Vol. 11 — No. 22 May 31, 1970
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and Strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
In Christ Jesus, who fulfilled His promise by sending the Holy Ghost, Fellow Redeemed:
Ten days before, on the day of His ascension, Jesus had repeated the promise of the Holy Ghost—a subject that had so occupied His mind the night of His betrayal. Immediately before ascending He promised once again: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” (Acts 1:8) The disciples returned to Jerusalem and waited in eager expectation. Ten days later on Pentecost, the ancient harvest festival of the Jews, “they were all with one accord in one place.” Then suddenly it began to happen. The promise was about to be fulfilled. But how did they know what was happening? First, “there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” The Holy Ghost is a spirit, a breath of air, as it were. When the risen Lord conferred the power of the Holy Ghost upon His disciples, giving them the authority to forgive sins here on earth, He “breathed” on His disciples. (John 20:22) When the Holy Ghost came in all His fulness on the day of Pentecost, He announced His coming with the sound as of a rushing mighty wind. We are told that the sound of a tornado, such as struck Lubbuck, Texas is a definite, terrifying sound, portending death and destruction. The Holy Ghost came with a definite sound that served to gather the people of Jerusalem together, but that heralded blessing upon all peoples. The Holy Ghost is a spirit. Hence He is invisible, but He revealed His presence with “cloven tongues like as of fire” which “sat upon each of them.” Three years before John the Baptist had exclaimed to the multitudes: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matt. 3:11) That prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Ghost manifested His presence with fire—that purges from the dross, that purifies, that cleans, that makes new, but also fire that consumes and destroys. The work of the Holy Ghost is to purge the sin-dominated hearts of men, women, and children by working faith in Christ in their hearts and so establishing the Lordship of Christ in those hearts. But failing in that the Holy Ghost works judgment that destroys in time and eternally.
To the ear the coming of the Holy Ghost was revealed by a sound as of a wind, to the eye by tongues as of fire. The actual coming of the Holy Ghost is reported simply in these words:
“They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” How were they affected? How did they know that the Holy Ghost had came upon them and filled them? In this way that they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” We know what a long and difficult process it is for a child to learn but one language. We know how difficult it is for anyone to learn a second and a third language. But on that Pentecost day this lengthy learning process was suspended. Instantaneously these unlearned and unschooled Galilaeans were able to speak intelligently in languages that they had never before studied or learned. The multitudes that had been attracted by the sound as of the mighty rushing wind “were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” The Holy Ghost didn’t move them to speak some kind of gibberish, some unintelligible babbling, or some new language of heaven. No, they spoke languages that people here on earth speak. There were all kinds of people in that first Pentecost congregation—people from the entire Middle East area. They spoke all kinds of different languages, but they heard these unschooled Galilaeans speaking their own languages. “And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?”
Now why did the Holy Ghost fill those first disciples in this particular way—by enabling them to speak with tongues, in languages that they had never before learned? We can answer briefly that this was the most dramatic and forceful way that the Holy Ghost could usher in the new era which would be characterized by His working with a fullness and universality never before experienced on this earth. The Spirit of God surely was active in Old Testament times. He was powerfully active on the very first day of creation and during the creation week, for “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1:2) The work of the Holy Ghost is essentially a creative work, a making of something out of nothing. When the Spirit moves, He creates. But the Spirit of God is not irresistible. He does not crush and destroy the will of man as by an omnipotent force. Man can say “no” to the Spirit of God. In the antediluvian era resistance to the Spirit of God became almost universal—except for a few. In the dayas before the flood only eight persons were still led by the Spirit. The rest of mankind fortified itself in a stance of open rebellion against the Spirit. Then came the flood and the new beginnings after the flood. But once again the Spirit seemed destined to lose out. The tide of human pride, arrogance, and defiance of God reached its climax in the construction of the tower of Bable. Then came the curse—the confusion of the tongues, the separation of mankind into antagonistic groups that become races and nations that have been competing and warring against each other ever since. The Spirit seemed unable to compete against the godlessness, the lawlessness, the militant determination of mankind to dethrone God and establish man as the measure of all things.
At this point the Lord God changed His policy over against mankind. He selected on man, Abraham, and made of him the nation of the Jews. He gave to this nation the promise of a Savior for all nations. He directed His Spirit to work almost exclusively within this nation. And so we see that the Spirit of God was active in Israel’s judges at times when all seemed lost, for when man is utterly frustrated by conditions, the Spirit creates new possibilities. The Spirit worked through Israel’s kings, creating in them the possibility to serve the nation as true servants of the Lord. When the Word of the Lord came to Israel’s prophets, the Spirit moved them mightily. Israel’s hope of being the light for the Gentile nations in bringing them salvation was inseparably connected with the promise of the Messiah. Prophecy clearly taught that when He came, He would come in the power of the Spirit. ANd so it came to pass, for Jesus was “conceived of the Holy Ghost” and “anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power.” So it was that the activity of the Holy Ghost during the Old Testament era was restricted chiefly to one nation and one people, the Jews.
