Pentecost and the Coming of the Holy Spirit, Luke 2

The Book of Acts is definitely a book of history, but it is a book of history with a difference: there are no dates in it. It is left up to scholars to fill in the chronological blanks. The consensus among Bible scholars and historians is that the events recorded in Acts 2 occurred during the Jewish feast of Pentecost celebrated during the last week of May, in the year 30 AD.

The word “pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” As part of their Feast of Weeks, the Jews celebrated Pentecost on the fiftieth day after Passover. It is also known as the Feast of Harvest, at which the celebrants presented the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.

While Christians have appropriated the word “pentecost” and associate it with the work of the Holy Spirit in the church, that is not the correct use of the word. Pentecost was a Jewish feast, it was part of the the Jewish calendar and has no real meaning outside of that context. The Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost, not because Spirit baptism is a “Pentecostal Blessing,” but because that particular day was the one day when Jerusalem was literally overflowing with visitors attending the day’s festivities. It was the perfect day for the Spirit to descend, fill the followers of Christ, empowering them to witness to the greatest number of people at one time. All these visitors who heard the Gospel would take the Gospel back home with them when the Feast of Weeks was over.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was eluded to in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, where it was carefully distinguished from John’s baptism:

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)

Luke is the only Gospel writer who connects what John the Baptist said with the miracle at Pentecost.

The coming of the Holy Spirit was the final phase of Christ’s mission. First came the Incarnation; when God became man to secure our redemption; to unite man with His Creator. Then came then the Crucifixion, the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, during which He gave His life as a ransom for sinful man; separating those sins from those He came to save. Next, the Resurrection—the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Finally, Pentecost and the coming (or giving) of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

1. All together in one room, Acts 2:1

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

When the Church began, you could squeeze it all into one room. There were some 120 souls waiting patiently for something to happen. Luke gives us a hint as to when the event happened: “when the day of Pentecost came,” which simply means that the Holy Spirit came some time during this particular Day of Pentecost. While Luke gives us some practical information, he is also giving us a statement of great theological import. By mentioning “the Day of Pentecost,” Luke is reaching back in time to embrace the many Old Testament prophecies surrounding the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, like Joel 2:28. Not only prophecies, there were many “foreshadowings” of this great day. In Leviticus 23, we are given all the details of the Jewish feasts and festivals, including Passover. Passover was celebrated in the spring of the year, and this foreshadowed the death of Jesus Christ. He and the disciples celebrated Passover on the evening before His death—the death of the perfect Lamb of God.

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7—8)

After Passover, they were to bring their firstfruits—a sheaf of grain as an offering. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul reckoned that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a kind of firstfruit of the resurrection of all believers to come.

As part of the Feast of Pentecost, we read this in Leviticus 23:17—

From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

The two loaves of bread could not represent Jesus Christ because of the presence of yeast, which represents sin. So what then does the bread represent? This wave offering in Leviticus represents all those who, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, are presented to God, though not perfect, but still redeemed by Christ.

These imperfect believers were “all together in one place.” This phrase suggests that the 120 were not only in the same place at the same time for the same purpose, but they were in unity. However, this unity was not why the Spirit came, as some like to suggest. In fact, the Holy Spirit’s coming to the Church was an event preordained by God. It was an event determined by God in eternity past; God did not give His Spirit because the 120 were manifesting any kind of unity.

The interesting thing about this “unity” is that the 120 were all expecting something to happen; they were gathered together as they had been instructed by the risen Lord, all with a spirit of expectation.

2. The Age of the Spirit, verses 2—4

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Because the Holy spirit is just that, a Spirit, there is nothing sensory about Him. However, for the sake of the 120, along with the coming of the Holy Spirit, God manifested certain visible and audible signs so there could be no mistake that what happened to the faithful that day was what they were expecting.

Wind. The first thing we notice about the coming of the Holy spirit is the suddenness of His appearance. The believers expected something to happen, but when it happened, it was quick, and it was sudden and surprising. Why wind? The Lord in His providence and wisdom manifested the Spirit’s presence using a very familiar thing. Jesus taught this in John 3:8—

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Fire. This sign was in fulfilment of what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11—

I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Of course, what looked like fire really wasn’t fire; it was the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The “tongues of fire” were not so different from what appeared to be dove, descending upon Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River.

What was the significance of this display of sound and light? of wind and fire? There is a distinct parallel between the giving of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. Consider the similarities:

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. (Exodus 19:16—19)

The giving of the Law ushered in a brand new epoch and the Israelites needed to see and hear and experience it in all its fullness. The manifestation of God’s presence on Mount Sinai was unnecessary, but God knew the people needed to be fully alert and conscious of the significance of what was happening. So it was at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit. The era of the Holy Spirit had arrived; the disciples needed to experience God’s presence and His authority in a manner they would never forget.

Tongues. Immediately, the whole group was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Greek text indicates that the entire group, all 120, were filled once, all at the same time. In other words, the Spirit came and stayed with each of the 120; He did not come and go, come and go, as He did in the Old Testament. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the 120 happened one time; they were not baptized in the Spirit over and over. Henceforth, He abides in the Body of Christ, the Church, both corporately and individually. When a sinner confesses Christ as His Savior, he is filled with the Holy Spirit; Jesus Christ comes in and abides in that new believer in the Person of the Holy Spirit. That new believer at the moment of his conversion is not only filled with the Holy Spirit, but he becomes part of the Body of Christ—the Church (that is, the invisible Church). At some point, he will become part of the visible Church, a local body of believers.

When the Spirit filled all those believers, they literally became the “mouthpieces of the Spirit.” At Pentecost, the curse of Babel was lifted. the effect of the Spirit literally reversed what happened in Genesis 11—

Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:7—9)

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and miraculously enabled the Christians to speak in languages all visitors to Jerusalem could understand. In fact, the word “tongue” here means “spoken language.” These “tongues” were not an “unknown language,” but known languages, as Dr. Luke makes clear in verse 6:

When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.

No matter how much some people want to equate the “tongues” here in Acts 2 with the “tongues” Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 14, there is no correlation; they are not the same “tongues.” The purpose of “tongues” here was for a more effective witness in and around Jerusalem. Only God knew how many different languages were represented by the many visitors to Jerusalem during this particular Pentecost. By empowering the believers with the ability to speak in different languages, God was enabling all these visitors to Jerusalem to hear the Gospel in a language they could understand.

There are those who wonder if the miracle was in the speaking or in the hearing. The miracle of “tongues” had to be in the speaking of different language because the Spirit filled the 120, no the crowd who heard them.

3. Final thoughts

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the most significant event in the history of the Church. It is significant theologically and practically. We might say the Spirit came for these two purposes. First, theologically, the Holy Spirit took all those believers and baptized them into ONE Body of believers. The Church existed before the Spirit fell, but it was at best a very loose group with little or no organization. The Church before Pentecost was just a bunch of people who loved Jesus. But when the Spirit came, that bunch of loose knit people were knit together as one; baptized into the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit took that disparate group of men and women and them one.

Second, practically, the Holy Spirit empowered those believers to spread the Gospel. The Spirit came to take the teachings of Jesus and of the Word of God and make them real to the believers, giving them the supernatural unction to proclaim those things to others with confidence in a way they could understand.

After the Spirit fell at Jerusalem, the empowered Church of Jesus Christ began to grow and multiply. When it reached the Samaritans, they received the Holy spirit. When it reached the Gentiles, they received the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Gospel was preached and received by those who heard it, the Spirit filled those new believers immediately.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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