Working through STIII, and specifically, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
Last time we began talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in the NT.
We saw that the first mention of the Spirit is with regard to John the Baptist.
Then we spent the bulk of the time surveying the nature and relationship of the Holy Spirit with respect to Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Today we continue on with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and specifically, we plan to begin by talking about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit:
In previous episodes, we’ve been talking about three key OT passages that speak of the New Covenant (e.g., Jer. 31; Joel 2; Ezek. 36).
What we said, was that these are the three key prophetic passages that anticipate a time in which the Spirit of God is going to be poured out, and therefore, something new (and unprecedented) will take place.
What we showed was how all three of these passages are promises that are filled with great expectation. They’re all pointing to a future event in which a great promise of God was to be fulfilled
It was a promise of salvation, in which God would relate to His people in a new and greater way, and so this new relationship (or new covenant) would be typified by a new, fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit -- in which the Holy Spirit would work a new, great way.
The Spirit would no longer simply dwell among the people of God, but He would now dwell in the people of God. He would take out hearts of stone, and put in hearts of flesh.
So by the time we get to the New Testament, we see these Old Testament prophetic promises fulfilled in a very mighty way, in Acts chapter 2 -- which is an event known as pentecost.
Acts 2:1-21 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. 5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9 "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs-- we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine." 14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 "For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; 18 EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. 19 'AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. 20 'THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. 21 'AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'”
So without question, this is one of the most significant events in the history of the world. It is the historical record of the coming of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is right for the Church to celebrate Christmas and Easter-- the coming of the Son.
In a similar way, though we don’t do it in our tradition, it is also right for the Church to celebrate the Day of Pentecost-- the coming of the Holy Spirit.
It is the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. (It is the birthday of the Church!).
*Not here to debate when the church began. We did an entire episode on that, in which we examined 13 views. Check it out!
This significant even is accompanied by two miraculous, tangible signs:
- A loud noise like a rushing wind filled the house (2:2).
- These followers of Jesus spoke in tongues (2:4).
This tongue speaking was typified by:
- Rehearsing the mighty works of God in languages in which they had never learned or spoke before.
- It is important to see that they are not preaching the Gospel-- this comes in v. 22ff., where Peter stands up and powerfully proclaims the Gospel.
Rather, they are rehearsing “the mighty works (plural) of God” (v.11)-- (e.g., His creation, providence, sovereignty, faithfulness, etc.).
First, this is the only place we see tongues described.
Tongue speaking takes place a few other times in the books of Acts, but none of those events record what tongue speaking was.
Further, tongue speaking is mentioned in Paul’s writing, but never defined, explained, or recorded. So, this is the only place we see it described as it takes place.
Notice, it is not defined as the Gospel. Again, that comes in v.22ff.
This is significant for missions.
Many argue tongues are used for missions to bring the Gospel to a people group in which the missionary cannot speak their language. If that were to happen, it would be a miracle. But it should not be necessarily identified as the gift of tongues.
Additionally, tongues are identified as known languages in this passage.
It is not a heavenly, or unidentifiable utterance-- but a known utterance.
V.7 makes this clear in that various bystanders were astonished to hear others speaking in their own language. So again, these were legitimate languages known by various people groups.
Second, one of the marks of one who possesses the filling of the Spirit is that they are a person given, with great joy, to speak about God and His mighty works.
There is a lot of talk these days that Christians should stop being egg-heads-- that is, merely talking about God-- and rather, get busy doing something in obedience to God.
To this we can say amen, but we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
According to Acts 2, one of the first marks of being filled with the Spirit is not that you roll up your sleeves and get busy, but that you first spend time simply marveling at Who God is and what He has done.
In fact, I get very excited when a new believer all of a sudden wants to do nothing other than read and talk about the person of God-- this desire, in fact, is one of the most momentous marks of a person who truly possesses the Spirit.
They enter into a feeding frenzy, in which it seems that they can’t get enough food-- they want to keep feasting on the Word of God. And so, they spend much time learning, reading, talking, and marveling at great and mighty works of God.
These tongues are miraculously experienced all the more because they are distributed “like fire” (2:3).
So, these tongues are not actually fire, but rather, they are distributed in such a manner that people are described as bursting out in tongue-speaking, similar to how fire bursts up when given oxygen.
You’ll often see paintings of this event, and the disciples are depicted as having fire over their heads.
