Chapter 3: The Day of Pentecost
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’ 13 Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine’.
The Holy Spirit comes
Some Christians waste time arguing about secondary issues concerning the Holy Spirit. Yet there is so much important common ground to enjoy together. The apostles and over a hundred and twenty men and women now pray together in an upper room.1 God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, will be their surprise Divine Guest of honour at the birth of the church on this Feast of Pentecost. He will change everything. He continues to change lives today when sinful people come to Christ for forgiveness! He makes the day that they trust Christ become their personal Pentecost.
‘Pentecost’ is a long established annual feast for Jewish people. It means ‘fifty days’, because it comes fifty days after Passover. As fifty days is essentially seven weeks it is also called the ‘Feast of Weeks’. Another title, ‘Feast of Harvests,’ marks the Jews gathering in their harvest. They say ‘Thank you’ to God, by presenting to Him, as a token, the first part of their harvest, thus known as the ‘firstfruits’.2 So Pentecost now signals what believers in Christ first receive as soon as they turn to Him, namely His gift of the Holy Spirit. He comes to live in the hearts of all new believers. At the same time He makes them part of His living church.3
God has very special plans for this particular Pentecost! Those converted to Jesus on this amazing day are the firstfruits of His new-born church. Anyone, anywhere and at any time who repents and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a living stone in that growing ‘building’ of people who now have come to know God.4
God grabs the attention of those gathered together in that upper room. A sudden sound ‘as of a rushing mighty wind’ fills the whole house. This huge tornado sound is from Heaven. This is God’s doing. Then what seem to be ‘tongues, as of fire’ separate and rest on each person present. The sound is not an actual rushing wind—it just sounds like ‘a rushing mighty wind’.
Neither are the tongues actual tongues of fire but just seem to be ‘tongues … of fire’.5 Jesus had promised, ‘Behold I send the Promise of my Father upon you, but tarry in the city until you are endued with power from on high’.6 That moment has now arrived. The promised Holy Spirit has come!
Languages without learning
There are at least fifteen different people groups in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. Many others speak different dialects and languages. God’s amazing message will reach everyone and mark out this day as clear and unforgettable in world history. The world will hear that He will accept ‘all men everywhere’7 who repent from their sins, believe that His Son has died for them, and put their confidence in Him alone. The Jews, who have rejected Christ as Messiah, ought now to understand that God will save Gentiles as well as Jews.8
But who is sharing this message with these multi-lingual visitors? All the speakers are locals from Galilee! No language laboratories exist! No printed dictionaries are available, nor TV programmes or language teaching courses. Also, ‘Galilean Jews speak with a distinct regional accent and are regarded as unsophisticated and uneducated by some southern Judean Jews.’9
How will God convey His message to those of different languages, especially through largely uneducated men with heavy accents and no language skills?
This is a unique experience in history.10 As God comes to bless all His blood-bought children in that upper room by filling them with the Holy Spirit and placing them into His living church, something else happens. They begin ‘to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance’. The word translated tongues means ‘languages’, as is obvious from what happens and what is said. In the amazed and perplexed crowd each person hears them ‘speak in his own language’. This makes them ask, ‘how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?’11
Bewildered, they ask each other ‘Whatever could this mean?’
God turns untrained and rustic Galileans into fluent speakers to cover all the languages represented! And they do the job perfectly. This truly is a work of the Holy Spirit, demonstrating that He has miraculously visited His new-born church. It also underlines God’s passion to extend His church, right from the start, by saving people from all over the world who will now understand the message of the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him as their Saviour.
Scrambled thinking: when unbelief defies logic.
Many people are compelled to accept the message that follows and publicly show, by baptism, that the Lord Jesus Christ has become their Saviour through personal faith in Him.12 Some will need more time to get over their amazement before translating what they witnessed into personal faith. Others will realise later that they can be forgiven and will turn to Christ. They may sincerely continue to ask, ‘Whatever could this mean?’ Fair enough—God expects us to think things through carefully and that can take time. Jesus Himself said, ‘Seek and you will find’.13
But some cynics mock and suggest the preachers are drunk, claiming they have drunk too much wine. Do drunkards speak intelligently and understandably in a foreign language, especially one they have never learned? Just the reverse! A person under the influence of alcohol normally finds it hard to speak coherently in his own language!
What poor excuses and twisted arguments some hide behind to avoid facing their need to ask for God to forgive them for their sin. They ignore the solemn fact that life is so short. They dare not consider seriously that they are eternally lost without Christ. Although they need Jesus as their Saviour, they try to run away from Him. To cover up they treat the whole situation as a big laugh. But going to Hell is no joke. Neither was Jesus’ death on the cross, when He personally suffered our deserved judgement in order to save us from sin, death and Hell.
‘Fools mock at sin’:14 how very foolish to mock when forgiveness is on offer where there is serious repentance. How tragic not to repent, trust Jesus, and receive eternal life. How sad to miss the real joy, peace and blessing which the Holy Spirit brings with Him as He comes to live in our lives. Are you making excuses for not turning to Christ? I do hope not.
Questions on Chapter 3
The Day of Pentecost—Acts 2:1–13
A. What does the Holy Spirit do in this passage? Compare that with the other verses quoted below about how the Holy Spirit works.
Acts 2:1–13, Luke 24:49, Ephesians 1:13–14, Romans 8:9–17, 1 Corinthians 12:12–13, 2 Corinthians 5:5
B. What impact would speaking perfectly in known languages, without learning them, make on (a) the foreigners in Jerusalem and (b) the Galilean Christians who witness for Christ? Do you think that what happened in Genesis 11:1–9 may be one reason why God chose this miraculous method to communicate the news about Jesus widely?
Acts 2:1–4, Mark 1:6–8, Acts 1:4–8, Acts 2:5–13, Genesis 11:1–9
C. How many reasons can you think of why people make fun of those who share the good news of Jesus Christ? Why is it foolish to do so?
Acts 2:13, Proverbs 14:9, Psalm 14:1
- Acts 1:13-15 ↩
- Exodus 23:16, Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:15–22 ↩
- Luke 24:49, Romans 8:9–16,1 Corinthians12:12–13, 2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 1:13–14 ↩
- 1 Peter 2:5 ↩
- God can send fire down and has done so. When He does that, the Bible clearly says so. See, for example, Leviticus 9:24 (the start of the priesthood under Moses and Aaron), 1 Kings 18:30–39 (Elijah and the prophets of Baal), and 2 Chronicles 7:1–3 (after Solomon dedicates the Temple). ↩
- Luke 24:49 ↩
- Acts 17:30 ↩
- Acts 11:1, Acts 14:27 ↩
- The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles, 1997 page 1635. ↩
- As we will see, the day of Pentecost is truly unique. Other instances of the Holy Spirit ‘breaking new ground’ for the gospel have certain similarities, but this is different for a number of reasons, including having so many people from different nationalities having God’s word preached to them in one place, each in their own language. It broke entirely new ground. ↩
- The explanation given here in Acts 2:6–7 is that foreign languages are being spoken. ↩
- See Acts 2:36–41 ↩
- Matthew 7:7 ↩
- Proverbs 14:9 ↩