(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)
Acts 2:1-21 – When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia 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!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then 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. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, 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. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
When we read about the day of Pentecost, we hear about miracles performed by the Holy Spirit. There were three miracles at the beginning of chapter 2. The first one is easily overlooked. The Spirit caused there to be “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). This doesn’t seem like a big deal but it was unusual for there to be a sound of violent wind inside the house where the disciples were. Also, elsewhere in Scripture, breath or wind is associated with the work of the Spirit. The next two miracles are remembered more than the sound of the violent wind.
In verse 3 we hear about the tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each one the disciples. These tongues of fire were a visible representation of the working of the Holy Spirit. Because of this miracle, we often see tongues of fire in Christian artwork referring to the work of the Holy Spirit. After the miracle of the tongues of fire, the Spirit performed a third miracle by giving the disciples the ability to speak in tongues. This speaking in tongues was not some kind of incoherent babbling. The disciples were speaking in known languages which they had never spoken before. We see this fact from the testimony of the crowd. The people pointed out that the disciples were telling them the wonders of God in their own languages.
Even though many were amazed by these miracles, some of them doubted. Verse 13 says, “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’” Even though other people in the crowd had just pointed out how amazing this miracle was, there were some who didn’t want to believe it. They could hear the disciples speaking in known languages but they still tried to blame it on drunkenness. That is when Peter addressed the crowd. First he wanted to let them know that this was not the result of drunkenness. He said, “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! (Acts 2:14-15).
Peter wanted to remove doubts. Peter uses the Prophet Joel to point out that this event on the day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of those words. God was pouring out his Holy Spirit. Look at the gift that the Holy Spirit gave to Peter. Peter has a better understanding of God’s Word than he had even when Jesus was living on earth. It wasn’t really surprising that Peter was the one who stood up and spoke for the group. He had done that at times during Jesus’ ministry. What is surprising is the clarity with which he speaks. This is the same man who not that long ago had completely misunderstood the mission of the Messiah. Now he quotes the prophet Joel and later on in chapter 2 he clearly explains how Jesus is the Savior of the World.
We know that Peter had his doubts about the truths of God’s Word during Jesus’ ministry. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave Peter confidence which trusted in all the truths of God’s Word. This is one of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives to all believers. The Holy Spirit gives us the confidence to trust in God’s Word. Any doubts we may have are the result of our sinful nature. Our heart of faith trusts in the Word of God. It is truly sad that there are many sinful people today who are actively working against this confidence that the Holy Spirit places in our hearts. Just like those people on Pentecost who tried to explain the speaking in tongues as drunkenness, there are people today who try to rationalize the miracles of the Bible.
The authority of God’s Word has come under attack through the Higher Critical Method of Biblical Interpretation. Through this kind of interpretation people set themselves up as judges over God’s Word. If something doesn’t make sense to their human reason, then they claim that it must not really be God’s Word. They claim that it could be a myth or a fable that somehow found its way into the Bible. The really scary thing is that these methods are used by people who claim to be Christians. Through this method, people throw out the historical accounts of creation, the flood, Jonah in the fish, Jesus’ miracles, and even Jesus’ resurrection. They will even claim that we can’t know for sure who the historical Jesus was. They don’t trust what the four gospels say. Rather they try to reconstruct who they think Jesus was.
This method of interpretation is a tool of the devil. When people throw out the miraculous, they throw out all the truths about Jesus that make him our Savior from sin. They doubt that Jesus was truly God and man in one person and they don’t think that he died to save us from our sin. To them, Jesus death just becomes a way of showing us that we should be so committed to our beliefs that we are willing to die. They throw out the forgiveness of Jesus and focus on how he was loving toward others. Their message becomes that we should follow Jesus example of helping others. The truly sad thing is that this kind of thinking has infiltrated many theological seminaries.
Fortunately, God has preserved us in the truth. Our seminary still upholds all of God’s Word as the truth. This doesn’t mean that we are not tempted to doubt. It is difficult as we live in a society that tells us that people can believe whatever they want to believe. This way of thinking has corrupted many churches. People don’t want to take God’s Law seriously. They claim that it is unloving to point out sinful lifestyles. It is difficult for our sinful human minds to understand the supernatural miracles of the Bible. Our sinful mind likes to have scientific explanations. And yet, we have a God who is beyond our understanding.
We need time in the Word of God, so that the Holy Spirit can work to fight against the doubts of our sinful nature. The Holy Spirit can overcome our sinful natures but this won’t happen if we resist his work by staying away from God’s Word. We are much more likely to give in to our doubts when we stay away from the truths of Scripture. We need the Holy Spirit so that he can overcome our sinful weaknesses. Only with him can we truly have the confidence to trust the Word. Only with the Holy Spirit can we have the Confidence that looks to Heaven.
One thing that critics of the Bible will claim is that they think that the Bible has contradictions. This stems from their claim that the Bible is not the completely truthful inspired Word of God. They might even point to a section of our text for today. When Peter was quoting from Joel he referred to Judgment Day. Peter called that day, “the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20). In the book of Joel the day is called, “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31). The critic would say that is a contradiction. How could the same day be called “glorious” and “dreadful”, especially when Peter is supposed to be quoting the prophet Joel?
The Holy Spirit, who inspired both passages of Scripture, helps us to see why both verses are truly his Word. Through the heart of faith we understand that all of God’s Word is the truth. We understand that God had a purpose for writing everything that he wrote. When he gives us portions of his Word that are difficult to understand, we can look to all of his Word to help us understand. The context of these two sections of Scripture helps us understand why the Holy Spirit would use different words. The Joel passage is emphasizing the fear that there will be on that day for the unbelievers. It will be dreadful for the unbelievers to hear the pronouncement that they will be going to eternal death. Peter’s words are focused on giving comfort. The believers will rejoice when Jesus returns. It will be glorious as we are welcomed into heaven.
It is important to cling to God’s truth so that we can look forward to Judgment Day rather than being afraid. As Peter said, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). We, who call on his name, have eternal life. Calling on his name means believing everything about him. When we talk about the Second Commandment we talk about God’s name not only being all the names and expressions that he uses for himself but it is also everything that he reveals about himself in the Bible. So it is more than just names such as God the Father, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, Lord and many others, it is also the fact that God wants all people to be saved and he has carried out his plan of salvation through Jesus.
Calling on the name of the Lord is our lifestyle. We live our faith every day. This is a result of the wonderful confident faith that the Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts. We know that we have forgiveness and we know that we have a heavenly home. The only way we can be certain and confident of all these things is through faith in the truths of God’s Word. The only way that we can believe these truths is through the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. What a wonderful blessing it is that God the Holy Spirit comes to each one of us and overcomes our sinful unbelief. He makes us confident. He keeps us strong. And he guides us until we reach that heavenly home.