Summary: What was the Holy Spirit doing in that fabled first century? Should He be doing the same today?
IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
3 ...to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Here in the Book of Acts, God’s own defining church history book, is the beginning of the outcome of Jesus’ promises and commands. One would think that whatever is found in this book is to be the norm for the church of Jesus until He returns.
His final words to the young church involve the Promise. When Acts 1 and 2 talk of the Promise, it is the Holy Spirit that is being referenced. Wait for the promise of the Father that you heard from Me, he says. When did they hear this? At his final discourse before His death, found in John 14-16. We noted this above.
He once more compares John’s water baptism to the new baptism they will receive. They don’t seem to take this as seriously as the other issue on their mind, the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom, with Jesus as king. Jesus does not deny that such a time will come, but suggests that there is other business at hand first, and to take care of said business they will need power. So back to the subject He was talking about. The Holy Spirit is going to so empower you that you will be able to go to the ends of the earth with My message. In mentioning this extended vision, He brings modern disciples into the program. And we need that power just as much as did they.
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs--we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" 13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
Finally the “promise” is fulfilled. In this most familiar of all Holy Spirit passages, the disciples, all unsuspecting, are having a prayer meeting when suddenly they are treated to a multi-sensory demonstration. Their ears, eyes, and mouths are full of heaven’s glory in the first of many such occurrences that God’s people have witnessed through the years.
I do not want to belabor the point here, but notice that the manifestation from the disciples was none other than speaking in tongues. Languages. Unlearned languages that were identifiable by nationals from many countries present that morning. Though Paul later downplays tongue-speaking in comparison to the other gifts, this seems to be the ground-floor entrance-way into the things of the Spirit, as story after story is recounted in the following chapters.
So many questions out there about tongues today. Are there tongues of “angels” as Paul suggests? Are tongues always identifiable as languages? What of those who speak in syllables, or even repeat the same syllable over and over? Is that tongues too? I think it is important for now to establish a pattern of saying only what Scripture says and allowing God to do what He wants in individual lives.