by Greg Williamson © revised 2022
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation*

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The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) | Peter Addresses the Crowd (Acts 2:14-41) | The Fellowship of the Believers (Acts 2:42–47)

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)

The sounds, sights, and speeches (Acts 2:1-4)

(1) When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (2) And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. (3) And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

  A. The sounds at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–2): Sound like a mighty wind from heaven fills the upper room.
B. The sights at Pentecost (Acts 2:3): Tongues of fire appear and settle on the heads of the believers.
C. The speeches at Pentecost (Acts 2:4): They all begin to speak in other languages. [ref]
  • (Acts 2:1) The occasion is the great festival of Pentecost, and all the believers are gathered together in one place.
    ■ Polhill: "Pentecost was the second of the three great harvest festivals of Judaism, coming between Passover and Tabernacles. [In Greek Pentecost means 'fiftieth,' and it] was reckoned as coming exactly fifty days after the first day of the Passover. It was a day of 'solemn assembly,' and all work ceased. It was also one of the most popular pilgrim festivals, even more so than Passover, which was likely due to the improved weather conditions by the time of Pentecost." [ref]
    ■ Dunn: "[D]evout Jews, where possible, would seek to celebrate the festival in Jerusalem (particularly Lev. 23:15–21; Deut. 16:9–12)." [ref]
    ■ Arnold: "Later Jewish tradition associated this festival with the giving of the law at Sinai. If this tradition dated as early as the first century, the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost would underscore the Spirit's role in fulfilling and superseding the Mosaic law." [ref]
  • (Acts 2:2-4) In describing the arrival of the Holy Spirit (a noise ... tongues as of fire ... began to speak with other tongues), Luke emphasizes "the objectivity of the event. It was audible, visible, and manifested itself in an outward demonstration of inspired speech." [ref]
Proper Focus
The Holy Spirit is somewhat like a pair of glasses. Glasses help us to focus on what we are looking at; we do not focus on the glasses themselves. The Holy Spirit's aim is to help us focus on Jesus so that we can glorify him by becoming ever more like him in our every thought, word, and deed. - AC21DOJ
  • (Acts 2:2-3) Both wind and fire are rich in meaning.
    ■ Marshall:
    Since elsewhere the Spirit is likened to wind, and the word used (Greek pneuma) can have either meaning, it is not surprising that the first of two symbols which accompanied his arrival was a noise like that of wind; Luke describes it as almost palpable when he says that it filled all the house. The language, it should be noted, is that of analogy -- a sound like that of wind -- and indicates that we have to do with a supernatural occurrence. The symbolism is reminiscent of Old Testament theophanies (2 Sam. 22:16; Job 37:10; Ezek. 13:13): the wind is a sign of God's presence as Spirit. ... [Regarding the fire, a]gain the description is analogical -- as of fire. And again we are reminded of Old Testament theophanies, especially of that at Sinai (Exod. 19:18), but the primary background is probably John the Baptist's association of the Spirit with fire as a means of cleansing and judgment (Luke 3:16). [ref]
    ■ Lenski comments further regarding the tongues as of fire: "Why tongues, and why like fire? May we say that these tongues point to the speaking with tongues? When the heart overflows with grace and power, the tongue is kindled into utterance. So all are to have the Spirit, to confess, to pray, and to praise. Firelike tongues may well recall the altar with its holy fire which send the offering up to God. Fire is also a symbol of purity and purification. Each disciple is to make his confession, prayer, praise, testimony a pure offering coming from a holy altar that is burning with sacred fire." [ref]
