The following comments are designed to help you better understand the passage and stimulate your thinking on the implications of the scripture.
The following comments are designed to help you better understand the passage and stimulate your thinking on the implications of the scripture passage.
The events that took place on Pentecost in Acts 2 are among the most important events recorded for us in the entire Bible. Unfortunately, Acts 2 is also among some of the most confused and misunderstood sections of holy scripture as well. To get a clear grasp of what this particular day of Pentecost meant for the early Church, one must understand the nature of the Holy Spirit both in the Old Testament and in the earthly life and ministry of Jesus.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God most often dwelled in a particular place. While it’s true that God is omnipresent, we see him choosing to dwell in a special way in special places. In the early part of Genesis, the presence of God dwells in the Garden of Eden. In Exodus, the presence of God dwells in the Tabernacle. In 1 Kings, the presence of God dwells in the Temple. Therefore, during the era of the Old Testament, if someone wanted to encounter the presence of God, they would have to go to a particular place.
In the New Testament, Jesus (God in the flesh) enters into human history. Luke’s gospel account makes multiple explicit references to Jesus being empowered with the Spirit of God. Jesus began his earthly ministry “full of the Holy Spirit”, “led by the Spirit”, “in the power of the Spirit”, and “anointed” by the Spirit (Luke 3:21-22; 4:1; 14, 18).
As the events of Pentecost begin to unfold, the risen and ascended Jesus sends the fullness of the Holy Spirit to dwell not inside of a place but inside of God’s people, the Church. This movement, from place to people, marks out a new era in redemptive history, the era of the Holy Spirit.
The events in Acts 2, then, can be better understood in the following ways. First, the sending of the Spirit is the final saving act of Jesus until his promised return. Jesus had lived, died, risen, and ascended into heaven. But at Pentecost, Jesus gives power, life, and boldness to his Church. Secondly, the Day of Pentecost gave the early Church everything she needed to carry the mission of God forward in the world. Thirdly, and finally, because of the events of Acts 2 all Christians everywhere can enjoy the fullness and power of the Spirit in the ways we see happening throughout the book of Acts. In fact, the Spirit-filled life of Jesus that we read about in Luke is now available to every follower of Jesus.
Were the disciples in Acts 2 already Christians? Yes. Did they possess the Holy Spirit? Yes, to some degree (see John 20:19-23). But something unique and altogether more powerful was given them on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus baptized the Church with the Spirit of God. What the disciples received in Acts 2 now happens at conversion for followers of Jesus after Pentecost.
It cannot be stated enough. No ministry or mission of eternal value is possible apart from the Spirit of God. Notably, Jesus did not begin his public ministry until the day of his baptism when the Spirit was sent from heaven to rest on him. Likewise, the Church is not able to do any public ministry without the Spirit of God. In the words of John Stott:
Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from his fruit, and no effective witness without his power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead. (Stott, The Message of Acts, 60)
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