“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 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. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.’ And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others were mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.’” (Acts 2:1-13).
Luke wrote, “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise,” and that noise was “like a violent rushing wind.” The Holy Spirit’s arrival sounded like a powerful wind blowing through the house. Years ago, I went through a tornado in central Texas. The sky turned green and the wind roared like a train, just as I’d always heard it would. The difference is that a tornado is a destructive force. The Holy Spirit is creative.
The same Holy Spirit who participated in the creation was active also in the new creation, the birth of the church. At that first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, the Spirit filled the house where Jesus’ disciples were. He filled it; He didn’t destroy it.
If a blast from heaven wasn’t strange enough, there appeared, resting on Jesus’ gathered disciples, flames of fire. As with the burning bush that Moses witnessed on Mt. Horeb, the Spirit consumed nothing. The Christians must’ve been stunned by the appearance. But it gets even better – and stranger.
The Holy Spirit filled them, just as Jesus had said He would (Jn. 14:17). He took possession of them. He owned them. This dramatic outpouring and infilling of the Spirit would be repeated with a Roman centurion, named Cornelius, and other Gentiles gathered at the home of Simon the tanner in Caesarea (Acts 10), and again with 12 disciples of John whom Paul encountered in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7).
As the Spirit filled the disciples on Pentecost, they began to speak in other, unlearned languages. No, they didn’t just babble and utter nonsense. They clearly articulated precise statements in languages they’d never studied before. Nor did they all say the same thing. They spoke in a variety of languages, which other Jews who were in Jerusalem for the festival heard and understood.
Like the head waiter at the wedding in Cana, who testified to the high quality of the wine that Jesus had produced, those who heard the believers’ languages testified to the clarity of their speech. Two things were clear: what the disciples said and how they said it: “We each hear them in our own language” (v. 8). “We hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God” (v. 11).
More important than speaking in languages they didn’t know was the fact that they proclaimed the mighty deeds of God. They praised God for many of His historical works because the Holy Spirit enabled them to do so. Such praise stands in stark contrast to God’s judgment against unregenerate humanity: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21).
Being able to offer genuine praise to God (from the heart and not merely lip service) is a gift of God’s grace and evidence that grace is working in the life of the believer. The depraved heart of the sin-bound soul is simply incapable of praising Him because it cannot love Him.
As the Spirit, however, opens the eyes, He loosens the tongue and enables the newly regenerate soul to unleash genuine praise to God. Praising God is the unique, disctinctive property of Christ’s church.
I pray the Lord will enable you to sing His praises continually.