The Book of Acts has been known as a chronicle of the beginnings of the Christian Church. The events recorded in it took place not long after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ the Messiah. Not long after Jesus had ascended up to Heaven, a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell upon His disciples and the early Christians.
Among the remarkable events that took place was the baptism in the Spirit and the speaking of new tongues. In Acts 2, we read of this account in detail. The speaking of new tongues drew a multitude of people together and some wondered if Peter and the disciples were drunk.
Yet it was only 9 in the morning, and there were many others, from Medea, Parthia, Elam, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and many other places that recognized the language as their own. And this is where the remarkableness of the event came in, for Peter and the disciples were Galileans, a backwoods at that time, and they were not likely to know the languages of such cosmopolitan places so fluently.
Last Sunday, on the 10th of January 2016, Pr Peter Sze shared a message at tNCC regarding this phenomenon and how it pointed to Truth. How could simple people like the disciple Peter and his group speak in such diverse and sophisticated tongues? And how did citizens of such varied nationalities each understand the language as their own?
There were important details about the phenomenon. Firstly, it was recorded in Acts 2:11 that what the multitude were marveling at, was that Peter and the disciples were speaking of the wonders of God in the multitude’s own tongues. Secondly, Peter reminded the multitude of the prophecy of Joel. Why was this significant?
Prophecy can be understood in two different ways. Firstly, as is commonly understood, prophecy can be an act of foretelling, to tell of something beforehand. But prophecy can also be an act of forthtelling. In the passage we are reminded that Joel foretold that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on everyone and that everyone will prophesy.
But Peter was also telling forth the wonderful works of God. For as it is written in Luke 6:45, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. And the Church grew rapidly from Peter’s and the disciples’ witnessing. Can such remarkable events as these that were recorded in the Book of Acts happen today?
Nonetheless, we are also encouraged to not treat the gifts of the Holy Spirit as a ritual. Pr Peter shared that we must look back at the basic principle of the Holy Spirit’s purpose. Is the gift of tongues for praise or petition? No matter which it is, the gifts must first come from the overflow of the heart. The manifestation of the gifts must be a result of a response from faith.
‘Allow the Holy Spirit to work in us but be mindful of His purpose,’ Pr Peter imparted. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not something mechanical, just for its own sake or for show. There was a great impact from the outpouring. It confirmed Jesus’ redemptive work and the birth of the Church.
In the passage of Acts 2, there are lessons we can learn from Peter’s response. Peter was in the midst of something remarkable and unprecedented in the world’s history but he saw the opportunity instead of being distracted by what is happening around him.
The disciple Peter directs the multitude’s focus towards Jesus. The Holy Spirit was working but Peter knew the primary purpose of the Spirit’s work was to point people towards Jesus. It was to empower Christ’s disciples so that Jesus can be proclaimed and the Good News could be shared. The purpose of the phenomena was to point people towards Truth.
What is the Good News and what is the truth about Jesus? Firstly, Jesus came as full-blooded man (Acts 2:22). He walked amongst us. He understands the heart issues of men and women like you and me. Yet Jesus was no ordinary man.
Jesus was a perfect man, a man attested by God, fully approved by Him. Even more than that, Jesus was divine, the Son of God, confirmed by signs and wonders. According to God’s sovereign plan, Jesus died for our sins. This was not a futile accident or murder; it was a fulfillment of the plans of God.
Though crucified and buried in a tomb, Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 2:24). Death could not hold Him and it is not just the proof of an empty tomb and a missing body that testify to this. Long before, David had prophesied of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:27-31).
Having defeated sin and death, Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33). Today, He sits at God’s right hand with His enemies as His footstool. Having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out His Holy Spirit on His disciples and they spoke in tongues. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples were at rest in Christ.
When the multitude heard of the testimony, they were cut to the heart and asked what they were to do (Acts 2:38). The counsel Peter gave applies to us all today. Repent of our old systems and turn back 180 degrees to God.
Repentance leads to the remission of sin but not only that. It also brings in the receival of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:14, Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s purpose is to glorify Him. The Holy Spirit declares to us who Christ is to us. And through the Truth in Christ, we return back to God.
This has been God’s plan since the beginning of time for He has the heart of a Father. ‘His love and compassion for us was so great that He bought the whole field in order to purchase our salvation,’ Pr Peter expressed. As a church, our focus should be the Truth in Christ and this Truth alone.