But Pentecost ushered in the new ear of which the Prophet Joel had spoken: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” The Holy Ghost indicated that that day had come when He so filled the disciples on Pentecost by enabling them to speak in languages that they had never before learned. The national barriers of the Kingdom of God were broken. The whole world, all nations, was now to be the field of the Holy Ghost. We, gathered here today, are the modern day beneficiaries of this new policy of the Holy Ghost. He has begun and is continuing His creative work in us.
But how have we been filled with the Holy Ghost? How has He done His creative work in us? There are those today who believe that the Holy Ghost fills people in the very same way that He did on the first Pentecost—that He gives them the ability to speak in tongues. The big modern word for this experience is glossolalia. These people claim that if one has not experience the ecstatic, phenomenon of speaking in tongues, he just hasn't been converted or reborn or filled with the Holy Ghost. It is true that the Holy Ghost did fill people by enabling them to speak in tongues that first Pentecost day. Acts 10 reports that this same gift was given to the Gentiles, to Cornelius and those gathered in his home. Acts 19 reports that the gift was given to the disciples in Ephesus. The Corinthian congregation was richly endowed with this gift, where it was also misused. But Scripture nowhere indicates that experiencing personally the ecstatic gift of speaking in tongues is THE MARK of the influence of the Holy Ghost. Yes rather, this gift was given on Pentecost and for a short time thereafter to make it clear that the Holy Ghost would now be doing His work with a fullness and universality never before known in Kingdom history. But with the giving of the gift of tongues on Pentecost the Holy Ghost also indicated how and in what manner He would continue to do His work, for in so filling these first disciples by enabling them to speak in tongues, the Spirit also revealed Himself as the One—
It wasn’t gibberish or some new un-understandable language that the disciples spoke an that first Pentecost. No, it was languages in common usage throughout the world. What caused amazement was not only the fact that these unlearned Galilaeans spoke languages foreign to them but also WHAT they spoke. The people exclaimed: “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” The Spirit of God made these men His agents, His vehicles, His instruments for His creative work in human hearts.
We live twenty centuries removed from the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the first Pentecost. I am sure that none of us has ever spoken in tongues. Yet we have experienced His creative work in our hearts. We have been reborn. A new dimension has been added to our lives—the new man, the indwelling Christ, the in-dwelling Spirit Himself. Through whom has the Holy Ghost achieved this miracle within us? Through Christians parents, Christian teachers, Christian pastors. And how did these people function as agents of the Holy Ghost? In the very same way that the disciples functioned on the first Pentecost. They spoke unto us the wonderful works of God.
It is a wonderful work that God should have had mercy upon fallen mankind. After all, God had made man in His own image, perfectly capable of living in righteousness and holiness, but man turned his back on obedience and chose for himself the path of disobedience, mortality, and death everlasting. No one could blame God for abandoning man to his own devices. We frequently say of a person: “Well, he made his bed; now let him sleep in it.” But God didn’t do that. Instead He set about His work of creating a new chance for man, a new life for man who has cast away the life God had given him. God didn’t break off His efforts when most of mankind repudiated Him before the flood. He didn’t become discouraged when after the flood mankind displayed that same old arrogance and determination towards self-destruction. No, God continued His creative work of saving mankind. He created a new nation to serve as the bearer of His promise. He nursed that nation along and preserved it despite the fact that the Jews despised and rejected His prophets and turned their backs upon His Word to them. God did achieve the miracle of the ages. The Son of God entered the flow of mankind by being conceived in the womb of a woman, being born on this earth, and maturing in human fashion. The Son of God did not make His life on earth a tour of force, exhibiting His divine power and recklessly using it for personal gain and convenience. No, He humbled Himself, emptied Himselft of His divine power, even to death on the cross. He became the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. His Father accepted His efforts and pronounced them completely successful by raising Him on the third day. These are the mighty works of God, proclaimed that first Pentecost Day and ever since by agents of the Holy Ghost. Through the hearing of these mighty works of God the Holy Ghost achieves His creative work in human hearts—working repentance and faith, establishing the Lordship of Christ, and making human bodies His temple. This is what He has done and still does in us. Let us praise His and willingly permit ourselves to be led by Him in all things. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.