As we read this passage were watching a new era begin. The relationship between Gods Spirit and His people has changed forever. Never before had the Holy Spirit been able to live inside the sin-contaminated bodies of believers. Never before was such intimacy with God possible to all of Gods people, not just a special few. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven radically changed things. His death actually cleansed our bodies and made them a suitable dwelling place for God. Now He is able to live inside us, and as you might expect when He arrives it produces some remarkable changes.
The first thing that happened on that Day of Pentecost was that each disciple began speaking in a language he or she had never learned. Luke says they spoke words which the Spirit gave them to speak out. Never before had there been such a miracle. There are numerous examples in the Old Testament of the Spirit coming upon people with the result that they spoke out prophetically in their own language, but never in a new, unlearned language. Why would God do such a thing?
Many conflicting answers have been given to this question, but Peter actually gives us his own, inspired, explanation. He says its a sign of the last days. He says its a fulfillment of Joels prophecy. Lets look more closely at this miracle of speaking in other languages.
vs14-15: And standing with the Eleven, Peter lifted up his voice and declared to them, Men, Jews, and all those living in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words, for these are not drunk as was mistakenly reported to you, for it is the third hour of the day (9am).
v16:But this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel,
v17: And it shall be in the last days says God, I will pour out from My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young (men) will see visions and your old (men) will dream dreams,
v18: and upon my male servants and upon my female servants, in those days I will pour out from My Spirit and they will prophecy.
v19: And I will give wonders (miraculous disruptions of nature) in the heavens above (day and night sky) and signs (miracles that point to a truth about God) on the earth below, blood and fire and vapor (steam) of smoke.
v20: The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and glorious (shining with light) day of the Lord comes.
v21: And it will be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Peter announces that the last days have begun. He was telling the multitude that the miracle they were seeing wasnt simply like the miracles that will happen at the end of this age, it was the first expression of those miracles. They all knew that when the Messiah would come He would perform several important ministries, two of which are described by this passage in Joel. First, He will pour out the Holy Spirit on Israel, restoring their relationship with God to a far deeper level that it had ever been before. And second, He will arrive at a time when Israel will be under a terrible attack by Gentile armies, and He will destroy those armies in a great battle (Joel 3:1-3, 9-17), the smoke of which will darken the sky until the sun and moon are barely visible through the thick gloom. The sun will grow dark and the moon will glow with an ominous red color. He will liberate Jerusalem from under the foot of the Gentiles, and an age of prosperity will begin, with Messiah ruling from Jerusalem. In this passage Joel points out two things Messiah will do: He will give the Holy Spirit, and He will rescue those who call on His name.
So, Peters announcement is this, the Messiah has come, yes, in an unexpected way by most of us, because we didnt fully understand the Scriptures, but He has come and He is the central feature that makes the last days the last days. Just as the prophets said, He has poured out the Holy Spirit, and though that final battle at the end of the age hasnt happened yet, Messiah has already begun rescuing all who call on His name.
The end of the age hadnt come yet, they all knew that, Jesus had recently made that fact very clear to them (Ac 1:6, 7), but the most wonderful part of the last days, the arrival of Messiah Himself, had happened. And now He was at work, pouring out the Spirit, not on all Israel, but on all who believed in Him. And now He was rescuing all who call on Him.
When we read such prophecies as this one in Joel, we may find ourselves asking why didnt God fulfill all the prophecies when Jesus came the first time. Surely, Jerusalem was in the grip of Gentile armies and would have welcomed His deliverance and the beginning of a season of peace and prosperity. The answer to this question lies in the heart of God, and it remained a mystery until Jesus revealed it. It has to do with His love, and His longing for as many as possible to be with Him in heaven forever. For that reason, He chose to delay the concluding events of the last days in order to initiate a new harvest of souls. He would fulfill some of the promises, but not all of them
yet. He would indeed pour out the last days fullness of the Spirit, but only on individual believers, not all flesh, so they could vastly accelerate worldwide evangelism. He was empowering His people, all of them: men and women, young and old, to make them effective soul winners (2Pe 3:3-9; 2Th 1:6-10). And the Messiah was indeed now fighting as a great warrior to rescue all who call on His name.
This phenomenon of speaking with other languages is recorded numerous times in the Book of Acts. This is not an isolated incident. It apparently it occurred again when Peter and John laid hands on Philips converts in Samaria (Ac 8:12-18).We may assume it occurred when Ananias laid hands on Paul (Ac 9:17; 1Co 14:18). It is specifically stated that it occurred when Peter preached to the household of a Roman centurion named Cornelius (Ac 10:44-48; 11:15-18), and when Paul laid his hands on twelve disciples of Apollos, whom he met in Ephesus 26 years after that Day of Pentecost. In a letter to the church in Corinth, Paul indicates that every believer is capable of speaking in an unknown language and he encouraged them to do so, but he wanted them to speak primarily in known languages when they gathered for a church service (1Co 14:1-12).
Surrendering the tongue
The first thing that happened when the Spirit filled them was that they began to speak words that the Holy Spirit gave them, and that phenomenon was still happening 26 years later. Apparently an important mark of the Spirits coming is Spirit-inspired speech. When He comes He touches our lips, He wants to speak through us. Maybe that shouldnt surprise us:
Then I said woe is me... because I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips... Then one of the Seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, Behold this has touched your lips, and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven. Then I heard the voice of God saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us? (Isa 6:5-8)
... the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and it is set on fire by hell. (Jas 3:1-12).
In learning to yield to God I must let the Spirit have control of my tongue, and thats where He went first on the day of Pentecost, because when the tongue surrenders, all of us surrenders.
Here are several ways speaking in a Spirit-given language is a great help to me:
When waiting for direction from God
When Im under pressure and need relief (fear, anger, doubt...)
When Im preparing to minister
1) Have you personally experienced speaking in a Spirit-given language, or do you know someone who has? How would you describe it to others?
2) When you are under pressure and need relief, what do you do to find help from God?