The Day of Pentecost “Perfect Communication”
May 31, 2020 Acts 2:1-21
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Our military technology is impressive. We’ve developed night-vision goggles, & laser-guided missiles, & the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. It’s interesting that they named the B-2 ‘Spirit’. One of the reasons for its ‘stealthiness’ is that by the time you hear the sound of the plane & look for it, you won’t see anything; it’s already miles ahead of its sound. To become fixated on the sound means you completely miss the plane.
In our world today, there are people who become fixated on the outer ‘noise’ of Pentecost, like the sound of the mighty wind, and they miss seeing the Spirit’s real point. The 3rd person of the Triune God IS ‘stealth’; He doesn’t call attention to Himself; that’s His particular role & power in our salvation of grace. Jesus told us, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about ME.” (Jn 15:26). Pentecost is not about the wind-sound, or the fire; but about The Word, both the spoken and the Incarnate Word.
God is a God of communication. In the beginning, His communication was direct & in-person. After Adam & Eve sinned, His communication had to become more indirect, because our unholiness caused a separation from His holiness = but He kept on communicating. Our Creator has never given up on speaking to us plainly, so that we might ALL know who He is, and we might ALL know of His commands, & of His patient mercy for us fallen creatures.
This is why the Bible has been translated into so many languages of the world. Our world has about 7,000 different languages, altho about half of those have very few people who speak them. About 2,600 languages have the Bible -or portions of it- translated so that God can speak to people in their native tongue.
The Holy Spirit may be the ‘stealth’ person of the Triune God, but God doesn’t hide from us. The Spirit’s crucial job is to speak loud & clear God’s Word of Life to us ~ His creatures; that is, His word for salvation, and His word for living. God is a God of communication. This is one of the truths made clear on that Day of Pentecost, which we mark as the birth of the NT Christian Church.
This Divine Communication is the ongoing work of Christ Jesus, as He is the Word of God made flesh, so that the whole world might hear, believe, & be saved thru Him.
When The Son of God arrived in-person, He communicated everything the Father wanted in both word & action. When Jesus ascended back to heaven, God was NOT done speaking to the world; so The Spirit was sent to continue God’s communication. He does this by the written Word thru the Apostles, and by the preaching & teaching of God’s NT Church from one generation to the next, until Jesus returns. God’s faithful Church is His instrument to proclaim His truths, and the Spirit continues to work to make that Word clear & direct to all nations & tribes & languages.
So, now we come into the event of the day. It was the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath, a Sunday, & the 7th Sunday since Jesus’ Easter resurrection. The followers of Christ were in Jerusalem, about 120 of them. One reason they would be gathered on the Lord’s Day is for the Divine Service; their worship with glad & sincere hearts, reminding each other about the teachings of the Lord Jesus, & waiting for His promise to send the other Counselor ~ the Spirit of Truth.
And then Jesus’ promise was fulfilled; a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. Tongues-of-fire rested on their heads; like the fire of the burning bush Moses saw in the wilderness, when the bush was not burned up. And there was that sound, like a great rushing wind -without wind- and this spectacle drew the people of Jerusalem together to where The Jesus~People were telling of the mighty works of God in Jesus.
And the next miraculous sign was that all the different people were hearing this in their own separate native language. Some Bible commentators wonder whether the miracle was in the speaking OR in the hearing. So, were the apostles suddenly speaking languages that they hadn’t previously known, OR were the people’s ears miraculously translating the words into their own languages.
I favor the historic view of the miraculous speaking, since the Spirit was poured out upon the disciples who spoke, and not on the crowd who was hearing. Also, this Pentecost Day is the great reversal of that ‘day of Babel’ after Noah’s flood. There, it was the languages that were confused, not the hearing of language; , so now, the Spirit gave this miracle of new tongues to the speakers, and not new ears to the hearers.
But, either way, what is KEY is that their message was clearly understood. They were hearing about what the Father had mightily done thru His Son Jesus to accomplish our salvation; and they were understanding that this gospel meant they had one Savior.
It’s long been a point of disagreement among different Christian denominations of whether this speaking was some special ‘spiritual tongue’ =like an unknown angel-language= OR was it existing human languages. It is obvious & clear by the context that these were existing human languages, as it mentions over a dozen of them. So says vs.6 & following: “Each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia’ ” ….and all the rest.
Those that want to argue for a charismatic & Pentecostal ‘babbling in strange tongues,’ as a personal sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit, can not use Acts 2 & Pentecost Day as their evidence, without being a false teacher. This miraculous pouring-out of the HSp was not for personal prayer-use, or a sign of great personal faith, or for a competition among believers.
It was the sign of Jesus’ promise fulfilled. It was the sign that the NT time of Christ’s Church was begun; the time of proclaiming the Gospel of forgiveness to Jew & Gentile, slave & free, male & female. God’s saving message would now have His Spirit’s help in being translated properly so that He could clearly speak to His creatures to the ends of the earth.
