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It is appropriate that as we celebrate the beginning of our nation on this holiday weekend, we also celebrate today the beginning of the Christian church as we study Acts chapter 2. [Fireworks] Something very special is happening on this occasion. You remember the anticipation on the part of the disciples as they obeyed the command of their Lord to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Think of all of the times we have eagerly waited for something only to find that the experience ended up being disappointing – not measuring up to our expectations. Well the disciples certainly were not disappointed on this occasion.

The history of the Christian church begins here – although many would deny that. Reformed theologians (whom I love dearly and share much in common) would argue, based on the common means of salvation (by grace through faith based on the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ), that the church is simply an extension of Israel – not some separate entity; that the body of Christ contains believers of all ages. Certainly there is a commonality of faith and identity as the people of God. Certainly the means of salvation is the same. But God is doing something radically new and different here as He creates the church. God has a different program for the nation of Israel and for the bride of Christ. That is why as you proceed through Acts you see a variety of different groups incorporated into this new body of Christ – it was not enough to be faithful disciples of John the Baptist – you needed to be incorporated into this new body of believers by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Remember John the Baptist was referred to not as the bride but as simply the friend of the bridegroom (John 3:29). Christ prophesied that all who come after John will be greater than John (Matt. 11:11) the greatest prophet who had ever lived – but greater in what sense?? in the sense of participating in the New Covenant program of God – something far superior than the Old Covenant program. Christ said He was going to build His church (future tense); this would require Him going away and sending His Holy Spirit – here we see the fulfillment of those promises.

The history of the Christian church begins here — not with some significant acts by significant men; but with sovereign acts by an all powerful God who is living and active and continues to perform great works here on this earth and especially in the hearts and lives of people; the transforming power of God at work

Wiersbe: the early church had the power of the Holy Spirit energizing its ministry. They were a people who were ignited by the Spirit of God.

This was such a special event that God provided significant sign miracles to accompany the arrival of the Holy Spirit and to attest to the validity of this new message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, there is much in this passage that will not characterize the normal experience of believers today. However, the power of the Holy Spirit for the proclamation of the gospel is for us and derives back from this birth of the church on the day of Pentecost.



“And when the day of Pentecost had come,”

Lev. 23:15-17 ff

The second of the three great Jewish feasts where the nation was required to gather in Jerusalem – Passover (picturing Redemption) followed closely by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Picturing the removal of sin and the communion and fellowship that would then be enjoyed) , secondly the Feast of Weeks, then thirdly the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (pointing to the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom on earth)

The Feast of Weeks was essentially a harvest celebration – grain harvest lasted 7 weeks from the waving of the first sheaf of grain; means 50th; comes 50 days after Passover; nation required to gather in Jerusalem so it provided the perfect audience for the initial proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ; offering of first fruits was made (Lv 23:20);


“they were all together in one place.”

Wiersbe: Passover pictures His death as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7), and the Feast of Firstfuits pictures His resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Fifty days after Firstfruits is the Feast of Pentecost, which pictures the formation of the church. At Pentecost, the Jews celebrated the giving of the law, but Christians celebrate it because of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church. Priest waved 2 loaves of bread – uniting Jews and Gentiles into one body of the church – another representation of first fruits

Longenecker: By the stress on Pentecost as the day when the miracle took place, he is also suggesting (1) that the Spirit’s coming signals the essential difference between the Jewish faith and commitment to Jesus, for whereas the former is Torah centered and Torah directed, the latter is Christ centered and Spirit directed – all of which sounds very much like Paul.

Holy Spirit came as first fruits of inheritance of believers

Ephes 1:14 “having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory”

Remember the concern of the apostles: Will it be worth it in the end to have left everything to follow Jesus? Here is the assurance of our final destiny – we are co-heirs of Jesus Christ and will enter into glory with Him – The possession of the promised Holy Spirit is our guarantee – Don’t disregard your guarantee! You don’t buy an expensive new product and then throw out the warranty. You safeguard that warranty – you might need it.

You see the Holy Spirit in His effects – transforming your life

“they” – reference to just the 12 apostles (2:14) or all 120 disciples (1:15)

– They all needed this baptism of the Holy Spirit

– They all were typically gathered together to pray – but you would need a big area for 120 people to be sitting down

– When you look at all of the messages conveyed in so many languages, it may have required more than just the 12 apostles

What “place” is the setting here?

– The temple – because you need a large area that could accommodate a crowd

– The same upper room of the house where they were gathered to pray back in chap 1

[House could refer to the temple – Acts 7:47?? Wiersbe] Probably a large house that could accommodate the 120 disciples – might have been the same as in Acts 1

John 16:14 – Key function of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ – Must keep that in mind as we explore this wonderful phenomenon of speaking in tongues


A. The Experience Was Startling

1. Startling in its Timing — The Holy Spirit Came Suddenly

“And suddenly” immediately; at once

What types of events can come on you suddenly? God in His Providence controls the timing of all events

  • Calamity — Proverbs 1:27 When your dread comes like a storm, And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come on you.

  • Death — Ecclesiastes 9:12 Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net, and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.

  • Earthquake — Acts 16:26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened.

John 3:8 – look at how the wind operates and why it is such a good symbol for the working of the Holy Spirit – “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

New Birth attributed to the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the individual —

What is unusual in this context is that you have genuine believers who have not received the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit – Does that mean that for all believers today they should seek an experience of Spirit baptism at a point sometime after salvation? NO – You must understand the timing here – the transitional nature of God starting something new

2. Startling in its Source — The Holy Spirit Came from Heaven

“there came from heaven”

This was something miraculous; supernatural; God was at work; doing something very special

Just as Jesus Christ had come down from heaven and then returned to the Father; we must recognize that the Holy Spirit came from heaven; People feel lonely; they feel that God doesn’t care about them; doesn’t know what’s going on in their life; God so loved the world He sent His Son from heaven so that you might believe and enter into a personal relationship with the living God; now He sends His Holy Spirit; you do not need to be alone

The source of a gift often gives an indication of its worth; you open up your gift packages and you discover an LL Bean box – that means something – here you have a gift with heavenly wrapping – Awesome!

