Acts 2:14-21 (The Day of Pentecost—Series A)
“Beyond Anything Experienced Before”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
May 28, 2023
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is the Second Reading from Acts 2:
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
The Day of Pentecost was one of the three Old Testament festivals that God required the Israelites to celebrate each year along with the Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. Pentecost takes place fifty days following the first Sunday after Passover, when the first sheaf of the barley harvest was reaped. If you count back fifty days to the first Sunday after the Passover, you’ll find yourself on Easter morning when the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead! Just 10 days prior to the Pentecost events of Acts 2, the risen Lord Jesus, true God and true Man, ascended into heaven. Before His Ascension to the right hand of God in power, glory, and majesty, Jesus told His disciples, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.You are witnesses of these things.And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:46–49 ESV).
On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled that promise. God the Holy Spirit was poured out in power upon the chosen disciples. Jesus fulfilled the promise He had given the Apostles in the Upper Room on the night of His betrayal: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, . . . But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:16–17, 26 ESV). But wait, there’s more! On this Day of Pentecost following the Lord Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the promise that He made all the way back through His servant, the prophet Joel, saw the beginning of its fulfillment. God poured out His Spirit upon all flesh so that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus might be saved from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
Now, I have to confess something to you. At the beginning of the week, I was really struggling to choose a text on which to preach today. I was working with the Gospel reading, and had some okay material to work with, but it really wasn’t clicking. I came home and there, in my living room, was a package from Concordia Publishing House—a commentary inside—the brand-new commentary on the Book of Joel. Is this just a fluke in timing? Peter’s sermon text on Pentecost was Joel 2! And here I am struggling with a text to preach on Pentecost Sunday. Maybe this delivery was the Holy Spirit’s way of saying, “Hey, why not look at Peter’s text!” And here we are, looking at Peter using the text of Joel 2, telling those assembled in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover that what they were hearing and seeing was not a result of drunkenness at nine in the morning. It was God the Father and God the Son doing what they had long promised to do—pour out the Holy Spirit in power onto thirsty souls so that people might know by a Spirit-given faith that “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
You see, this Pentecost marked a new beginning in which all believers find themselves included. The pouring out in power of God the Holy Spirit ushers in what we would call the “New Testament era,” which is characterized by the generous outpouring of the Spirit. “The end-time event prophesied by Joel . . . took place already at Pentecost and recurs every time a person is baptized in the triune name of God and so receives the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, along with the forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation in Christ. . . . During this time, God’s people are called, gathered, and preserved in faith by the Holy Spirit.”
But wasn’t the Holy Spirit working in the Old Testament time, too? Absolutely! Yes, yes, yes! God’s Word makes clear that no one can believe in Jesus, the Messiah promised to come (in the case of God’s Old Testament people) or the Messiah who has come (for us on this side of the timeline), without the Holy Spirit bringing people to faith and keeping people in that faith and trust. 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” And Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5–6 ESV). If the Holy Spirit wasn’t active in Old Testament times creating and preserving faith, how are we to think that the Old Testament people came to faith and were saved? Indeed, God the Holy Spirit was active in all believers, then and now, bringing them to faith and remaining in them to preserve them in faith.
So, then, what difference does Pentecost make? Joel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all people, even on people from the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. All of the normal categories of human distinction like gender, age, and social position are irrelevant when it comes to the Spirit’s work of creating and sustaining faith in Jesus Christ. From an Old Testament perspective, this is unexpected and shocking! What is new and different after Pentecost is that salvation is indeed freely going to people of all nations, ages, and social positions! Since Pentecost, the Spirit has been converting Gentiles in large numbers, as it was always God’s intention that the Israelites share the message of salvation in the promised Messiah with other nations. But the admittance of Gentiles into God’s family was something new and different in the years immediately after Pentecost. Just read the Book of Acts! Consider Paul, an apostle to whom? The Gentiles! And for us who are Gentiles, this is hugely significant. It means that you and I are beneficiaries of God’s salvation through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the preached Word and the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit has created saving faith within you. The Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps you in the one, true faith as a child of the heavenly Father. As the Spirit does the same work of converting sinners and making them holy that He has always done, since Pentecost, the role and importance of the Spirit in believer’s lives is expanded. The Spirit’s work in us is deeper, richer, greater, and fuller in this New Testament era in which we live.
