What Are the Tongues of Fireplace? (Acts 2)

This text is a part of the Robust Passages collection.

1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they have been all collectively in a single place. 2And abruptly there got here from heaven a sound like a mighty speeding wind, and it stuffed all the home the place they have been sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fireplace appeared to them and rested on every considered one of them. 4And so they have been all full of the Holy Spirit and commenced to talk in different tongues because the Spirit gave them utterance. 5Now there have been dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, religious males from each nation beneath heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude got here collectively, they usually have been bewildered, as a result of each was listening to them communicate in his personal language. 7And so they have been amazed and astonished, saying, “Are usually not all these who’re talking Galileans? 8And the way is it that we hear, every of us in his personal native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the components of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and guests from Rome, 11each Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our personal tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all have been amazed and perplexed, saying to at least one one other, “What does this mean?”
—Acts 2:1–12

The Disciples Obtain the Spirit

Proper from the start, Acts 2 is anxious with new constructions and dynamics that convey the previous constructions and dynamics to their appointed finish. The chapter happens at Pentecost, the second annual feast of the Jewish yr, celebrating God’s provision for his individuals. Also referred to as the Feast of Weeks within the OT (see Lev. 23:15–21; Ex. 34:22; Num. 28:26–31; Deut. 16:9–12), Pentecost got here fifty days after Passover. Passover commemorated the approaching of the angel of loss of life, the final plague, to Egypt. On that night time, the Israelites have been advised to sacrifice a lamb and unfold its blood over their doorpost. The angel, seeing the blood, would cross over the Israelites however would inflict destruction on Egypt by taking its firstborn sons. This might have been averted had Pharaoh and his court docket listened to Moses and freed Israel. However they refused and so paid an final value for his or her sin in opposition to God. Within the aftermath, the Israelites, having survived due to the lamb’s blood, left Egypt. God redeemed them, as promised.

Fifty days later, Israel was at Sinai, receiving God’s regulation via Moses. After they entered the land, they have been to maintain a feast, or competition, wherein they have been to convey their firstfruits (bread constituted of new grain) as an providing to God. The firstfruits providing stood each for hope within the coming of the complete harvest and as an indication of thanksgiving for God’s provision. Pentecost was inseparable from Passover and was marked particularly from the date of Passover (Lev. 23:16). It might come solely because of God’s earlier work. Thus it was not merely about agriculture however about redemption as effectively. Israel provided her firstfruits to God, who saved her from slavery in Egypt. The underlying thought within the symbolism of Pentecost was that if God was capable of redeem his individuals from Egypt, then he would be capable to present for his or her lives too, simply as he had promised.

In Acts 2, Jews in Jerusalem are nonetheless celebrating Pentecost, however this Pentecost is totally different. It’s, the truth is, the final Pentecost. It should be the final, as a result of the ultimate Passover occurred fifty days earlier when Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, was crucified for the sins of God’s individuals. This was the sacrifice to finish all sacrifices (see Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 28; 10:10). Redemption from Egypt, and the Passovers that remembered it, was a shadow of one thing larger. Passover is fulfilled, and now it’s time for the achievement of Pentecost. With Jesus now in heaven—an important level for what follows—this achievement is exactly what occurs subsequent.

The disciples are collectively, and one thing occurs that may be defined solely by analogy, not from previous expertise: “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind,” and “divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:2, 3). The phrases “like” and “as” are essential for understanding Luke’s quintessentially biblical method of describing the scene. Commentators are divided as as to whether there was an precise gust of wind accompanied by the sound, or whether or not there was only a sound. Whether or not the disciples felt a wind is unimportant. What occurred is described not precisely as pure phenomena however “like” it. That is frequent in Scripture, significantly in texts and passages that describe heavenly scenes or occasions when the heavenly and earthly realms come collectively: gates and partitions are “like” treasured stones, heavenly scenes usually are described as “like” earthly analogies, and visions embrace issues “like” wheels, fiery messengers, or varied animals that typically mix a couple of species. These are makes an attempt to convey supernatural visions and experiences—actual, skilled occasions, however past what may be described totally. On this case it sounded one thing like an excellent wind. I’ve a picture in my thoughts of the apostles listening to one thing just like the sound of wind from the within, with partitions and roofs creaking, home windows rattling, and the sound of speeding air shaking every thing in its path, straining to get previous. Perhaps to us it could have appeared like an oncoming prepare.

