property, one fellow would come by and say, ‘Chuck, it looks beautiful, but it's too small.’ We planned to build Calvary Chapel to accommodate 300 people. I always thought that a church of 250 people would be an ideal congregation to work with. The rule book I studied in seminary said that you can only maintain a congregation five-sixths of the seating capacity of your auditorium. So, five-sixths of 300 would give us a congregation between 250-275.
The first Sunday when we opened Calvary Chapel, we didn't have enough room. All the pews were filled. I thought, ‘It’s grand opening Sunday. Everybody likes to come out for the grand opening. Next Sunday we’ll drop down to the number we'll be more used to and live with.’ The following Sunday we ran out of extra chairs and people were sitting on the floor. I didn't know what to do. We went out and bought 50 more chairs to set up in the foyer. The following Sunday we ran out of chairs and people were sitting on the floor. I said, ‘I guess we'll go to double services.’ So, we went to double services. Within a few weeks we were bringing in extra chairs, people were sitting in the aisles, we were setting up chairs in the foyer, and again people were sitting on the floor and in the side rooms.
‘Well, we’ll go to triple services,’ It wasn't long until we were pulling up the extra chairs and sitting people in the foyer and in the side offices. Then we doubled the seating capacity of our auditorium by moving the walls out to the side. After a while, the church was filling up again. We were setting chairs on the floor and in the foyer. Then we started setting chairs up in the patio, and by the end of the summer we had 500 chairs set up in the patio every Sunday. Then we started running out of room in the patio. But at this point we were facing another dilemma – winter. The people couldn't sit out in the patio in the wintertime. ‘What are we going to do, Lord?’
About this time, we were told of 11 acres a block away from us. A group of Investors had bought it five years previously for $400,000. They were planning to make a good profit off it, but every plan they had was rejected by the Santa Ana planning department. These investors finally lost the property, as the owner foreclosed on them for the note of $343,000. Someone suggested that we buy it. I said, ‘Eleven acres? We don't need eleven acres. What would we do with it?’
He said, ‘We can sell half of it, but that's a good piece of property.’
I said, ‘How in the world would we ever buy that? The owner foreclosed for $343,000.’
The fellow said, ‘I think that if I offered $300,000 cash, she’d take it.’
I said, “Well, try it.”
He offered her $300,000 cash. He came back and said that she accepted it. I said, “You've gotta be kidding! Where in the world will we get $300,000?”
I would drive along Sunflower Avenue from the church and look over those big eleven acres. I'd say, “Lord, what are You doing?” I was really concerned and worried.
The Lord would speak to me as I'd look over the property and my heart would fall. He would say, “Whose church is it?”
I’d say, “Lord, it's Your church.”
He'd say, “Then what are you worried about?”
In 2013 Pastor Chuck Smith went to be home with the Lord but his legacy lives on. Today Calvary Chapel has about 1,800 affiliate churches worldwide, a publishing company called The Word for Today that publishes Bible study books, DVDs, and tapes, a radio station KWVE that broadcasts God's Word to all Southern California, and a Bible Colleges that provides a Bible education to thousands at its home campus in Twin Peaks, California and over 20 extension campuses worldwide.
This is just one example of what God can do when He has a Church that is willing to open themselves up to Him and the movement of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to be Lord of all.
The Birth of a Church
Today we are going spend some time in Acts 2 and look particularly at the events of Pentecost and what transpired on this unique day and then see what we can take away from it. Last week we looked briefly at chapter one and Jesus’ promise to his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come soon and empower them to go out and fulfill his Great Commission. Now in chapter two we witness the fulfillment of this promise as the Holy Spirit descends on the believers thus giving birth to the first Christian church.
Acts 2:1 - 12
Vs 1: The day is ten days after the ascension of Jesus Christ and the day is Pentecost. Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks. It is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Passover which is fifty days thus the title Pentecost, which means fiftieth. This feast is the second of three major Jewish feasts which take place annually in Jerusalem. It is believed that is was the most well-attended since the traveling conditions are premium for this time of year.
All the disciples were all together. The NLT says, “they were meeting together in one place.” which not only means they were in the same physical place, but they were also of the same mind and sharing the same passion.
Vs 2: Suddenly a sound comes from heaven like a roaring wind, and it fills the house where they were staying. There are three occurrences in this passage that are important for us to understand because there is a great symbolic meaning behind this unique incidence, and it gives us insight to what is going on.
