“The Lord Sends the Spirit”
Lesson Text: Acts 2:1-16
Background Scripture: Acts 2:1-41
Devotional Reading: John 15:1-7
Acts 2:1-16 (KJV)
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.
To show the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send His Holy Spirit to empower His disciples.
To understand that the indwelling Holy Spirit fills us with His love, comfort, and power to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
To be led by the power of the Holy Spirit to change our lives and empower our testimony and ministry for Christ.
The Ruined Vacation
Have you ever had a vacation ruined by an ugly incident? an accident or illness? a car breakdown? being victimized by a thief? bad news from home?
Early first-century Jerusalem was full of visitors every spring. They were Jewish pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean world who came for the great Passover celebration and stayed until Pentecost, roughly two months later. This was like a religious vacation. During the Passover-Pentecost season of A.D. 30, the vacation of these visitors was disrupted. A visiting rabbi, named Jesus, was at first greeted by joyous crowds in a festive atmosphere. But things turned ugly. The visiting rabbi was in conflict with the Jewish authorities. The conflict escalated to the point that He was seized, given quick trials, and executed. It must have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Coming seven weeks after Passover, the Feast of Pentecost was the end-event for most of these visitors. They would have begun to disperse the following week. That year, they might have left with this murderous memory weighing heavily on their hearts, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation ruined. But God, in His wisdom, did not let these pilgrims leave Jerusalem before experiencing an astounding event. The result was the birth of the church.
Time: A.D. 30
The ancient Jewish calendar of special days had a great sense of history to it. One of the most important days on the calendar was Passover. That was a time to remember when God’s angel of death “passed over” the Jewish households in Egypt that had been marked with the blood of a Passover lamb (Exodus 11 and 12). This feast day is connected with the exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt, from their lives of slavery. Thus, Passover had the flavor of a day of national independence, something like America’s Fourth of July. The single-day Passover celebration occurred in conjunction with the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5, 6). Thus these two came to be seen functionally as one celebration.
Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, came seven weeks plus one day later (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Deuteronomy 16:9-10). This length of time computes to 50 days, and Pentecost is a Greek word that simply means “fiftieth day.” The lesson text takes us to the first Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE SPIRIT (Acts 2:1-4)
1. In Acts 2, what is the timing and setting for the Day of Pentecost? (Acts 2:1)
Since Pentecost is 50 days after the Passover Sabbath, that means it falls on the first day of the week, Sunday. Jesus had lingered on earth for 40 days following His resurrection (Acts 1:3), so there is a period of less than two weeks between Jesus’ ascension and this Pentecost day.
The mention of all... in one place leads us to investigate who is included in this “all.” The group of disciples in Jerusalem at this time includes 11 of the 12 original apostles (Acts 1:13), the mother and brothers of Jesus (1:14), plus others for a total of 120 (1:15). While waiting, they have taken care of at least one piece of vital business: choosing a replacement (Matthias) for Judas Iscariot to reconstitute the apostles to be 12 in number (1:15-26).
The gathering this particular morning seems according to the pattern the group has been following for several days. Acts 1:4-8 provides a promise that something profound is about to happen.
We don’t know where the one place is. It could be the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark (see Acts 12:12). It may also be the place where the last supper had been celebrated, “a large upper room” (Luke 22:12; compare Acts 1:13). It may be in the temple courts outdoors. Wherever it is, it is large enough to accommodate 120 people.
2. What were the three signs that accompanied the infilling of the believers with the Holy Spirit? (vs. 2-4)
There were three startling signs that accompanied the coming of the Spirit: the sound of a rushing wind, tongues of fire, and the believers praising God in various languages.
The first sign that this is a special day is auditory: a noise like a rushing mighty wind. We should notice that there is no mention of an actual wind blowing things about, but only the sound of a wind. This by itself is understood as a supernatural sign—a loud noise recognizable to be like the wind, but with no accompanying air movement.
As the first phenomenon is wind-like sound without mention of moving air, the second phenomenon is a fire-like display without mention of heat. The description cloven seems to indicate a fire-like image that divides, with a tongue resting on each person. These are not fiery replicas of human tongues, but flame-like extensions of the fire.
The third phenomenon is the greatest of all. We might call it a combination of the fire/tongues and the wind/spirit as the gathered disciples begin to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit enables them. The tongues are known languages, but unlearned by the disciples.
Luke, the author, describes this as happening when the disciples are all “filled with the Holy Ghost” (compare Acts 4:31). To be filled in this sense is to be “controlled.” This does not mean that the disciples have lost all personal control, becoming zombies of some kind. Rather, it means that the ability to speak in the unlearned languages is coming from a source outside themselves: the Holy Spirit (see also Acts 10:44-46). This is a miracle!
This is fulfillment of John the Baptist’s promise “he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5). The word wind is closely related to the word spirit (or ghost) in the Greek language, as both are understood to be invisible but real forces.
What Do You Think?
