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LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

ACTS 2 AND THE DAY OF PENTECOST:

A BRIEF STUDY IN PNEUMOTOLOGY, HISTORY AND EMPOWERMENT

A RESEARCH PAPER SUBMITTED TO DR. ADEYEMI

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR

THE COURSE NBST 522

LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

BY

JOEL ALAN DORMAN

LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA

OCTOBER 11, 2009


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction ......................................................................................................................................1

Pneumatology through the Old and New Testaments......................................................................1

Emphasis in the Old Testament ...........................................................................................2

Emphasis in the New Testament before Pentecost ..............................................................4

History of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks .....................................................................................5

Institution, Purpose and Time of the Year ...........................................................................5

At the time of Christ ............................................................................................................6

Analysis of Acts Chapter 2 ..............................................................................................................6

Verses 1-4 ............................................................................................................................7

Verses 5-13 ........................................................................................................................10

Other Views of the Beginning of the Church ................................................................................14

The Confession of Peter .....................................................................................................14

The Resurrection ................................................................................................................15

The Acts 2 Day of Pentecost and the 21st Century Church: Some Final Thoughts .......................15

Bibliography ..................................................................................................................................17

i.
1

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without
warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where
it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit
spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different
languages as the Spirit prompted them.1

This passage has been the source of excited study and heated debate since (in all

likelihood) the day it was penned. Entire denominations have been built around one idea found

in this one passage and certainly modern Christian do not deny this significant occurrence in

history. The focal point of this entire debate is an enigmatic member of the Trinity: the Holy

Spirit. This event recorded in Acts chapter two was the Holy Spirit’s arrival to earth to live in

hearts of humans who accept Jesus Christ. The Counselor, as Jesus called Him, “whom the

Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have

said to you.”2 Jesus also prophesied about the Day of Pentecost event when He told the Apostles

“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”.3 Was this, however, an event that

had no precedent? Did the Old Testament Scriptures have any foreshadowing of this event? The

goal of this research, then, is to present a basic understanding of pneumatology through the Old

and New Testaments, provide a framework for understanding the Jewish perspective on

Pentecost Day and analyze the text of Acts 2:1-13. The concluding remarks attempt to evaluate

the impact the Day of Pentecost should have on the church of the 21st century.

Pneumatology through the Old and New Testaments

The mysterious third member of the Trinity is so fascinating because there is often not

anthropomorphic terminology used to describe Him. The Father is described as having, for

instance, “mighty hands” which move and act like human hands (e.g. Exod. 6:1, Deut. 5:15, Neh.

1
Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colo.:
NavPress, 2002), Acts 2:1-4.
2
John 14:26, NIV.
3
Acts 1:8a.
2

1:10, and Ps. 118:16). Literally, God the Father does not have hands (at least not in the way

human beings have them) but these anthropomorphisms help humans relate to something which

is entirely different. Jesus is called the “image of the invisible God”4 Being human, physically

speaking, gives humanity a way to know Jesus and by extension to see God the Father (John

14:5-11).

The Holy Spirit does not have the same advantage. This is not to say the Holy Spirit is

entirely unimaginable, just more difficult to explain in terms of common reference. Zuck

appears to be correct, “the Holy Spirit is seen as the member of the Trinity present in the

world.”5 When any study of the Holy Spirit is made, it is important to keep the frame of

reference within the character and nature of God Himself: as the Holy Spirit is part of the

Godhead. The Holy Spirit cannot be interpreted based on philosophical or mystic understanding

but an actualization of the record found in Scripture.6 Before a study of Acts chapter two makes

complete sense, an overview of the Holy Spirit’s work before, during, and after that day on

Pentecost is in order.

Emphasis in the Old Testament

In the Hebrew Scriptures the same word is used for “wind, breath, or spirit” as is used in

reference to the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God as the Hebrew Scriptures use. This word is

rûach (‫)רוח‬. Breath or wind creates movement in the air which reminds a reader of the primary

function of the Holy Spirit.7 See table 1 for a few references to the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God) in

the Old Testament. This list is merely representative and is, by no means, intended to be

4
Colossians 1:15a, NIV.
5
Roy B. Zuck, A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994;
Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996), 256.
6
Hans Hübner, "The Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture." Ecumenical Review 41, no. 3 (July 1989):
324-338. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 23, 2009).
7
Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, electronic ed.
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1998), 391.
3

exhaustive. Some of these quotations demonstrate direct reference while some demonstrate

implied reference.

