What part of “all” do we not understand?

Acts 2:1
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.

That’s something right there. Those 120 were it. “All the believers.” After three years of work, Jesus was gone, and there were 120 believers. But in about 300 years, those 120 had spread until half the people in the Roman Empire were following Jesus. For an excellent report of how this happened, please see Rodney Stark’s book The Rise of Christianity. Among the things you will see is that in one way or another all the believers were engaged in following Jesus and spreading the message.

Acts 2:3-4
Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

But the Holy Spirit came “on each of them.” “Everyone present” was filled with the Holy Spirit…

Acts 2:7-8
They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!

All are speaking, and all are participating in the miracle.

Acts 2:17-18
‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.

How clear can God be? It was prophesied that the Spirit would come upon all people. That sons and daughters would prophesy that young men would see visions and old men will dream dreams. It’s for all. Men and women, old and young, servants, too.

Somehow in our day, we’re replaced “all” with professional clergy or commissioned missionaries. But for those of us in “Christian work”—I think everyone is in Christian work, but that’s another subject—our job is equipping everyone else. Ephesians 4.11 – 13:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…

Prayer: God knows what we want and what we need

I’ve always been fascinated with the conversation between God and Abraham in Genesis 18 concerning the impending destruction of Sodom. You remember the story, where Abraham says, “You wouldn’t destroy the city if 50 righteous people were found there, would you?” And he works it from 50 all the way down to 10.

There are a couple of immediate lessons there:

– God is pleased for us to make a case in our prayers. “Won’t the judge of all the earth do right?” Moses does the same in asking God not to destroy the Israelites for the sake of his promises to the patriarchs (see Exodus 32.7 – 14).

– God gave Abraham information about his plans: “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?…I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah…” Abraham uses the information God gave him about the destruction of Sodom not as “nice-to-know” but as fuel for prayer. We could do the same even when we listen to the news. Is it entertainment only or should events in the world inform our prayers?

But there’s another lesson. Abraham prays that the city of Sodom would be spared, but it’s not. However, the Lord sent two angels to get Lot and his family and drag them out of the city. The commentary on that action is in Genesis 19.29, “But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain.”

But Abraham never asked for Lot’s safety. His words had to do with the Lord not destroying Sodom. But the text says, “But God listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe.” So Abraham’s real request was not for Sodom, it was that his nephew Lot would be delivered. God worked past the words to the heart and granted the real request.

That’s a real comfort, isn’t it? That when I pray, God knows what I really want (and what I really need) and works in that direction, regardless of the specific thing I’m asking for.