The day of Pentecost signals one of the most important events in Christianity. While all together, the Spirit descends upon the apostles with signs and wonders. Tongues of fire appear, the sound of the Spirit comes, and the nations hear the apostles speak in their own language, a kind of miracle of hearing.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke spends an entire chapter narrating Pentecost and ties it closely to Acts 1. So what exactly is happening? What does Pentecost mean?
Peter Tells Us
Peter interprets the events of Pentecost in Acts 2 and answers the crowd’s question, “what does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) while defending against the skeptics’ assertion, “They are filled with new wine” (Acts 2:13).
Peter answers both groups. Luke records the words of both groups so that we as readers would understand how to read Peter’s interpretation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues at Pentecost.
Peter first answers the skeptics’ assertion. He denies they are drunk since it is only 9:00am (Acts 2:15).
What Does This Mean?
Then he answers the most significant question: “what does this mean?”
Peter answers in ways we might not expect. He does not focus on the miraculous per se. He answers the question by citing three Scriptural passages: Joel 2, Psalm 16, and Psalm 110.
His argument is that the Spirit’s activity on Pentecost signals that Jesus reigns at the right of God, received the promised Spirit of the Father, and now bestows it upon his people.
In particular, Luke highlights the Pentecost Spirit working in the newly restored 12 apostles (2:14). They together witness to “all the house of Israel” and to people from every nation (Acts 2:1–13) that God has begun to restore his kingdom—that Jesus reigns and the Spirit of Jesus guides this new work on earth.
The 12 apostles receive the Spirit and the signs of Pentecost show the whole house of Israel that this is true. They need to join the apostles in their witness of Jesus to partake of Joel’s prophecy, to begin to restore the kingdom promised.
The citation of Psalm 16 and 110 show that David spoke of Jesus who would rise from the dead to sit at the Father’s right hand, where he would give the Spirit as Joel 2 indicated.
Tongues, people hearing in their own language, in the context of Acts 2 forms a microcosm of Jesus’s plan to spread the Gospel from Jerusalem to the nations (Acts 1:7–8).
Pentecost begins to show how the 12 apostles would reign over the kingdom as Jesus said: “I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29–30).
The tongues of fire fulfill the promise of John who said Jesus would baptize with Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). The event itself verifies that the 12 are the recipients of the Father’s promise, the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), who would mediate his reign on earth through the Spirit and witnesses.
The Spirit’s presence by sign and wonder proves the 12 are the Lord’s witnesses (and anyone else who witnesses in the same way, but the 12 are highlighted at Pentecost). The gift of tongues shows the universal scope of the Gospel since it goes to all nations.
Mark Matthias says
Excellent, Wyatt — He does not focus on the miraculous per se. He answers the question by citing three Scriptural passages: Joel 2, Psalm 16, and Psalm 110. It is a real two-edged sword when modern man has such a gift — one suspects that such a gift would undoubtedly go right to his head. Thus, “They need to join the apostles in their witness of Jesus ( in Spirit) to partake of Joel’s prophecy, to begin to restore the kingdom promised.
“But Paul was not to share the gospel with worldly wisdom and eloquence of speech. He was not to proclaim the good news of Christ with fine-sounding words; intellectual arguments; philosophical banter or witty conversation. Paul was not to preach Christ in his own human strength for to do so would have rendered his witness to the gospel of none effect. Paul was to share the gospel by grace through faith – as led by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians-1-17: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made of no effect.” Yet that’s what has happened repeatedly through the ages. The beautiful witness that ostensibly emerges through that ritual, even if no one witnesses it,
is a mystery to me. However, the realization of the indwelling Spirit is like nothing else in temporal life.
◄ 1 Corinthians 1:17 ►
For Christ Χριστὸς
5547: the Anointed One, Messiah, Christ from chrió
did not send ἀπέστειλεν
649: to send, send away from apo and stelló
me to baptize, βαπτίζειν
907: to dip, sink from baptó
but to preach the gospel, εὐαγγελίζεσθαι
2097: to announce good news from eu and aggelos
not in cleverness σοφίᾳ
4678: skill, wisdom from sophos
of speech, λόγου
3056: a word (as embodying an idea), a statement, a speech from legó
2443: in order that that, so that — a prim. conjunction denoting purpose, definition, or result
that the cross σταυρὸς
4716: an upright stake, hence a cross (the Rom. instrument of crucifixion) from the same as histémi
of Christ Χριστοῦ
5547: the Anointed One, would not be made void. κενωθῇ
2758: to empty
This bit of theology denoted by 1 Corinthians 1:17 fits perfectly with the Acts message…representing a distinct transitional period leading into birth from heaven unencumbered by trivial temporality — it became time to personally celebrate in the Spirit of Jesus through the only possible mediator — neither Mary nor ministers…Jesus is our intercessor; though guided by righteous pastors.