Genesis 1:2b “…the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Exodus 31:2-3 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the
tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with
skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts”.
Numbers 24:2-3 “When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by
tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his
oracle…”
Judges 3:10 “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became
Israel’s judge and went to war.”
1 Samuel 10:6 “The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you
will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different
person.”
Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives
me life.”
Psalm 51:11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from
me.
Isaiah 11:2-3 “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom
and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the
Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD— and he will
delight in the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry
ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my
blessing on your descendants.

Ezekiel 3:12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud
rumbling sound—May the glory of the LORD be praised in his
dwelling place!”
Joel 2:28a “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

Zechariah 4:6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:
‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD
Almighty.”
Table 1. Old Testament References to the Holy Spirit

From the preceding representative list, one can quickly see the Holy Spirit is very active

from the point of creation through the entire Old Testament narrative. His work is revealed more

fully, however, in the pages of the New Testament.


4

Emphasis in the New Testament before Pentecost

It is the New Testament where the Holy Spirit receives direct emphasis and explanation.

The essence of the new covenant began with Jesus Christ, sent by the Father, and carried on by

the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).8 The New Testament (Greek) word translated as “spirit” is

pneuma (πνεῦµα) which means “a movement of air”.9 It does not necessarily mean “wind” as

the Hebrew word does but the echoes of the Old Testament meaning remind nevertheless.10

Table 2 lists some of the representative New Testament references to the Holy Spirit (before

Acts 2).

Matthew 1:18 “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother
Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came
together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come
one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to
carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
Mark 3:29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be
forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Mark 12:36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “ ‘The
Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your
enemies under your feet.” ’”
Luke 1:35 “The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and
the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one
to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Luke 12:12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should
say.”
John 1:33 “I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to
baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit
come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy
Spirit.’
John 20:22 “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy
Spirit.”
Table 2. New Testament References to the Holy Spirit

8
Zuck, A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, 257.
9
James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the
Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order.,
electronic ed. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), G4151.
10
Ryken, 391.
5

All the meanings and nuances of the words in both Old and New Testaments demonstrate

the “life energies whose sources cannot readily be observed but whose effects are transparent and

sometimes even violent.”11

History of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks

Acts 2:1 begins “When the day of Pentecost came…”. This immediate presents a

question in the reader’s mind: “what is the ‘day of Pentecost’?” The day of Pentecost, also

called the Feast of Weeks was celebrated on the fiftieth day following the Sabbath of the

Passover.12 It is called “Pentecost” because the word for “Pentecost” (πεντηκοστή “pentekoste”)

means “fiftieth” in Greek.13 The following is a brief historical outline of this festival.

Institution, Purpose and Time of the Year

The Lord commanded Israel: “Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the

wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.”14 In Deuteronomy, the

instruction is repeated with more detail, “Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put

the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by

giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you.”15 As

such, God Himself instituted this festival as a way for Israel “recognize the Lord as the source of

all life and bounty and to present the first of the wheat…to the Great King.”16 This festival, then,

was one of great joy and merriment celebrated in the spring.

11
Ibid.
12
Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos
Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
13
John B. Polhill, ed., vol. 26, Acts, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American
Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 97.
14
Exodus 34:22, NIV. Additional information about the requirements for the Feast of Weeks can be found
in Leviticus 23:15-21.
15
Deuteronomy 16:9-10, NIV.
16
Roy B. Zuck, A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991;
Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996), 46.
6

At the Time of Christ

At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Pentecost would have attracted a large

congregation of visitors to Jerusalem from distant territories due, in large part, to the dispersion

of the Jewish people.17 By Scriptural regulation, Pentecost was only required to have a single

day’s duration, but these foreign Jews stretched the celebration out to two days. Due to the

closeness of Passover, some of the Jewish pilgrims would have stayed in Jerusalem from

Passover through Pentecost.18 This regularly occurring annual festival, coupled with the

dispersion of the Lord’s chosen people was used, in the providence of the Lord, to provide the

vast audience to which Peter was able to speak in the later sections of Acts chapter two.

