With Tongues of Fire

On the day of Pentecost, the apostles opened their mouths and transformed the world forever.

Can you think back to the most important announcement you ever heard—to the moment someone said something that changed your life forever? The Bible is filled with transformational moments of that sort, when the people of earth heard from God and knew nothing would be the same. Captured in the pages of Scripture, those moments and messages continue to shape our lives today.

Who can forget the angelic proclamation to the shepherds: “Today in the city of David  there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11)? Or how about the one given to the grieving women at Jesus’ tomb: “He is not here, but He has risen” (Luke 24:6)? These two announcements are the reason that we celebrate Christmas and Easter.

But there’s another very important day on the Christian calendar—one that is often overlooked. I’m talking about the day of Pentecost, when the church of Jesus Christ was birthed (Acts 2:1-13). As Jesus’ followers gathered in an upper room after His ascension, the Holy Spirit came down to dwell within them in fulfillment of His promise in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter delivered a revolutionary sermon about what happened on Pentecost—it was an event that permanently changed the world (Acts 2:14-36).

The Revelation

Pentecost was a harvest feast for the Jews, and people from various nations had come to Jerusalem for the celebration. When they heard their languages spoken by ordinary Galileans, some were bewildered, but others mocked. That’s when Peter stood up to explain they were witnessing fulfillment of a prophecy in the book of Joel and to give them a concise portrayal of the One who poured forth this miracle (Acts 2:33).

Peter delivered a revolutionary sermon about what happened on Pentecost—an event that permanently changed the world.

Peter identified Him as “Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Acts 2:22). Peter’s listeners could not plead ignorance, because these signs had been performed in their midst. Every time the Lord healed someone, raised the dead, or exercised miraculous power, God was confirming that Jesus was His Son. Yet despite all the evidence, the people did not acknowledge Him as their Messiah. In fact, Peter accused his audience of murdering the Savior. Yet at the same time, the apostle affirmed that Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan for mankind’s redemption.

In verse 23, Peter identified three parties who were involved in Christ’s crucifixion. First of all, Jesus was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” Christ’s role as the substitutionary sacrifice for mankind’s sin was ordained before creation (1 Peter 1:20). Because of their love for mankind, the Father willingly gave His Son, and the Son voluntarily surrendered His life to rescue us from the effects of our sin—eternal separation from God. However, even though the crucifixion was part of God’s redemptive plan, Peter also placed responsibility and guilt on his audience for nailing Jesus to a cross (Acts 2:23).

At this point in his sermon, Peter made a startling announcement to those listening—that although they had killed Jesus, God raised Him to life (Acts 2:24). The once lowly Nazarene was now exalted in heaven as Lord and Christ, seated at God’s right hand (Acts 2:36).

The Verification

Since such a bold claim could be readily dismissed as untrue, Peter provided three witnesses to back up his statement.

• David (Acts 2:25-31, Acts 2:34-35). Israel’s  most respected and beloved king was also a prophet who wrote about God’s promise that his descendant would rule from the throne eternally. Looking ahead, David spoke of the Messiah’s resurrection, saying that His body would not undergo decay and He would sit at the Lord’s right hand.

• Jesus’ followers (Acts 2:32). Peter and the other disciples were eyewitnesses of Christ’s  resurrection and ascension into heaven.

• The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).  The final witness was God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. The foreign languages heard in Jerusalem were a manifestation of the Spirit’s power. God had authenticated the Messiah with signs and wonders and confirmed the apostles’ message with this miracle.

The Beginning of Something New

On that day of Pentecost, God visited mankind in a completely different way. Instead of being physically present with only a few, Christ now dwelled within each one of His followers through the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus had told the disciples it was to their advantage that He go away, because only then could He send the Spirit (John 16:7).

Instead of being physically present with only a few, Christ now dwelled within each one of His followers through the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit revolutionized believers’ individual lives. Peter, who once denied Jesus, now boldly proclaimed Him as Messiah and Lord. And the people who had rejected Christ were filled with remorse for killing the One who’d come to save them. After they repented and were baptized, their priorities changed. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, prayer, and fellowship. Some even sold their property in order to share with the needy in the congregation (Acts 2:41-47). The transformation was remarkable, but it didn’t stop there.

Over time, the culture was affected. The Christians realized their rigid social hierarchy had no place in the church. Slaves and masters were of equal worth, Gentiles and Jews were no longer enemies, and both men and women were recognized as co-heirs with Christ (Gal. 3:28). As the gospel spread, Christianity replaced idolatry in some areas, causing economic turmoil for the craftsmen (Acts 19:23-27). Although Satan tried to destroy the church with persecution, the blood of the martyrs only caused it to grow. Gradually Christianity affected the entire Roman Empire and, with time, even crossed the Atlantic Ocean to shape society in the New World.

Today, the effects of Pentecost are still reverberating around the world as Christians influence not just individuals but also cultures. Once the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, our eternal destiny is radically changed, as is everything else in our lives. God’s Spirit gives us victory over sin, guidance for decisions, comfort in hardship, and the power to obey His will. Now it’s our responsibility to tell others about our Savior, who broke the shackles of death and offers eternal life to all who believe in Him.

 

Illustration by Clay Rodery

Related Topics:  Spiritual Life

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11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.

6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.

7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

8 And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?

9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God."

12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, What does this mean?"

13 But others were mocking and saying, They are full of sweet wine."

8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.

15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;

16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

17 AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, `THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;

18 EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy.

19 AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE.

20 THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME.

21 AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'

22 Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--

23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

25 For David says of Him, `I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.

26 THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE;

27 BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.

28 YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.'

29 Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

30 And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE,

31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

34 For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: `THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

35 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET."'

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified."

33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

22 Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--

20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified."

25 For David says of Him, `I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.

26 THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE;

27 BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.

28 YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.'

29 Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

30 And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE,

31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

34 For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: `THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

35 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET."'

32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;

45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

23 About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.

24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen;

25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.

26 You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.

27 Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence."

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