“Lessons from Pentecost” Acts: To the End of the Earth
Scripture: Acts 2:5-13
Acts 2 and the day of Pentecost cannot be downplayed in its significance for the Church. It marked a new era of redemptive history as the Spirit was poured out on all believers to indwell us. Although there will never be nor does there need to be another Pentecost, we still need the ministry of the Spirit today. From Acts 2:5-13 we learn that the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son of God and unifies the people of God.
In Jerusalem a diverse, international crowd of diaspora Jews were gathered. The Spirit came upon the disciples and supernaturally spoke through them in the language of those gathered. The miracle was that the disciples spoke a language they did not know, not that the people heard a language that wasn’t being spoken. The Spirit was using the disciples to witness the gospel. In this way God was reversing the curse of Babel (Genesis 11). In that story, mankind tried to reach God on their own by building a tower up to heaven. In response, God judgment was not only to scatter them but to confuse their language. But at Pentecost God sent his Spirit to overcome that language barrier. The curse at Babel was that people were divided but the blessing at Pentecost was that people were unified by the Spirit, being called to Jesus.
From this event we learn at least two lessons about the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we can still expect today in the 21st century.
#1: The Spirit’s ministry is to glorify God’s Son
The Spirit’s ministry is primarily Christ-centered, not Christian-centered. It’s about shining the spotlight on Jesus, not on us. He fell on the disciples and gave them the gift of tongues not for their own edification or experience but to exalt Christ. Through their utterance, many were able to hear about the mighty works of God which climaxes in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19-20). Jesus attests to the Spirit’s role and ministry in John 16:13-14 when he tells his disciples that the Spirit glorifies the Son. The Spirit is honored not when he gets the glory but when Christ gets the glory.
The Spirit continues his ministry to us and in the church by constantly directing our thoughts and our affections back to Christ. He turns our eyes to see and savor the Savior. We should then pray and plead with the Spirit to work in our lives so that we make much of Jesus and fall more in love with him. We should ask the Spirit to magnify and exalt Christ in our lives through our speech, actions and thoughts. Then the Spirit will give us incredible experiences and deep emotions that are centered on Jesus and not himself or ourselves.
#2: The Spirit’s ministry is to unify God’s people
The Spirit united God’s people not by removing diversity nor by conforming everybody to a certain culture and language. He united people by preserving their diversity and uniting them to Jesus. This shows that our unity is not based on uniformity. Christ unites us by including our diversity, differences and distinctions. The curse of Babel was division, not diversity. So when the international crowd hears the gospel in their own language, it’s a glimpse of heaven. Revelation 5:9-10 and 7:9 both attest the vision of the redeemed from every tribe, language, people and nation worshiping Jesus. God is pleased with the diversity of his people. It’s naive to dismiss this because God doesn’t. In fact God celebrates it as he unifies his people by the Spirit to his Son.
When we understand God’s heart, we need to grasp two truths. First, there are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. Often minority groups feel less valid to the majority, dominant groups. As a result we may resent our status and envy another’s. But the gospel has never been about shedding off our unique identity and adopting another one. Rather the gospel says Christ loves the diversity of his Bride so he purchased each unique person with his blood. This truth elevates those who think they’re second class and it humbles those who think others are second class. Second, we are all necessary citizens in the kingdom of God. The Spirit reversed Babel’s division, yet maintained Babel’s diversity because this was God’s plan. He wants to display his glory through the diversity of his redeemed people. Because God is not colorblind we should not be. Rather we acknowledge how we’re necessary for the beautiful mural of God’s people that he is painting.
Group Discussion Questions
- Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.
- How does it make you feel to say that the Spirit doesn’t seek attention for himself but drives it to Christ? Can you think of any other part of the Bible that affirms this truth?
- Have you ever had a Spirit-given extraordinary experience or intense emotions of deep love and longing for Jesus? Could you describe it? Were you able to tell it was Spirit led? How?
- In your experience do you feel like churches tend to emphasize “unity in diversity” or “unity through conformity”? What do you think about this statement: In the church we shouldn’t see color (i.e. we should be “colorblind”) but only see each other as Christians? What could be harmful about such a statement?
- Is there something from another person’s diverse background that helped you learn something new about God, the gospel, the Christian life, etc? What do you think your particular diverse background can teach or help others learn about God, the gospel, the Christian life, etc?