Analysis of Acts Chapter 2

There is much information packed into the first thirteen verses of chapter two of Acts.

Some scholars hold that the events recorded in chapter two did not happen at all but instead was

intended to be a theological construct created by Luke to exhibit the universality of the Gospel

and the empowering of the Holy Spirit.19 It is the belief of the majority of conservative scholars

that these events recorded, in fact, did occur and are a matter of historical truth. The overview

below, in light of the author’s shared belief that the text is historically accurate, is meant to assist

the reader in putting together the puzzle pieces of culture, text, and event which happened on this

special Day of Pentecost. This special day begins the emphasis, as Hüber describes of the entire

book of Acts, of a “spirit-endowed church”.20

17
Schaff and Schaff, s.v. “pentecost”.
18
Ibid.
19
John William Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Completely rev. and updated. (Oxford: Lion
Publishing plc, 2000), 254.
20
Hans Hübner, "The Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture." Ecumenical Review 41, no. 3 (July 1989):
324-338. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 23, 2009).
7

Verses 1-4

The first four verses of this chapter demonstrate the applied power of the Holy Spirit in

the life of the church. These disciples were the first recipients of the Holy Spirit. The action was

entirely on the part of God. This theophany, as it is depicted in this account, further

demonstrates the reality of this event as a movement from, through, by, and for the Lord

Almighty as manifested in the Holy Spirit.21

Verse 1: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

When this day occurred, there were around 120 disciples of Jesus gathered together to

celebrate this Festival of Weeks when the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob once again created

a bookmark in time. Forevermore, the New Testament in general and the church in specific

could forever be measured by two times: before Pentecost and after Pentecost.

Verse 2: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and
filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Verse two writes of a “sound like the blowing of a violent wind” which Luke identified

as being “from heaven”. This was not an earthly breeze gently cooling them off in the morning

hours. This freight train’s worth of sound and force “filled the whole house where they were

sitting”. This “house” in which they were sitting might have been in the Temple itself although

it is unlikely that Luke would have referred to the Temple as a house. It is generally accepted

that the disciples were meeting the same upstairs room as mentioned in verses twelve through

fifteen of chapter one. Regardless, this room must have been close to the Temple due to the

events recorded in verses five through thirteen.22 Recall that the New Testament word for

21
Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments,
electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).
22
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary:
An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-1985), 2:357.
8

“spirit” (as in Holy Spirit) is an echo the Old Testament word which means “wind” or the literal

meaning of the New Testament word: “a movement of air”.23

Verse 3: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of
them.

The description of the presence of the Holy Spirit as being “tongues” is such an exciting

foreshadowing of the fact that the Gospel was about to be proclaimed to all people of all

nations.24 Luke also chose a significant expression by describing the Holy Spirit as coming in

fire. In several passages, God “reveals Himself in flames” (e.g. Gen. 15:17; Ex. 3:2-6; 13:21-22;

19:18; 40:38).25 It is significant to note, lest it be misunderstood: Luke is describing that it

“seemed” like fire; it was not a literal fire. Again, the Holy Spirit is moving Luke to use human

terms to describe an event without a common frame of reference while at the same time keeping

past precedent in the text. This is an example of a theophany: “an appearance or manifestation of

God”.26

Verse 4: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the
Spirit enabled them.

