The Coming of the Holy Spirit
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
In the entire city of Jerusalem there were only about 120 believers in Jesus (Acts 1:15). The task of reaching their community seemed to be beyond them. There was very little money, very few people, a lot of fear, and a culture that had very little room for their message. The challenge Jesus had given them to make disciples of all nations must have seemed impossible.
But Christ had spoken about an event that would change all that. In a few days they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (1:5). Then He added, “You will receive power… and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8).
They did not have to wait long. Just ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first Christian believers. After that, things were never the same.
The Blowing Wind
While the believers were gathered together, “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).
When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, John tells us that “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Jesus was explaining what would happen on the Day of Pentecost. He was saying to His disciples, “This is what it will be like. I am going to ascend to heaven, and when I do, I will breathe my life into you from above.” Then He took a deep breath and blew it out toward them.
So when the disciples heard a sound like the rushing wind just a few days later, they would have associated it with the sound of Jesus breathing on them and recognized that this was the fulfillment of what Jesus had promised.
Of course, the Spirit of God had been at work in the lives of believers before. The Holy Spirit came on many individuals in the Old Testament, anointing them for specific tasks, and the disciples’ experience before Pentecost would have been similar. But this was something entirely new. The Spirit of God was not only with them, but in them.
The Fire That Did Not Burn
The believers, gathered in the upper room, “saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2:3). This must have been absolutely terrifying.
A great fireball or pillar of fire came toward them. As it came nearer, it divided into individual flames that rested on every person in the room. The astonishing thing was that none of them was burned.
Something like this had happened before, when God spoke to Moses from a fire that rested on a bush but did not burn it (Exodus 3:2). God promised that His presence would be with Moses, and on the Day of Pentecost, God gave this same sign of His presence to the first believers. They would have remembered how God spoke from the fire and commissioned Moses. But they must have wondered who the fire would rest on now. Would it be Peter, or perhaps James and John? Perhaps it could be all three of them.
But the ball of fire separated into flames that rested on each of the believers. God was commissioning every believer to advance His purpose in the world. Each one was gifted and equipped for ministry.
A third remarkable event followed the wind and the fire. Suddenly and spontaneously, the believers found that they were able to speak in languages they had never learned (Acts 2:4).
This was a complete reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). Early in the Bible story, God broke the momentum of man’s rebellion by introducing multiple languages into the human race. In the confusion and alienation that followed, people were scattered to the north, south, east, and west.
At Pentecost, people “from every nation under heaven” had gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). When God enabled the believers to speak spontaneously in languages they had never learned, people from the whole world—north, south, east, and west—heard and understood the good news of Jesus Christ.
A large crowd had gathered, and Peter spoke to them about the death and resurrection of Jesus. God had exalted Jesus, and now He had poured out the promised Holy Spirit on His people. This was the explanation of what the crowd was seeing and hearing.
Three thousand people responded to Peter’s message, confessing their faith in Jesus through baptism. When they returned to their homes, they took the good news of Jesus to the cities and nations from which they had come.
God had promised that His blessing would come to people from all nations. The stream of God’s blessing began with one man, Abraham. Now the river of God’s mercy burst its banks and flooded out to all the nations of the world.
A View from the First Mountain
The story of Pentecost teaches us that the Holy Spirit of God is given to every believer. If you belong to Christ, God’s life is in you, His presence is with you, and His blessing is upon you.
The Holy Spirit equips and empowers all believers for service and ministry. In the past God had worked through a few people who were anointed for special ministries, but now the Holy Spirit lives in and works through all believers.
God calls us to communicate the good news of Jesus across cultural and linguistic barriers so that His blessing will flow to people from every tribe, language, and nation on the face of the earth. Every Christian has a part to play in that purpose. When you step out in obedience to that calling, you will begin to experience your weakness.
- What do the miraculous events on the day of Pentecost teach us about what God wants to do through His people today? To what extent do you see these things happening?