This is such an important point about God’s Spirit in this NT time of Christ’s Church. Pentecost Day establishes the truth of God, and our own confidence in the Biblical faith. Because Romans 10:17 declares: “…faith comes thru hearing, and hearing thru the word of Christ.” God’s Church is made up of all the believers in Jesus Christ; and it would not exist apart from the hearing of the Word of God = which uses languages; including ‘sign-language’ for the deaf. God’s Church would not exist without His Word. True believers in Christ do not make up their own stuff about who Jesus is & what He means; we have His perfect Word. True believers do not ignore parts of what The Spirit has caused to be written for us; it’s written down so that can know Christ, & faithfully follow Him.
Our faith comes thru hearing the Word of Christ. So, on that day, the languages were a great sign of the Spirit’s working; but the main work of the Spirit was on the souls of those that were hearing about how mightily God saved us thru the Messiah Jesus.
That Pentecost Day was great because the Word about Christ was being proclaimed. That Day would NOT have been great if the Spirit was poured out, and the disciples began using many languages to complain about the Roman government, or talk about the weather, or about the new clothing in the marketplace. If people are not told about God’s Son Jesus, and what He has done for them, they cannot believe it & be saved. (What’s more essential that that?)
So we call this the ‘mark’ of the Church. *What is the mark//sign to show where God’s people are? Where God’s Word is purely /read, /preached, /taught, /believed, /& obeyed.
Without the message that Christ died on the cross for your sins, the Church has no vital purpose. Without all of Jesus’ teachings, and the right practice of His Baptism & His Lord’s Supper, there is no true Church of God. The Day of Pentecost was a great day because, with the Spirit & Word, it established the Church of Christ, where thru language God is communicating His gifts of forgiveness & faith to those who will hear His Word.
The crowd gathered because of the miracles that were taking place; the sight of fire & sounds of wind & familiar languages. The miracles only got their attention, as the text says, “All were amazed and confused, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ ” Based on the miracles alone, they didn’t know what to believe. And then Peter stood up, and began to preach the Word of Christ to them, and then they received the gift of faith in God’s Savior.
Peter said, “Men of Judea, and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. This is what was uttered thru the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. …. So that …. ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
So, Peter then connects the mighty works of God in Jesus to the OT, with Joel & the promises of God thru King David; and shows how Jesus is the fulfilment of the salvation of all mankind. As He spoke, the Word & Spirit cut them to the heart; and they each understood how God used a sacrificial lamb to protect sinners from His wrath. Now they understood that it was their own sins that caused the suffering & death of Jesus; they were each personally responsible for His crucifixion.
Understanding that message, they had to ask that crucial question: ‘What can we do?’ ~ is it too late for us? This question showed that their hearts were crushed & emptied by the Law, and ready to receive the Gospel. Peter told them: “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.”
Thru the Word, the Spirit would give them the gift of forgiveness & peace with God; the gift of faith in the mercy of God, & hope in the life to come; thru Baptism they received the new birth & a new life of living by the teachings of Jesus in daily behaviors. We are told that 3,000 were baptized that very day.
On that Pentecost Day, we can see miracles were done, but that does not mean that we should try to mimic those signs to get those same results. People have tried to come up with gimmicks of sight or sound to grow a mega-church. But there’s no secret formula here. What was there was the Spirit of God working thru the Word of God.
God communicates to us thru His Spirit-filled Word = the Bible. Peter was nothing without that Word. And today, Peter & the other powerful Apostles are all gone, but the Church still has God’s Word. Back then, faith came by hearing, and hearing thru the Word of Christ. So it is in the world full of ears today. God speaks to us in human language using words.
You may have heard that the Muslims believe that Allah can only speak properly in Arabic; and to mistreat an Arabic-Koran-book is punishable by prison or death. But the true God is the God of all communication, not just ink on paper. The true God is ‘Yahweh of the Israelites’, who is also Jesus-I-Am. His Gospel message for ALL people will work in ALL languages = not just Arabic, but also the languages of “Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt …. And all the rest. God speaks clearly to ALL that we all might be saved.
This, then, is the focus of what Pentecost Day teaches us; more than tongues of fire, or wind sounds, or different languages. Those things served the message that the Son of God came to us to deliver forgiveness for our sins, and give us a life of faith & holiness, and finally – life everlasting. This is the power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God to change our lives, & to save our souls.
This Gospel is a message we all need to hear each day, because each day we are contending with our sins against God, & against strong temptations. But the Word brings us back to Christ, and to His timeless work at the cross. That gospel is the language of God’s love for us. And this Church is the place where that message is /honored, /preserved, /proclaimed, /& believed.
God is a God of communication. God spoke at creation; God spoke thru Noah, Abraham, & Moses; God spoke thru the Israelites; and finally thru His own Son.
God’s Spirit arrived on Pentecost Day to establish His Church to be speaking His Gospel in these last days, and until Jesus returns in glory. God’s Word, the Scriptures, is at the center of it all; that’s how The Holy Spirit perfectly communicates to us about our Savior, so that we will ALL call upon Him, and be saved.