A Most Precious Gift! The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

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I’ve always wanted to speak a foreign language. But unfortunately I never had the gift of being able to learn a language other than my own. Imagine if you could instantly begin speaking, and understanding, a whole new language, without years of study.
This is exactly what happened to the Apostles who had all come together to celebrate the festival of Pentecost.

Acts 2:1-21
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

 

 These verses tell us how the apostles received power through a baptism of the Holy Spirit. This fulfilled the promise Jesus had made to them just before his ascension (Acts 1:8). Let’s examine them further.



2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

Pentecost (the feast of weeks) is a Jewish festival day, the 50th day after the Passover. (The name Pentecost means fifty.) There is some debate whom “they” refers to in this verse. Was it only the apostles mentioned in the previous verse Acts 1:26? Or was it the 120 persons mentioned earlier (Acts 1:15).

2:2 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.

This sound symbolizes the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, the words for wind and for spirit are similar. In the Greek the word for Spirit πνευμα, pneuma, comes from πνεω, pneo, to blow air. The sound was therefore appropriate.

2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability

These divided tongues were symbolic of the languages or “tongues” that have divided human beings since the Tower of Babel. The Spirit’s gift of tongues would now enable the apostles to preach in the languages of every nation under heaven.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

 God chose a very appropriate and opportune time to establish the church of Christ and begin the spread of the gospel throughout the world. The city was filled with “many… pious men from every nation”. What better audience could there have been? And who exactly were these Jews? The name “Jews” means Judeans —the the remnant of Jacob’s descendants living in Judea and its capital Jerusalem. This was the only surviving part of the large kingdom of Israel over which David and Solomon had ruled.

2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

This was the honest reaction of each person to what they personally observed. A sense of awe came over them. This reaction gives us the best measure of the miracle that occurred.

2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

Each person heard the gospel in his or her own native language because the apostles were speaking those languages (Acts 2:4). The miracle was in the speaking described in verse 4, not in the hearing mentioned here in verse 8. The hearing was normal and natural hearing, but the speaking was a miraculous gift given to the apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit. The miraculous ability to speak in languages one has never learned is known as xenoglossia.

2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?

Their amazement was short lived. A measure of disbelief and doubt set in. They asked, “What can this mean?” They started trying to find some explanation that might show that their eyes and ears were being tricked into imagining things. This is a sad reaction, because it reveals their lack of expectation, their unpreparedness for Messiah, their slowness of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken.

2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Some people are such skeptics and scoffers, that they make up any explanation, no matter how silly. “These men are full of sweet wine!” was the best they could do? They made no effort to test this hypothesis, because they knew it wouldn’t fit the facts. Peter’s rejoinder, “It is only the third hour of the day!” (Ac 2:15). was a mocking of the mockery. The real answer did not need to be spoken, for the miracle spoke for itself. It was obvious that these men were not alcoholics drunk in the morning. Peter left it unsaid that no drunkard could do what Peter and his fellows were doing.

2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.

Peter is a changed man. At the arrest of Jesus, he denied his Lord (Matthew 26:33-75), but now he is standing strong and speaking with boldness and authority. It was insulting to say that these devout men were drunk at all, let alone at such an early hour. Yet some were mocking and calling out, “These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13).

2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 which predicts the giving of the Holy Spirit. This was such a powerful gift that many wonders and signs and miracles occurred, one of which was the xenoglossia being witnessed by all who heard the apostles preaching in many foreign languages (Acts 2:4-11).

2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

This part of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:30-31) is usually regarded as figurative; nevertheless Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection were attended by signs and wonders not unlike those that Joel describes (Matthew 27:45,50-54).

2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Here at the beginning of Peter’s sermon, we have the idea of people calling on God. At the end of Peter’s sermon we have the reverse: God calling people (Acts 2:39). Likewise, Paul quotes the same passage about people calling on the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:12-14). And he also teaches the reverse when he calls the saved “those who are called” (Romans 8:28). Being saved involves being called by God and calling upon God. Through Peter’s preaching, God called people so that they might call on God.

 

 

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