God gave the new Christians the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, a festival held 50 days after the Passover to give thanks for the harvest. Jesus had ascended to heaven seven days before Pentecost after appearing to many of his followers during the previous 40 days. Three unusual signs accompanied the gift of the Holy Spirit. One of the signs was so remarkable that the people witnessing it thought the Christians were drunk.
I. The Gift of the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. NIV®
A. In John 16:7, Jesus had promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples the night before he died. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” NIV® Have you ever wished that you had lived at the time of Jesus and seen his miracles, death, and resurrection? I have, but Jesus said that it is actually better to have the Holy Spirit in us. Through the Holy Spirit, God can impact our viewpoint directly, give guidance, provide the power to live a godly life, and assure us of His love and presence.
B. Three signs were given on Pentecost to show the Holy Spirit’s presence.
1. The sound of a powerful wind
In John 3:7-8 Jesus had told a religious leader, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” NIV® When the Holy Spirit comes into our life, he is invisible like the wind, but powerful. When the wind blows, we can see the result. We can see the results of the Holy Spirit, too, as he begins the work of changing us from the inside.
2. Tongues of fire
Hebrews 12:28-29 “. . . let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our “God is a consuming fire.” NIV® Fire symbolizes God’s presence. It speaks of God’s holiness, purity (refining of silver and gold), and power. God verified his message on Mt. Sinai with fire that came down in one place (Exodus 19:16-18). Think about the significance of the fire appearing above each Christian gathered at Pentecost instead of being in just one place.
3. Speaking in foreign languages
The Christians at Pentecost spoke in languages which the onlookers from other countries were able to understand. Jesus had told the apostles (Acts 1:8) that the Holy Spirit would give them power to be his witnesses. The languages opened a great opportunity to be his witnesses when the crowd gathered.
Note: Christians have different opinions about whether or not God always enables people to speak in a special spiritual language or tongue when they are blessed by the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at I Corinthians12:28—31. 28And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. NIV® This gift of “tongues” mentioned in I Corinthians is not a foreign language. It is not necessary to have this gift to become a Christian or to be filled with God’s Spirit. The Bible clearly says that not every Christian is expected to speak in tongues.
II. Peter’s explanation to the crowd
Acts 2:14-17 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. . .’” NIV®
The “last days” is the time between Jesus’ first coming and his return to rule the earth. Joel’s prophecy was for that whole time period, beginning with Pentecost. Read Luke 21:10-28 for more details. Another Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, predicted the new covenant (testament) when God would put his law in people’s minds and hearts directly (Jeremiah 31:31-34). We are living in that time.
III. Being Filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery [immoral behavior]. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. NIV® When a person is drunk, he is controlled by the alcohol. God wants us to be under the control of his Spirit. It is a command for every Christian. The verb in the original Greek means to “keep on being filled.” It’s not a one-time happening. Once we become a Christian, we have the Holy Spirit. We don’t need more of God’s Spirit. We need to give him more of us.
The steps for a Christian to be filled with God’s Spirit are easy to grasp, but also easy to forget to do.
1. Yield to God’s will and be available to God throughout the day. Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV® God uses the Bible and prayer to renew our minds.
2. Confess any sin to God and turn away from it. Eph. 4:30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. NIV®
3. Trust God for empowerment. Eph. 3:20, 21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. NIV® We shouldn’t focus on the Holy Spirit’s filling. We should focus on God’s sufficiency for our situation at that moment. Being “filled with the Spirit” is the same truth as “abiding in Christ” in the Parable of the Vine (John 15:1-5)
4. How can we remember to be filled (or to abide in Christ)? Every decision, problem and resulting worry, temptation, and irritation CAN be a reminder to turn our attention to God and trust Him.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV®) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. NIV® Copyright © 1973,1978,1984,2011 by Bilica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.