“But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel’:
“And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:14-21).
The strange thing that everyone witnessed that Pentecost Day in Jerusalem – uniformly Galilean (Acts 2:7) and predominantly uneducated (Acts 4:13) Jews speaking fluently in all kinds of languages they’d evidently never studied (Acts 2:8-11) – was a remarkable and undeniable confirmation of the promise God had spoken to His people centuries before through the prophet Joel, saying, “I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind” (Joel 2:28).
The diversity of languages spoken conveyed the unity and meaning of the message articulated. God was indeed pouring out His Spirit on all manner of persons, not only Jews, but all kinds of Gentiles as well. The inclusion of Gentiles in the kingdom of God was such a radical concept that many early Jewish Christians struggled to comprehend and accept the idea. God prepared Peter to embrace Gentile inclusion in God’s covenant promises to Israel by commanding him a vision to eat unclean animals and then telling him not to call anything unclean that God had cleansed (Acts 10:1ff). The other apostles questioned Peter’s audacious baptism of Gentiles until he offered his only defense: “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17). At this point, Luke wrote, “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life’” (Acts 11:18).
Paul called the Gentile inclusion a “mystery which (had) been hidden from the past ages and generations” (Col. 1:26). He further said that “God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). He described the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s covenant promises as bringing near those “who formerly were far off,” and breaking down “the barrier of the dividing wall” and making the two peoples (Jew and Gentile) “into one new man,” and reconciling them both in “one body to God through the cross,” so that, in Christ, Gentiles would no longer be “strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God’s household,” and “are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:11-22).
In this is God’s grace made manifest: “that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32). We preach Christ to all kinds of people because He has “purchased for God with (His) blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).
The church redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ is a wonder to behold. One day, Christ will reveal His church, unstained by our sins, and clothed in the fullness of His glory for all to see. In that day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the glory of God.