So this is what Jesus meant when He spoke of the promise of the Father (Ac 1:4). Wow! What an amazing event! But, frankly, its so amazing that if I dont understand whats happening to these people I can easily end up in the same condition as the watching multitude: amazed and bewildered, which is to say, confused and frightened. Lukes description of that Pentecost morning raises a lot of questionsquestions I need answered if Im to step forward and seek this baptism of the Holy Spirit for myself. So heres what well do today. First, well examine the passage carefully to see what really took place. Then well identify which promise was being fulfilled. Then well ask the practical questions of what does God do to a person when they receive this gift. Then, lets be very personal and ask what can I expect will happen to me if I receive it. And finally, lets ask that nagging question that tends to linger in the back of our minds, can I really expect that God would give that same gift to me?
(vs1-2) Daily Bible Study (Friday & Saturday)
(v2) (continued): We have no way of knowing what they heard, whether it was music or singing or angelic praise or the voice of God Himself (Ex 19:16, 19; Eze 1:24, 25; Lk 2:13; 1Co 13:1; Rev 5:8-14; 19:6), but they physically felt it come over them like a wind, and then they were enveloped by it.
(v3) Next, they saw a bright light like flames of fire dividing into portions and moving until a fiery light hovered over each one (lit: it sat on each one). Luke says, And there appeared to them tongues of fire dividing themselves and a portion rested upon each one of them. There would have been no mistaking the message: the Holy Spirit had come to dwell there. To Jewish believers, no symbol would have been more familiar than the pillar of cloud and fire which led Israel through the wilderness and rested over the tabernacle. The pillar of fire was Gods powerful presence manifested in such a way that all could see it. So when tongues like fire were distributed over each head it made a clear statement that this human body was now a tabernacle in which the Spirit of God dwelled. The pillar of fire no longer hovered over a tent or temple, but over the disciples of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit, John saw the Spirit come and rest on Him like a dove (Mt 3:16). Now, in the upper room, the Spirit appeared as a fiery light resting over each head.
(v4) And they began and continued on speaking in other languages just as the Spirit gave them to speak out (literal).
(vs5-6) And there were Jews dwelling in Jerusalem, devout men (those who fear God and are careful to obey His Word) from every nation under heaven. And when this voice (sound of many voices) occurred, the multitude came together and they were confused because each one heard them (the entire group of disciples) speaking in his own dialect.
(v7) And they were shocked (beside themselves) (v12) and full of wondering curiosity saying, Behold, arent all these who are speaking Galileans,
(vs8-9) then why do we hear them, each in our own language in which we were born? Please notice Lukes wording. There is another miracle taking place beside the speaking in tongues. It is a miracle of hearing. Thousands of Jews were present from all the surrounding regions, people who had undoubtedly learned to speak several different languages in order to function in that multicultural world (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, etc.) but Luke specifically says that each person, regardless of where they had been born, was hearing the whole group of disciples speaking in one language, which he or she personally understood because it was the language in which he or she had been raised as a child. So God was miraculously causing everyone in the multitude to understand what was being said.
(vs9-11) To show us the extent of this miracle, Luke lists some of the distant places from which people in that multitude had come. There were Parthians, Medes and Elamites (Iran), Mesopotamians (Iraq), Judeans (Israel), Cappadocians (central Turkey, eastern part), people from Pontus (northern Turkey), Asia (western Turkey), Phrygia (central Turkey, western part), Pamphylia (southern Turkey), Egypt, Libya and as far west along the North African coast as the city of Cyrene. There were visitors from Rome, both Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism, people from the island of Crete to the west and Arabia to the east. Yet all understood what the disciples were saying because each person heard them speaking in his or her native tongue. And what they heard them saying was praise to God. They were declaring the great things God had done. Possibly they sounded like Mary (Lk 1:46-55) or Zacharias (Lk 1:68-75).
(vs12-13) And they were all frightened and confused saying to one another What does this mean? But others, mocking, said they are filled with sweet wine.
Jesus told the disciples they would receive what the Father had promised, which, He said, you heard of from Me (Ac 1:4). Weve just seen them receive it, but which promise is this? Its the one He specifically mentioned in the gospels. Its the New Covenant which Jeremiah and Ezekial spoke about. First, listen to Jesus:
And in the same way, He took the cup after they had eaten, saying This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant in My blood (Lk 22:20).
Now listen to Barnabus explain this new Covenant in his letter to the Hebrews: Heb 8:6-13.
Ezekeiel describes this same miracle this way:
...I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Eze 36:26, 27).
Why didnt this promise come sooner?
Because the Holy Spirit could not live inside people until Jesus had been crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven (Jn 7:39).
Paul explains what Jesus did to make this possible in Romans Chapter 8: He said, God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh (Ro 8:3). In other words, when Jesus became a man He took on sinful flesh just like ours. This is why He was tempted in all ways as we are. But He never sinned. So when He died on the cross He was not only removing the barriers of sin between our spirit and God, He was cleansing our bodies as well, so now the Holy Spirit can come and live inside our bodies because we are a clean tabernacle suitable for His presence. Now He abides in us even when we sin. He never leaves; Jesus death made it possible for God to live inside us, for the New Covenant to come.
What changes take place?
When a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit, real, recognizable change takes place. If I were to try to capture that change in a few words I might say there arises a heartfelt passion for God, a longing to understand His Word, and a heightened spiritual awareness. Here are three categories:
1) My spirit is awakened. I discover I have ears that can hear God speaking to me. I no longer function just on deductive reasoning. And I have eyes that can see and recognize God at work around me. I become more intuitive and spiritually alert.
2) My will is empowered. I discover I now have the power to be free from the cycle of failure to temptation and sin. It helps to have someone teach me how to draw on this power, but its there and when I do I gain victory over old strongholds (Ro 8:3, 10-13). Im able to live a holy life and enjoy all the blessings that come from that.
3) The gifts of the Spirit are released (1Co 12:8-10). These manifestations of Gods power come more freely and often for ministry to the church, witness to the world, and comfort to my family and friends (healing, guidance, discernment, faith...).
1) Does every Christian automatically have this gift? Yes, in that God gives us everything when we repent and believe. But the actual receiving of it, on our part, is a real encounter with Gods power which we will know when we receive it.
2) Was this a once for all event? Absolutely not. Peter will say this promise is for every Christian throughout time (Ac 2:37-39).
3) Will I experience the same signs and wonders they did? No, Jesus baptism was different (Mt 3:16, 17), as was the Samaritans (Ac 8:14-18), Cornelius household (Ac 10:44-48), and the Ephesian disciples (Ac 19:1-7).
4) Will I speak in tongues? Not everyone who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit does, but it is a very important step in moving into the new spiritual life. Everyone can, though they may need some pastoral care in the process.
How do I receive it? (Ac 2:38, 39)
1) Listen to Peter. Have I repented? Have I been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ? Then, yes, its for me... and my children (generation after generation)... and all who are far off (Gentiles in distant lands, the entire world)... and as many as the Lord our God will call to himself (every Christian, in every generation, in every place, until the end of the age).
2) Wait like they did. Prepare my heart. When the Spirit is powerfully present, actively receive Him to dwell within (breathe, drink...). Step out when the Spirit moves upon you to speak what the Spirit gives you to speak...
1) Have you ever observed someone change noticeably after they had such a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit? What changes did you see?
2) What are some of the obstacles that hold people back from receiving this promise?