Verse four says the disciples of the Lord “were filled with the Holy Spirit.” The filling of

the Holy Spirit is different from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s own words when he was

explaining the Holy Spirit’s baptism of the Gentiles in Acts 11 verify, “As I began to speak, the

Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.”27 Jesus’ own words, echoed

by Peter in the aforementioned passage, stated “John baptized with water, but in a few days you

23
Strong, G4151.
24
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the
Old and New Testaments, On Spine: Critical and Explanatory Commentary. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research
Systems, Inc., 1997), Act 2:3.
25
Walvoord, Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, 2:357.
26
Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Map on Lining Papers. (Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988), 2050.
27
Acts 11:15, NIV.
9

will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”28 This baptism to which these passages refer are the

events recorded here on the Day of Pentecost. Ultimately, the baptism of the Holy Spirit refers

to the point of salvation when the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside the human heart.29 Lea

and Black state the following:

Luke’s use of the term “baptized with the Holy Spirit” describes the pouring out
of the Spirit by God on his people at Pentecost. Paul’s use of the term later in 1
Corinthians 12:13 refers to an experience at conversion by which all believers are
transformed by the presence of God and united into the body of Christ.30

The command to “be filled with the Spirit”31 is an echo of this understanding. Believers

are able to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” as a method of empowerment for special service. It is,

as Zuck writes, a “gift of enablement, either bestowed initially, as in Acts 2:4, or in a later

moment of special spiritual direction.”32 Although the phrase is sometimes used to describes

someone’s general demeanor in Christ, it is most often associated with the special endowment of

bravery to be a witness of Jesus. Therefore, the gift of the Holy Spirit is not merely a fulfillment

of a promise but also the method and power source of the church’s mission.33

Indeed, they were filled as they were being empowered and prepared to be vessels

through which the Lord would use them to spread the Gospel. Verse four concludes by adding

they “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” These “tongues” were not

coming from their lips due to years of training and study, but were supernaturally empowered by

the Holy Spirit. Though one could write at length on the topic of speaking in tongues, it is the

researched opinion of this writer that the “tongues” they were speaking were foreign languages

(cf. verses four and six).


28
Acts 1:5, NIV.
29
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, 2:357.
30
Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd ed.
(Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 291.
31
Ephesians 5:8b, NIV
32
Zuck, A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, 98.
33
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, 2:357.
10

Theologians from the Pentecostal school of thought use these verses to validate their

beliefs that the filling of the Holy Spirit (again, a command in Ephesians 5:18) is not

(necessarily) a salvation act but a charismatic act: an act of empowerment for service of the

Lord. Stated succinctly: being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is missiological not sotereological.34

There is a lot ground for agreement with this thought process if the ideology was completed

there. These Christians, however, further believe since the filling of the Holy Spirit is

missiological, the event which happened on that Day of Pentecost was not a single episode but

an ongoing, reproducible occurrence in which believers are “baptized in the Spirit” in the same

way for the purpose of special empowerment.35 To this way of thinking “baptism in the Holy

Spirit” and “filling of the Holy Spirit” are interchangeable. As previously stated, Scripture does

not seem to validate this position.

These four, theologically rich verses give the facts of the event of the day when the

followers of Jesus Christ became the empowered and ordained church of Jesus Christ. Until this

point, “the church” was spoken of as a future establishment (e.g. Matthew 16:18). From this

moment in history, that verbal status and the expansion of the Gospel changes dramatically.36

Verses 5-13

Verses five through thirteen (in fact, the rest of the New Testament) deal with the result of this

baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit. These verses demonstrate the beginning of the fulfillment

of the command of the church’s head, Jesus Christ: “go and make disciples of all nations,

34
Robert P. Menzies, "Luke's Understanding of Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Dialogues with
the Reformed Tradition." Journal of Pentecostal Theology 16, no. 2 (April 2008): 86-101. Academic Search
Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 25,2009).
35
Ibid.
36
Walvoord, Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, 2:357.
11

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them

to obey everything”.37

Verses 5-6:Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under
heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one
heard them speaking in his own language.

The Jewish people in Jerusalem for the extended Pentecost festival overheard the 120

believers in Christ who had just been empowered and ordained as the church. These people

were, according to verse five, from “every nation under heaven”. More information regarding

this phrase is presented later in verses nine through eleven.

The phrase “God-fearing Jews” (NIV) in verse five can be unintentionally misleading.