  • (Acts 2:3) We see here both the corporate and the individual dimensions of the Spirit's work. While the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the entire group of believers, the tongues as of fire ... rested on each individual one of them. As Longnecker explains: "This seems to suggest that, though under the old covenant the divine presence rested on Israel as a corporate entity and upon many of its leaders for special purposes, under the new covenant, as established by Jesus and inaugurated at Pentecost, the Spirit now rests upon each believer individually. In other words, though the corporate and individual aspects of redemption cannot actually be separated, the emphasis in the proclamation of redemption from Pentecost onward is on the personal relationship of God to the believer through the Spirit, with all corporate relationships resulting from this." [ref] What's more, the fact that the Spirit descended on each and every believer equally means that within the Church there is no place for pride of place. Lenski: "The Spirit fills every single believer in the church, uses every one in his mighty and blessed work. Pentecost raises all to the same level." [ref]
Room For Improvement
Someone has said: "The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement." [ref] And it was John Blanchard who said: "Moving in the right circles is not the same as making progress." [ref] While active membership in a local church is crucial, every individual Christian must take personal responsiblity for his/her own spiritual growth and development. And we never outgrow our need for the three basic building blocks of the Christian life: prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. - AC21DOJ
  • (Acts 2:4) As Lenski explains, the wind and fire are external accompanying signs of the miracle itself: they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
    ■ Lenski: "The emphasis is on the passive verb 'they were filled,' for it was Jesus who filled the disciples with the Spirit ... This is the realization of the promise, 'he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.' At one time the Spirit descended upon Jesus in a wondrous manner; in an analogous way the Spirit came upon and filled all these disciples of Jesus. Through the Spirit he became the Christ (the Anointed), through the same Spirit his disciples become Christians (people anointed)." [ref]
    ■ Dunn: "The imagery of being 'filled with the Spirit' is one of Luke's favourite ways of speaking of the experience of the Spirit (Luke 1:41, 67; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9) and presumably comes in part at least from the experience itself, as one of emptiness being transformed into one of overflowing. We may assume the same reason behind the characteristic water or liquid imagery associated with the Spirit (e.g. Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 39:29; John 7:37–39; I Cor 12:13). It is just that experience of refreshing and revitalizing which has traditionally been attributed to and recognized as a mark of God's Spirit." [ref]
  • (Acts 2:4) The believers speak in other tongues as proof of being under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit.
    ■ Lenski: "The sound and the visible tongues were external, but this miraculous speaking was a personal act due to the inward presence of the Spirit." [ref]
    ■ Longnecker: "In OT times prophetic utterances were regularly associated with the Spirit's coming upon particular persons for special purposes" and it was "expected that with the coming of the Messianic Age there would be a special outpouring of God's Spirit, in fulfillment of Ezekiel 37, and that prophecy would once again flourish. And this is exactly what Luke portrays as having taken place at Pentecost among the followers of Jesus." [ref]
  • (Acts 2:4) While the tongues here are often identified as ecstatic utterances, they are in reality known/understandable languages. [ref] Arnold: "The image of tongues is probably meant to convey both the miraculous speaking in other languages ... as well as the ability the Spirit would provide to proclaim the gospel with power." [ref]
The Church Is Born
Stanley D. Toussaint: "This event [in Acts 2:4] marked the beginning of the church. Up to this point the church was anticipated (Matt. 16:18). The church is constituted a body by means of Spirit baptism (1 Cor. 12:13). The first occurrence of the baptism of the Spirit therefore must indicate the inauguration of the church. Of course Acts 2:1-4 does not state that Spirit baptism took place at Pentecost. However, Acts 1:5 anticipates it and Acts 11:15-16 refers back to it as having occurred at Pentecost. The church, therefore, came into existence then." [ref]

