Key Verse: 2:4
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
In the previous passage we learned that the apostles were united in prayer and mended the broken vessel. Today’s passage speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after the ascension of Christ. (1-13) The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a new beginning, the age of the Holy Spirit within the church. We must study what happened at the coming of the Holy Spirit. What were the effects of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and all people? After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles became mighty witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus before the crowd. (14-41) After this event the Holy Spirit was available to all people who repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as their personal savior. The Holy Spirit began to work with all believers. I pray that the Holy Spirit may enable us to declare the wonders of God and to see God’s vision and to obey Jesus’ world mission command with joyful hearts.
Look at verse 1. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” Ten days ago Jesus ascended to heaven with glory and power while his disciples were watching him. It was an awesome sight for the disciples. The day of Pentecost was the fiftieth day after the Sabbath of the Passover week and the Pentecost means fifties in Greek. Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples and ascended to haven and the apostles spent the next 10 days in united prayer and intensive Bible studies. Then at the fiftieth day from the Passover God poured out the Holy Spirit on all of them who were praying together in one place. The day of Pentecost was celebrated according to Moses’ law by the special service of offering the first fruits of the wheat harvest in the form of two loaves of bread. This was one of the three annual festivals at which all of the male Jews were required to be present. The Feast of Pentecost was the Feast of the Harvest like our inaugural Harvest Festival next week. (Exodus 23:16) Also, it celebrated the memorial of the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. The Jews received the law at Pentecost but the Christians received the promised Holy Spirit. Therefore, the day of Pentecost was fitting to be the day for promulgation of the gospel to the whole world. It was the inaugural day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
What were the disciples doing on the day of Pentecost? Did they watch the fire works at the Jerusalem square? No. They were all together in one place. According to Acts 1:14, “they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Two things preceded the coming of the Holy Spirit. The first one was that they were united in prayer. The second thing was that they mended the broken vessel of God. Now they made a spiritual environment and waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit as Jesus commanded. (Acts 1:8) At that moment, something very unusual happened. The Holy Spirit came upon them. Here we learn something about the Holy Spirit.
First, the Holy Spirit came with power. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of power. The Holy Spirit is powerful like a violent wind, which can shake anything. Look at verse 2. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” It was the coming of the Holy Spirit. He is compared to the blowing of a violent wind. We can see the power of wind in tornados and hurricanes like Isabel. Such wind can pick up houses and put them down in another place. Wind can be everywhere at one time. Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is invisible, but powerful and everywhere present. Jesus himself compared the Holy Spirit to a life-giving wind, saying, "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" (Jn 3:8). In both Hebrew ("ruach"), and Greek ("pneuma"), the same word refers to wind, spirit and breath. After God formed man from the dust of the ground, he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being (Gen 2:7). In the same way, the Holy Spirit gives birth to a new spiritual life in those who believe in Jesus (Jn 3:5,6). The Holy Spirit can give new life to any kind of person.
Look at verse 3. "They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Though the Holy Spirit is one, he was given to each of the apostles individually. He came to them as tongues of fire. His manifestation as tongues of fire has deep meaning. The tongue is the instrument of speech. Fire represents the holiness of God. Jesus had said that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit (Ac 1:5). The Holy Spirit baptizes with holy fire (Lk 3:16) that cleanses and purifies the inner man from all sin and iniquity. He would especially sanctify their hearts and tongues. The Holy Spirit would help them speak the truth about the holy God. This reminds us of the prophet Isaiah. When Isaiah met the Holy God personally he realized that he was a man of unclean lips who spoke unbelieving words. He knew he deserved God's punishment. Then an angel took a live coal from the holy fire and touched his lips (Isa 6:7). His lips were cleansed and his sin atoned for. He became a powerful servant of God. Hebrews 12:29 says, “For our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” The Holy Spirit will consume all our sins like a consuming power. We suffer a lot due to our lingering sin problem in our hearts. We have lustful desires in our hearts. But when the Holy Spirit comes upon us as tongues of fire, he burns away our impurities and gives us a new heart. We are born again into the kingdom of God.
