Bible Passage: Acts 2:1-21
In this passage we come to one of the key moments in the whole Biblical narrative. The day of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit is poured out on the whole people of God – male and female, old and young, in fulfilment of the promise that God made through the prophet Joel. No longer is God’s empowering presence only for kings, priests and prophets. The Spirit enables the church to bear witness to those around them in ways that could be understood.
The Spirit Poured Out: The central point of the passage is God pouring our his Holy Spirit on his people, just as Jesus has promised. On this occasion we see the outpouring accompanied by physical signs (a rushing wind and tongues of fire) and the believers responding by praising God in foreign languages. A lot of ink has been spilled over whether Pentecost was unique as the dawning of a new age, or something to be sought and repeated in subsequent Christian experience. The answer is both. As the dawn of the age of the Spirit, Pentecost is a one off unrepeatable event, but as the book of Acts shows, the Spirit is poured out repeatedly (and often on the same people multiple times). There are differences in the exact phenomena accompanying each outpouring, but the idea that Christians should seek to be filled with the Spirit if a Biblical one and Pentecost serves as a great blueprint for Christian experience.
The Spirit and the Nations: When the Spirit was poured out on the church, the first thing they did was testify about God to people from all different nations who were gathered in Jerusalem. It has often been noted that Pentecost serves as a reversal of Babel. Whereas at Babel, the peoples of the world came together in pride and God came down to scatter them and confuse languages, at Pentecost the peoples came together and God came down to build them together into one new man and gave languages to speak the gospel in understandable ways. In this incident tongues is not used as a private prayer language (as it is in some other NT passages) but as a gift enabling cross-cultural mission and the spreading of the gospel through the world. Pentecost shows God’s heart for the nations,
The Spirit and the People of God: When some onlookers accused the spirit-filled believers of being drunk, Peter explained that what had happened was the fulfilment of a prophecy made by Joel in the Old Testament. The significance of the prophecy is that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. There would no longer be divisions based on gender, age or social class, but the whole people of God would receive the Spirit and would be enabled by him to see visions, dream dreams and prophesy.
- There will probably be people in the congregation who have never had a tangible experience of being filled with the Spirit. And for those who have, being filled again is something that we see happening repeatedly in Acts. Have a time of response where you pray for those who want to be filled with the Spirit.
- You could also pray for those who wish to have the gift of tongues, and for those seeking to learn a particular language to reach a people group, that the Spirit would enable them in both of these ways.
- Encourage people to step out and share the visions, dreams and prophetic words that God gives them.