The Spirit poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2

This Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost, when we remember, celebrate, and re-engage with the first giving of the Spirit at Pentecost as recounted in Acts 2., and the lectionary reading in this Year CX is, as every year, Acts 2.1–21. Although it is a comparatively long reading, in one sense it is not long enough, since we do not hear the whole of Peter’s speech, nor do we hear the response to it!

With any of these annual celebrations, we are always confronted with the question of whether there is anything fresh to say. Commentators note that this is one of the most pored over passages in the whole New Testament—and in fact it is laden with theological significance in just about every verse. There are some puzzles which few have solved (and I will offer a solution to one of them!) and of course we need to remember that, whenever we are preaching, there are people listening who might not have reflected on this passage before. And after I had done my reading and preparation for this post, I realised that I had written on this previously—but what I planned was quite different from what I wrote before! So there is hope!

I also found it sobering to work with a different—and older—commentary on this passage, Howard Marshall’s Tyndale Commentary, first published in 1980 but revised in 2008, and given to me as a gift when I started theological study by my sending church in 1990. It is full of insight and application, and I think for that reason has not been replaced in the revision of the series (for which I wrote my commentary on Revelation). I would thoroughly recommend it.

Pentecost is often called ‘the birthday of the church’. Marshall notes (p 67) that the Pentecost narrative occupies the same place in Acts as the birth narrative occupies in Luke’s gospel. But we can go further: there is a striking parallel between the words of Gabriel to Mary, and the words of Jesus to the disciples.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1.35).

‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…’ (Acts 1.8)

In both cases, the Spirit will ‘come upon’ Mary or the disciples (and note, Acts 1.14, that Mary was amongst the disciples at Pentecost—she has seen this all before!), this will be accompanied by ‘receiving power’, and then something new will be brought to birth. There are earlier parallels here in descriptions of the people of God, awaiting deliverance by God from oppression in exile, as being in the ‘pains of childbirth’ (Isaiah 66.7f, Micah 4.10) and this is picked up by the image of the people of God awaiting the messiah in Rev 12.2. Paul also makes use of the image, though in a remarkable way, in Gal 4.19, where he tells the Galatians that he is in the pains of childbirth until Christ is born in them. The image is also used by Jesus in the ‘little apocalypse’ in relation to the longing for the age to come (Matt 24.8).

‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place’ (Acts 2.1). The ‘they…all’ here must refer back to the 120 referred to in Acts 1.15, rather than just the twelve apostles who are mentioned as the ones Jesus taught in Acts 1.2 and those standing with Peter in Acts 2.14. This implies that women, including Mary, were amongst those receiving the Spirit, and that in turn makes sense of Peter’s mention of Joel’s promise that the Spirit will be poured out on ‘sons and daughters…even on…men and women’ (Acts 2.17–18). It appears that, for Luke, the gift of the Spirit is given without distinction to men and women, as we might have expected from the way he describes women and men in the ministry of Jesus in his gospel.

It turns out that the ‘one place’ they are in (verse 1) is a ‘house’ (oikos, verse 2). This term can refer to any kind of domestic dwelling, and though it is used metaphorically to refer to the Jerusalem Temple (as the ‘house of God’) there is no suggestion that this is the reference here. But what is interesting is the implication that, at some point between verse 2 and verse 14, when Peter stands to give his speech of explanation, the group have moved from the enclosed space out into the public square, to engage with those who are questioning the meaning of the events. What a contrast to the post-resurrection accounts, where they have hidden in a locked room ‘for fear of the Jewish leaders’! The coming of the Spirit dispels fear and leads God’s people out into proclamation!

Marshall notes that, contrary to most visual depictions (which always, of necessity, involve literalising a text), the coming of the Spirit is like a rushing wind, and the Spirit on each is as if (or ‘seemed to be like’, TNIV) tongues of fire—not literally so in either case. There are allusions here to OT theophanies, such as 2 Sam 22.16, Job 37.10 and Ezek 13.13, and especially the appearance of God at Sinai (Ex 19.18). We miss in English the double meaning of the Greek pneuma as both ‘wind’ and ‘Spirit’, which Jesus in John 3 makes much of in his dialogue with Nicodemus, and the link with the ‘breath of life’ that animates the first Adam in Gen 2.7 (that Paul draws on in 1 Cor 15.45). But the primary allusion is to the promise of John the Baptist that Jesus would ‘baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire’ (Luke 3.16). This becomes a powerful Christological statement, which only makes sense with a Trinitarian understanding of God: the Spirit (presence and power) of God is sent by Jesus who baptises and fills his followers with the Spirit, who comes from the Father.

The outward and visible signs (wind, fire, speaking in tongues) point to an inward and spiritual reality, which is expressed by the language of ‘filling’. Although this appears to be an impersonal metaphor, likening the Spirit to inanimate realities such as water and air, in contrast to the personal metaphors of ‘Father’ and ‘Son’, it is used all through the New Testament in several ways.

The word is used when people are given an initial endowment of the Spirit to fit them for God’s service (Acts 9.17, Luke 1.15) and also when they are inspired to make important utterances (Acts 4.8, 13, 13.9); related words are used to describe the continuous process of being filled with the Spirit (Acts 13.52, Eph 5.18) or the corresponding state of being full (Acts 6.3, 7.55, 11.24, Luke 4.1). These references indicate that a person already filled with the spirit can receive a fresh filling for a specific task, or a continuous filling. (Marshall, p 69).

