Acts 2:4

Monday, 25 October 2021

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4

Note: You can listen to today’s introduction courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse saw divided tongues, as of fire, rest upon each of the disciples who were sitting in the house. With that noted, Luke next records, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” It is what Jesus earlier spoke to the people about as is described in John –

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39

This is what Jesus later refers to in John 14 and John 15 –

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26, 27

It is also what Jesus was referring to when He spoke to the apostles after the resurrection in John 20 –

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23

In these verses from John 20, the word translated as “He breathed on them” is emphusaó. It is a word found only there in the New Testament. However, it is the same word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Genesis 2:7 –

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Jesus was making a point in John 20 that He is the Lord God who originally formed man. His breathing on them was a token that they would be born again from above with the coming of the Spirit. This is not, then, a “second-birthing” of the Spirit here in Acts as claimed by charismatics. It is an attestation that Jesus is God.

In John 14, Jesus said the Father would send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. In John 15, Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit from the Father. And in John 20, Jesus’ breath upon the apostles is a token of that occurrence. It is the work of the Godhead that is being revealed, and it reveals the truth of Jesus’ words of John 14 –

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.’” John 14:9-11

The three members of the Godhead are working together in the redemptive process. The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts is an outward, visible, audible demonstration of this. It is a confirmation that Jesus is, in fact, the Lord God. The new birth has come and the church that bears Jesus’ name is founded at this moment. This is based on the New Covenant that was established in Jesus’ blood only a short time before.

This is clearly evidenced in the fact that the New Covenant extends beyond the Jewish believers to include the Gentiles, as witnessed by Paul in both1 Corinthians 11:25 and 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 and then again by the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 8 and 9.

This “filling of the Holy Spirit” is that new birth. It is being born again from above because of the completed work of Christ. It is the spiritual reconnection to God that was lost when Adam transgressed the command. The outward display in Acts 2 is not normative for the church age. Rather, it was an outward display to confirm that the Spirit is now given to those who believe the gospel.

The outward display of tongues is first occurring in Jerusalem as a sign that the Feast of Shavuot (Weeks), which is Pentecost, is fulfilled. But this does not mean it is only fulfilled for those in Jerusalem. Just as Christ’s Passover sacrifice was observed as fulfilled by those in Jerusalem, it still extends to all believers (see 1 Corinthians 5:7).

Each thing must start somewhere, but that is only the beginning of the thing. The church started in Jerusalem, and it has continued to expand, as Jesus stated in Acts 1, to the ends of the earth –

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” Acts 1:4-8

In understanding these things, it next says of those who were filled with the Holy Spirit that they “began to speak with other tongues.” The word “tongues” means “languages.” In the case of what occurs in Acts 2, it does not mean gibberish, nor is it something acquired over time or improved through use. It is an immediate infusion of a new language into the person who is so filled. This is evidenced in the coming verses.

Later Paul will speak of tongues in a different way, acknowledging them as languages he already knew –

“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 1 Corinthians 14:18, 19

These languages, given to the believers as a sign to the people, came “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Here Luke uses a word, apophtheggomai, found for the first of three times. It is seen only in Acts. It refers to a clear and plain enunciation, a declaration, and a speaking forth. The words spoken by these people were clearly conveyed, perfectly understood, and had precise meaning. Paul uses the word in Acts 26:25 and then explains it for his hearer –

“But he said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.’”

The word “reason” literally means “sobriety.” In Acts 2:13, the people will claim the believers are “full of new wine.” Peter will correct this saying that they are not drunk. The enraptured voices of the believers were filled with reason, eloquence, power, and they were heightened with joy. What has come upon these believers in Jerusalem is solely of God, and it is an undoing of what occurred in Genesis 11 –

“And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.’” Genesis 11:6-9

Where the Lord confused the language of all the earth, He has now brought understanding. Where there was misunderstanding, there is now clarity. Though the tongues would cease in a supernatural way, languages continue to be learned in order to convey the gospel to all people on earth. In other words, the display of tongues in Acts 2, though not normative for the church age, is a token that the gospel is intended to speak to all people in any tongue, at any place, and at any time. Thus, it is the reuniting of all people on the planet into one body when the message of the gospel is accepted.

Life application: Acts 2 is a descriptive account of what occurred at the establishment of the church. It prescribes nothing. Further, it is not normative for the church age as is testified to throughout Acts and the epistles. Nothing is said that these same believers retained the tongues they spoke. Further, the epistles do not hint that what is described in Acts would reoccur later.

In this, the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement fails. They have taken descriptive accounts that refer to known languages that were given, along with temporary workings of the Spirit, and they have twisted them into something wholly unintended. Further, their supposed displays of tongues fail to adhere to the prescriptive directives for tongues given by Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit.

Secondly, the Feast of Pentecost is fulfilled because of Christ’s work, as is evidenced in Acts, just as were all of the other feasts of the Lord. The Hebrew Roots movement fails because they reintroduce these feasts, prescribing their observance when they were, in fact, fulfilled by Him. It is a heretical doctrine because it negates the work of Christ who fulfilled them. It is one thing to observe Pentecost as a memorial, and it is another thing to prescribe observance of the feasts as given in the Law of Moses, ignoring the fulfillment in Christ.

Thirdly, the church is clearly presented as being established in Acts 2. It is based on the one and only New Covenant that came through Christ’s shed blood. It is based on the one and only gospel that is to be conveyed to Jew and Gentile, and it is confirmed by the giving of the Holy Spirit of God to believers, based on the completed work of Christ. This will continue to be seen as Acts continues. Hyperdispensationalism fails because it teaches a heretical theology that separates both the gospel and the church into two separate entities.

Fourthly, Calvinism fails because it teaches that believers must be regenerated in order to believe (being born again), that people then believe, and they are then saved. This is contrary to both the descriptive and prescriptive passages of Scripture. Rather, a person hears the word, believes the gospel, and is sealed with the Holy Spirit unto salvation. This is more expressly seen in the epistles, but following the book of Acts is helpful in understanding this.

Be sure to reject such false doctrines. Just because something is described does not mean that it is normative. That which is fulfilled by Christ is to be acknowledged as such. And there is one church that began with the giving of the Spirit and continues with the giving of that Spirit to any who believe the gospel. When a person believes, he is then born again through the sealing of the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of the inheritance.

Lord God, thank You for the gift of Your Spirit. The record of Your word shows that it came among the early believers confirming the words of Jesus, and the record of the epistles assures us that we receive the Spirit the moment we believe the gospel. He seals us for the day of redemption. We have faith that it is true, even without any external confirmation of this. Believing that Christ died for us, was buried, and rose again is all we need to assure us that we are Yours. Thank you for Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.