From now until the end of the month we will be re-releasing highlights from our Wake-Up Call Acts journey together. Join us on December 1 when we begin our new series celebrating Advent—Protagonist by Matt and Josh LeRoy.
PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 2:1–13 (NIV)
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 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? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Perhaps the most important words from today’s text might be the most neglected words. They are a question.
Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Let’s gather around this question as we enter into a week-long reflection on the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
The day of Pentecost was an annual feast day for the people of Israel. It was fifty days (hence pente) after the celebration of Passover. Then and now, the people of God follow the calendar of God which is measured and marked by the mighty acts of God. It coincided with the farming season as well, with Passover marking the offering of the first fruits of the harvest and Pentecost marking the full harvest culmination.
Notice now who was present. They were all together in one place but look at all the places from which they came:
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
We are witnessing the birth of a global phenomenon. Notice how the church did not grow to become a global church. It began as a global church. Every nation under heaven is present from the beginning. The church was born in one place and yet at the same time, it was born in every nation under heaven. Remember our working definition: The church is the power of God in the presence of people for the sake of the world.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
We see the same phenomenon at the birth of creation, with the wind of God blowing over the face of the waters. The Spirit of God is on the one hand a mighty wind bringing forth a new creation and on the other an intimate breath breathing forth the message of the gospel.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The gift of tongues as human languages was both important and imperative on the day of Pentecost. Otherwise, how could the gospel be declared to persons from every nation under heaven? The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building of the church. Notice how this is the reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel. After building a monument to themselves and their quest to claim the place of God, God confused their language and people could no longer understand one another. Ever since we have wandered the earth and made war against one another and God. On the day of Pentecost, everyone understood the message of the gospel in their own language. Diversity of languages—unity of message. I’ll reserve a controversial comment concerning the gift of tongues for the notes below.1
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
And there it is. Why not be completely changed into fire? The day of Pentecost is the beginning of the journey from Theophilus to theophany; from Abbot Lot to Abbot Joseph; from creation to new creation; from heaven to on earth as it is in heaven; from Jesus in one place to Jesus everywhere.
Happy birthday, church.
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sin.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your creativity and release my chaos.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your rest and release my striving.
Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
Your turn to tackle the question of the day on the day of Pentecost: What does this mean? What does it mean to you? How do you reflect on the meanings we have explored so far? Are you ready to be completely changed into fire? Sketch some of your thoughts in your Wake Up Call Journal.
Today we will sing a majestic hymn to the Trinity: “Come, Thou Almighty King.”It is hymn 27 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt
P. S. Would You Share a Word Back?
Please take two minutes to give us some feedback on the recent Wake-Up Call series. I would greatly appreciate it. LINK HERE.
NOTES FOR FURTHER STUDY AND REFLECTION
- The great irony of the day of Pentecost is the confusion that has ensued over speaking in tongues. Many have thought and taught that the sign one is filled by the Spirit is speaking in tongues. On the day of Pentecost, the gift of tongues was given for the sake of the clear proclamation of the gospel to all of the nations on the earth rather than to verify one was filled by the Spirit. It was not the definitive sign of the Spirit’s infilling then nor is it now. It is one gift of many in the Spirit’s portfolio of gifts in the hands of Jesus to build his church. On the day of Pentecost, we see the gift of tongues being expressed as the tongues of men (i.e., the languages of human beings). The tongues of angels Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 13 are of another order. Often this is referred to as a prayer language. Many have claimed and taught that the manifestation of tongues as a prayer language is the definitive sign of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. While I affirm both the tongues of men and of angels as bonafide gifts of the Spirit, I simply do not see the biblical warrant for the claim that tongues are the definitive sign of being filled by the Holy Spirit. I would say the gifted presence and expression of divine love is the definitive sign of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. There are the gifts of the Spirit and then there is the gift of the Spirit. Love is the gift and love gives the gifts. Much needs to be said here and we can perhaps say it as we go along.