Or, as graphically put by Michael Green in a sermon I heard as an undergraduate: ‘Why do I need to be filled again? Because I leak!’

Though the language of ‘filling’ can indicate initial, repeated and ongoing experiences, the word ‘baptism’ cannot (contrary to some mainline Pentecostal teaching). The word ‘baptize’ is never used for anything other than an initial experience. But the range of others words (including ‘pouring out’, Acts 2.17, 10.45) and ‘receiving’ (Acts 10.47) indicate that Luke sees this reality of the Spirit as something that is normative for both the beginning and the continuation of the life of discipleship.

The description of those residing in Jerusalem is both fascinating and puzzling—but offers some surprising insights. First, Luke notes that these were ‘devout’ people (Acts 2.5), in keeping with his emphasis that Jesus came to call both ‘sinners to repentance’ (Luke 5.32) and the devout to see their hopes of deliverance fulfilled. For Luke, it is simply nonsense to suggest that Jesus didn’t mix with, appeal to, or work with ‘the religious’; his problem is with those who are complacent and hypocritical.

The speech that Luke composes and places on the lips of these visitors is, of course, an artifice, as are in some sense all the speeches in Acts; they are (like all gospel material) far too short to be realistic. But what they are is Luke’s summary of the key points of what was said, recorded (inevitably) through his interpretive lens. In this case, he presents the conversation amongst the crowd as a kind of Greek chorus, in which they all speak in unison.

Commentators universally note that the number and ordering of the places mentioned is a puzzle to which no-one has a convincing answer. There is actually some sense of order; the first group are broadly speaking in the East of the Roman Empire; then we move to Judea and head north through central Turkey; then we move to the West of Turkey and North Africa; then further West to Rome, but with a jump south to Arabia. And of course there are many omissions in each direction.

But if the order makes little sense, the number is significant. The list is grouped to mention 4 + 4 (v 9) + 2 + 3 (v 10) + 4 = 17. Our attention is drawn to this by the odd separation of ‘Jews and proselytes’ from Rome, making what would have been 16 names into 17. Why does this matter? Because of the connection with Ezekiel’s prophecy of the water flowing from the temple, and the importance of 153 in the catch of fish in John 21. As I cite in the discussion of John 21:

In Ezekiel 47, we see baptismal waters flowing from the overturned Bronze Sea of the Temple, flowing out to the boundaries of the Land. Remember that Jesus claims to be the source of such living waters. In Ezekiel 47:9, we are told that “very many fish” will live in the (formerly) Dead Sea as a result of these living waters. In verse 10 we read, “And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from En-Gedi to En-Eglaim there will be a place for spreading of nets. Their fish will be acording to their kinds, like the fish of the Great [Mediterranean] Sea, very many.”

The Dead Sea is the boundary of the new land after the exile, and a place of contact with gentiles. The fishes are clearly gentile nations. The fact that the sea is formerly dead and now is brought to life surely indicates the influence of Restoration Israel over the nations before Christ, and points to the greater influence of the Kingdom after Pentecost.

Now, it is well known that Hebrew letters are also numbers: the first nine letters being 1-9, the next nine being 10-90, and the last five being 100-400. “Coding” words with numbers is called gematria. If we substract the “En” from En-Gedi and En-Eglaim, since “en” means “spring,” then the following emerges:

Gedi = 17 (ג = 3; ד = 4; י = 10)

Eglaim = 153 (ע = 70; ג = 3; ל = 30; י = 10; מ = 40)

Again, this seems too close to the mark to be a coincidence. Once again, we have the number 17 (Gedi, mentioned first) and its relative 153 (Eglaim, mentioned second 1) connecting to the evangelization of the gentiles, symbolized by fishing.

Conclusion: The number 153 represents the totality of the nations of the world, which will be drawn in the New Creation.

John, in his story of the fishing trip in John 21, makes use of his ‘double meaning’ of the literal and the symbolic to teach us that the gospel will reach all the world. Luke, using his historiographical account of Pentecost, tells us the same thing. The deliberate listing of the range of places both anticipates the areas where the gospel will reach, but also hints at the means; we later read about Jews being dispersed from Jerusalem, who ‘accidentally’ share the good news of Jesus the Jewish messiah with gentiles in Acts 8.4. Truly, salvation has gone out from the Jews (John 4.22).

(Possibly inadvertently, the lectionary points to us making this connection between Acts and John, by suggesting that we should also read John 7.37-39, which includes the obscure saying of Jesus, ‘as Scripture has said, out of his stomach/side will flow rivers of living water’. I agree with Richard Bauckham that this is an allusion to Jesus as the new temple of Ezekiel’s vision, from whom the Spirit flows, symbolised by the water flowing with the blood in John 19.34.)

Marshall argues (p 68) that this is not, as commonly preached, an ‘undoing’ of the confusion of Babel (Gen 11), since Luke offers no echoes of any OT text from that episode. I would also note that undoing Babel would imply eliminating linguistic difference and giving everyone a single language to speak. In fact, the gospel does something quite different—uniting people in one community whilst retaining their different ethnic, social and cultural differences, expressed in the four-fold phrase ‘every tribe, language, people and nation’ that we find seven times in the Book of Revelation.

Marshall also dismisses the idea that the giving of the Spirit contrasts with the gift of the law, which is also celebrated at the festival of Pentecost. I think this is just a convenient way of reading a kind of antinomianism into the New Testament; both Jesus and Paul see the gospel as a fulfilling not an abolition of the law, and both are just as concerned about outward expressions of devotion and obedience as they are about the inward reality of intimacy with God made real by the Spirit.