Being Filled With The Holy Spirit
John Stott notes the beneficial results of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as found In Ephesians 5:18-21:
  1. Fellowship: addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19a)
  2. Worship: singing and making melody (perhaps the verbs combine vocal and instrumental music) to the Lord with all your heart (Eph 5:19b)
  3. Gratitude: always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father (Eph 5:20)
  4. Submission: be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21)
There is no technique to learn and no formula to recite. What is essential is such a penitent turning from what grieves the Holy Spirit and such a believing openness to him that nothing hinders him from filling us. It is significant that the parallel passage in Colossians reads not 'Let the Spirit fill you' but 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly' (Col 3:16). We must never separate the Spirit and the Word. To obey the Word and to surrender to the Spirit are virtually identical. [ref]

A Theology of Obedience



The crowd and the confusion (Acts 2:5-13)

(5) Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. (6) And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. (7) They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? (8) "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? (9) Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, (10) Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, (11) Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." (12) And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" (13) But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine."

II. THE CROWD (Acts 2:5–11)
  A. The men in this crowd (Acts 2:5): Jews have come from over a dozen foreign countries to attend the Feast of Pentecost.
B. The marvel by this crowd (Acts 2:6–11): They are amazed to hear their own languages being spoken by the apostles!
III. THE CONFUSION (Acts 2:12–13)
  A. The people in the crowd ask each other, "What can this mean?" (Acts 2:12)
B. Some of them say, "They're drunk, that's all!" (Acts 2:13) [ref]
  • (Acts 2:5-13). Keener: "The most sensible setting for the encounter Luke describes here is the temple courts, where one could preach to such a large crowd (Acts 2:41). If the disciples are still meeting in the 'upper room' of [Acts 1:13] (this point is debated), they would be near the temple and could have moved to the temple courts; very large upper rooms were found only in Jerusalem's Upper City, near the temple." [ref]
  • (Acts 2:5) The devout men from every nation are "Diaspora Jews who had returned to the city of the temple to dwell there." [ref]
    ■ Lenski: "Luke is concerned only with this class of Jews who were born or reared in foreign parts but had now permanently settled in the Holy City in order to end their days there. ... 'Men devout' brings out this idea, earnest and sincerely religious Jews who wanted to spend their last years near the Temple and join in the worship at this great sanctuary." [ref]
  • (Acts 2:6)
    ■ Lenski: "[T]he mighty sound" brings "the crowd together at the place where the disciples" are "gathered." [ref] There they hear the believers speaking in various languages and are understandably confused.
    ■ As noted by Peterson:
    For one brief moment of time, the divisions in humanity expressed through language difference (cf. Gn. 11:1-9) were overcome. These divisions are presented in Genesis as the judgment of God. What happened on the day of Pentecost suggests that God's curse had been removed. But the confusion of tongues was not undone by providing a common Spirit language. Communication actually took place through the diversity of languages represented there. God was expressing his ultimate intention to unite people 'from every tribe and language and people and nation' (Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9) under the rule of his Son (Eph. 1:9-10), providing reconciliation through him and 'access to the Father by one Spirit' (Eph. 2:14-18). [ref]
    ■ Toussaint:
    It is a question whether only the Twelve spoke in tongues or all 120. Several factors support the idea of only the Twelve being involved in this phenomenon: (1) They are referred to as Galileans (Acts 2:7; cf. Acts 1:11-13). (2) Peter stood up with “the Eleven” (Acts 2:14). (3) The nearest antecedent of “they” in Acts 2:1 is the “apostles” in Acts 1:26. However, a problem with this view is that the number of languages listed in Acts 2:9-11 is more than 12. But one apostle could have spoken more than one language, in sequence. Still it is possible that all 120 spoke in tongues. Since the majority of them were from Galilee they could have been called Galileans. The references to the Twelve would have indicated they were the leaders of the 120. [ref]
A Reversal Of Judgment
Warren Wiersbe contrasts Pentecost with the Tower of Babel:
Pentecost was a reversal of the judgment at the Tower of Babel when God confused man's language (Gen. 11:1–9).
  • God's judgment at Babel scattered the people, but God's blessing at Pentecost united the believers in the Spirit.
  • At Babel, the people were unable to understand each other; but at Pentecost, men heard God's praises and understood what was said.
  • The Tower of Babel was a scheme designed to praise men and make a name for men, but Pentecost brought praise to God.
  • The building of Babel was an act of rebellion, but Pentecost was a ministry of humble submission to God.

