Pentecost part 1
Pentecost is the word we associate with the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2. Before that, it was the middle annual Jewish feast. It started as a harvest festival to give thanks and celebrate the end of the harvest and grew to be an annual celebration of the giving of the Law. A fantastic time for the Lord to inaugurate the new covenant – a new harvest of salvations and the giving of grace that sets us free from the law. It’s interesting to compare, when the law came 3,000 died (Exodus 32:28); but when the Spirit came 3,000 were saved!
It kicks off as the 120 are all together praying in one place. Oh for prayer team meetings that big! Three immediate manifestations of the Spirit are visible and audible – wind, fire and tongues.
In Isaiah 6 the house of the Lord, the temple, was filled with the glory; there was shaking, noise and smoke. In Acts 2 there was the wind of the Spirit filling the house, tongues of fire and they spoke in ‘other tongues’. The temple used to be the place of the presence of God, now people are the place of God, temples of the Spirit. The old way, the old covenant, is obsolete and the temple was soon to be destroyed for ever.
The gift of tongues here was a supernatural ability to speak with the earthly languages of other nations. The curse of Babel in Genesis confused languages so no-one could understand other nations. That curse has been reversed as grace and the Spirit comes, bringing an ability to be understood. Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians we see that tongues can be earthly or angelic languages.
There’s a difference in Peter immediately too – sure the bold preaching we will look at tomorrow is huge, but a character flaw in him has gone; one that Westerners like me won’t pick up immediately. Acts 2:14 tells us “Peter, standing with the eleven…” Middle Eastern culture is far more community oriented than Western individualism. We prize Peter stepping out of the boat as an individual, taking initiative and think he was rebuked for looking at the waves. Middle Eastern readers would see the rebuke for stepping outside the group and acting hastily as an individual, not taking the group with him. Peter now leads, but has the group with him. Peter was never commended for individual action in the Gospels, now the Spirit has empowered him to lead the community as community and not go for individual glory.
Peter has to explain, “these men are not drunk as you suppose”. There is something in the joyful exuberance that the Spirit brings that looks to others as drunkenness. Paul, in Ephesians 5, tells us not to get drunk on wine, instead be filled with the Spirit. Excessive alcohol may start off looking like joy, but it is a depressant and leads to all sorts of less joyous things like thumping headaches. Instead be filled with the Spirit – who leads us into pleasures evermore – Psalm 16:11.
Lastly, today’s reading is a glorious fulfilment of Joel 2 – a glorious new age has begun. The Spirit’s empowering and infilling is for all! You can count around 200 people over the previous 2,000 years who had been filled by the Spirit, mostly for a task. Now He (not it) has come for all, to indwell all who love the Lord. Young and old, male and female there is no distinction. And He comes so that we can prophesy – receive revelation for ourselves; hear God’s words in Scripture first and foremost and then in revelatory ways like dreams and visions. Ask Him to fill you and guide you into all truth.
Then salvation is opened to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. It’s a new day! A new age! Praise God! More Lord!