The Birthday of the Church
A daily devotion for May 2nd
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
“‘May another take his place of leadership.’
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1
Here is the story of the birth of the body of Jesus Christ, the church. Notice the day on which this occurred — the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is a Greek word that means
fifty. The day was called that because it was fifty days after the Passover feast. Pentecost was a Jewish feast which is given to us in the Old Testament under the title, the Feast of Weeks. It is called also the Feast of the Wave Loaves because it consisted of two loaves of bread that were baked of grain from the new harvest. Pentecost came at the end of the wheat harvest in Palestine, and they were to take this new wheat, the first fruits of the harvest, and bake of it two loaves.
All of this shows how the New Testament has its roots in the Old. These two loaves were symbols of the two bodies from which the church was to be formed: the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus said he came first to the lost sheep of the house of the Israel, the Jews. But he said,
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen, (John 10:16). He was referring to the Gentiles. Here, on the day of Pentecost, God took the Jews and the Gentiles and brought them together and baptized them into one.
These loaves of the Old Testament were to be baked with leaven. Leaven is yeast, and is a symbol of sin. The wave loaves is the only sacrifice in all the Old Testament that ever had leaven included in it. This is God's wonderful way of telling us that the church is not made up of perfect people. It is made up of saints, but they are sinful saints. They yet have sin in them. It is not made up of those who have reached perfection, but of those who are in the process of becoming what God wants them to be, who have a divine authority and life at work within them changing them. Thus the loaves are baked with leaven.
In that beautiful symbolism lies the heart of the church. On the day of Pentecost, right in line with this Old Testament prediction, the Holy Spirit came. He took one hundred and twenty people who were gathered into one place, and made one out of them. Here were one hundred and twenty isolated individuals who had been living their lives quite separately, held together only by a mutual interest in Jesus Christ. But now they are baptized by the Spirit into one body. The baptism of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with any outward demonstration. It is not necessarily associated with tongues, or fire, or wind. These were the incidentals. The essential was the making of a body, one body. This was the birthday of the church.
Father, thank you for your word which clarifies, which opens our eyes to make us see things the way they are. Help me to understand your church, and my part in it as a member of your body.
Life Application: Do we continue to acknowledge the weakness and sin of our independent efforts to build Christ's Body, His Church? Are we steadfastly relying upon His Word and the power of His Presence for wisdom and strength?
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Copyright © 2014 by Ray Stedman Ministries — This daily devotion is from the book Immeasurably More: a year of devotions from the writings of Ray Stedman; compiled by Mark Mitchell. It may be copied for personal non-commercial use only in its entirety free of charge. All copies must contain this copyright notice and a hyperlink to www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.