Through the Bible in One Year

Days 185 and 186

Acts 2:1-41

We now come to the day of Pentecost.  But before we dive into the events that happened on this important day close to two thousand years ago we need to understand what Pentecost actually is.  Pentecost was the second great festival of the Jewish year.  It was a celebration of harvest when the first fruits of the grain harvest were presented as offerings to God (Leviticus 23:17).  In a similar way, Pentecost symbolizes for the church the beginning of God’s spiritual harvest of souls in the world.  The events during this particular Pentecost celebration marked a dividing line between the Holy Spirit’s occasional presence and temporary empowerment on certain individuals, as seen in the Old Testament, and his continual presence and sustained empowerment now available to all of God’s people.  On this particular day, he filled the believers with his presence and remained with them.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”—2:1-13

The external signs preceding the baptism in the Holy Spirit on this occasion showed that God was present and active in a powerful way.  There were times in the Old Testament when fire had accompanied God’s presence.  Fire among the believers at this Pentecost may have brought all the more assurance that this was the presence of God.  The “fire” may also have symbolized how God’s people were consecrated for the work and purpose of bringing honor to Christ and of witnessing for him.  This first occasion of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the only time tongues of fire are mentioned.  However, speaking in tongues continued to accompany baptism in the Holy Spirit.

What is the significance, or meaning, of this first “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?

  1. It meant the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise in Joel 2:28-29 to pour out his Spirit on all his people in the end times.
  2. Since that period in church history marked the beginning of the last days, everyone was now confronted with the decision to turn from their own sinful, rebellious ways and surrender their lives to Christ.
  3. The disciples were “clothed with power from on high,” making them able to communicate with boldness and authority the message and truth of Christ.  They became people the Spirit could use to convince others of their lost spiritual condition, their accountability to God and their need for a right relationship with him that is only possible through faith in Christ.
  4. The Holy Spirit revealed his nature and character as one who deeply desires and strives for the spiritual salvation of people of every nation.  Those who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit were filled with the same strong desire for salvation of the human race.  In this way, Pentecost is the beginning of world missions—the effort to take Christ’s message to people of every nation and culture.
  5. The disciples became ministers of the Spirit.  They preached about how Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead to provide forgiveness and new life to all who accept him by faith.  They also influenced those who accepted Christ to receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” whom they had received at Pentecost.  Leading others into the baptism in the Holy Spirit was vital to the work spreading Christ’s message and developing strong churches throughout the New Testament, and it still is today.
  6. Through this baptism in the Spirit, Christians became heirs, or successors, to Jesus’ earthly mission.  They continued to do and to teach, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the same things that Jesus “began to do and to teach.”

Speaking in tongues is a supernatural expression of God’s Spirit.  It is a Holy Spirit-inspired way of speaking, praying or praising God where a believer uses a language he or she has never learned.  When a person speaks in tongues, it may be an existing spoken human language.  Or it may be a language unknown on earth (see 1 Corinthians 13:1, where Paul mentions speaking in “tongues of angels”).

The word used for “see wine” (“gleukos” in Greek) normally refers to unfermented (non-alcoholic/non-intoxicating) grape juice.  Those ridiculing the disciples may have used this term rather than the common New Testament word for wine (“oinos” in Greek) because they believed that Jesus’ disciples used only this type of wine.  In addition, on a festival day like this, a typical Jew would not break his overnight fast until 10 am, so it was extremely unlikely that a group of any kind would be drunk at such an early hour.  While some outsiders may have truly thought the believers were drunk (verse 14), others were probably being sarcastic when they used the term this way.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

I will show wonders in the heavens above

and signs on the earth below,

blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood

before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls

on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest in hope,

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

you will not let your holy one see decay.

You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand

until I make your enemies

a footstool for your feet.”’

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.—2:14-41

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, along with his message in 3:11-26, contains a good pattern for communicating the gospel—the “good news” of forgiveness, new life and an eternal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Peter here and in his other message lays out six truths about Jesus.

  1. Jesus is both Lord and Christ—crucified, raised from the dead and exalted with God the Father (vv.22-36).  He is the only one qualified to be Savior (Christ and the forgiver of our sins) and Lord (the Leader and absolute authority of our lives).
  2. Now at the right hand of his Father (the place of highest honor), Jesus Christ has the authority to grant spiritual salvation to people and to pour out the Holy Spirit on all his followers (vv. 16-18 and 32-33).
  3. In order to receive spiritual salvation (to have a personal relationship with God), everyone must place his or her faith in Jesus as Lord and repent of sin (admit and turn from their own God-defying way), then begin following Jesus and his purposes.  Baptism in water serves as an outward public testimony to the inward cleansing of Spiritual salvation.  Though baptism does not save a person spiritual, it is a clear instruction given in connection with forgiveness of sins (vv.36-38).  True repentance and faith, however, are the conditions for receiving forgiveness and salvation.
  4. Believers must expect the promised gift of—or baptism in—the Holy Spirit after they have repented and surrendered their lives to Christ (vv. 38-39).
  5. Those who hear and receive Christ’s message in faith must separate themselves from the corrupt beliefs, behaviors and lifestyles that are common in the world (v. 40).
  6. Jesus Christ will return to restore God’s kingdom completely.

Considering Peter’s bold message on the day of Pentecost, notice the difference that the baptism in the Holy Spirit made in his life.  Less than two months before, Peter had denied even knowing Jesus (Luke 22:54-62) and had turned away from his few accusers like a coward.  But now he boldly confronts thousands—many of whom had demanded Christ’s execution.  As a result, three thousand people responded and accepted Christ that day. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we finish Acts chapter 2.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4, Acts 24, Psalm 4:1-8 and Proverbs 18:16-18

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