There are three important things to note about Peter’s speech from Acts 2.14 onwards. The first is that he sees the gift of the Spirit as neither an incidental consequence of Jesus’ death and resurrection nor a temporary thing for a limited period of time. Rather, he uses the language of Joel to claim that we are now in a new era, where the future age has broken into the present. ‘This’, the outpouring of the Spirit with its accompanying signs, ‘is that’ about which Joel wrote.

Peter’s speech as set out by Luke includes two intriguing changes. First, the times ‘after this’ (LXX Joel 3.1) has now become ‘the last days’; and ‘wonders in heaven, and on earth, blood and fire’ has become ‘wonders in heaven and signs on earth’. Luke’s Peter is clearly linking the gift of the Spirit with the hoped for ‘day of the Lord’ at the end of the age. Just as Jesus has preached the coming of the kingdom, breaking in as the new age and reality whilst the old age has not yet passed away, so Peter describes the coming of the Spirit as another aspect of that partially realised eschatology.

(We find a similar dynamic in Rev 6.12, where the age to come marked by the sun darkening, the moon turning to blood, and stars falling, breaks into the world with the opening of the sixth seal.)

So the gift of the Spirit is not a flash in the pan, but the coming of the new age—a first fruits of the new reality, poured out at the Festival of First Fruits at Pentecost.

Secondly, it is in every way focussed on what God has done in the person of Jesus. Peter’s speech is structured in two parallel parts:

SubjectPart 1 (vv14b–24)Part 2 (vv 24–36)
Opening scriptureFrom Joel 2 about the Spirit poured out in the last daysFrom Psalm 16 about ‘your holy one will not see decay’
Account of what happened to JesusHis ministry of signs and wondersHis death and resurrection
God’s action and the response called forGod raised him upGod exalted him to his right hand and poured out the Spirit

The late Martyn Menken, in his book on Numerical Literary Techniques in John, comments in passing that Luke also uses numerical composition in his gospel and Acts, and this is a prime example.

There are also several instances of isopsephia in Acts, where the number of syllables of an episode or speech is equal to the numerical value of an important name or word occurring in or related to the passage in question (such as we found concerning John 1.1-18, where both the number of syllables and the numerical value of monogenes are 496). Peter’s speech in Acts 2.14-b-36 is made up of two equal halves: 444 syllables in 2.14b-24, and again 444 syllables in 2.25-36. Their sum, 888, is the numerical value of the name Iesous, a number which was famous in this quality in the second century, witness Irenaeus’ Aversus Haereses 1.15.2.

In other words, this is all about Jesus.

But thirdit is also worth noting the constant interplay here between God as Father, Jesus, and the Spirit. The resurrection of Jesus and the pouring out of the Spirit were both things done by God and both testify that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah. So how should we respond to what God is doing? Believe in Jesus and receive the Spirit.

Thus Pentecost involves a profound personal experience that transforms fear into courage and hope. It turns the believers from looking in to looking outward, and enables them to offer a message of life to all people, so that the Spirit can form the people of God into a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and diverse group centred around the worship and proclamation of God as Father, Son and Spirit.

I hope that, in all this, you can find something new to explore this Pentecost Sunday!

For my other reflections on Pentecost, see:

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48 thoughts on “The Spirit poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2”

  1. The important thing about the words in Psalm 16, as referred to by Peter, is that they were spoken by David to Yahweh (Father) God, according to the MT Hebrew text. Thus, Acts 2:25 = Psalm 16:8-9, which reads in the Jerusalem Bible (via the MT Hebrew text) :

    ” I keep Yahweh before me always,
    for with Him at my right hand, nothing can shake me.

    So my heart rejoices, and my soul delights,
    my body too will rest secure.”

    This is crucial for a proper understanding of Psalm 110:1 (quoted by Peter in Acts 2:34), which reads, via the MT Hebrew text :

    ” Yahweh said to my lord ” (Psalm 110:1; cf. ‘The Lexham English Bible’).

    The name ‘Yahweh’ derives from the Tetragrammaton ‘YHWH’, and ‘lord’ translates the Hebrew word ‘adoni’, which means ‘lord’ or ‘master’.

    The NET Septuagint recognizes this crucial distinction between Yahweh God, and ‘adoni’ in the Hebrew, by rendering Psalm 110:1 as :

    “The Lord said to my lord”. (Ps. 110:1, LXX (NET))

    The first ‘Lord’ refers to Yahweh (Father) God.
    The second ‘lord’ (Heb. ‘adoni’) refers to God’s king, or messiah.

    Thus, Peter says in Acts 2:36, that :

    God [Yahweh] has made Jesus both ‘lord [Hebrew : ‘adoni’] and Messiah’ , or,
    as the ‘Message Bible’ puts it, in Acts 2:36, with reference to Jesus :

    “God made him Master and Messiah”. (Acts 2:36).

    Praise Yahweh God and His Messiah (Psalm 2:2; cf. The ‘Legacy Standard Bible’).

  2. The coming of the Spirit is like a rushing wind, and the Spirit on each is as if (or ‘seemed to be like’, TNIV) tongues of fire—not literally so in either case.
    The Greek is ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρὸς: ‘there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire.’ The verb ‘appeared’ shows that the tongues were visible. The Greek word ὡσεί qualifies only the word ‘of fire’. Naturally it was not literal fire, or they would have got singed.

