THE PROMISED OUTPOURING
OF GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
Acts Chapter 2
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" 13Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine.[b]"
14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17" 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'[c]
22"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:
" 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.'[e]
29"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,[f] that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
" 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand 35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." '[g]
36"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Our God is a God of promises! From His very first promise already given in Genesis 3, to give a Savior through Eve's Offspring, Holy Scripture is full of promises God has made - all the way through to the coming of the new Heaven and earth and Jerusalem at the end of the book of Revelation. After the worldwide flood of Noah's day came the promise that there would never again be a water-deluge of such magnitude. Rainbows would be God's reminder. God promised things like writing His Law on people's hearts and a new and better Covenant. Words spoken repeatedly by Jesus Himself promised the sending of God's Spirit of Truth, the Counselor and Comforter. Jesus renewed for His disciples the promise recorded in the book of Joel:
--> "It shall come to pass..that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughers shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visioins. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out My Spirit."
Our God is a God who KEEPS His promises, each and every one! Eve's promised Offspring CAME. We SEE rainbows every so often. All humanity displays some sense or acknowledgement of a standard of morality, showing that God did write His Law into human hearts - however warped our sinful natures may have twisted it around. Jesus announced the gift of the New Covenant as He instituted His Holy Supper. - Peter announced to crowds gathered in Jerusalem the fulfillment of Joel's and the Lord's promise of the coming of God's Holy Spirit:
--> "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known..THIS IS what was spoken by the Prophet Joel..."
God is the one most perfect promise-KEEPER!
As we consider the promise He fulfilled at Pentecost, let's be mindful that the outpouring of God's Spirit came at His Time, in His Way, and for His Purpose.
AT GOD'S TIME
Pentecost was a day for celebrating the wheat harvest for the people of Israel, and for which many traveled to Jerusalem. The date was set specifically 50 days after the end of Passover and also commemorated the giving of God's Law to Moses at Mount Sinai. Pentecost was therefore noted as the birthdate of the Israelite nation as God's chosen people.
It was therefore a very specific TIME that God designated to pour out His Spirit! "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place," Acts says. The 11 still living Apostles plus Matthias, newly elected to the position left vacant by Judas, were all together as a group in Jerusalem.
It was no accident! The selected time was when both the Apostles AND a large gathering of people occurred. It was more than mere coincidence that God used the specific occasion of Pentecost to give birth to His Christian Church by gathering 3,000 souls as the first-fruits of His harvest.
In God's planning it was just the right timing. The same is true of many other details in His overall plan of salvation through history. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law," it says in Galatians(Ch. 4). - St. Paul wrote to the Romans(Ch. 5), "While we were still weak, at the RIGHT TIME Christ died for the ungodly... While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us... While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son..."
Ought we then question God's wisdom and timing concerning those situations for which we want an answer now? Or should we question what seems like a long time for Christ's return, for example?
Moses once wished that ALL God's people might prophesy, but it had to wait for the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit according to HIS eternal plan. At His ascension Jesus instructed His followers to wait at Jerusalem for the "clothing with power from on high." - Years after that momentous Pentecost, Peter wrote about God's keeping details of His plan veiled until the proper time:
--> "The Prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what Person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the suffering of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves, but YOU, in the things which have now BEEN announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven, things into which Angels long to look."
Is there some wayward soul for whom you've continually cared and prayed, but you see no change? - Take heart and don't stop! There may yet COME such a miracle, as you continue to "wait on the Lord." Trust in God and HIS timing!
IN GOD'S WAY
Jesus once told Nicodemus, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." - Just as the outpouring of God's Spirit came at His TIME, it also came in His WAY!
No human could have dictated to God, second-guessed or predicted what Acts says:
--> "..Suddenly a sound came from Heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
On one hand we teach and profess to believe exactly what it says there in Acts 2. On the other hand, it simply doesn't follow that we may expect God to repeat the event in the same way for everyone. God's Spirit acts as HE wills. He COULD reproduce the speaking in tongues or other manifestations, but WE aren't going to manipulate Him into a repeat performance.