What’s essential is what the wind-like sound and the looks of tongues like fireplace point out: each level to the presence of God (cf. 1 Kings 19:11–13). Thus the prophet Ezekiel is led by the Spirit to a imaginative and prescient of dry bones that tackle human kind and are delivered to life when the Spirit instructions: “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live” (Ezek. 37:9). The picture is of God’s bringing Israel again from exile, redeeming them as in a brand new exodus, with this nice exception: this time he guarantees to offer them his Spirit (Ezek. 37:14). Likewise, the picture of fireplace in Acts 2 is unmistakable. It might be in comparison with the Lord’s showing to Moses in a burning bush (Ex. 3:1–6) or to the individuals of Israel as a pillar of fireplace, main them at night time of their desert wanderings (Ex. 14:19–20; Num. 11:25; 12:5; 14:14; 16:42; Deut. 1:33). The fireplace may be an echo of Isaiah 6:4–7, the place the prophet’s tongue is cleansed with a burning coal.

The presence of God in Acts 2 can be accompanied by an act of God. His presence is confirmed by the path from which the sound comes: from heaven, the place of God. That is the second time briefly order that heaven and earth intersect. Jesus went into heaven; now the Spirit from heaven will invade the earthly realm, filling the apostles for witness.

When the apostles obtain the Spirit right here, this isn’t the second they’re “saved” or regenerated. In actual fact, it’s not the primary time they obtain the Spirit. After his resurrection, Jesus seems to the Eleven and breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). They’re additionally, because of this, given authority to forgive sins on his behalf (John 20:23). The reception of the Spirit in Acts 2:2 is for finishing up Jesus’ fee to witness. The apostles’ expertise of the Spirit is, by necessity of their period, totally different than it’s for each succeeding technology. This isn’t to say their expertise is completely totally different or unconnected to the receiving of the Spirit seen after Peter’s sermon, solely that this occasion is a particular equipping for a particular group of individuals.

Whereas he was on earth, Jesus was straight current along with his followers, who, even with their apparent shortcomings, did present proof of believing in him to no matter extent was potential (“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” “You are the Christ.” “I believe; help my unbelief.”). There isn’t any clear and simple technique to decide the precise level wherein the disciples grew to become believers within the sense we use the time period. They did “believe” when Jesus was alive, however their religion was not full till the resurrection, simply as Christ’s work of redemption was not full. The disciples have been sanctified by the phrase of Jesus whereas he was with them (John 13:10; 15:3; 17:17), however they’d not obtain the Spirit as the ability of the risen Christ till after the resurrection (as promised in John 14–17). By historic and experiential necessity, the disciples occupy a unique place in salvation historical past than we do.

In Acts 2:33 Peter says that Jesus “received” the Spirit from the Father particularly for the pouring out obtained at Pentecost. Then again, at Acts 8:17 some Samaritans obtain the Spirit when Peter and John lay arms on them. In Acts 10:47, Peter declares that as a result of Cornelius and different Gentiles “received” the Spirit simply as Jewish believers did, there isn’t any technique to deny them baptism. The Spirit “fell” upon all gathered as Peter spoke, and people with Peter have been amazed that the Spirit was “poured out” on the Gentiles simply as he was on Jewish believers (Acts 10:44–45). Thus it’s clear that the language for receiving the Spirit, whether or not for explicit empowerment or for regenerating energy, doesn’t persistently distinguish between the work of witness and that of perception. All of those works—apostolic witness, indicators and wonders, and regeneration—are fully the doing of the Spirit. How the Spirit is working and what he’s bringing about will depend on the context.

Outward Manifestation

The Spirit got here and “rested on each one” at Pentecost (Acts 2:3). That is an outward manifestation of what’s happening amongst them, as all these gathered within the room are “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4)—what Jesus promised them at his ascension now takes place. It’s unattainable to quantify what it means to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” We should always not consider the Spirit as some type of heavenly gasoline that fills our religious tank. Luke appears to be talking within the sense of capability (“filling” language), however how can we consider capability when the receptacles are individuals and the substance is the Holy Spirit? Can somebody be stuffed 1 / 4 of the way in which with the Spirit? At what level is one “full” of the Spirit by way of amount? Paul tells the Ephesian believers, who have already got the Spirit, however to “be filled with the Spirit” relatively than to be drunk on wine (Eph. 5:18).

