Pentecost: The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13)
Event (verses 1-4)
Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, He poured out His Holy Spirit while the Jews were celebrating Pentecost, one of three Jewish feasts. First, the Spirit’s coming was heard around them, as He “filled the house” (v2). Then, He was on them, as He “rested on each one of them” (v3). And finally, He was in them, as “they were all filled” (v4). His coming was made known both audibly and visibly. Audibly, there was a sound like the sound of a rushing wind, which brings to mind God’s creating and recreating power, such as God’s Spirit hovering over the waters initially at Creation (Gn 1:2) or the wind that breathes new life into lifeless bodies in the days of Ezekiel (Ez 37:9).
Visibly, the Spirit was made known through the presence of “tongues as of fire” on each of the disciples (v3). Just as fire is used in the Old Testament to signify God’s presence (Ex 3:2; 13:21; 19:18; 1 Kgs 19:11-14; Is 66:15), so also the tongues as of fire at Pentecost were to make known that God’s presence was there. Just as John had promised, Jesus was baptizing his disciples with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Lk 3:16). The Spirit was no longer localized in the Temple, but would be present with every believer’s life, equipping them for sanctification, for speaking God’s Word, and for serving in ministry.
– What is the significance of the sound of rushing wind and the tongues as of fire? What can we learn from these analogies with regard to God’s Spirit and the work He accomplishes on the earth?
Effect (verses 5-11)
The disciples have now moved outside the room where they were gathered and have come into contact with the crowds that are gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. Hearing the disciples speak in languages not their own, the crowd is bewildered and confused. Luke’s language of tongues and bewilderment resembles the event at Babel (Gn 11:7) where God confused the language of the arrogant men that were attempting to ascend to heaven. This event is the initial phase of the undoing of Babel’s judgment. In this case, rather than arrogant earthlings attempting to ascend to heaven, heaven humbly descends to earth in the person of the Spirit. The fact that the Spirit caused the disciples to pray in many different known, recognized and understandable languages gives evidence to the fact that from the very earliest days of the church, it was made up of all types of people.
While certain effects of Pentecost are initial, abnormal and terminated in that one event—e.g. wind/fire and tongues/languages—there are a number of other effects that are not abnormal and continue still today—e.g. new life in Christ, fellowship with others, boldness of faith, worship of Christ, etc. These normal aspects of Spirit-filled Christian living will continue to be normative in the church throughout all time.
– What relationship is there between the languages in which the disciples were praying and the commission given them in Acts 1:8? In what ways can Pentecost be understood as the undoing of God’s judgment displayed at Babel?
Evaluation (verses 12-13)
The overall evaluation of the situation by those who were present was one of amazement and perplexity (v12), repeating the initial observation in verses 6-7. Just as all were amazed at the initial coming of the Spirit, we as Christians are called to be continually amazed at the mercy of God in sending His Spirit to people like us.
On the other hand, there were those present in the day of Pentecost that mocked the disciples, ridiculing reality by making up an excuse to explain it away (v13). Still today, there are many who make absurd excuses to explain away the reality of Christ and His Spirit, and choose instead to harden their hearts to reality.
– Why should it amaze us that God would give us His Spirit? What does it reveal about God’s character? What does it reveal about the power of the gospel?