Filled with the Spirit. 2:1-13
The setting for the action recorded in Acts 2 is probably somewhere in the Temple precincts. We are told the disciples gathered each day at the Temple and so this site would fit the Pentecostal events well. As they met, the disciples experienced a rather strange occurrence. They heard the sound of something like wind echoing through the Temple colonnades. They knew only too well that the wind was a symbol of God's Spirit - his breath, Ezk.37:9-14. The disciples also saw something like streams of fire, or light, pouring down onto each member of the fellowship. Immediately they began praising God in a miraculous way. The commotion caused a crowd to gather, and those in the crowd heard the disciples speaking in their own native language, or dialect. All heard and understood as one and all were amazed.
v1. The feast of Pentecost was held 50 days after the Passover. On this occasion, the disciples were most likely gathered in the Temple court. Although Pentecost was originally a "first-fruits" festival, it was later used to celebrate the giving of the Law at Sinai - the coming-down of God to make a people for himself. The giving of the Spirit to the gathered disciples fulfills this meaning of Pentecost. They were now God's new-covenant people with the law written on their heart.
v2-3. The disciples were then overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, described in the terms of a blowing wind and a washing fire. Both these are Old Testament images of the Spirit of God, particularly of his power. cf. Ex.3:2, Matt.3:11. Luke's description of the event shows that he is not pushing the idea of an actual wind and fire, but is rather symbolically describing the Spirit's outpouring. None-the-less, there is nothing to hinder the Spirit's coming with such physical elements.
v4. The disciples are then "filled", or washed, with the Spirit, and in response, speak in tongues. This giving of the Spirit must be understood as a personal coming of the Spirit of Christ to be with his people. It is a fulfillment of the expectations of Israel. The Prophets had spoken of the day when God would again visit his people and reside with them - pitch his tent with them. Pentecost is the fulfillment of this day, cf. Zech.2:10-13. In this sense it is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to his disciples that he would not leave them comfortless, but would return to them, John.14:15-18. Many want to interpret this filling in the sense of a "baptism" - an empowering of the Spirit for service. Without a doubt there is power in the presence of God. The disciples miraculously proclaim the "mighty works of God" to the amazed crowd. Yet, this is but a consequence of the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit's presence empowers their service to Christ.
v5-13. The phenomena of "other tongues" is not easily explained. Even those who were witnesses were "amazed and perplexed." Here was a single word understood by people of different language groups in much the same sense as all those at Mount Sinai heard the law from the mouth of God.
Tongues is, in the fullest sense, a reversal of the curse of Babel. The disciples were therefore prophesying as foretold by the prophet Joel. The form of their prophecy is ecstatic - abnormal, mysterious and not easily understood. Those who heard the disciples prophesy heard in their own languages, or at least, in their own dialects. This miracle was repeated with Cornelius, Acts 11:15, and possibly also occurred on those other significant moments when the gospel moved beyond Israel to Samaritans, to God fearers, and finally to Gentiles. It does not seem to have become a standard evidence of the gift of the Spirit. The Corinthian phenomena, ICor:12-14, although a form of ecstatic utterance, is not a miraculous communication event.
Making Christ known
One of the most difficult tasks for a Christian is to witness. Our experience is that the more we tell ourselves to evangelize the more we seem unable to evangelize. The way forward is to understand clearly how God is realizing his kingdom in our age and to trust him to not only secure our place in his kingdom, but to effectively use us in its realization. Success in the Christian life, whether evangelism or whatever, does not come by trying to minister in our own power, but rather trust the indwelling Spirit of Jesus to work his work through us.
From this passage in Acts we know that if we have given our lives to Jesus then he has entered our very being. As a result of this, we can expect the release of Jesus' resurrection power within us to make known the gospel, and through the gospel, gather a united people unto God. Here lies our confidence, not in what we do, but in what Christ is able to do through us. God is gathering a people to himself from our divided world. He is doing this through his Spirit-empowered word, preserved and proclaimed by his Spirit-empowered people. As our age draws to a close, God is pushing ahead with his plan. So, may we, like the disciples of old, be used to proclaim God's wondrous message.
1. What is the point of the symbols of wind (sounded like) and fire ("seemed to be")?
2. The disciples were "filled with the Holy Spirit". What is meant by this filling?
3. The disciples spoke "in other tongues". What do you think actually occurred and what did it mean?
4. The onlookers were "amazed and perplexed". What did the event say to them?
5. How does the Pentecost event affect our daily living for Christ?
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