I invite you to continue to walk with me through the book of Acts, now into Acts 2. There are other posts I am working on simultaneously apart from my study which I’ll post intermitatly, but I do hope you come along with me in my Acts-journey.
Pentecost is not an idea that began after Yeshua’s ascension and the subsequent release of the person of Holy Spirit. The specific day began its celebration 1,300 years earlier by the Jews. It was called “Shavuot,” meaning the number fifty (also known as the Feast of Weeks). The feast (Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:10; I Cor. 16:8) occurs fifty days, or seven weeks after the Passover celebration, in late spring. It includes firstfruits from the wheat and barley harvest. Rabbis through the centuries, teach that the children of Isreal received the Ten Commandments on Shavuot. The disciples and all of Yeshua’s Jewish followers would have understood this to be true.
I read that the rabbis also taught that “On the occasion of the giving of the commandments, the children of Israel not only heard the LORD’s Voice but saw the sound waves as they emerged from the LORD’s mouth. They visualized them as a fiery substance. Each commandment that left the LORD’s mouth traveled around the entire camp and then came back to every Jew individually.” Yahweh voice uttered, split up into seventy voices (70 languages) so that all the nations of the earth at that time and their spoken languages should understand.”
Yeshua’s disciples also would have been aware of this commentary and received it as truth. Again, we see that Yahweh is building a new revelation (Pentecost) on a past announcement (Mt. Sinai); he is a God of pattern and order.
I pause again at this reminder and think of this concerning our spiritual journeys. What previous revelation has been a foundation and foreshadow of the current announcement in our lives? Have we discerned the pattern of Yahweh’s work with each of us? Think about what our good Papa has already spoken and confirmed to us. Have we obeyed the instructions given up until now, as the disciples in Jerusalem modeled?
One of the highest and hardest disciplines of the Christian life is that of staying present, focused and obedient to that which has already been revealed.
To further imagine with me the whole setting in which we step into Acts 2, picture this visual: During Shavuot, the Jewish people decorate their homes and synagogues with flowers and plants to symbolize that the Torah is a tree of life. As a tree provides fruit and nourishment, so does the word of Yahweh. According to tradition, they also do so because grass grew on Mount Sinai, the place of the giving of the commandments. From what I understand, there is also a custom of studying all night on the eve of Shavuot to read the Torah, the Psalms, Ruth, and the Talmud (the rabbi’s interpretation of the Torah). This celebration was as beautiful as it was meaningful for the Yeshua’s Jewish followers. This festival, of course, is why they were all together in Jerusalem in one place.
Now, when reading Acts 2:2, one has an entirely new understanding of this event: it progresses to be the fulfillment of biblical prophecy in Jeremiah 31: 31-34!
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
The day has come, the newer covenant now given! The disciples would have recognized this “second Sinai event” in which now Yahweh’s teachings would be placed within his children, through the Holy Spirit! Isaiah 2:3 also was now a reality: “and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Our passage states that all there were “filled” with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as Spirit gave them utterance. In Acts 1, Yeshua admonished the disciples to wait in Jerusalem, for they would be “baptized” with the Spirit and receive “power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” There is no indication that this filling/baptism is about the new birth, conversion, or being united to the Body of Christ. There is an indication that this is about the disciples receiving or taking on extraordinary spiritual power to carry out the ministry of Yeshua and withstand future opposition to his mission.
These obvious indications (combined with other Scriptures), leads me to deduce all the following about the nature of being baptized and filled by the Holy Spirit:
It seems that when Paul says (I Cor.12:13), “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free” that he is referring to a work of the Spirit who unites all believers to Christ. When one is born again and puts their faith in Christ, the Spirit unites one to Christ and puts his seal within (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; Eph. 4:30) so that each believer is part of his Body and a fellow-heir with him of eternal life. Paul, therefore, is using the phrase “baptism” different than the apostle Luke in the book of Acts.
Luke explains (as Yeshua did) the baptism of the Spirit as the experience of receiving individual empowerment. It is not a once-for-all experience (as is the sealing work of the Spirit at salvation). I believe that after our new birth, there are subsequent outpourings, fillings, or baptisms of the Spirit throughout one’s life. I have found that I need to ask for this empowerment and receive the fullness of it. If not, I operate out of myself–no lasting fruit produced. If this filling exhibits in quiet concentration, creativity, resolve, and boldness (as most often I’ve found) or manifestations of the sort, it makes no difference to me. I have known both. I don’t choose how the filling occurs, nor do I put parameters upon the Holy Spirit. But I do ask, we must ask for the filling!
How much we must invite Yeshua to do this work, and trust that he is able! The condition, though, is our hunger and our thirst, our most earnest desire. Oh LORD, forgive me, forgive us, for apathy and amnesia. We are not spiritual beggers to subsist on leftovers and crumbs when we are children of the King with the treasure of heaven made available to all of us!
It was Yeshua who said,” “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now, this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39) May we be a people who walk around bursting with pure, clean, life-giving water every place our feet tread and every word our mouths speak. We are nothing; our marriages are nothing; our parenting is nothing; our vocation is nothing; our dreams are nothing; our ministries are nothing if there exists no Spirit empowerment and enablement!
We are commanded to be “filled with the Spirit.” In my experience, this is the equivalent to living out of joy, completely caught up in the relationship the Trinity shares. Luke usually combines the idea of “being filled” with joy (Acts 13:52; Neh. 8:10). When this sort of filling seizes you, then naturally, you follow the command in Ephesians 5:15-18. Again, I am convinced this only comes about by our persistent seeking.
I think it is a mistake to limit baptism of the Holy Spirit to a single second event after trusting in Yeshua. The command is given by Paul to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 3:1-5; Gal. 5:25) is essentially a daily commitment of surrender not to the old man, but the new man who is activated by the Spirit within us. It is not to snuff out the power, but to submit. When we do this, it is the Spirit that creates in us an ability to desire the things of God. We’re helpless to do that good apart from the Spirit (Romans 7:18; John 15:5). Oh, how I know this! We are in constant need of fresh anointing of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What if this was our most frequent prayer?
Now the reason that the disciples, when being filled with the Spirit, were given the enablement to speak in foreign languages was to have the power to testify and evangelize being competent witnesses so that the vast amount of fervent Jews in Jerusalem (there to celebrate Shavout), would understand! The diaspora at the time of Acts meant that 90% of the Jewish people were flung out in parts of North Africa, Asia, and Europe. Naturally, they all spoke different languages. So of course, they would need to understand the spoken truth in their tongue.
Peter lifted his voice and with boldness, addressed the astonishing mass (who were so dumbfounded they accuse the tongue-speakers of being drunk, which is also ridiculous). He recited Joel’s prophetic words, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, that your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams…”
It is important to understand that the “last days” refer to that intermediate time between the first coming of Yeshua up until his return. We are in the last days. I believe, too, that Joel’s prophecy is directly speaking about the yet-coming days leading up to the return of the King, with Peter here suggesting that they have experienced a taste that has initiated it’s coming fullness. I don’t think we are living in the full experience of those days, as of yet, both the extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit that will come and the incredible calamity that will occur. These days are coming (their foretaste increasing), and my heart is more and more bent on awareness of such. Oh Lord, prepare your Church!
Part 3 of Acts 2 to be continued…