How has God worked in your church in unexpected but nonmiraculous ways? How does this strengthen your faith?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In the birth of your church | During moments of crisis and change | In extending its outreach
THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT (Acts 2:5-13)
3. What does the author mean when saying that people from “every nation under heaven” were in Jerusalem? (v. 5)
Luke, in writing of these events, reminds us that Jerusalem was full of foreign Jews at this time. Most of these are in town temporarily, having come for the Passover-through-Pentecost season of temple observances. Many would be headed home shortly.
Luke’s comment that they are from every nation under heaven is a testimony to the presence of Jews from across the Roman Empire. Such Jews are referred to as the Diaspora, meaning the dispersed nation of Israel (see John 7:35; James 1:1; compare Acts 21:21). We will get more details regarding the makeup of this international group in verses 9 and 10, below in question #5.
What Do You Think?
What experiences have helped you most to appreciate the “every nation” nature of God’s kingdom? Why?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
At your church | While on mission trips | At Christian conventions | Other
4. What made the crowds gather and marvel at what they heard? (vs. 6-7)
While the Spirit operates quietly, God sometimes sends visible and audible signs of His work. The wind, fire, and inspired speech all have their roots in Jewish tradition as signs of God’s presence. This did not escape the notice of the foreign Jews who heard the sound of tongues-speaking (v. 6). The Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in the tongues (languages) of each listener. They were amazed that locals could fluently speak in so many different languages. With their curiosity aroused, crowds of people quickly gathered together to discuss what could be behind all the commotion.
The question “Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? is disparaging (v. 7). Whether because of the speakers’ dress or accent (compare Matthew 26:73), the foreign Jews know that the ones speaking are from the rural area to the north. Galilee is part of the ancient territory of Israel, but at this time is a separate Roman district ruled by Herod Antipas (see Luke 3:1). The Jews of Galilee are considered uneducated and unsophisticated (compare Acts 4:13). Thus there is real surprise to witness people from that area as masters of many languages (also compare Acts 22:2).
In this amazing turn of events, the Lord began to reverse the confusion that occurred at the tower of Babel thousands of years earlier (see Gen. 11:1-9). Whereas then God scattered the human race over all the earth, on the day of Pentecost He brought all sorts of different people back together to hear the message of salvation.
5. What were some of the regions represented by those visiting Jerusalem? (vs. 8-11)
Because of the wide range of cities from which these Jews come, it is possible that there are very few representatives of certain languages in the multitude. Yet each person hears his or her local language being spoken! This is something they do not expect to hear until they return home.
Luke now lists some of the regions represented. He named fifteen different geographical locations that were representative of those who witnessed and heard the disciples in their own languages. He begins with regions east of Jerusalem that are generally outside Roman control. We know from the Old Testament that many Jews remained in the east long after the return of Jews to Judea in 538 B.C. when many were released from captivity (Ezra 1).
The primary rival to the Romans is the Parthian Empire to the east. It controls the territory that encompasses the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites. These ancient peoples are located in what is modern Iran.
The Greek word Mesopotamia means “between the rivers,” referring to the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This territory is often called Babylon in the Bible; it is part of modern-day Iraq. This area is also controlled by the Parthians in the first century A.D.
Next comes a listing of the easternmost provinces of the Roman Empire. Judea is the region around Jerusalem, and naturally there are many Judeans in this crowd. Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia are all areas in modern Turkey. Several of these areas are visited by the apostle Paul during his missionary journeys.
The third grouping consists of areas located in what we consider to be the northern part of Africa. These make up the southern provinces of the Roman Empire. We remember that the man forced to carry Jesus’ cross was from Cyrene (Luke 23:26; Acts 13:1).
The last two people groups named are Cretes and Arabians (Acts 2:11a). Those of the first are from the island of Crete, which has a sizable Jewish population. Crete is a prosperous center of trade because of its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea. Arabians are Jews from the desert regions to the south of Jerusalem, especially from the Sinai peninsula and the northwest parts of the Arabian peninsula.
6. Why does Luke mention that both Jews and proselytes were in Jerusalem? (v. 10)
The “strangers of Rome” are subdivided into two groups: Jews and proselytes. There is a large Jewish population in the city of Rome and in other cities of southern Italy at this time. These Roman/Italian Jews are active in seeking converts (proselytes) to Judaism. So what the author is saying here is that the Roman Jews in Jerusalem on this day are represented by traditional Jewish families as well as by Gentiles who have converted to the Jewish faith.
There are three requirements for a Gentile man converting to Judaism: circumcision, a ritual bath, and the offering of a sacrifice at the temple. Some of these proselytes may be in Jerusalem at this time to complete the third requirement.
7. What was the content of the Holy Spirit-inspired speaking in other tongues? (v. 11)
Acts 2:11 gives us insight into the content of the marvelous speaking that is coming from the disciples as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The proclamation of “the wonderful works of God” is the language of praise. This is adoration of the Lord for His mighty works of creation and for His providential care (see Psalm 71:19; compare Luke 1:49; Revelation 15:3).
