colored light shining on receiving hands November 11 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Acts 1-2

New Birth

There are few things that change people’s lives like babies. When a woman is pregnant there is an excited anticipation of what the baby will be like. We pray for the baby and the health of the mother. We make extensive preparations (especially in America). We fix up a room with cute colors and designs. We put up a bassinet, changing table, and dressers. We buy little baby clothes and everything else the little one will need. We make seemingly endless trips to the doctor to monitor the progress of the pregnancy. We wait and wait and wait. Finally that day arrives, and it changes our lives forever. What happens when a baby is born is similar to the birth of the first church.

First, there was anticipation. Jesus told his apostles before he ascended to heaven: “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 1:5, NIV). They needed to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would come with life changing power.

Second, there was preparation. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem in an upper room praying as Jesus instructed. While they were together, Simon Peter made a suggestion. In effect he said, “Let’s choose someone to replace Judas Iscariot,” (Acts 1:15-22). Why did Peter do that? Some might argue that Peter was impulsive, and that he should have waited for God to call Saul (Paul) to be an apostle. For Peter and the other apostles, however, there may have been a very practical reason for choosing another apostle; Peter may have been preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The apostles would need another witness to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Peter was influenced by the writings of Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 and apparently felt God leading them to do this. Peter had no idea that 3,000 people would be saved on the day of Pentecost (a Jewish feast similar to our Thanksgiving feast). He had no idea that by the end of the first week more than 5,000 would be saved. Peter may have been making preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit as a farmer prepares his fields for life-giving rain. The apostles certainly needed another witness to help them.

Then the exciting day of the birth came for the church:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4, NIV)

Third, there were foreign languages spoken. Parents, relatives, and friends babble baby talk to a new baby, but these apostles were not babbling; they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak in other languages. Some thought they were drunk, but the languages were coherent. Peter explained this phenomenon as the empowering of the Holy Spirit, as partially fulfilled in Joel 2:28-32.

Why did God have the disciples speak other languages? The answer is God's ingenious plan to spread saving grace throughout the world; people need to hear the gospel in their own languages both then and now. Jews from every nation, language, and culture had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. The gospel was for Jews everywhere, not just those in Israel. After the Feast of Pentecost they would go back to their own countries and spread the gospel. Later, non-Jews (Gentiles) would also be extended saving grace. Has God called you to learn a new language and spread the gospel to foreign lands?

Fourth, there was a witness of new spiritual birth. Just as we get all excited at the birth of a new child, the disciples witnessed the new birth with the power of the Holy Spirit. We should also get excited at the spiritual birth we receive or others receive when we (or they) trust Christ to forgive us and make us one of his children. We should share the joy of God's grace with others.

Fifth, often birth causes us to be sober-minded, to think seriously about what this birth means. A father may suddenly come to grips with the fact that he is now a father and must act responsibly. A mother may suddenly buy baby books learning how to be the best mother she can be for her new baby. Grandparents may plan how they can spend time with their adult children and be a positive influence on their new grandchildren (actually, we all know their primary motive is to see their grandchildren). A spiritual birth is also sobering to us, for it is not only our responsibility to share the joy of God's grace that brings new life, but to disciple new believers (Matthew 28:19-20)

The sign of the new birth was significant for the Jewish people. Peter explained to the Jews that the phenomenon of speaking in tongues was not drunkenness but a sign that God was fulfilling prophecies. Jesus had been put to death on the cross. The Jews falsely accused Jesus of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a King. The Romans put Jesus to death. All this happened according to the foreknowledge and predetermined will of God, but Jesus was raised to life! The Apostle Peter said,

Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ,”

When the people heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:37-39, NIV).

Though we may not be Jews, the promise of the Holy Spirit to give spiritual birth is for us, too, if we truly change our minds (repent) and believe in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection for us (more...). After we believe we should be physically baptized as a testimony of our identification with Jesus. Have you received the new birth? Have you been born again? Have you been baptized to show the world you belong to Jesus?

Lessons to live by:

  • Anticipate the working of the Holy Spirit.
  • Prepare for the work of the Holy Spirit in your prayers and in cooperation with other believers as God leads you.
  • If you have no spiritual life, believe in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and be born again. (more...)
  • Be a witness of the spiritual birth within you and his saving grace so that others might be saved. Then disciple them.
  • Get baptized to show you belong to Christ.

Today’s Bible memory verses:

Acts 2:38-39 …“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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (NIV)

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