Acts 2:1-13 When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter, celebrates the sending and indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. Luke writes in Acts 2 that tongues of fire descended upon the disciples and they began to speak the gospel in a variety of comprehensible languages. Many call this event the “birthday of the Church”.
A few of the many items of note in Acts 2 are as follows:
1. Pentecost shows that every believer, regenerated by the Spirit of God, becomes a symbol of holiness himself/herself. In past times, God displayed his glory to Moses in the burning bush, led his people Israel by a towering traveling fire, and spoke of holiness in terms like a refiner’s fire. At Pentecost, that holiness of God was bestowed on these disciples; as representatives of all followers of Jesus. We too are now, in a sense, “burning bushes” that display God’s glory and holiness because of the Spirit of Jesus’ work in our hearts.
2. Pentecost shows that the message of the Church is to always bring glory to Jesus Christ by effectively communicating the gospel. In Acts 2, the miraculous and cacophonous tongues of fire were not to bring acclamation or glory to those disciples, but rather to work through them to speak of the glorious gospel of Jesus; suffering, crucified, dead, then risen… Our Redeemer. When the disciples received the pentecostal filling, they could not help but speak the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ.
3. Pentecost shows proof of the reversing of the curse of The Fall (Genesis 3). In this instance, it reversed the curse of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) where people tried to reach God’s level in their own self-absorbed and idolatrous ways. As a result, God confused their communication by mixing out the multitude of languages that could not be understood by most of the others; and therefore they abandoned the tower building project. Pentecost, on the other hand, shows the opposite: A unification takes place by way of the language of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus.
4. Pentecost shows that Jesus is still actively at work in his Church. As promised on the mountain previous to his ascension, he would send his Holy Spirit; the power of God amidst upcoming tasks, trials, persecutions, and martyrdom. Pentecost proves Jesus is both gloriously at the right hand of God the Father and also indwelling and active in our hearts.
5. Pentecost shows that the Word of God always comes true, in God’s perfect timing. The Old Testament prophet Joel foresaw the day when God would “pour out his Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28-32, quoted in Acts 2). During past times, only some people of God were filled with the Spirit and often only for a short period in order to speak a prophetic word or accomplish an important task. Pentecost shows that ALL followers are now filled with the Spirit of God.
6. Pentecost shows that not one culture or language is to be elevated above any of the others. When the Spirit descended in Acts 2, the disciples spoke the gospel in many other languages simulataneously. Not the primary biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, but the languages of the very people that were in Jerusalem on pilgrimage from many other far off lands. When the Spirit-filled and Spirit-fueled gospel went forth, it then became heard and understood by all these other language-speakers, cultures, and nations all at the same time. This event both made culture less important as the gospel was heard simultaneously by the differing peoples, and it also made culture more important as the gospel went forth to them all regardless their national or linguistic backgrounds.
May the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, our redeemer, continue to fill both our hearts and our mouths that we too may be used to speak of this wonderful good news of salvation; the forgiveness of sins, the reversing of the curse upon mankind and the earth, and the going forward as his people with great joy, grace, and power.