The Problem with Granddad’s Drill
Acts 2.1-11; Ephesians 5.18
Dr. Jim Denison
In 1981 Janet and I purchased our first house , in Arlington. It needed much work, so my Granddad came down to help. He lost his farm in the Depression and became a carpenter, and worked until he died a few years ago at the age of 99. He built a tool shed, sheet-rocked the garage, redid the kitchen, and generally transformed the house for us.
I still remember his reaction when he looked at my tools his first day with us. I had a socket wrench, a hammer, and a few screwdrivers to my name. So first thing, he took me to Sears and bought me a drill.
He had to show me how to use it, to change the bits and so on. I’ve used it ever since. But one thing he didn’t have to explain was the fact that the drill must be plugged in to a power source. Unplugged, it’s of little use. There’s nothing wrong with it—it just needs power. So it is with the church today.
Last week we walked through the Book of Acts and saw the power of God working on every hand. 3,000 saved at Pentecost; a crippled man healed; fearful disciples now preaching boldly to the Sanhedrin; the judgment on Ananias and Sapphira; the conversion of Saul, Cornelius, and thousands of people across Paul’s journeys; miracle upon miracle.
Here’s my question: can God really do today what he did then? Can we have the same power in our lives which they had in theirs? If we can, why don’t we see that power more? More miracles, healings, proof of the Spirit at work? Can we truly have this power, or is this just rhetoric?
Many of you have that question. We read about miraculous power across the Book of Acts, but wonder if this is still possible today. If it is, why don’t we see it more?
Let’s see how the Spirit worked, and how he still works today.
How did the Spirit work?
The first Christians are meeting in an upstairs room of a house in Jerusalem; tradition says it was the same place where Jesus took his Last Supper with them. They are spending this time exclusively in prayer and worship (1.13-14).
Now comes the day of Pentecost, one of the three great Jewish holidays, 50 days after Passover (early June on our calendar). Every male Jew living within twenty miles of Jerusalem was legally required to come, and Jews from across the world would crowd the streets of the city for the party.
Suddenly, while the first Christians are in prayer in their upper room, the Holy Spirit moves in a way never before seen in human history.
Previously the Spirit would come “upon” people for a particular purpose and time (cf. Judges 14.19). This is why David prayed, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51.10). No one after Pentecost needs this prayer.
For now the Spirit moves “into” us, taking up residence forever. These Christians are “filled” with the Spirit—he moves into their lives. They are empowered by him for the purpose Jesus had assigned them: to be his witnesses.
In fact, each believer is so empowered that he or she begins immediately to go into the crowd to tell about Jesus.
Thus the people say in surprise, “How is it that each of us hears them?” (v. 8); “we hear them declaring the wonders of God” (v. 11). Not Peter yet, but each of the 120 fulfilling God’s purpose by God’s power.
And this in a miraculous way. People from across the world have crowded into Jerusalem for the festival. Fifteen different nations are listed here by Luke, each with his or her own language. But by the Spirit’s power these Galilean Jewish Christians speak of Jesus in languages they have never learned.
Imagine how it would feel to hear yourself speak words you don’t know, in a language you’ve never learned, and you’ll have something of the wonder and joy these men and women felt. Imagine being far from home in a distant country, surrounded by languages you do not know, then hearing the gospel in your own native tongue. You think this person is an American, but discover that he’s a German, or Spaniard, or Frenchman, and he’s just as surprised to be speaking English as you are to hear it.
Their response then was the same as today. Some are confused: “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?'” (v. 12). Some criticize: “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine'” (v. 13).
But others are convicted: “When the people heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” (v. 37).
And these celebrate as well: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (v. 41).
And the Spirit continued to empower God’s people to accomplish God’s purpose.
He “filled” Peter as he preached to the rulers and elders of the nation (4.8).
He “filled” all the first believers with his power (4.31).
He convicted Ananias and Sapphira of their sin (5.3).
He witnessed to the Sanhedrin through them (5.32).
He empowered the deacons and specifically Stephen (6.3, 10; 7.55).
He directed Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (8.29) and led him away after the man came to faith (8.39).
He empowered Paul for his life and ministry (9.17; 13.4, 9).
He encouraged the entire church (9.31).
He directed Peter to go to Cornelius the Gentile (10.19; cf. 11.12).
He called Paul and Barnabas to their missionary work (13.2), led them to Europe and the West (16.6), and empowered them throughout their ministry.
When does the Spirit work today? (Eph. 5.18)
Do you want God’s Spirit to work in your life and church like this? Do you believe Scripture when it says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13.8)? Do you believe that God can do anything today he wishes, and that he could move in our lives with the same power we saw in theirs?