As The Spirit Gives Utterance
Text: Acts 2:1-21
Pentecost Sunday, C
In His final discourse to His disciples, on the night of His betrayal, Jesus spoke repeatedly of the Holy Spirit. He promised to give them another Comforter (14:16). The Spirit would teach them everything (14:26), and especially testify concerning Christ (15:26). He said that the Spirit of truth would guide them in all truth (16:13). And in Acts 1:8 Jesus promised that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit Who would come to them to equip them to be witnesses both locally and to the ends of the earth. And as God says, so it must happen. And thus Pentecost is the end of the beginning (that is the celebration of the risen Christ among his people) and the beginning of the end (that it the church’s ongoing life in the hope of the coming Day of the Lord). For the promised coming of the Holy Spirit is the last great act of God before the last and final day of the world.
1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This does not mean that these people did not have the Spirit before, it is a special gift of the Spirit. And, they were not speaking gibberish. In words of many languages they would plant the seeds of Christ’s Church throughout the world. According to Leviticus (23:15ff) Pentecost marked the harvest in which the first fruits of the field were brought to the Lord. On this special Pentecost the Lord was preparing a great harvest of souls for his people.
5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 11—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Indeed, what does it all mean? The noise draws in the crowd, but the words amaze and perplex them. Firstly they are amazed that these obvious Galileans (maybe their accent gives them away) are speaking in so many diverse languages. But then they are amazed at the men themselves. These were no fearful bunch of leaderless vagabonds. These are men obviously full of knowledge, wisdom, courage, and joy!
And all of it was about "the great deeds of God," namely what God had done for them in Christ Jesus. The very one the Chief Priest had tried and Pilate had crucified. Their message was strange, and compelling and unsettling all at once! Big things had happened, and bigger yet was to come. So how did the crowds react? As people always will. Some couldn’t have cared less. Some were confused. Some were interested, excited. Others mocked. There will always be those who will mock. For the utterance of the Spirit as it points to Christ, is folly to the world. It is dangerous to the halls of power. It is an affront to personal dignity. And so it is that what begins as ridicule soon turns to questioning (4:7), then threats (4:17) then imprisonment (5:18) and stripes and beatings (5:40) and finally to killing and murder (7:58). So the book of Acts records. It is never enough for sin just not to listen. There can be no debate. It must silence the truth and destroy those who proclaim Him ... or try. Succeeding is something else altogether.
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, ...20 before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” The Spirit gives utterance, and Oh what an utterance it is! The words of the Spirit are all of one thing, namely the knowledge of God through Christ. This the Holy Spirit kindles and makes to burn in our hearts through the Word of the Gospel. This causes believers to teach the Word, undertake great things for Jesus and to have the Gospel as the center of all they do, think or say.
Or as Peter would phrase it: In place of your mockery I give you warning! Morning it may be, but your end is near. All the days of the New Testament are last days; and these last days are now far advanced. The signs are all around you and they are the clear warnings of God which dare not be disregarded. The last day will be the Lord's Day, ushering in the new heaven and the new earth. For the unbeliever it will be an awful, terrible day. For the believer it will be a glorious, splendid day. For the salvation of the believer is just as certain as is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. With that joyous knowledge The Spirit fills the hearts of people in whom He dwells with the heart of the Lord Himself and prompts them to call on the name of the Lord and boldly speak of Him in whom they believe.
The apostles were very much like you and I, in that they had shown only a very small measure of understanding in spiritual things, while being beset by so many doubts and fears. This world is not kind to Christ’s followers. But we are also like them in that Pentecost changed everything for them and us. For the Holy Spirit has given us utterance and power to work and courage to confess our Lord. He has also promised to grant us all the needed strength, both to labour and to endure. And by that same gifted Spirit you have such courage that you won’t keep this understanding for yourselves, but will dare to confess it freely and openly ... No matter what the world thinks. Doing it today, for there is no guarantee of tomorrow.
For today the Holy Spirit still comes down upon little congregations and fills the hearts of His disciples, giving them fiery tongues so that they become courageous, and freely preach Christ, fearing nothing.” For wherever the Spirit of God works through the Word, there are always some that accept the glorious truth, while others are willfully offended and mock at the Spirit that lives in the Christians. So be it. The Spirit has given you utterance. And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Soon enough there will be no doubt as to who is on the side of right and who is speaking the truth.
And so, as we reach the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end, the awful aspects of the end of the world are here held up to the startled gaze of the multitude, as a warning cry to repentance. But, in the mean time, there is also a glorious promise held out to all that turn to the Lord in repentance and faith, and fervently call upon His name as that of the only Saviour. The pouring out of the Spirit is the last of the great miracles of God until the great day of His returning to Judgment, In the mean time, we have the comfort that our salvation is secure in Him, and every one to tell of this wonderful news.