The Text: Acts 2:1-21
Have you been baptised with the Holy Spirit?
Are you filled with the power of the Holy Spirit?
Are you on fire for the Lord through the Spirit’s power?
By the power of the Holy Spirit, can you talk in the language of men and of angels?
When you’re asked questions like this, how do you feel?
Do you start to get a little doubtful whether you have the Holy Spirit? Because, if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, then do you really believe in Jesus? And, if you don’t really believe in Jesus, then are you truly forgiven, and will you receive eternal life? So, how do you know if you even have the Holy Spirit unless you’ve had some kind of special spiritual experience to reassure you that you indeed have the Holy Spirit?
When we hear in today’s text where the apostles heard a rushing wind coming from heaven, received the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire, and also miraculously became able to speak in other languages, we might start to wonder why we don’t get the same.
It’s quite possible nothing like this has ever happened to you. So, if you felt nothing miraculous or amazing happen to you when you were baptised or when you were confirmed, or when you became a Christian, it’s quite possible doubts may begin to rise in your minds and hearts.
So, in order to receive some reassurance of the Holy Spirit’s work in us, we may want certain songs or moving sermons or miraculous moments or something else to affect us in some way to reassure us and make us feel that God truly loves us because of these experiences. We may also want to see some of the fruits of the Spirit being harvested in our life.
On the other hand, we might also be scared to receive the Spirit. We may have seen others babble away in another languages with eyes closed, arms raised and were scared by it. Maybe out of ignorance or jealousy we’ve criticised those who seem to be filled with a spirit of some sort and can do special things. It could be that we’re scared to be fired up by the Spirit, because then we might have to do or say something which would challenge us or take us out of our own comfortable little world. In this way we may be afraid of where the Spirit will guide us and what he’ll ask us to do.
But none of this is the point of this text!
St Luke, who wrote this account, is not telling us that unless we hear a rushing wind, unless we have had a tongue of fire on our head, unless we can speak in other languages, or unless we have any other powerful spiritual experience that we don’t have the Holy Spirit.
You see, this is not to be a normative experience for everyone. We’re not being told this has to happen to us.
Although the Spirit came on the disciples in this particular way, this doesn’t mean it’s the normal way for all people to receive the Holy Spirit or that all Christians will experience something like this.
The point of this text, as Peter clearly points out, is that when the Holy Spirit came on these men in such a way, Scripture was being fulfilled, and he even quotes this Scripture from the prophet Joel (2:28-32).
Similarly, when Jesus came to us in human flesh at Bethlehem, Scripture was fulfilled.
When Jesus suffered, died, and was buried, Scripture was fulfilled.
When Jesus rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven, Scripture was fulfilled.
Everything that happened to Jesus and the disciples simply fulfilled what was promised by God himself through the Spirit-led prophets of the past!
So, when God’s chosen people received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God wasn’t setting a precedent for us, but he did this in order to fulfil Scripture and so affirm what he’s spoken in the past through the prophets, and now through Jesus and the apostles, is true and trustworthy.
In this way, we don’t necessarily celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit so we can all have our own personal pet flames on our heads or so that we can speak in different tongues, but so that we may celebrate God’s Word being fulfilled through God’s Spirit-filled people as foretold by the prophet Joel. We celebrate God’s Spirit-filled Word is true and still being fulfilled even today.
Therefore, we can celebrate the last days which were spoken about thousands of years ago have now come. We celebrate, because with the Holy Spirit’s coming, the Day of the Lord has begun. We celebrate because people are still being inspired by the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s Word to all nations. We celebrate, because in these last days, people are united in the Spirit in our common confession of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, this unity will be seen in a particular way. For example, rather than people glorifying themselves and their own works and achievements, Spirit-filled people will glorify the one true God in their own languages. Spirit-filled people were led to tell you about the good news of God in your own language.
Even in Australia we’re still working to translate God’s Word and speak it to indigenous Australians. In fact, an Aboriginal elder, when he received a bible written in his own language, once said with amazement and wonder: ‘God speaks to us in our language!’
This was a similar reaction of the people from many countries on that amazing day of Pentecost. People heard about the acts of God in their own language! God spoke their own tongue! No wonder many were amazed and perplexed!
In this way, the Church is not based upon a common unity set down by human organisations, constitutions, customs, common languages, or even similar rules, but it’s united through a common confession of faith in the one Triune God through the power of the Holy Spirit, even if that one confession is spoken in different languages and in different denominations.
The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, not so we would have an experience to copy, but so that all people may believe God’s word has been fulfilled and we’re now all being told about the glory of God and his wonderful acts through Jesus Christ his Son.
We don’t have to have a flame on our head, or be able to speak in different languages, in order to have the Holy Spirit.
We have the Holy Spirit when we’re able to speak or sing God’s praises. We have the Holy Spirit when we’re able to pray to God, even in times of doubt. We have the Holy Spirit when we’re able to call on the Lord’s name, and because of this we’re comforted to know we will be saved, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
The Holy Spirit is still being poured out today so that you and I and the people around us may hear what God has done in our own language. The Holy Spirit is poured out on us when we’re baptised, when we hear God’s Word, when we hear his words of grace and forgiveness, when we receive the Lord’s Supper, and when we pray through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is active when we hear how Scripture has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in the pouring out of his Spirit to all people. The Holy Spirit is active among us in his word and in his precious sacraments as channels of God’s forgiveness, love, peace and hope. The Holy Spirit is active as he leads us to glorify the Father and the Son by telling others what God’s done for us.
The Holy Spirit continues to call us, make us holy, enlighten us, and unite us so that we may glorify God the Son and the Father who sent him. We have the Holy Spirit because we’ve been led to praise God’s mighty deeds in his Son.
Therefore, whenever you’re asked “Do you have the Holy Spirit?” you can boldly say “Yes!”
We have the Holy Spirit so we may call on God’s name in prayer and praise – with or without any super shows of spirituality or being able to speak in different tongues.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us, comfort us, and lead us this week to tell of what God has done for us and for all people through Jesus Christ. Amen!