Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Second Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Acts 2:1-21

Verse-by-Verse Comments:
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
(1) Were these first Christians afraid? Probably. Were they praying? No doubt. But they were also doing what the risen Jesus told them to do just before He ascended to heaven: waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Faith often involves patient waiting.

2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
(1) In Old Testament Hebrew, there is a word (ruach) which can be translated as wind, breath, or spirit. A similar word exists in New Testament Greek, pneuma. It's God's ruach that bears down upon the watery chaos in Genesis 1 and brings life into being. God also breathes ruach into Adam to give the first man life. Here, the very life-giving breath of God breathes His Church, the fellowship of believers committed to Christ's mission for it, into being.

(2) Luke, the writer of Acts, is at pains to point out that this wasn't some gentle little breeze. The Holy Spirit came into the place where the first Jesus-Followers were gathered "like the rush of a violent wind." The Spirit filled the entire house...there was no escaping God for the believers who were there!

3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
(1) This is different from the gift of tongues which the New Testament talks about elsewhere. As Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 14, that's a worship language which God gives to some Christians as a means of building up the church internally. The Holy Spirit is given to every believer in Christ. It's the Spirit Who makes it possible for once-fearful followers of Christ like Peter to share the good news of new life for all with faith in Jesus with boldness and humility.

(2) See yesterday's pass, in which I talk about how, in some respects, this event is a reversal of what happened in the Old Testament city of Babel.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
(1) They were in Jerusalem, the center of worship for God's ancient people, as explained here.

6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
(1) The crowds didn't hear a strange language, as would have been the case if the first Christians were speaking "in tongues." They heard intelligible accounts of God's mighty acts in their own native languages, the ones they spoke in their dispersed homelands.

7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
(1) How is it possible, the crowd wonders, for these Galileans to speak in their languages? This really is the miracle of Pentecost: God empowers the first Christians to share the Good News in accessible ways!

12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
(1) People always try to explain away the miraculous intervention of God in human life, including Jesus' resurrection. Even religious folks do that. In Old Testament times, a devout woman begged God for a child. Overcome with emotion, the priest thought she was drunk. But she wasn't drunk and God gave her a child destined to be one of the great figures in Israel's history, Samuel.

[More tomorrow, I hope.]

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