What a contrast! [ref]

That is the gospel in a nutshell, since in the gospel God offers us unity and purpose that results in his praise. And it all starts with humble submission to God. - AC21DOJ
  • (Acts 2:9-11) The list of locations "is neatly arranged in three groups: 3 + 8 + 3; the group of 8 in 4 pairs. The countries mentioned describe a great circle about the Holy Land, starting on the east and swinging around westward to the north and ending in the south." [ref] According to Witherington, Luke's intent in listing the various nations represented by the crowd is to note those "nations that had known extensive Jewish populations ... Luke's arrangement involves first listing the major inhabited nations or regions, then those from the islands (Cretans), then finally those from desert regions (Arabs)." [ref]
  • (Acts 2:12-13) Everyone in the crowd is amazed and perplexed.
    ■ Lenski: "The great bulk of the hearers were sensible; they stopped with their question, gave no hasty answer, were willing to wait for the true and satisfactory answer. They were in the presence of a great miracle that transcended all reason and all experience and deeply felt the effect of it." [ref]
    ■ Some in the crowd, however, choose to mock the believers by accusing them of being drunk. As explained by Longnecker:
    The miraculous is not self-authenticating, nor does it inevitably and uniformly convince. There must also be the preparation of the heart and the proclamation of the message if miracles are to accomplish their full purpose. This was true even for the miracle of the Spirit's coming at Pentecost. The Greek of [Acts 2:12] indicates that "all" of the "God-fearing Jews" (Acts 2:5), whose attention had been arrested by the signs at Pentecost and whose own religious heritage gave them at least some appreciation of them, were amazed and asked, "What does this mean?" Others, however, being spiritually insensitive only mocked, attributing such phenomena to drunkenness. All this prepares the reader for Peter's sermon, which is the initial proclamation of the gospel message to a prepared people. [ref]

Admittedly, miracles run counter to our perception of the way in which things work. For that reason, some folk adamantly refuse to believe in miracles, writing them off as the workings of an overactive imagination. Such nonbelievers remain highly skeptical of anything not subject to the rigorous scrutiny of the scientific method. But even setting aside the fact that some things (such as love or anger) cannot be poked, prodded and placed on a scale, it is important to remember that our understanding of nature is limited at best. [ref]  Miracles are intended to inform, not entertain. Specifically, miracles: glorify God; accredit his spokespersons; and offer evidence for believing in God. Miracles are: unusual; theological; moral (promote good); and doctrinal (tied to a truth claim or claims). [ref] - AC21DOJ

Perpetual Emptiness
R. Kent Hughes closes this section of his commentary with the following practical application:
[All of this] means that the Holy Spirit brings new life to those who believe in Jesus Christ, and with that life comes a continuing power to those who are continually filled. It means fire in our lives, individually burning away the chaff and flaming out to those around us. It means the truth of God going forth from us in a way we would never have dreamed of -- the divine utterance of God through us. It means communication, joy, thankfulness, submission.

What does this require of us? The same thing it required from the apostles and those 3,000 followers [who were saved at Pentecost] -- emptiness, an acknowledgment that we need Christ. God helps us have faith and respond to the gospel, and that is how we become Christians and receive the saving baptism and fullness of the Holy Spirit. Then, once we are Christians, God's persistent work in our lives liberates us from the idea that we can live the Christian life on our own. Each time we acknowledge our inadequacy, he fills us with more of his Spirit so we can carry on his work. He will not fill our sails with the wind of the Holy Spirit unless we admit that the sails are empty. This requires humility and confession. The apostles were living in empty dependency until the filling came.

The key to the Spirit-filled Christian life is found in a paradox: cultivating an attitude of perpetual emptiness brings with it a perpetual fullness. Jesus said it like this: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." [ref]

Power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13)
Three times each year Jews journeyed to Jerusalem for feasts: Passover-Feast of Unleavened Bread, followed 50 days later by the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16). (More ...)

Miraculous Events (Acts 2:1-13)
To accurately understand God's unfolding revelation throughout biblical history, we are to consider carefully God's miraculous plan for verifying His message. (Video link) [ref]


*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.