Look at verse 4. "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." Each of the apostles was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came to live in them as his dwelling place. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, he filled the apostles one by one with his own presence. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the gift of God (Ac 1:4). Indeed the Holy Spirit is the best blessing that God can give to mankind. The Holy Spirit, like fire, warms our hearts with the love of God.
What kind power did the apostles need right away? It was the power to speak foreign languages so as to obey Jesus’ world mission command. They did not have time to learn language. The power took effect on them when they were able to speak languages they had never learned before. The power was visible and outward. The Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to speak foreign languages freely. Praise God! To master the basics of a foreign language requires at least 6 months of diligent study. But the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak foreign languages freely so that all listeners in the crowd could understand them well. They were not anxious how or what they should say. It was literally given to them in that hour what they should speak as Jesus said in Mark 13:11, “Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Such power had never before been given on men. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom. Evil spirits make man stupid, stubborn, angry, and selfish. But the Holy Spirit makes us to be wise to understand things in the minds of men, as well as the things of God.
In Jerusalem, there were staying God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. Obviously, they came to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Pentecost. (5) At the sound of international languages, all the people there scratched their heads first to try to understand what was happening. Then they stood bewildered and amazed and asked, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native languages?” (7,8) There were people from 15 nations who witnessed this event.(9-11) Both Jews and proselytes from these nations heard the apostles speaking in their own native languages. This event declares that since the coming of the Holy Spirit, there are no more human barriers due to different nationalities. By the coming of the Holy Spirit, man can communicate with God and with others as well. The Holy Spirit became the international language. The fact that the apostles were enabled to speak in foreign languages has deep spiritual meaning in it.
When God made man and the world, there was only one language through which all could praise God and work together under God. But since Adam sinned, mankind began to use language rebelliously lying and gossiping. With language they expressed their proud minds; with language they rebelled against God by building the Tower of Babel, which symbolized human civilization without God. They used their common language to make their own name and not to scatter though God gave them a mission to fill the earth. God saw that people had become proud. So he confused their language so that they could not express their proud minds. This was the beginning of the language barrier and of confusion and misunderstanding in human history. According to the war historians, most major wars started due to miscommunications among nations. But by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the language barrier is gone. This is the beginning of the world mission pioneering. The gospel of Jesus would travel to the remote corners of the world crossing the mountains and the oceans. We wish we could speak foreign languages without learning like the apostles. But we have to learn the foreign languages because this was a special event happened to the apostles when the Holy Spirit was poured out.
Second, the Holy Spirit enabled them to declare the wonders of God. Verse 11b says, “...we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our tongues!” In the past, the apostles were narrow-minded and nationalistic with their small egos; they were fearful of everything. In the past, whenever they opened their mouths, they expressed their despair and complaints. But now, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they began to speak “the wonders of God.” Here the wonders of God refer to the wonderful work of God. The Holy Spirit enabled them to open their minds to see the wonders of God. The Holy Spirit enabled them to hear the word of God. The Holy Spirit enabled them to open their spiritual eyes. The Holy Spirit enabled them to see God’s vision and to declare the wonderful love of God. The Holy Spirit made them so bold that they began to witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus without fear. In the past Shannon Smith used to declare the word of fatalism and despair. But when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he began to declare the wonders of God through 1:1 Bible studies with his sheep. Last Friday most Maryland students went to the Halloween parties with scary costumes but our young CBF teachers inspired by the Holy Spirit showed the glimpse of heaven to our young children. They were declaring the wonders of God. I met M. Rebekah Koh on campus last week and the Holy Spirit enabled her to declare the wonders of God.
What was the effect of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the crowds? When the mighty work of the Holy Spirit happened, there were two responses. God-fearing people wanted to know the spiritual meaning of the event. But some began to make fun of the disciples, saying, "They have had too much wine." Even at Pentecost, the enemies of God were
there to discredit the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit. We should not be surprised that this still happens today.