The first occurrence is the great and rushing wind. The Hebrew word wind is translated as ruah and the Greek is pneuma; these words are used to describe the Holy Spirit. It is worth noting that in the Bible the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of God. God’s breath was breathed out onto his people, and this is the moment that they anticipated. The Holy Spirit had come as Jesus had promised.
Vs 3: The second occurrence is the appearance of divided tongues of fire that rested upon them. Fire is symbolic of God’s presence. This is important because the presence of God now rested upon the believers individually. Author and Pastor R. Kent Hughes writes, “The emphasis from Pentecost onwards is on the personal relationship of God to the believer through the Holy Spirit.” Jesus told his disciples he must go away so that they Spirit can come and abide or dwell in all believers.
Vs 4: The third occurrence is the tongues of fire settled on the believers and they all began to speak in other tongues or languages as the Spirit had enabled them. Being filled with the Spirit is the enabling the believers to do something supernatural to bring glory to God. According to Hughes, “In the O.T. inspired speech was regularly associated with the Spirit’s coming upon God’s servants. To the observant Jew, it was easy to see that the Holy Spirit had come.”
So, what does this all mean? On this day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago God had foreordained and sanctified this day to be the day where he would breathe his Spirit onto believers and filling them with himself (God’s presence is in the believer) thus enabling them to live the Spirit-filled life for his glory. God Himself resides in believers and we are empowered to do tasks that brings glory to his name. This applies to us today. Pentecost was not a unique one-time occurrence that will never happen again. Being baptized by the Spirit is an ongoing that all of us may or have experienced. We too can be and should be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Now we don’t want to confuse the Baptism of the Spirit with receiving the Spirit. When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ he is regenerated or born again by the Spirit of God. This is the point where we are identified with Jesus Christ and publicly acknowledge our union with Him. It is the point where Rom 8:11 says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”
To be filled or baptized by the Holy Spirit is different. The believers did not receive the Spirit at Pentecost. Instead, they were empowered by the Spirit to do something that brought glory to God that they could not do in their own strength or power, hence utterances in other languages. R.C. Sproul writes, “The “baptism of the Spirit” refers to being equipped or empowered by God’s Spirit to carry out the task that Jesus has given the church. When the Spirit equips us or baptizes us, we are immersed, as it were, in the Holy Spirit; sometimes the Scriptures refer to this as being filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Vs 5: When the Jewish believers were empowered the onlookers began to marvel at what was going on. Those looking in were devout Jewish men, religious men, pious men and educated men from all parts of the known world at this time. They all spoke various languages because they were from different parts of the world at this time. When they saw these Galilean men speaking in different languages they could hardly believe what they were hearing.
Vs 7: Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?” Galileans were not educated men in fact they were despicable men, from whom nothing learned or polite was to be expected. Christ was thought to be a Galilean, and his disciples were as well. They were believed to be unlearned and ignorant men. This was truly an astonishing thing for these onlookers to witness.
Vs 8: These men were not uttering unknown words but instead were speaking the language of Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians. What the onlookers heard were the Galileans praising God and His wonderful works in their own native tongue.
Vs 12: The only reasonable explanation these onlookers could come up with was that these strange men were drunk and didn’t really know what they were doing to which Peter answers their ludicrous claims in his sermon to follow.
So this truly was a strange Pentecostal day but it is one that is important for us to recognize and understand what happened. The people who were filled with the Holy Spirit were not just acting weird; they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out a task for the glory of Jesus. Pastor and author Jim Cymbala writes, “(this day was), a typhoonlike visitation of the Spirit of God.” How many of us could benefit from this kind of visit by the Spirit of God? How much could our church benefit from a downpour of the Spirit of God? The late Pastor John Stott writes, “As a body without the Holy Spirit is a corpse, so the church without the Holy Spirit is dead.” Could this be the one thing that is missing in the church today? Is the church at large or are we, for that matter, depending too much on human strength, wisdom, and programs and not enough on the Holy Spirit? When was the last time we/you said, “God I am dropping my agenda and emptying myself of me so there can be room for you in my life, my family, my work, and my church.”? We all like to be in control and we often get in God’s way when He wants to do something that will completely blow our minds. The key to a Spirit filled life and Church is found in the emptying of ourselves of ourselves and allowing God to fill us with Him.
So, as we close this time of worship this morning, I would like to take a moment for to evaluate our lives personally. Have you received the Spirit of God? Are you born again? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If not, is the Spirit calling you to come to faith in Jesus Christ right now?
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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