[Act 2:1-13 ESV] 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
The day of Pentecost arrived. When we think of Pentecost we think of this coming of the Holy Spirit here written about in the New Testament. But what the Apostles knew as Pentecost was a Jewish feast day. The word “Pentecost” is from the Greek meaning “fiftieth.” And Pentecost was a festival held FIFTY days after Passover.
The word “Pentecost” is not actually used in the Old Testament but found only in the apocrypha, those inter-testamental books written between the times of the Old Testament and the times of the New Testament.
Yet in a couple places (Deuteronomy 16:9 and Leviticus 23:16) specific regulations are given to the Jews in regards to the harvest that shall occur 50 days after passover. It is this Spring harvest festival that in time became known as Pentecost.
It happens that today, May 23, 2021 is Pentecost Sunday.
And today is 49 days after Easter. But didn’t I say that Pentecost means 50?
You see, the passover occurred one day BEFORE Jesus rose from the dead. So that makes 50 days from that Saturday to this Sunday. 7 weeks plus 1 day.
Incidentally, children, one advantage of American football is that from it you can learn your 7’s times tables. A touchdown plus an extra point is 7. And so the games might be 14-7 or 28-21 or some other multiple and you quickly learn to multiple.
I. Huddled Together
So 49 days after Jesus rose from the dead and the tomb was found empty, the disciples were together. That is, they were together on a SUNDAY. This alone might not prove the case for Sunday—rather than Saturday—being our Sabbath, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. In fact, we often find the Apostles meeting together on the first day of the week, Sunday. Here perhaps they were still remembering the festival of Pentecost or maybe they had already begun to recognize this day of the week as the great day of the Lord, the day Jesus rose from the dead. A day to be celebrated, together.
And it is, of course, a good thing to meet together with other believers in whatever place you are in and to form churches. The apostles were together—which is good—but it is notable that they were all in ONE place. And maybe this is a problem. Didn’t Jesus already say to them “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” But they have not yet gone! Some have said the Apostles were afraid. But the text doesn’t say that. Rather, we find in the first chapter of Acts that Jesus explain:
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
So why were they together, not yet proclaiming the Gospel to the nations? It is not so much because they were scared, but because they did not yet have the power of the Holy Spirit.
They simply couldn’t do it on their own! They couldn’t be effective agents of the Lord by their own power. They need the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, in that situation, what did God do? Who did God send? He sent the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is that time, that season that Jesus promised. Here the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles giving them the power to be witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Remember in John’s Gospel we had Jesus tell of “another comforter” to come. This is now that comforter, the Holy Spirit.
And so Pentecost becomes known no longer first of all for that Spring harvest festival but for the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit that occurred on that day.
It was indeed a momentous day.
A certain 19th century Scottish theologian, George Smeaton, said of this momentous day of Pentecost:
“It was the great day of the Holy Spirit. The opening of the river of the water of life. The great birthday of the Christian church. The greatest event of world history next to the incarnation and the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
II. Hearing the Gospel
So what then exactly happened on this Pentecost day when the Apostles were huddled together? Why was it so great?
2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
First, we might ask what are these “other tongues?”
The text tells us the answer:
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own LANGUAGE. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, THIS GIBBERISH?
No, that’s not right …
8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in HIS OWN NATIVE LANGUAGE?
See this is not talking about unknown (and unknowable) babblings but is referring to REAL languages.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God gave to his apostles the ability (temporarily) to speak in the foreign languages of the Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, of Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and of those visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, and Cretans and Arabians.
The Apostles are miraculously speaking those real languages.
The Greek word for languages is often translated “tongues.”
And one Presbyterian theologian has well explained: “the word glossa can mean a tongue of land or a leather thong, or the organ in one’s mouth; but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to find an instance in Greek where it means gibberish.” (Gordon H Clark, First Corinthians, 219.)
So the tongues were real languages … SO THAT all could hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Gibberish is of no benefit, but the Gospel in your language so that you can understand is of infinite value.
The people visiting Jerusalem then from many nations are hearing the gospel. And many are believing in the mighty works of God.
But why the miracles? Why not just use translators of the languages? What are the purpose of miracles? And why don’t we have miraculous abilities to speak languages today?
Miracles in the Scripture always testify in support of new revelation from God. They prove that the speaker is a prophet of God. The miraculous speaking in tongues was not merely so that they would hear the Gospel preached, but so that they’d have reason to believe it!
But now the Bible is complete. We have the faith once-delivered to the saints. And there no new revelations which need miracles to attest to them.
You can see then issues then with the claims of the Pentecostalists. They claim to be speaking new languages or spirit languages, when in reality they are speaking gibberish. The Scriptures show that speaking in tongues was speaking in real languages.
Then also, the Pentecostal claim to be receiving new revelations is an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture. We teach that the Bible is sufficient; it is enough for you and me. In claiming to receive new revelations the Pentecostalists are saying that Bible is not enough for them; that they need something more.
Pentecostalists have given a bad name to Pentecost. In fact, 23 of the biggest 25 financial scandals in American church history have been centered around Pentecostal preachers, who often lead big television ministries telling people they have new revelations from God. And they new revelations, not unsurprisingly, often include the need for money.
So beware of those who claim to have a new word from God. Rather, read His real Word, the Bible, and believe it alone. For in it you have eternal life.
III. Proclaiming the Gospel
Let’s look lastly at “proclaiming the Gospel.”
The Gospel is proclaimed by the Apostles, and heard by those of the nations, so that they in turn may themselves proclaim the Gospel.
Jesus had commanded “Go make disciples of all nations.” But this was beyond the Apostle’s power to fulfill. What was needed is the Holy Spirit.
With the coming of the Holy the we go from
“Go and make disciples …”
“Going and Making disciples…”
The apostles are active and successful. Starting in Jerusalem and moving outward from there.
While the text does not explicitly make this connection, it perhaps is meaningful that this event occurred on the day of Pentecost, the festival of the Spring Harvest. This was the first harvest of the year and from it come the first-fruits. Now only the day of Pentecost the new converts are the first to come to the faith. It is a great harvest … not of fruit or of grain but of believers!
And there are more harvests yet to come!
But the Gospel must be proclaimed! For people to believe in the Lord, they must hear the word. And we must proclaim it.
We are called to go forth with the gospel. To make disciples.
So I ask you:
Are you doing so? [PAUSE]
Are you making disciples?
No doubt we struggle in that venture. We ask, “how can I speak the words of the gospel to others that they might hear and believe?”
How is it possible that I (or you) can bring others to faith in Jesus Christ and life eternal?
The answer is simple: By the work of the Holy Spirit. You have the Spirit of God on your side.
Even the Apostles needed the Holy Spirit.
We have a promise of God in the book of Isaiah:
[Isa 55:11 ESV] 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
God will call in and gather his people. He will do so through the Holy Ghost, the giver of life, who dwells in us, who changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, and who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure.
The Holy Spirit works in us so that we will succeed not only in doing good works but in evangelism; in making disciples.
The Holy Spirit is necessary and He is powerful to accomplish the task. Fear not then, but go and make disciples:
How are you going to make this happen?
Invite people to church
Invite people to church events
Get to know your neighbors
Be available for others to talk to
Surprise people with your kindness
Have contagious joy in the Lord
Teach the Bible to your children and to others
Pray for others to come to know Christ
And in all of this trust in the Holy Spirit who makes evangelism possible.
Praise be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.