At His Ascension, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give believers power. This power shows itself in speaking and in actions—in Christian ministry and in Christian living. Who would have thought Peter could have preached such a sermon as he did on that Pentecost day? Through the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper, all believers can break the dominion of sin, saying “no” to temptation, as well as being courageous witnesses for Jesus Christ with their lives. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God guards and keeps us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us. We are able to overcome them and win the victory by the power that the Holy Spirit gives to us by His grace!
Before Pentecost, the disciples’ understanding of the work of Jesus was fuzzy and incomplete. The simply didn’t understand that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer, die, and rise again. After Pentecost, Jesus’ followers clearly proclaimed the forgiveness of sins won by the death and resurrection of Christ. They became authoritative teachers of the church and the inspirited authors of the New Testament. This fulfills the promise that the Spirit would bring greater insight and understanding to the people of God. The disciples believed and had a blurry understanding before Pentecost, but with the gracious outpouring of the Spirit, they believed and received a clear understanding of Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, which they boldly proclaimed. To you the Spirit also gives a level of spiritual knowledge of Jesus and His person as true God and Man, your Savior and Lord. And that is greater than what was available for the Old Testament believers. Through His New Testament, the Spirit is able to teach to you the full story of God’s plan of salvation with its glorious fulfillment in Christ.
Needless to say, there is so much more that could be said today about the person and work of God the Holy Spirit and His gracious outpouring on the Day of Pentecost which fulfills the promises of God through Joel, the rest of the prophets, and our Lord Jesus Himself. With the outpouring of the Spirit, we enjoy something beyond anything experienced by God’s Old Testament people. We, by grace, are recipients of the Spirit’s “enhanced activity” in our own lives. “Jesus has baptized us in the Holy Spirit and the Spirit lives in us. This Spirit works faith in Christ, leads us to grow in sanctified [holy] living, and equips us to be of service to others. In this way, we are blessed beyond God’s people in [Old Testament] times.”
In those times, the Spirit made use of foreshadowings and preliminary sketches, involving human priests, animal sacrifices, events like the Exodus, and institutions like the Temple. Now, in these New Testament days, the Spirit connects us to the completed redemptive work of Jesus Christ. So, when the Spirit works through the Gospel, He seeks to magnify Jesus, not Himself. “The Spirit is happy to remain in the background, as Jesus is glorified.”
And this is the work of the Spirit, bringing people like you to faith in Jesus Christ through Baptism and the Gospel Word. And it’s all about Jesus—the very Jesus who lived a perfect life in our place so that He might exchange His rightness for our sins and then endure suffering, death, and hell for them in our place on the cross. In order to give us and all people eternal life, Jesus suffered and died, winning for the world forgiveness and new life. With His death and resurrection, He paid for all your sins in full. You are forgiven. You have eternal life as a free gift. As a guarantee of this salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil, God the Holy Spirit has been given to you (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14). The Spirit strengthens your most holy faith in Jesus through the Word of the Gospel and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. “The end result is that we love Jesus more and more and we want to share the message of Jesus more and more with people of all nations.”
And “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5 ESV). That love is Jesus Christ, received by faith through the Spirit’s gift. And the love we have from Christ and for Christ now overflows in our lives in the fruits of saving faith as we serve the Lord and our neighbor in love each and every day.
God’s promise in Joel is fulfilled. The Holy Spirit is poured out in power by the Lord’s Means of Grace in Word and water. You are Spirit-filled believers in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. You are in the love of Christ to show the love of Christ to all people. And that’s something beyond what had been experienced before this day full of grace—Pentecost. Amen.
 Horrace Hummel, Ezekiel 21-48, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 2007), 1145.
 Thomas P. Nass, Joel, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia , 2023), 416.