    The promise of John the Baptist that Jesus would ‘baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire’ … only makes sense with a Trinitarian understanding of God: the Spirit (presence and power) of God is sent by Jesus who baptises and fills his followers with the Spirit, who comes from the Father.
    One wonders how one gets from John’s promise the idea of the co-eternal Son, and of the Holy Spirit as a third person distinct from the Father and the Son (not merely sent by or coming from them) – for that is the essence of Trinitarianism. As with the idea that ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ are only personal metaphors, the dogma is not something one gets from Scripture and, by ordinary standards, it is nonsensical.

    Marshall argues (p 68) that this is not, as commonly preached, an ‘undoing’ of the confusion of Babel (Gen 11), since Luke offers no echoes of any OT text from that episode.
    As I have pointed out before, the text does include a verbal echo of the Babel story. In addition, it seems obvious enough that the birth of the Church is the undoing of the confusion of Babel. The gospel goes out to all the nations just as the builders of Babel went out to all the nations, but this time unifying, not dividing. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. Neither the Babel story nor the gospel is ethnic, social and cultural differences (these develop, biblically speaking as a consequence of the dispersion after the Flood), so the retention of them is not in point.
    There is nothing antinomian about seeing a parallel between the giving of the Law and the giving of the Spirit (which enables us to keep the law, to keep the spirit, not merely the letter).

    The quotation from Joel does not indicate that the future age has broken into the present, because the Joel passage does not refer to the future age but (as IP goes on to say) to the end of the present age – ‘the last days’. There is only a new age inasmuch as God is now making himself known and knowable to all nations. We can taste the powers of a new age, but that age is yet to come (Heb 6:5).

    Jews did not ‘hope for’ the Day of the Lord, as it was a day of terror and thick darkness (Amos 5:18), and Peter is not ‘clearly’ linking the gift of the Spirit to it. Which is just as well, because, while the Spirit came at Pentecost, the Day of the Lord did not.

    • STEVEN :

      I think it may be the majority opinion amongst current recognized Old Testament scholars that the ‘Spirit of God’ (‘Spirit of Yahweh’) is not portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures a distinct divine hypostasis (or ‘person’) separate from Yahweh God, Himself. This pneumatological opinion was also shared by distinguished Anglican Theologians such as Geoffrey W. H. Lampe (in his work ‘God as Spirit’), Charles F. D. Moule, James D. G. Dunn, and Maurice F. Wiles. Rather, God’s Spirit seems to be God’s power, and/or, the powerful means, by which His personal presence and “everywhereness” is achieved (cf. Jer. 23:24). God’s (Yahweh’s) Spirit is personal in that it is the personal Spirit of Yahweh God, Himself (just as a man’s spirit within him, is personal), but it is not personal in the sense of being some separate ‘person’, other than Yahweh God, Himself.

    • Yes, though the wind and fire are spiritual phenomena, they are still experienced as something incredibly like wind and like fire. So like them that they can only be understood in those terms. They actually happen. They are not just a symbol with no physicality, but a substantial reality though it’s a supernatural physicality (which is hard to explain), more substantial than things in our ordinary daily lives. Moreover, that experience of the ruach is not just some objective event. It is deeply personal (not surprising, given that the Spirit is a Person, not simply a force). It also (the experience) is an experience of astonishing power – more powerful and rushing than the force of a rocket that lifts from its platform, I suggest – reflecting the dunamis of the Spirit. And yet, the experience is personal, intimate to the individual, enveloping, protecting, passionate, gentle. I do not really accept that the wind of the Spirit is not a wind of a kind. It certainly feels like a wind. It’s just that it operates at a deeper, spiritual level. A supernatural level. In that sense it is more real than wind, more substantially real, though nothing in the lower physical dimension is disturbed. To those who experience it, it may be like a branding for life, almost a momentary ‘taking’ by God, and I believe that those present at Pentecost must have been deeply opened up and the impact would have been with them all their lives. They could never forget it. Of course, we all struggle for words to express the divine. Each one of us struggles for words, and my words here are only an attempt. Also, people’s experiences and journeys with God may differ.

      The Spirit of God is personal, ardent, passionate, and yet with a compassionate gentleness that comes from God’s almighty strength and goodness.

      I believe people may still experience the ruach even today, including the astonishing rushing wind. That said, it is clear that what is described in Acts 2 was an exceptional event, a first great outpouring, a new thing in the unfolding plans and purposes of God. They would not forget it, and neither should we. From the outset, the Church is indwelt by God, belongs to God, is sent by God.

      Pentecost came and for the disciples everything was changed. From that moment they were filled, indwelt, and as I suggest… branded, loved and belonging to God.

      Almighty God, send your Spirit, and renew the face of the Earth, including even us.

      • Hi, Susannah,

        Thanks for your interesting comments.

        I agree with you that the different outpourings of the holy Spirit as recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, are exceptional (and some possibly unique, in this pre-Parousia age ?) events, which initially validated the various groupings of people that were being drawn into the Apostolic Church (First, Jews and Jewish proselytes (in Acts 2), then, Samarians (in Acts 8), then Gentiles (in Acts 10), and then, disciples of John the Baptist (in Acts 19).

        Your comments include the interesting statement :

        ” I believe that people may still experience the ruach [ the ‘Spirit’] even today, including the astonishing rushing wind.”