It wasn't in wind or fire that the Lord once manifested Himself to Elijah, but in "a still, small voice." The building of God's house, it was told to Zerubbabel, would be "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit," said the Lord, indicating that His deeds aren't always "showy" or emotionally-pitched. The very appearance of Jesus HIMSELF was in meek humility, in fact, and His "way" was to humble Himself and become "obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross."
There are many examples that could tell us the truth that God does things His way, while our own blind, sinful-natures keep us from thinking what He thinks and doing things the way He does. -- One Pentecost He gave to men to speak in tongues, actually heard and understood as real earthly languages by people in the crowd. God could do it again if He wished, but not by human whim. If He opens, no one shuts; if He shuts, no one opens! His Spirit once actually prevented St. Paul from speaking His Word in Asia, to send him to Macedonia instead.
FOR GOD'S PURPOSE
As He came at God's time and in His way, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit also came for GOD's PURPOSE! In their own native languages people heard the Apostles telling "the mighty works of God." Then, Acts says, "Peter..lifted up his voice and addressed them..."
Now Peter BECAME the "Rock," as Jesus had named him, proclaiming the Gospel of his crucified and risen Master, boldly telling the crowd to repent, believe in Christ, and be baptized in His Name for the forgiveness of sins. As Jesus had predicted of the Spirit's work, Peter's words bore witness to Him, CHRIST, and the message convinced several thousand people that day concerning sin and righteousness and judgment!
In a once famous published Easter sermon by the Presidential Chaplain, Peter Marshall, he recalled how during Christ's arrest and trial Peter and the other disciples had turned cowardly and fled. He also brought in the day of Pentecost, though, highlighting how right there in Jerusalem, at the storm-center of the enemies of the Nazarene, Peter and the Apostles were so turned around in their behavior! Paraphrasing Marshall's words:
--> "It takes a very great conviction to change men so drastically. They don't persist in a lie or delusion, inventing a story, to be crucified and hung upside-down as Peter eventually was. Only the BEDROCK TRUTH can do that!"
And only God's Holy Spirit can impart such conviction to men's hearts!
God's way included speaking in tongues, but His PURPOSE was another thing altogether! The focus is not on the wind, fire, tongues and flashy stuff, but the straightforward message that confronts our sin and unbelief and proclaims Christ's truly atoning death and resurrection -- proclaiming HIM as the world's Redeemer! - Satan would have kept them silent and cowering in fear, but God's Spirit loosed their tongues and made the Apostles bold to speak of Christ.
Even if we could observe and verify the phenomenon of people speaking real but unlearned earthly languages in our own day, it would be no proof of the Holy Spirit's presence and work. We can rest assured, though, that whenever and wherever the true Jesus is proclaimed according to the words of Scripture, God's Spirit is definitely present and at work - even if it's something as simple and non-threatening as telling our own little children how Jesus has loved them. That's what God's Spirit DOES. THAT'S God's purpose!
CONCL: In your lifetime you might never personally observe a great and spectacular outpouring of the Holy Spirit such as God gave in birthing His Church one Pentecost, and it's not our department to be telling God that He should do so, or when, or how - such as with miraculous signs and gifts. Rather, it is He who has told US simply to witness, baptize and teach what He has already made clear. Some are wonderfully gifted in certain ways, some are not; but God's purpose for His Spirit dwelling in YOU remains the same as it was for the Apostles--> that your words and life would show the crucified and risen Savior and His love to your fellow humans.
You are unique in your gifts and abilities, and no one else has the exact "mix" of experiences and opportunities given to you. We may always pray for opportunities, and for wisdom and open eyes to act on them, even as for all our needs, and God promises to hear and answer His dear children in His time and way. It is not His Spirit who is at our disposal, however; but, having been bought at the tremendous sacrifice of Christ's blood, we are at HIS!