“God-fearers” is a phrase used for Gentiles who accepted the Law of Moses as a rule of faith but

due to their lack of circumcision, were not covenant members of the community of Jewish

faith.38 Cornelius (Acts 10:2) is an example of a “God-fearer”. In this phrase in verse five, the

usage would better be understood as “pious Jews” since the Greek word used here (εὐλαβής –

eulabes) is most often translated as “devout”.39 The English Standard Version translates verse

five stating, “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under

heaven.”40

Whether they heard the sound of the “wind” or just the speaking in other languages is not

entirely certain but it seems reasonable that the sound of the church speaking in these languages

was the sound which attracted them. Regardless, the text offers explanation as to why this crowd

was so interested in the affairs of this group of Jews: “each one heard them speaking in his own

language.” Scriptures tells us they “heard this sound” and “came together in bewilderment”.

37
Matthew 28:19-20a, NIV.
38
Elwell and Beitzel, 960.
39
John B. Polhill, vol. 26, Acts, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary
(Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992), 101.
40
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Acts 2:5.
12

What an interesting scene this must have been: the church, filled with the Holy Spirit, moving

into streets praising God in other languages and all the people in Jerusalem around the temple

hearing and understanding them in their native language!

Verses 7-8: Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?

They were in complete shock at what they were hearing. The devout Jews present for

Feast of Weeks were astonished not at the content of the message but the method of

transmission. They were marveling at the fact that they heard the words in their own native

language.41 Some, especially those leaning or in the Pentecostal traditions of Christianity, point

out that the emphasis in this verse should be on the fact that they heard their own language. This

is to imply that the miracle was not one of speech but one of hearing. In the Pentecostal view,

the church was speaking in ecstatic “tongues” and the miracle was that the Holy Spirit translated

this “spirit language” into the native language of the hearer. This is emphasized in the words

“hears them” found in verse eight and verse eleven.42 This view, however, takes these words out

of their context. The text, in reality, states the “foreign” Jews were surprised that Galileans who

were, in all realistic probability, fluent in two or perhaps three languages, were able to speak in

the languages of nations far away from the rural, uneducated existence of these people.43

Verses 9-11: Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors
from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring
the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

41
John B. Polhill, vol. 26, Acts, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary
(Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992), 102.
42
Robert P. Menzies, "Luke's Understanding of Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Dialogues with
the Reformed Tradition." Journal of Pentecostal Theology 16, no. 2 (April 2008): 86-101. Academic Search
Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 25,2009).
43
Schaff and Schaff, s.v. “pentecost”.
13

As the event further unfolds, the nations represented are listed. Although there are some

scholars who feel Luke is using some kind of listing of ancient astrology, it is more conceivable

that Luke was revisiting the Table of Nations found in Genesis 10. In a temporary reversal of the

judgment at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), God’s praises are now understood by a gifting of a

bridge of the chasm of language.44 They marvel that the “wonders of God” are proclaimed in

their own language. This profound representation of the languages and nations epitomize the

Divine design “to convey an impression of universality.”45 Furthermore, this is a fulfillment of

Isaiah 28:11 “Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this

people.”46

Verses 12-13: Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some,
however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

The devout Jews, having witnessed such a remarkable occurrence, begin to talk among

themselves. There are two distinct groups. There were those who seem genuinely interested, for

no doubt a many number of reasons; however, their hearts were prepared to hear the answer

Peter was about to present. There were those, too, who simply dismissed the 120 as being drunk.

This was a serious accusation of the Jews to their brothers and sisters since being drunk “was

regarded as obnoxious and sinful”.47

What happens next continues the effect of coming of the Holy Spirit. That day, as a

result of outpouring of the Holy Spirit, about 3,000 were added to the church. Peter declares this

preceding event (verses one through thirteen) as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy:

44
Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Acts 2:9.
45
Jamieson, Fausset, et al., Acts 2:9.
46
Isaiah 28:11, NIV.
47
Keener and InterVarsity Press, Acts 2:12.
14

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters
will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those
days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and
billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who
calls on the name of the LORD will be saved;48

Other Views of the Beginning of the Church

Although it is the generally accepted view that the Day of Pentecost was the church’s

birthday, there are other views. These deserve at least a brief mention. The two that merit any

serious discussion are:

1. The church had its birth at the confession of Peter in Matthew 16:18.

2. The church had its birth at the resurrection.49

The Confession of Peter

After Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus stated He would build His

church on the rock. Some scholars feel the church started here due to Jesus own words regarding

building His church. The argument, as it is made, focuses on the fact that Jesus stated He “will

build” His church.50 This perspective finds validation of this being the church’s birthday in a

comparison with phrases in Matthew 18:17 “…tell it to the church…”. They would feel this

means the church was already in existence.