PART II. GOD POURS OUT HIS SPIRIT ON ALL PEOPLE (14-21)
There was a wonderful work of God among the apostles. Still, some made fun of them and said,” They have had too much wine.”(13) They thought that the apostles had an all-night drinking party. In the past Peter was silent when he was challenged to identify as Jesus’ disciple. He denied Jesus three times. But this time Peter stood up and then the Eleven stood up together with him. Peter rose up, but not alone, for the Eleven stood with him. They were one in spirit. Nothing is more difficult than to make a public speech before a crowd. The crowd was in an uproar. The Holy Spirit gave Peter brave heart to deliver the sermon of the Pentecost without any rehearsal. He said in verse 15, “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” Peter began to explain that this was the fulfillment of God’s prophesy through Joel. The Jews believed the prophet. God was behind this miracle. Verses 16-21 are a quotation from Joel 2:28-32. God promised that in the last days he would pour out his Spirit on all people. He does not pour out his Spirit on certain people; he pours out his Spirit on all people. According to this prophecy, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all people. The Holy Spirit was not given only to special people, but to all people, including sons and daughters, young men and old men. At that time there were many kinds of class distinctions among men, but not to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon all people, including servants, both men and women. The Holy Spirit comes on all who repent and accept the gospel. God poured out his Spirit on all people to save all mankind through them.
First, Your young men will see visions. Verse 17b says, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions...” What a remarkable prophecy it is! The Holy Spirit enables sons and daughters to prophesy and young men to see visions and old men to dream dreams. When the Holy Spirit comes, young men see visions. This means God's vision for them and for the whole world. Without the Holy Spirit, young men think about girls and money, cars and sports. They are corrupt because they see bad things through the Internet. But when the Holy Spirit comes upon them they realize that God made them to do great things. They can see how God wants to use them and can dedicate themselves to a holy life. M. Wynelle Nett saw God's vision through Bible study. She went to Germany to fulfill God’s vision. M. Abraham Lee saw God’s vision through Mark 6:37a and went to China as a missionary. Recently, many second generation missionaries have gone to other countries on short-term mission journeys. They have taught the Bible and shared the gospel. God has opened their eyes to see his vision for world salvation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit among them.
43 years ago one young man saw that the young students in Korea, who should have been full of spirit and hope for the future, were only full of fatalism and dependent spirit; they saw themselves as frogs sitting in the bottom of a well, looking up at the sky. So he taught them the Bible and planted world mission vision in their hearts. God worked mightily and made Korea a blessed country, and a country that is sending so many missionaries with the life-giving gospel to every part of the world. In the 19th century God gave his visions to many American young men who went to the world to obey Jesus’ world mission command. The motto of the Student Volunteer Movement was “the evangelization of the world in this generation.” When we receive the Holy Spirit, we have God’s vision. Vision comes from God. Without vision man has no meaning in his life. Our YDJ mission statement says, “We will serve Jesus’ world mission command by going out to a foreign country as short term missionaries at least for a year.” What a remarkable vision they have! This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
How about old men? They cannot prophesy the future like young men, because they are too old to do so. Old people usually talk about their retirement plan or moving to Florida. But they can dream dreams, instead of suffering from arthritis. Billy Graham is getting old. But he is full of dreams to spread the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He has no plan of retirement. Mother Barry is old among us but she has full of dreams and traveled all around the world strengthening overseas missionaries this year. Now she gave us a challenging prayer topic that God may open the doors of the Muslim world and North Korea to the gospel. God also includes people in the servant class, both men and women, in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Second, wonders and signs will be done. When the Holy Spirit works, we can see many wonders and miracles. Wonders and signs are so great and fantastic that they are like the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood. Where there is the work of the Holy Spirit, the world is not boring at all. The world will be full of excitements. The work of the Holy Spirit will be continuous until the great and glorious day of the Lord. (19,20) The most glorious wonder and sign is not the change of natural phenomena, but the salvation work among men. Verse 21 says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There will be no problem to those who put their hope in Jesus even in the midst of natural disaster. Why? Because they have hope in the second coming of Jesus. May God bless us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and become his witness daily. May God bless each of us to have his vision to obey Jesus’ world mission command. Let’s read the key verse 4.