“Note that the believers were praising God, not preaching the Gospel, and that they used known languages, not an “unknown tongue”. The citizens of the fifteen geographical locations named by Luke “heard Peter and the others declare God’s wonderful works in languages they could understand.”
8. Why did the amazed crowd conclude that the disciples were drunk? (vs. 12-13)
When Luke tells us that a crowd is amazed or astonished, it generally means that the people are confused about something they have just witnessed because it does not square with their normal expectations (Luke 2:47-48; Acts 9:21). They have no reasonable explanation, so they begin to doubt. They suspect trickery. This is an attitude we see in the crowd on this Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem.
This spirit of doubt results in the conclusion by some that those who are speaking are drunk. To be drunk in public is scandalous behavior, so this accusation is strongly demeaning.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways that people scoff at God’s work today? How should you respond?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Acts 13:40, 41; 23:6-8 | 1 Corinthians 4:12, 13 | 2 Corinthians 5:11, 12
Colossians 4:6 | 1 Peter 3:15 | 2 Peter 3:3, 4
PETER ADDRESSES THE CROWD (Acts 2:14-16)
9. How did Peter respond to the diverse crowd gathered in Jerusalem? (vs. 14-15)
Peter comes forward as the spokesman for the group, as he did in the selection process of a new apostle (Acts 1:15). Peter is portrayed in the Gospels as a strong personality prone to making mistakes (compare also Galatians 2:11-13). But having been reinstated personally by Jesus (John 21:15-17), Peter’s boldness now is better directed.
Peter was empowered by the Holy Spirit to stand before an assembled crowd to explain what they were seeing. He was “with the eleven” (Acts 2:14). The Savior would use the bewilderment of the pilgrims as an opportunity to shine the light of the Gospel into their lives.
Peter began by asking his fellow Jews, as well as all who lived in Jerusalem, to listen carefully to the explanation he was about to offer about the wonderful things God was doing in their presence.
Appealing to common sense, Peter begins by refuting the insulting charge that the disciples are drunk. It is only “the third hour of the day,” which is about 9:00 AM. While there might be the rare person here or there who begins drinking wine immediately on arising, this would not be the case with a group such as the one the crowd is witnessing. Furthermore, drunkenness cannot explain what the crowd is experiencing. Inebriation does not lead to extraordinary language skills—quite the opposite!
10. How were the events of Pentecost a fulfillment of prophecy? (v. 16)
The final words of Jesus to His disciples taught that His death and resurrection were part of the plan of God as prophesied in Scripture. Peter now extends this idea to include the Pentecost phenomena. Not only was what happened to Jesus foreseen centuries before by God’s prophets (Joel 2:28-29), so also was this outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit foreseen.
Fulfillment of prophecy is not complete with Jesus’ ascension; fulfillment continues among the works of the apostles in the first-century church. This sets the stage for Peter’s marvelous sermon, based on the book of Joel and other Old Testament texts. The result of this sermon is the beginning of the church.
It was indeed the dawning of a new age, the "last days" in which God would bring to completion His plan of salvation for mankind. Jesus had finished the great work of redemption and nothing more had to be done except to share the Good News with the world, beginning with the nation of Israel. The invitation is, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
POINTS TO PONDER
- As demonstrated by the early church, there is power when believers unite in prayer and purpose. (Acts 1:14, 2:1)
- The Holy Spirit is as important to the church today as He was to the early church. While there is some disagreement among believers regarding certain details of the Holy Spirit’s work, we all can agree that virtuous living and effective service are possible only through the Spirit’s power. (vs. 2-4)
- The power of God will enable us to be effective witnesses for Christ. (vs. 5-6)
- The church has a worldwide mission - all nations of the world must hear the wonderful works of God! (Acts 2:7-13; Matthew 28:18-20)
- The Holy Spirit empowers us to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. (vs. 14-16)
The Comforter Has Come
The account of that glorious Day of Pentecost has at least three abiding lessons for us. First, we recognize that the Holy Spirit has come to the church as part of the new covenant. The Old Testament certainly knows of God’s Holy Spirit, but there is no sense there that the Spirit is a gift given to all the people of God. The coming of the Holy Spirit was foreseen by the Old Testament prophets and was promised by Jesus (John 14:15-26). The presence of the Holy Spirit is a primary difference between the people of God in the Old Testament and New Testament eras.
Second, we see that the Holy Spirit does not come passively, but with power. Many Christians today are uncomfortable talking about any sense of supernatural power from the Holy Spirit. They are missing a blessing. Every Christian has the blessed gift of God’s presence and the energizing power that accompanies the Holy Spirit.
Third, Peter’s bold speech shows us that the Holy Spirit empowers the preaching of the gospel. The display of tongues on the Day of Pentecost showed the diverse Jewish crowd that God was active in their midst. It set the stage for Peter to preach the entire gospel message. There is still power in the message that exceeds that of the messenger. When we share the gospel faithfully, God’s Spirit is active in the reception of the message. This is true whether preaching from a pulpit or sharing with a friend.
O Lord, may the presence of Your indwelling Spirit empower our worship, our love for You, and our sharing of the gospel. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity.