ACTS 2:4-8, 11b (NIV)
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
I like to say that I speak 1.25 languages—English and exactly ¼ of the Spanish that I would need to speak to thrive in a Spanish-speaking country! After two years of Spanish study in high school, and 4 years of study in university, I should be farther along. But, deep down, I’d prefer to learn a second language like the disciples did in the upper room—via a sovereign gift from the Holy Spirit!
The disciples, experiencing the overwhelming and incomprehensible love of God for them in the upper room, tasting the glories of heaven while still on earth, begin to actually do something in response to the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom. Heaven and earth had open doors to one another, and the disciples began to speak in tongues. In other words, they began to speak in other existing languages they previously did not know.
Now, let’s acknowledge that the spiritual gift of tongues is a hot topic in the wider Body of Christ – who gets it, who doesn’t, what it’s for, what it’s not for, if we should want it and ask for it, or if we should leave it in the “early Church needed it” storage closet (until we can have a personal fireside chat with Jesus about it).
But there is an important point to be made here about this particular instance of speaking in tongues before we get lost in theological analysis. The Spirit of Jesus was filling them, yes, to transform them from the inside out and to give them spiritual power to live the Jesus-life. But the Holy Spirit was also filling them to give them power-from-beyond-themselves to be ambassadors, witnesses, of that very same love to the world God loves (John 3:16).
They were being empowered to be christophers—Christ-bearers – to the very ends of the earth. In other words, as they received the fullness of the Holy Spirit that day, the Spirit gave them the gift of speaking in other tongues . . . wait for it . . . for mission!
Every gift has a giver and an intended recipient – and in this case, the end recipient of a spiritual gift was not the disciples—it was the mass of Jews from many nations coming together for the Pentecost festival! Pentecost was an historic harvest feast for the Jewish people (and still is) – and the ascended Jesus, by the Spirit and through his Church – converts it into a festival for the harvest of souls to God!
With the great commission ringing in their hearts (Matthew 28:18-20a) the disciples begin to declare God’s glory, God’s wonders, in the languages of those gathered. And we know the end of the story—about 3000 were added to their numbers that day.
Here we discover a very important idea embedded in Holy Spirit history, and in how we are to understand spiritual gifts: Spiritual gifts exist to enable individual followers of Jesus to convey God’s love to others in ways that awaken the heart, mind, and body to the love of God.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I am eager to be given spiritual gifts in moments when you want to do something profound in the life of another person. Come, Holy Spirit. Turn my heart outward, toward the Great Commission you have given, that I would desire spiritual gifts to serve others coming to know you.
- Have you ever seen someone exercise a profound spiritual gift that became a pivot point for someone giving their heart to Jesus? What was it like, and what was the end result?
For the Awakening,