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God’s means to gospel ends

March 12, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 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?"

-- Acts 2:4, 7-8

New Year's Eve, 1879, was an unusual night. It was then that Thomas Edison, the inventor from Menlo Park, New Jersey, unveiled his electric light bulb by illuminating the street near his city's train terminal. People were amazed, and rightly so, for there had never been anything like it before.

Sunday morning, as the first to arrive at our church facility, I turned on the lights. My wife was not impressed. The people came in and took it for granted, no big deal. The transformative invention of Edison has now become normative for people in the civilized world.

So it was when "the day of Pentecost" dawned on the first church. It was a most unusual, highly transformative day. What began as a time of worship became one of the greatest episodes of evangelism in ecclesiastical history.

This pattern of worship and witness should be so engrained in the church today that we don't even have to think about it. When the sun rises upon the Lord's Day, the true Christian should be drawn to the house of God like swallows returning to Capistrano. Our experience in worship should equip us to witness the gospel to others. God has invented this means, gathering for worship and Bible study, being filled with the Holy Spirit, with the end in sight of sharing the gospel with the whole world.

The first Christian day of Pentecost began with a beckon to worship. To worship God is to obey God, and to obey God is to worship God, publicly and privately. It fills us with the gospel, the word of God, and the Holy Spirit. These first Christians got a double dose, though.

Was Jesus indwelled by the Holy Spirit before His baptism? Of course He was. Were the first Christians regenerated and indwelled by the Holy Spirit before Pentecost? Sure they were. But just as the baptism of Jesus inaugurated His public ministry, so the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost embarked the church on her great commission to take the whole gospel to the whole world.

Out of their worship came their witness. The first Christians received the special gift from God of "tongues," which is defined here as the ability to speak the gospel so that people can understand, "each of us in his own native language." Some mocked them, accusing them of drunkenness. Many others, as we shall see later in the chapter, listened, repented, believed, and became worshipers of Jesus and witnesses for Christ in their own right.

Born from this unusual day, this is the usual way for the church to gather and grow. Spirit-filled worshipers become witnesses to the world of "the mighty works of God." And make no mistake, salvation does not come by any work we can do for God, but the "mighty works" God has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. The virgin birth, the sinless life, the substitutionary death on the cross, the subsequent resurrection on the third day, these are the things the church needs to tell the world.

Worship and witness are the ways the gospel of Jesus Christ spreads from person to person, country to country, church to world. Worship, public and private, shows our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Witnessing shows our love for other people. It obeys the great commandments, loving God and loving our neighbors. It is the greatest love we can have for others, demonstrating that we care about their bodies and souls, especially their eternal souls. And while it is unusual for a lost person to be saved, since the broad road is much more traveled than the narrow road, no one can be saved unless we who are point the way.

Spirit-filled worship and witness are God's means to the end of spreading the gospel throughout the whole world. It happened in an unusual way for the early church on Pentecost. It should be happening every Lord's Day and every other day in the church of our day. The lights are on as we worship and the Holy Spirit is present among us. May He fill us to the brim as we worship, and overflow with witness to the people we meet along life's journey. Be God's means to their gospel ends.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, 5963 Central Ave. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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