Summary: One of the most important days in history occurs 50 days after the ascension of Jesus Christ. For on the day of Pentecost the church was born.
2. The Book of Acts
May 31st, 2009
Start by leading the song happy birthday pausing for name of then finishing song!
If you have been to a charismatic church you know that they do some things a little differently than we do. Our overall theology is very similar but there are a few areas where we do not always see eye to eye. One of the major differences in our theology is the issue of speaking in tongues. I had a professor named Kenny Boles. He is the longest term staff member at Ozark and one of the classes he teaches is Greek. He told us of this time he went to a charismatic church. The people in the church had begun speaking in tongues and others had been translating. He noted that they were not following the regulations that Paul gives in Corinthians about how to practice speaking in tongues and so he got fed up. The great thing about Kenny Boles is his charming personality. He is a tall, skinny man who is completely bald on the top of his head. He has two hearing aids, he talks with a slight lisp, he wears big classes, he doesn’t sugar coat anything, and he is sassy. So watching all these people get emotional as they speak in tongues he decided to play along. So he stood up in their service and began to recite the Lord’s Prayer in Greek. When he sat down someone else from the congregation stood up and started translating: “This man is saying that if we do not repent from our sinful lives and turn back to God. If we do not start serving more in the church that fire from heaven is going to rain down and destroy us.” If you have read the Lord’s Prayer you know that is not a very good translation. So Kenny Boles with all his charm stood up and said: “I just said the Lord’s prayer in Greek. You guys are silly” and he walked out. This story is one of the many reasons I love Kenny Boles. Who does something like that?
We have a great text today looking at Acts 2. This is also the first text that we encounter speaking in tongues. These events take place after the resurrection Jesus made some appearances to His disciples and finished up His time with them before ascending into heaven. There are forty days between the resurrection and the ascension leaving us with a period of ten days after Jesus ascending before we come to our text. Now Jesus had promised that after He left He would send the Counselor that is the Spirit of God to come guide them to the truth and convict them of sin. During the interim period the disciples were alone. Their Rabbi had left them and they did not have anyone to guide them. Ten days later we see that promise fulfilled. Here is what happened: The disciples were all together house when a great wind came and filled the whole house. They saw what appeared to be tongues of fire. When these flaming tongues descended on them they began to speak in tongues. Now in order to see what is happening here you need to put on your Yamika. In Jewish tradition wind, fire, and inspired speech was considered to be a sign of the presence of God. This is extremely important for us to understand. Even though Jesus left earth the presence of God is still with us.
We mentioned last week that the hero of the book of Acts is the Holy Spirit. Here is where He makes His public debut. The Holy Spirit arrives, fills the disciples and they begin to speak in tongues. But who is being referred to here? Do we have the 12 apostles speaking in tongues or all 120 disciples?
Pentecostals say that all 120 disciples of Jesus spoke in tongues. This is because they are predisposed to believe that speaking in tongues is for everyone. So to support their view they believe that all of the disciples of Jesus would have spoken in tongues because that best supports their interpretation. Cessationists, who are people who believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, say that it was only the 12 who spoke in tongues. They say this to limit the amount of people who spoke in tongues so that they can defend their position that tongues is not for everyone and it is no longer practiced. Both sides have interpretations that are based on their theological agendas. So who is right?
Honestly it doesn’t really matter: because the Holy Spirit does what He wants, when He wants, how He wants, where He wants and He doesn’t stop to ask your permission. But in order to understand this passage we should look at who was actually speaking in tongues. If you take out the chapter divisions which are not originally a part of the book then the natural reading of the text becomes clear. The ‘they’ mentioned does not seem to refer to the entire 120 but to the twelve apostles. Verse 1 indicates that they were all together in one place and that place was a house. There houses would host 12 but could not fit 120. Then the crowd noted that all the men who were speaking were Galileans. It is unlikely that all 120 disciples would have been Galileans but we know that it was true of the 12. That does not mean that no one else will speak in tongues for Acts 8 and Acts 10 show us that others do speak in tongues. But Acts 2 is all about the Apostles. It makes the most sense that only the 12 were speaking. What a marvelous sign this would have been. The Spirit of God is working which is plain to see but what does it mean?