        This may be true – but is there not also be a potential risk in this kind of a statement ?

        What happens if a group of people claim to have an exceptional experiences of God’s Ruach (Spirit), and then start espousing practices and beliefs that cannot be validated on a strict application of the doctrine of ‘Sola Scriptura’ ? i.e. That Scripture alone, is the ultimate, and final, inspired authority for Christian faith and practice.

        In my experience, it is common to find that, in practice, the average ‘Anglican in the pew’ doesn’t really ‘do Scripture’, but instead, primarily relies upon ‘Church Tradition’, and upon the subsequent, conditioned, subjective ‘reasoning’, that flows forthwith. Once we abandon Scripture as the ultimate, infallible, final authority for deciding matters of doctrine and practice, then we open ourselves up to mere ‘Group Think’ (Religious Tradition), subjective experience, alleged visions, alleged, infallible holy Spirit gifts, alleged mystical insights, and that kind of ‘common sense’ which is in accordance with ‘The Spirit of the Times’ (Zeitgeist) – and which, can misinform personal ‘conscience’ .

        Any thoughts ?

        God bless you, Susannah.

        • Those are very good points, Pellegrino, and should serve as a warning.

          I was mainly reflecting here on what it must have felt like for the participants on the day of Pentecost.

          In any case, it is additionally true that signs and visions are always a danger if people shift their focus away from God and instead go seeking the ‘thrill’ of signs.

          Nevertheless, we should not – conversely – close off our minds to what the Holy Spirit may offer. For example, speaking in tongues can become a distraction, and a kind of hedonistic pleasure gimmick in some church groups, but that does not mean that the gift itself can’t be bestowed, or be precious, or faith-building.

          The Spirit blows where (s)he will. For our part, I think we need to approach our relationships with God, with openness to power, and with love, and – very importantly – with a sound mind.

          Reading the scriptures I think the Day of Pentecost was life-changing. It was something that would be branded on the experience of all those present. And it was the beginning of the Christian experience of being personally indwelt with the presence and Spirit of God.

          • Thank you for your remarks, dear Susannah;

            You’ve made some additional good points, as well.

            I hope your lambs are still doing alright.

            God bless you, Susannah, and all yours.

  3. Hi Ian,

    It was good to see your commendation of the late Howard Marshall’s commentary on Acts – one I am loath to part with, despite having Keener (shorter!) and Witherington on my shelves as well. I had the privilege of knowing Howard in a Methodist theological group some years ago. Not only was he a great scholar, he was a gracious and godly man.

    Thanks again for last week at Lee Abbey.

  4. Ian – just logged in to comment and saw that Dave Faulkner had said pretty much what I want to say. Many thanks for drawing attention to Howard Marshall and what he had to say here. I don’t understand why Howard Marshall is considered somehow ‘older’ – because he somehow feels contemporary. He was indeed a Godly man (as Dave Faulkner points out) and always injected everything with a good dose of common sense. I consider him ‘contemporary’ even though he has passed on.

  5. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
    Dr. the patient is terminally sick.
    There’s no time for internecine multi-disciplinary team meetings self-serving front, centre stage.

    I recall in hearing a recording of Dick Lucas, when he said often he didn’t fully appreciate, understand. the passage until he had to prepare to preach on it.
    Sure there are echoes of the inversion of Babel. Here God descends to give a common language, Good News of the Gospel.
    Perhaps more could be made of the comparison with the Jewish festival they were gathered to celebrate. Here Messianic Jews have a significant contribution to make.

    Many thanks for your article, Ian.

    I feel some William Booth coming on.

    • Regarding William Booth, and Pneumatology.

      How do you personally feel about the decision of William Booth (1829-1912) to abandon water baptism and holy Communion in 1882 ? The “The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine” (p. 271), puts it this way :

      ” Early in our history, the Salvation Army was led of God not to observe specific sacraments, that is baptism and the Lord’s supper, or Holy Communion, as prescribed rituals.”

      Would you agree with William Booth’s decision, which still operates within Salvation Army ?

        • To Geoffrey :

          Thank you for insightful remarks upon the doctrinal results of William Booth’s functional pneumatology.

          God bless you.

          • Lovely.

            Page 193 of ‘The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine” (which presumably reflects William Booth’s own interpretation of Romans 7:14-25 as being pre-Christian experience) :

            ” Holiness is the realisation of the Christ-life within us. It is the present purpose and positive benefit of our salvation. It is the renewal of our humanity according to the pattern or image of God our Creator. The power of sin that was cancelled on the cross and is now broken. The Christian is enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit to live a life of discipleship (Romans 8:1-17).”

            This confirms what I wrote to you before, Geoff (May 16th; ‘Jesus, the Father, and the disciples..’) :

            Romans 7:5 = Romans 7:14-24, 25b = Pre-Christian experience.

            Romans 7:6 = Romans 8:1-17 = Christian experience.

  6. I think it was DL Moody who first said that the reason he needs to keep on being filled with the Spirit is that he leaks.

    • To David :

      James 3:2 : ” For we all stumble in many ways. ”

      I see that D. L. Moody would not support William Booth in his work, because he thought William Booth posed a threat to the local church.

      However, thank God for both of them.

  7. A damselfly spent some time after emerging from its first body. It slowly pumped up its wings and dried out. Suddenly, after ages it took off ,straight up. Last year the same thing happened but the moment wasspoilt by a Robin who caught it before it got 2m up.