In his Gospel, Luke makes use of the phrase “filled” within the sense of filling to capability, as when the disciples’ boats are so stuffed with fish that they start to sink (Luke 5:7), or figuratively, as in “filled with great fear” (Luke 2:9) or “filled with fury” (Luke 6:11). He additionally makes use of the time period to imply “fulfill” or “end,” as in to succeed in an appointed conclusion. Zechariah goes again house “when his time of service [as a priest] was ended” (Luke 1:23). The destruction of Jerusalem foretold within the Olivet Discourse is described as “days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written” (Luke 21:22). Importantly, the angel tells Zechariah that his son, John, “will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15); Elizabeth sees Mary and is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and begins to reward (Luke 1:41); and Zechariah is, as soon as once more, “filled with the Holy Spirit” and begins to prophesy and to reward God for what he’s about to do in Israel based on his guarantees (Luke 1:67).

We discover related texts in Acts as effectively. Peter is stuffed by the Spirit and speaks to a crowd (Acts 4:8), and shortly after the believers are full of the Spirit via prayer (Acts 4:31). When the seven are chosen to take care of the widows among the many Greek-speaking Jews, considered one of their standards is that they’re to be full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3). Ananias tells Paul he’ll “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). These texts, together with these in Luke, decide what the phrase means in Acts 2:Four and in Acts usually. Typically, to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” means to be empowered for service, often that of proclamation or mission. This doesn’t indicate an preliminary lack however merely communicates a particular expertise of the Spirit with a purpose to perform the mission from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and the ends of the earth. The Spirit’s work in salvation doesn’t take second place in Acts—reception of the Spirit is the first motive Gentiles should be baptized and acknowledged as full-fledged members of the brand new covenant (Acts 15:8–9)—however at Pentecost particularly the disciples are full of energy for the nice work of that day.

All through Acts. . . the Spirit works in believers to empower them for service.

The That means of Tongues

Because of this, these within the room “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4; cf. Acts 10:45–46; 19:6). The which means of the phrase translated “tongues” (Gk. glōssai ) is disputed. Many Christians perceive this verse to imply that the disciples start to talk in a heavenly language transcending human linguistic constructions—in contrast to any language on earth. In such an interpretation, those that hear the disciples talking in several languages (Acts 2:6) accomplish that as a result of some type of divine translation is happening that causes the “tongues” to be heard as languages. Usually on this interpretation the miracle of tongues is accompanied by a miracle of listening to. Texts corresponding to 1 Corinthians 13:1, the place Paul mentions talking within the “tongues of men and of angels,” are cited in help (cf. 1 Cor. 14:2, 18–23, 27). Others, nonetheless, perceive the disciples to be talking in several languages, these represented within the room that day. On this interpretation there isn’t any want for a miracle of listening to. Sometimes, this studying is accompanied by studying the time period “tongues” within the NT as all the time referring to identified human languages. First Corinthians 13:1 does, nonetheless, appear to differentiate human and heavenly speech. Urgent glōssai to imply “languages” in each occasion within the NT appears strained. A 3rd choice is to know the phrase “tongues” as getting used within the NT each for human languages and for heavenly speech, with each manifestations being works of the Spirit.

At Pentecost the tongues appear to be languages, and thus the miracle is considered one of talking, not going considered one of listening to. Luke right here makes use of the phrase apophthengomai (“utterance”; Acts 2:4), which recurs twice extra in Acts in regard to talking God’s phrase. It’s clear that the Spirit empowers the disciples’ talking, however, as seen within the upcoming verses, there isn’t any related indication of Spirit-empowered listening to. All through Acts (as demonstrated already), the Spirit works in believers to empower them for service. The Spirit does work in unbelievers, however that is a part of God’s work of salvation, “having cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). Such is why it is vital first to ascertain what “filled” means on this verse earlier than contemplating the miracle of talking that follows: it offers the context for understanding this extremely disputed textual content.

This text is customized from the ESV Expository Commentary: John–Acts (Quantity 9).

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