B. The Experience Was Impressive and Powerful – 2 Key Symbols

1. The Holy Spirit Came Audibly in Power – Symbol of Wind

“a noise like a violent, rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” Not an actual wind – a noise, a sound of any sort (not a distinct voice)

Word for wind and spirit is the same – even sounds a bit like wind —

The wind is a powerful force that spreads rapidly – think of the noise that people associate with a tornado – like a locomotive engine coming right through your house

violent – Acts 27:14 Paul on the voyage to Rome experienced a sudden, violent windstorm

Ezek 37:9-10; John 3:8 – breath and wind associated with giving of life

Boice: That sounds very much like the story of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of the earth at creation. So the suggestion is that here, in Acts, we have a new creation – as important (more important in many ways) as the original creation of the heavens and the earth. That heaven and earth are destined to pass away, but what is done by the Spirit at Pentecost is eternal. Again, the account in Acts sounds like Genesis 2, where God breathes life into man. Pentecost is a life-breathing experience. The account is also like John 3, where Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Obviously the coming of the Holy Spirit as a violent wind was meant to symbolize the coming of the creative power of God to inaugurate a new era in which men and women should be brought to spiritual life. [Also Is. 2:22 – contrasts man who is limited to breath in his nostrils vs God who is source of all breath and life]

Recalls Shekinah glory at time of establishment of Messianic kingdom – Ezek 43:1-5

“His voice was like the sound of many waters” – Auditory component

notice that they were sitting – not rolling around on the floor in some type of out of body ecstatic experience; fully under control – but now going to be controlled by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven

emphasis of filling is one of domination and control

2. The Holy Spirit Came Visibly in Power – Symbol of tongues of fire

“And there appeared to them tongues as of fire” Not actual fire

You didn’t get burned by this phenomenon; it didn’t make you hot – but it was spectacular

Let the fireworks begin!

Fire often symbolizes the divine presence – Ex. 3:2-6; God described as an all consuming fire;

Fire is a powerful force that spreads rapidly –

“it only takes a spark to get a fire going; and soon all those around will warm up in its glowing; that’s how it is with Christ’s love”

Tongues – speaks to the emphasis on communication to others; Holy Spirit given for expression; we grieve the Holy Spirit when we restrict or inhibit that expression; don’t argue that you have an introverted personality; you have an extroverted Holy Spirit!

Matt. 3:11 – He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire – fire used in that context in a negative sense of judgment; here it is used in a positive sense and coupled with the image of tongues because of the emphasis on powerful proclamation of testimony to the risen Christ

“O for a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer’s praise”

C. The Experience Was Personally and Profoundly Life Changing

1. The Holy Spirit Came to Rest on Each Believer in His Personal Presence

“distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them”

Pres Participle middle voice – dividing themselves

Remember dove resting on Christ and voice from heaven after His baptism

No believer left out here; not some elite group separate and distinct from lower class citizens of heaven

Longenecker: This seems to suggest that, though under the old covenant the divine presence rested on Israel as a corporate entity and upon many of its leaders for special purposes, under the new covenant, as established by Jesus and inaugurated at Pentecost, the Spirit now rests upon each believer individually. In other words, though the corporate and individual aspects of redemption cannot actually be separated, the emphasis in the proclamation of redemption from Pentecost onward is on the personal relationship of God to the believer through the Spirit, with all corporate relationships resulting from this.

2. The Holy Spirit Came to Fill Each Believer and Permanently Indwell

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”

Distinction between Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Filling

Wiersbe: The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to His body; the fullness of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Him. The baptism is final; the fullness is repeated as we trust God for new power to witness. The baptism involves all other believers, for it makes us one in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-6); while the fullness is personal and individual. These are two distinct experiences and they must not be confused.

Acts 11:15-16 – points back to this original experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; so here the baptism and the filling are used almost synonymously – although the baptism occurs once and then multiple experiences of filling should follow – in fact believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit – in the same sense or different sense?? This was a sovereign act of God

D. The Experience Was Impactful on Others — The Holy Spirit Came to Give Expression to Powerful Utterances in Known Foreign Languages – Impressive Sign Miracle

“and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”

Utterance – ability to speak out

Is the gift of tongues for believers today?

Boice: if you ask whether a person is “Spirit-filled,” the only way to answer the question is by determining whether or not he or she speaks often and effectively about Jesus. It is not by whether he or she speaks in an unintelligible language or does miracles. The question is, Does he or she testify to Jesus Christ, and does God bless that testimony in the conversion of men and women?

Look forward: explanation of gift of tongues as we see it in operation; focus is on proclaiming the mighty deeds of God


Have you experienced the Holy Spirit? Not in the audible and visible sense of a roaring wind and tongues of fire but in His inward power to change your life and empower your testimony and ministry for Jesus Christ?

Have you received this precious gift from heaven so that you have been baptized into the body of Christ?

Is the Holy Spirit using you to impact the lives of others?

On this July 4th as we remember our privileged heritage as members of this great nation of ours, let us also think back to the day of Pentecost and the start of a vastly more important organization of people – the church as the body of Jesus Christ – indwelt by the powerful Spirit of God.