    • Hi, Steve;

      Wow ! That’s great !

      I had to look up what a ‘damselfly’ was. I’d never heard of them.

      Sorry to hear about the other damselfly. In situations like that, Steve, I gain comfort from Romans 8:19-21.

      I read Revelation chapters 1 to 18, today, Steve. Chapter 4 reminded me of your Artwork.

      • Now, if the star of Bethlehem was Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord returning from exile by the Chebar canal; hovering above to allow the Lord to step down. Was it invisible when Jesus took his seat on it at the Ascension? Or, was it simply omitted in the description, the authors focusing only on the fact that he was carried up?

        • Revelation 4 describes the throne that took Jesus up.

          BTW if the crowns are us lain before Him are we become inanimate objects, Pellegrino? I’m thinking surely not! But you make a lot of the Spirit being an impersonal force. Am I being too harsh.?
          Again, the crown on the head of ‘the One seated on a cloud’ before the harvest began is Crown = Holy Spirit, just before it came down at Pentecost. Cloud=the Father. The One holding a golden sickle =Jesus.
          The inanimate objects are Part of the Throne (ahem…trinity) . They only appear subordinate in order to throw Jesus into focus before us. Jesus is lifted up for us to worship. Even the 4 living beings did their job unnoticed in order that we should see Jesus. If one has the Holy , one worships what He reveals , Jesus at the centre of the Throne. It is impossible to worship the trinity or the Father or YHWH because the Spirit causes us to see only Jesus.
          Even YHWH says: Hand. Behold . Nail. Behold (citation needed! )
          Even the Cloud says: listen to Jesus.

          • Steve,

            Where do you get the idea that the ‘crowns’ on the heads of the twenty-four elders represent the holy Spirit ? The NIV Study Bible states that the twenty-four elders in Rev. 4:4, are either exalted Angelic beings, or, the whole future glorified Church.

            The Anglican scholar, Dr. E.W. Bullinger (who for nearly fifty years, was Secretary of the Trinitarian Bible society) in his commentary on Revelation, expresses his total conviction that the ‘seven Spirits’ before the Throne in Rev. 1:4, are not a reference to the holy Spirit, but are the seven Angelic beings mentioned in Rev. 8:2; and he cites parallels to Rev. 1:4 in 1 Tim. 5:21, Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26 (also see Rev. 3:5). David E. Aune in his scholastically rated “World Biblical Commentary : Revelation 1-5″, also believes that the ‘seven Spirits’ in Rev. 1:4, are Angelic beings.

            Rev. 5:13, where the Messiah Jesus is ‘worshipped’ alongside God, is parallel to 1 Chronicles 29:20, where Yahweh Father God [i.e. ‘Jehovah’ in the ASV], is ‘worshipped’ alongside the King :

            ” And all the assembly blessed Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped Jehovah, and the king. ”

            Elsewhere in Revelation, only God is worshipped, and the post- Rev. 5, angelic commands in Revelation, are to only, supremely worship God.

        • There’s at least one a big interesting ‘IF’ in there, Steve !

          Can you expand a bit on your first sentence ? ( Cue a ‘Thumbs up’ emoji )

          • Hi P,
            I’m on a short holiday.
            Ezekiel’s vision left the temple of Solomon and moved east. Next it was seen exactly due east by the Chebar canal. Where did it go?
            I believe after leaving the symbolic temple of Solomon it brought up the rearguard as the last returnee of the exiles. It was seen returning as the Star. So, as the chariot of God it carried Jesus back but not to Herod’s temple , it scribed a straight line east to west to Bethlehem.
            The next time it gets employed is to carry Jesus up at the ascension.
            Thus the throne on Sinai was the presence over the tent. It relocated to Solomon’s temple and was experienced as the Glory. It appeared shrouded in cloud on the mount of transfiguration. It took Jesus up on His ascension.
            Is this an answer? Look up all instances of these manifestations. I think you will find the Star of Bethlehem is not an aberration , or a comet or conjunction, it fits in with all the other manifestations as a visible sign of each epoch in Biblical history.
            Only.. only Jesus was visible when the four living beings took Him up.
            … I’m supposed to be on holiday….gimee your best put down!

          • To dear Steve;

            Have a good holiday. Don’t forget the sun cream ! (cue smiley emoji)

            I just put up a second post to you, before I discovered your latest post (comment). It’s not meant to be personally critical, Steve, or be any sort of put down. It merely represents what I honestly believe were the beliefs amongst Christians during the New Testament period – before Christian Theology was taken out of it’s original Jewish environment, and somewhat reformulated within a Gentile environment, under the partial influence of Greek, Platonic, and Neo-Platonic philosophies. No doubt, many Trinitarian scholars would essentially agree with me, but they would say that the post-New Testament, reformulation process involved only drawing out what was ‘implicit’ in the New Testament, and the whole operation was carried out under Divine guidance.

            God bless you, Steve.

