Summary: A message about why the Spirit gave those first Christians the ability to speak in other languages.
Pentecost #3 - Tongues
Some people find the story of Pentecost quite difficult & disturbing - why?
I think because the Bible says that the Holy Spirit (HS) came & the disciples heard saw & experienced the HS.
They are all gathered on the day of Pentecost in prayer & HS came both audibly & visually.
Audibly - sound like a mighty rushing wind - so loud attracted people in Jerusalem.
Visible - resting on each like tongues of fire.
Like a rushing wind & like tongues of fire – language prevents them from being any more precise – they just can’t get words out to describe what they see & hear.
To what effect! Initially the text tells us they spoke in different languages & proclaimed gospel in the native languages of the many peoples gathered there.
Here is where I have found some folk have major league problems with Acts 2, & perhaps you today have always discounted this as a fanciful story or such like because your modern worldview won’t allow you to believe it to be true.
So a question: do we believe it?
We are given all sorts of information by all sorts of people & organisations – at the end of the day we all have a decision to make – do we believe the facts that are presented to us.
Before the Iraq war did the government tell us the truth about WMD in Iraq or did they spin the facts? Blair & Bush say they told us the truth - other voices saying didn’t. History doesn’t seem to help because on one side we see the reluctance of Saddam to allow inspectors in, while on the other the lack of WMD found since tells a different tale.
So it all comes back down to who do we believe, & how you answer that will depend on how reliable we consider the source to be – so we trust Blair?
Exactly the same thing was going on here with this text before us today - Do we trust it? Today I want us to think about that & hopefully God willing the HS will aid our voyage of discovery.
At the end of the day the claims of Acts 2 are incredible because such a diverse list of nations listed: Parthia & Medes – to the East – would have included north of modern day Turkey. Elamites – modern day Iran while Mesopotamia, Phrygia & Asia Minor – now inside modern day Turkey. You all know where Judea is/was! Cappadocia – ancient kingdom in Asia. Pontus - another powerful Asian kingdom. Pamphylia & Crete in the Med while Egypt, Libya & Cyrene in Africa. Visitors from Rome would have been Latin speakers & Arabs – Saudi / Gulf area.
How could 12 & more mostly uneducated folk from an obscure part of the Roman Empire be able to speak to such a diverse group in all their native languages?
Many scoff at this account – come up with alternative explanations like: emotional furore got the better of them – like in a whirling trance they are able to overcome their fears & started telling people of gospel & they all spoke normally just that exaggerated account later.
Or they memorized the speech in different languages for the express purpose of telling the good news to different people - not to fool but simply to tell – then years later those who witnessed saw as miraculous & so described it in terms we have.
Or the example the text itself gives us – they are drunk!
People then & now look for excuses & explanations because the answer the text offers is so difficult – what is they answer? God did it!
They spoke not gibberish but in definite languages to underline & proclaim so powerfully that this Gospel is for all people’s. Please don;t get sidelined & miss this point.
Out of fear people explain away the coming of the HS which may do justice to our modern worldview – but does it do justice to Luke’s telling of history as he & his witnesses experienced it?
The Bible said the HS came - haven’t suggested Neil said or Wesley or some expert that these things happened. Not saying out of 100 people surveyed so many believe like on ‘Family Fortunes’. If it had just been that then we could far more easily explain it away.
You could say well that Neil has a vivid imagination or Wesley must have misunderstood. But the point is that the Bible said it & real issue here is do we trust the Bible more than the opinions of our friends, experts, or 4 out of 5 Methodists surveyed? The issue is do we really believe the Bible?