Well it is important to keep in mind this was not actual fire. So we should not pray for fire to come down on us.
Rather, their spontaneous tongue-speaking, is described to be spontaneous like fire, when catching bursts of oxygen.
In other words, it is simply speaking of the spontaneity of the event-- and it is happening to multiple people all at once.
Now, this pouring out of the Holy Spirit was a dramatic event for both the followers of Jesus Christ, and those around them.
The drama is typified by five verbs.
So, again, this was an incredible event that was spontaneous, unexpected, and utterly shocking to the people.
Further, these believers are described as receiving the filling of the Holy Spirit in v. 4-- something which had never taken place.
Now, there is debate as to who exactly received the filling of the Spirit in this passage:
Was it (1) the 120 (who were mentioned to be present in 1:13-15), or (2) was it only the 12 Apostles (because in 2:14, Peter is said to take his stand with the other eleven)?
In favor of view (1):
Joel speaks of more than just men being the recipients of this promise (e.g., sons, daughters, slaves, etc.
There were 120 previously gathered in the upper room (1:13-15).
In favor of view (2):
The immediate antecedent to the pronoun “they” in 2:1, is “the Apostles” (1:26).
The promise of the baptism of the Spirit by Jesus was given directly to the disciples (1:1-5).
The subsequently baptized believers are described as continually devoting themselves to the Apostles teaching. This is because they recognized the Apostles as Apostles, since they were the first to receive the Spirit and demonstrate the presence of the Spirit through the speaking in tongues (2:42).
Further, they are promised that their children will also be saved (2:39), thereby fulfilling the language of “sons, daughter, etc.” as the Joel 2 promise outlines.
I lean toward the second. In the end, it doesn’t matter all that much, other than when you begin to enter discussions of how the sign fits works-- that they are the signs of a “true Apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12).
As a quick note, this filling of the Spirit is what is known as “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” And they are synonymous terms.
*We’ve already discussed the issue of Spirit Baptism in previous episodes, so we won’t spend time to do it here-- but check that episode out!
Just understand that the Spirit filling, here is happening along with Spirit Baptism.
Acts 1:5 – “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
Acts 2:4 – “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
So here, we see they are clearly synonymous terms.
The promise of the Holy Spirit resulted in the following:
The followers of Jesus Christ were given dynamic power for ministry.
(e.g., Peter’s cowardice denial is radically transformed into a bold, confident, radical proclamation (and confession) of Jesus Christ as the crucified, risen Messiah).
This is another indication of one who is filled with the HS. In the midst of fear, they still have bold confidence to confess Jesus as Lord and proclaim His Gospel.
Further, there is boldness to preach the Gospel, dedication to live holy lives, love for one another, and courage to face persecution.
Here’s the big idea: Every believer in Jesus (since that first Pentecost) is given that very same blessing of the Holy Spirit. But the specific experiences of that first pentecost do not necessarily accompany that blessing.
It was a unique time in redemptive history.
It was the birthday of the Church, and all of history hinges on that dramatic event.
As a result, it is not a normative reality, but a unique event, which signified the true fulfillment of God’s OT promise for a New Covenant. And this is the critical point to understand.
Many keep wanting Acts 2 to be normative, but that would deny the importance of what Acts 2 functions to represent.
It is unique (and had to be unique) because it was to unequivocally mark the dramatic fulfillment of those OT prophetic promises of the coming of the Spirit.
So just to drive it home-- the Day of Pentecost was a unique, historical event that was not repeated (or repeatable). It was a particular moment in God’s outworking of Salvation.
It marks a transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.
Likewise, it marks a transition from the Old Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit to the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Nowhere else in Scripture is this dramatic event repeated.
So what is a summary of this episode-- what should you walk away with?:
- Pentecost and the decent the Holy Spirit is:
- The fulfillment of OT prophecies (Acts 2:16ff.).
- The fulfillment of the words of John the Baptist (Jn. 1:33).
- The fulfillment of Jesus’ own words (Jn. 7:38-39).
- The inauguration of the New Covenant and the birthday of the church (Act 2).
- Jesus continues His ministry of baptizing believers with the Holy Spirit (Jn. 1:33).
And again, all of this is typified with the presence, work, and power of the Holy Spirit.
So we could say a whole lot more, but that is the essence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Next time we’ll jump into the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, and begin by talking about some of the critical differences between the Old Covenant and New Covenant ministries of the Spirit.