          • Just one point as I’m off out…
            The Lamb is the first to be crowned with the Holy Spirit. 7 horns, 7 eyes, the 14? No. 7 Spirits. The crown is one thing
            Later the One is seen wearing a crown before the harvest.
            This is just prior to Pentecost. His first reaping .
            You are my joy and crown said Paul.
            The Holy Spirit transferred from Paul to the Philippians.
            Therefore crowns represent the transferable power from the sharers to the recipients.
            What is the crown? You are, he said to the Thessalonians.
            They are, because they have the Spirit. Crowned in fire.
            We then will …got t go

          • PC1.1
            If so, how do you explain other phenomena?
            What was the cloud filling the temple of Solomon?
            If Ezekiel tells us the Glory left in an eastwards direction why does it disappear into history? The star was seen in the east….immediately I want it to be the Lord, riding the cherubim returning with the exiles.
            Then again, it appears to be close by , invisible at His baptism, shrouded in cloud at His transfiguration, a black cloud at the crucifixion and there to take Him up at the ascension. This all fits a supernatural reading where all the ‘props’ on stage are used.
            Why believe a dozen supernatural phenomena but insist on the Star being nothing more than a lump of primordial rock?
            Ps, on the subject of Pentecost. Why did they not think of the tongues of fire as crowns of light? I think it’s because it’s all about the message of the Gospel.

  8. I am puzzled by what you wrote about the disciples all being together in one house.

    It turns out that the ‘one place’ they are in (verse 1) is a ‘house’ (oikos, verse 2). This term can refer to any kind of domestic dwelling, and though it is used metaphorically to refer to the Jerusalem Temple (as the ‘house of God’) there is no suggestion that this is the reference here.

    There were 120 people there which, even in a very large house, makes it seem unlikely that this was a private dwelling.
    Surely, given that the disciples met regularly at the Temple, and given the references to others asking about how they could all understand what was being said, it is far more likely that this event took place in a public place?
    Your suggestion that, although there is no mention of it in Luke’s narrative, they move from a house to a public place seems, to this Messianic Jew anyway, far more convoluted than my alternative that they were meeting in the grounds of the Temple, probably Solomon’s Portico, when the Spirit came upon them.
    There are three so-called ‘foot festivals’ laid out in the Torah (Pentateuch=5 books of Moses): Pesach (Passover), Shav’uot (Pentecost) and Succot (Booths, sometimes wrongly referred to as Tabernacles). Therefore observant Jewish people would head for Jerusalem for these festivals and then go home. Can you imagine a better time to assist in evangelising Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and eventually the whole world (where Jews were already scattered) than at one of these festivals? And where would all these folk meet? In the Temple! That is why I think that it is far more likely that the disciples were meeting there and not in a private house when God filled them with His Spirit.

    • Andy, thanks for your comment. First, wherever they were does not affect the timing, so your point about the festival remains, and is not really added to if they are already in the temple area.

      Second, Luke has a consistent interest in the temple and its importance for the gospel; it is his way of saying ‘salvation is from the Jews’ (John 4). It would be very strange indeed if this location was referred to so obliquely; there is no doubt Luke would want to highlight the location, as he does elsewhere.

      Thirdly, many Roman houses in Jerusalem will have had multiple rooms and an atrium, and fitting 120 in one of them would not be a problem. It does, of course, suggest that there were wealthy patrons to the early Jesus movement—but Luke has already been clear about that (Luke 8).

      So I think I will stick with my original observation!

  9. Perhaps I should say something more about Joel’s prophecy, since its place in Acts 2 has been so badly misunderstood (not just here). Peter is saying that the terrible events associated with the Day of the Lord are about to befall the Jews now. That, prophetically, is the significance of the pouring of God’s spirit on the young men and women. Forty years later, following the prolonged darkness that accompanied the crucifixion, those events did come. Read Josephus for the wonders in the heavens and signs on the earth below that preceded the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and for the ‘blood, and fire, and columns of smoke’ that accompanied it. The prophecy was all fulfilled. That is why the call to “be saved from this crooked generation”, referring to Joel 2:32, was so urgent. They were to “call on the name of Yahweh”, which, as Peter goes on to say, is now Yeshua, Messiah (Acts 2:38).

    We Gentiles are in the same situation today. In less than four months – probably – fire will be cast on the earth, the first of many plagues. In a little over seven years the Day of the Lord will come: as Joel says, a day of darkness when the heavens and the earth will be shaken. Joel 2:31 does not refer to an ‘awesome’ day (ESV ad loc.), still less to a ‘magnificent’ one (ESV Acts 2:20), but to a ‘dreadful’ day (also Mal 4:5). The LXX quoted by Peter has ἐπιφανῆ, ‘manifest,’ which is not a correct translation but licensed by the Spirit because the Day will also be when Yahweh reveals his glory, on the last ‘great day’ of the feast, October 18th.

    We are urged to wait for and hasten the arrival of that day, even though it means the destruction of the present world (II Pet 3:12f).

    When the Towers Fall: A Prophecy of What Must Happen Soon, p 132, p 284.

    • On the translation of Joel 2:31, the adjective which the ESV translates as ‘awsome’ is a niphal participle of the verb Brown-Driver-Briggs does give the first meaning of the verb in the niphal as “1) be fearful, dreadful, e.g. wilderness, land, people”. However, it then has:
      2) cause astonishment and awe, of Yahweh himself; awe-inspiring in praises; wonderful, glorious things;
      3) inspire reverence, godly fear and awe.

      Given that this participle/adjective is paralleled with gadol – great, large, it seems to me that ‘awesome’ is a perfectly appropriate translation.

      • If you read the passages that describe what happens on the Day of the Lord (e.g. Isa 2, Isa 24), you will realise that the emotion is not reverence, awe etc, but terror. Translation is not about just picking out any dictionary meaning that piety fancies, but of understanding what fits the context.

