Summary: When our hearts are aflame for the Lord, we boldly proclaim without fear that Jesus saves, igniting the lives of others!
Conversions in the Book of Acts> The Day of Pentecost--Acts chapter 2 “Church Aflame” Reading> 2:1-4, 36-41 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Pentecost set the church on fire! The occasion began as a Jewish festival occurring 50 days after Passover (the word Pentecost means “fiftieth”). Also called the “feast of weeks”, it marked the end of the “firstfruits” barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Pentecost was also the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. According to Jewish historian Josephus, thousands of dispersed pilgrims came every year to Jerusalem to participate in the festivities. In Acts 2, Pentecost became a firstfruits harvest of souls. Scholars say the day of the week was Sunday, the same day as our Lord’s resurrection, which may have influenced the switch to Sunday as the day of worship.
As the chapter opens we see the disciples gathered together, waiting for their commission and promised power. How well do we wait for God’s promises? The wind and fire that accompany this outpouring of the Spirit were audible, visible symbols for the presence and activity of God. The Church was then suddenly “conceived” by the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come upon select individuals to empower them for specific tasks, but now the Spirit dwells in all believers. John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt 3:11). We become spiritually alive when God breathes His Spirit into us.
The disciples then poured out in the streets, proclaiming the good news in unlearned foreign languages. Some may have even been singing the joyous message. God was miraculously preparing the way for the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. Many people question whether speaking in tongues a gift for today (many regard tongues as a “sign gift” for the Apostolic age, prior to the completion of the New Testament). We need to be open to let God grant us whatever gifts He desires for us. Spiritual gifts are simply special attributes or abilities given by the Holy Spirit, in order to build up the church. The Bible lists several gifts, not just tongues. Being filled with the Spirit doesn’t guarantee we’ll speak in tongues, as there are a variety of gifts within the Body of Christ for the equipping of God’s people.
The observers of this public spectacle were bewildered. This multilingual praise outburst appeared without warning or explanation. Some wanted to know more. Others, who regarded Galileans as backward people, assumed they were inebriated (they weren’t known for linguistic ability). God is in the habit of destroying stereotypes. Sadly, we see here a pattern of rejection, even in the face of miraculous, undeniable evidence of God at work. It’s not pleasant being mocked, but we have to respond with compassion--we are often dealing with people who are spiritually blind, and we can only pray that the Spirit will, through our witness, open their eyes to the Light of the Gospel.
Pentecost shows that we have a new power for ministry. When we share our faith, we’re not on our own. The Spirit works in and through us to convince and convict people, and to draw them to saving faith. Pentecost also shows us the immediacy of God. The very presence of God is within us.
Luke (the author of Acts) lists several territories represented by the multitudes. They all had extensive Jewish communities. Pentecost broke down barriers of national and social discord. Christianity became that day a global, unified faith marked by cultural diversity. All other world religions were exclusively national. When Jesus burst upon the scene, although He came to His people first, He came because “God so loved the world,” not just Israel. This becomes especially clear as Gentiles are added to the fellowship of believers. The church is a world-wide family. Grace produces harmony. God’s love of Israel continues, and the roots of our faith remain Jewish; but the community of faith has been broadened to include all who call on the Name of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah. Those who came to Christ that day returned to their home nations bringing the “Good News”. Gentile converts probably were included in the number.
I’ve attended worship services in foreign countries; even though I didn’t understand the language, I felt a part of what was going on, because the fellowship of Christians transcends national, even linguistic boundaries.
Some people see in Pentecost a reverse of the curse of Babel (Gen 11). Language was confused at that tower, but at Pentecost barriers were nullified, and each person understood in their own language the word of God. God’s judgment at Babel scattered humankind, but God’s blessing at Pentecost united believers in the Spirit. The disciples could have addressed the crowd in Aramaic or Greek, common languages to most people, but the miracle reached the masses with the message. The tongues were a sign that verified the Truth of Christ.