The primary rebuttal against this is the very fact that in Matthew 16:18, Jesus did state “I

will build” not “I have built” or “I did build”. The future tense of the verb explains this event as

a future one; or at the very least, one that is in progress and not completed.51

48
Joel 2:28-32a, NIV.
49
Elwell and Beitzel, 134.
50
Matthew 16:18, NIV
51
Craig Blomberg, vol. 22, Matthew, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American
Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 252.
15

The Resurrection

The argument stated for this would be that the resurrection changed everything and

started a new era: the church era.52 Although this is not without merit, it certainly does not have

any real Scriptural evidence to support it. Jesus never made a mention of starting “the church”

when He walked out of the tomb. Certainly, the empty grave was and is a critically important

distinctive in Christian theology, it nonetheless cannot really serve as the marker for the

beginning of the church.

Since the Scriptural evidence does not truly support either view, it is safe to say the

church’s birthday was the Day of Pentecost. It is also important to note that the New Testament

itself does not seem overly concerned with trying to identify the birthday of the church.

Regardless of the “real” answer the church’s beginning, it truly began its mission when it was

baptized and filled the Holy Spirit. It was only after the Day of Pentecost that the Gospel began

to go out and the church became Jesus’ “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,

and to the ends of the earth.”53

The Acts 2 Day of Pentecost and the 21st Century Church: Some Final Thoughts

After the Day of Pentecost, there was a spiritual high that carried the church into

uncharted territories. They preached the gospel boldly and many were added to their number.

They shared what they had with each other and took care of each other. They had a power and

expectancy in how they acted, lived, and preached. Clearly, this was a supernatural event as

there is no other account in the New Testament where such an outpouring took place that

resulted in similar events.

52
Elwell and Beitzel, 134.
53
Acts 1:8b, NIV.
16

The 21st Century Church in America is in general not living this way. In an effort to

become more “attractional”, some parts of the church have traded their distinctiveness. Some, in

an effort to draw more people into the doors, have traded issues such as the cross, the blood, sin,

accountability, and the reality of hell for a message that says what the world’s “itching ears want

to hear.”54 The idea seems to be that if unbelievers manage to slip in without realizing they are

with a church, they might be come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When one compares

this to church in Acts, this “growth strategy” is not seen and yet, the Lord “added to their number

daily those who were being saved.”55 Paul’s advice to the church at Corinth appears to be the

exact opposite (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

The command from the Lord Jesus Christ is so simply and yet so profound, “love one

another.”56 The Master goes on to say, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if

you love one another.”57 Before the uniqueness of the Day of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit’s

profound movement it is too quickly relegated to a fascinating bit of church history, it must be

remembered: the Lord is still building His church. Jesus proclaimed, “I will build my church,

and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”58 The Holy Spirit’s indwelling and empowering of

the church on that Pentecost Day may have been a one-time event, but the power of Pentecost

still moves through church since the power source is still the “eternal, immortal, invisible, the

only wise God.”59

54
2 Timothy 4:3b, NIV.
55
Acts 2:47b, NIV
56
John 13:34b, NIV.
57
John 13:35, NIV.
58
Matthew 16:18b, NIV.
59
1 Timothy 1:17a, NIV.
17

Bibliography

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electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, 1984.

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Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

Drane, John William. Introducing the New Testament. Completely rev. and updated. Oxford:
Lion Publishing plc, 2000.

Elwell, Walter A. and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Baker Book House, 1988.

Hübner, Hans. "The Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture." Ecumenical Review 41, no. 3 (July 1989):
324-338. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 23, 2009).

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Developments. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Menzies, Robert P. "Luke's Understanding of Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal


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18

Schaff, Philip and David Schley Schaff. History of the Christian Church. Oak Harbor, WA:
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