And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
Acts 2:4, 5
The Holy Spirit empowers us to speak restoration to the wide variety of humanity. Simply speaking in tongues misses the point. The devout need completion. The wrong need careful correction. Wounded hearts need healing and hope. This is the purpose of Pentecost.
The Purpose of Pentecost
Acts 2:6-11 (All Chapter 2)
The purpose of Pentecost was and is not so that believers could receive the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues simply for the sake of energetic worship. This is a point that we often miss in our modern perception of the text. Not only do charismatic and Pentecostal/Holiness Christians get this wrong, even we Baptist and other mainline Protestants have been misled by a very narrow interpretation of why the apostles in the upper room were filled with the Holy Ghost and why we believers today need to live in the same fulfillment. Had those first believers merely speak among themselves with no one near by to understand what they were saying, the gift of the Spirit would have been wasted. It is only because there were people of many different languages present that the gift of tongues makes sense. A handful of Galileans were enabled and empowered to speak the glory of God to Medes, Romans, Egyptians, and everyone from every land in between. If tongue speaking is our only goal in the Pentecostal experience, we are short-changing ourselves and the God we serve. Our purpose for this great season and experience is to be empowered to be a witness to someone else about the fullness, redemption, and glory of God through Jesus Christ.
Consider first that the men dwelling in Jerusalem were devout men. They were obedient to the law of Moses and were in the holy city to praise the Lord for bringing their ancestors out of Egyptian Bondage and giving them the law to live by as prescribed in Leviticus 23. Fifty days after the Passover, the Israelites were to celebrate the first fruits of God’s mercy. So, those gathered were obedient to legalistic requirements. This is a good thing. But on this day of Pentecost through the apostles, God was giving them something better. For 50 days after the Father gave His Only Begotten Son as a greater Passover, the disciples who believed and were faithful to meet together in the upper room were blessed with power from on high. Being obedient out of legalism, though a good thing, is not enough to receive the Holy Spirit in one’s life. To receive this great gift of the Father, one need only to believe and have faith that Jesus is the Son of God.
“therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” These words of Paul’s sermon cut to the heart of all of those gathered. Not that they all drove nails in Jesus’s hands and feet. Not that they were all present at the crucifixion. Yet, they all saw themselves guilty in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. They were all so bound to their legalistic perceptions of God that they failed to consider He could appear among them. They failed to consider the hope that their own ancestor, King David, gave in his Psalm
“I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades Now will You allow Your Holy On corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.”
In Peter’s sermon, these men saw that faith in Jesus as the Christ was the way to salvation and spiritual fulfillment. They saw themselves on the wrong side of God. And they needed to know there was a way to redemption.
And thank God there is a way for redemption. “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Make a direct and deliberate change from living in wickedness. Cleanse yourself from your sins. By doing these things, God will give you His Spirit that you may live a new life. Those people from all over the world needed to hear this word. People in distant lands who were good in their own legalistic obedience but rejected the possibility of a risen Savior needed to hear this word. As long as a group of believing Galileans spoke among themselves, the world would not hear this Word. But, because the Holy Spirit came on the apostles and enabled them to speak these different languages, the word, the Gospel could spread to all who needed to hear it. According to the Bible and early church tradition, these empowered apostles baptized about 3,000 souls that day and then spread the word to all people in all lands.
And here it is today, too many Christians are too scared and ashamed to speak one word of the faith at work or a cook-out. Whether or not someone speaks in a tongue in these four walls is irrelevant. The real test for us is to speak the Gospel to those who are not in here and need to see, hear, and experience it in us. We have co-workers need to know there is an alternative to backstabbing to get ahead. Some of our relatives need to see a joy and peace in mind that doesn’t come from a bottle. And who knows, maybe the Lord will lead us to someone who we have not learned to talk to. And even if a Spanish tongue doesn’t set upon us, a friendly smile can go a long way.
Brothers and sisters, this is the reason why we Baptist should recognize this great day of Pentecost not only as a calendar event. We should make it a part of who we are every day. We are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to make a difference in the lives of others outside of our upper rooms. We can influence the legalist to see the Love of the Father. We can guide those who are walking the wrong way into the right direction. We can offer redemption to those who feel rejected. We can do this because we are filled with the Holy Spirit and can speak with these tongues as the Spirit gives us utterance. We all may not be able to preach like Peter. We all may not be able to preach like Paul. But we all can share the Love of Jesus and say He died for us all.