      • There is only one ‘Day of the Lord’, but as the immediate context is Joel, perhaps I should have referred to his vision rather than Isaiah’s – e.g. Joel 2:1f, 2:10f. The NT commentary on Joel 3:13 is ‘blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia’.

      • To DAVID B WILSON :

        Nobody knows Biblical Hebrew better than the Jews.

        The ‘Holy Scriptures – According to the Masoretic Text’, produced by the ‘Jewish Publications Society’, translates the section of Joel 2:31, which contains the aforementioned verb ‘yare’, in the niphel form, accordingly :

        ” Before the great and TERRIBLE day of the Lord comes”.

        Likewise, the ‘Jewish Study Bible’ also renders the verse section as :

        “Before the great and TERRIBLE day of the Lord comes”;

        And the ‘Orthodox Jewish Bible’, also renders ‘yare’ in the the niphel form, here, as : ‘TERRIBLE’.

        Indeed, the overwhelming majority of English Bible Translations also render ‘yare’ in the niphel form as ‘Terrible’ – or, use one of it’s synonyms such as ‘terrifying’, ‘fearful’, or ‘dreadful’.

  10. Dear Pellegrino
    David was anointed, went through trials and then ascended the throne and crowned. Jesus was the anointed/messiah, anointed, buried, ascended.
    Now he is crowned and no longer anointed. The crown replaced the oil. The crown is the power and wisdom of the Spirit. We are priests and Kings. We are anointed but in due course we will inherit crowns. Crowns of life. Living crowns. What is a crown? A person who has the Spirit. Handed down from Father to Son to Angel/Spirit/Messenger, to John, to his recipients, throuout the age to us.
    I have a postcard which says ,”Always wear your invisible crown” !

    • Thanks, Steve;

      This is how 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (complete with the comments in square brackets), is presented in ‘The New Testament : An Understandable Version’, by William E. Paul :

      ” For what is [the basis of] our hope, or joy, or crown of honour in the presence of the Lord Jesus when He comes back? [Note : By ‘crown’ Paul alludes to the laurel wreath awarded to the victor in an athletic contest]. Will it not be you people .”

      All literal ‘crowns’ will be awarded to saints in the future, after the Parousia of Christ. See 1 Peter 5:4; 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; and 1 Cor. 9:24-27. Although we triumph over difficulties (see Romans 8:35-37), no human beings have any literal ‘crowns’ yet, except the exalted Lord Jesus Messiah.
      I don’t think there’s an explicit Bible verse, Steve, that says otherwise – unless one wants to futuristically visualize ‘present crowns’, on the basis of Romans 8:30 ?

      • Thanks for that pellegrino. How many square brackets before the plain reading simply becomes an interpretation? Substance hoped for?
        Also ,I’m thinking how the mother church, the Jews, passed on the crown to all gathered at Pentecost. (Ps 45 )
        This would make the location of pentecost, not in the temple , but in the queen’s palace, under the Al aqsa mosque?
        The white horse of Revelation alludes to the wedding scene of Ps45.
        The crown is an important motif . I think it is the HS given at pentecostal. By which the body of Christ , the church is crowned. Stephanos mebbe. The visual moment his mother crowns us in Him.

        • Ps. Ps45 is worth reading to set the scene for pentecost but Ss3:11 is the verse I conflated it with.

          PPS can anyone else see a connection of pentecost to the coronation scenes in ps45 and song of Songs, or am I in your estimation just sifting through the bible like a dressing up box???

          • Dear Steve :

            I’ll be putting Psalm 45 and Song of Songs (3:11) under the ‘microscope’ today (Deo volente).

            You might be right.

  11. Hi Ian

    Although I reject the Pentecostal view that receiving/being baptised in the Spirit is separate from coming to believe, Ive always been intrigued by the event in Acts 19 when Paul comes across some of John’s disciples and asks them ‘Did you receive the HS when/after you believed’.

    I know that these were not in fact believers, hence why they had not received the Spirit, but to me the very fact that Paul asks that particular question strongly implies that in Paul’s mind there would normally be associated ‘manifestations’ when the Spirit is received, otherwise his question would be meaningless. As we are told, they subsequently spoke in tongues and prophesied.

    How do you understand this episode? Was it simply unique to the early church, that when the Spirit was given it always or nearly always had an obvious and outward effect? It certainly doesnt seem to be the case today, at least for many Christians. Was it given that way to establish the early church and, in this instance, to indicate who were the true apostles?

    Thanks, Peter

    • Hello Peter,
      Anton, may point you to a book by David Pawson, The Normal Christian Birth, which I have but not to hand.
      Gordon D Fee has written extensively in his tome, “God’s Empowering Presence”, which I don’t have, but do have his, “Paul, the Spirit and The People of God”, which I do have, again not to hand. Evidently it condenses his tome, referencing it frequently for his expository corroboration.

    • Peter :

      We do one thing about the incident in Acts 19:1-7, and that is that as non-Christian Jews, the disciples of John the Baptist had no conception of the holy Spirit being a separate, distinct hypostasis (person) from the God of the Jews – Who, as Jesus clearly confirmed in John 8:54, was seen by all Jews as only the Father.

      The twelve disciples of John the Baptist therefore, were neither Binitarians, nor Trinitarians, and yet they received the full blessings of the holy Spirit.

      Now, what do you think this tells us ?

    • “Nighty, night” – pray that the bugs won’t bite :

      “So that thou shalt not need to be afrayed for any bugges by night”,

      Psalm 91:5a (The Matthew Bible).


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