Filled With The Holy Spirit
When the Day Of The Pentecost Festival came and they were all gathered as one, suddenly, a sound like that of a severe wind blowing in was heard from heaven and it resounded through out the house where they were sitting. Then flames like split tongues appeared and abided on each one one by one. Whereupon, they all were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke in words of other nations just as the "Spirit" made them speak," (Acts 2:1-4).
2. In today's scripture passage we have something written that is very unusual. However, the main thing is not the peculiarity of this event, but its effects. They were all filled by the Holy Spirit. We might also see this as the birth of the church. In that sense, this is a set event limited to a one time thing that happened in history. But, "the infilling of the Holy Spirit" itself, which is spoken about here in this text, is not limited to one time. Right at the end of chapter four, they were again filled with the Holy Spirit, (chapter four, verse thirty-one). After that, we see it also in the figure of Paul who was filled with the Holy Spirit and worked mightily. He himself wrote the following in The Epistle To the Disciples At Ephesus, "Do not be drunk with wine. It is the cause of ruining oneself. Rather, be filled with the Spirit," (Ephesians 5:18). In short, this is what anyone of us is to seek and expect. Thus, when we read today's passage, reading it thinking just "What happened back then?" is not the right way to read this passage. Rather, we should read it asking ourselves, "What is it that began back then, but continues to this very day?" So, what started [back then]? And what should we expect for us with the same infilling of the Holy Spirit?
Obedience According To The Holy Spirit
3. First of all, we need to carefully consider the significance in that this happened at "The Pentecost Festival." Pentecost (The Feast Of Weeks or in Hebrew Hag Shabuoth), which is [still] observed among Jews in today's times, has agricultural significance and historical significance. Agriculturally, it was a festival of the harvest where they would offer up the first fruits of the products that they obtained after sowing theirs fields. But, historically, this festival came to be linked with the event on Mt. Sinai when Moses was given the law. After the exodus from Egypt, while on their way they were lead through the wilderness and then came to Sinai, there they were commemorating an event there, which is believed to have been this Pentecost [type of] Festival.
4. But, the Israelites were never able to keep the law given to them that way. They had broken the first covenant based on the law. Then God said this through Jeremiah the prophet, "Look, the day is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, says the Lord. This covenant is not the one I made when I once took their ancestors by the hand and lead them out of the land of Egypt. Even though I was their master, they broke this covenant, says the Lord. But, on the day that is to come this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, says the Lord. That is, I will grant into their chests my law and will write it on their hearts. I will become their God and they will become my people," (Jeremiah 32:32-33). This is the prophecy of the new covenant, the new testament.
5. The law in the new covenant is not given as words inscribed on stone tablets like before. It is written into the tablets of the heart. It is not a work that humans can accomplish, but that God does. It comes by the Spirit of God. We see this event that happened at Pentecost as the inauguration of this work of God. Therefore, we do not celebrate Pentecost as a commemoration of The Giving Of The Law at Mt Sinai like the Jews do, but celebrate it as The Festival Of The Descent Of The Holy Spirit. Our seeking of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is, above all, so that we might be made to live in obedience to God as a people who have had the law written on our hearts.
Union In The Spirit
6. Secondly, we need to give some thought to the meaning of what is written as "[Whereupon,] they all were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke in words of other nations just as the "Spirit" made them speak."
7. What comes to mind here is what happened at the famous Tower Of Babel which we find in the Old Testament. In that narrative, which appears beginning in Genesis chapter eleven and verse one, the people said this, "Come on, let's build a town with a tower that reaches to heaven and we'll become famous." Then God confused their words and made it so that each one's words were not understandable. The whole account has been simplified greatly. The town was called "Babel." The word "Babel" as Genesis explains it comes from the word "confusion (Babel)."
8. This is not a mere piece of folklore and legend. Because through out history the figure of an arrogant humanity, saying "Let's build a town with a tower that reaches to heaven," has not changed a bit. Then, that reality, where each one's words becomes unintelligible to the other and into which confusion is made, applies to modern times unchanged. It is not simply that there are so many national languages. Even though one speaks the same language, it happens plenty enough times that one's words don't communicate. At times even between a parent and a child one's intentions don't come across clearly enough. Put another way, their words don't make sense to each other. Words spoken between husband and wife don't always communicate. Words don't always bridge the generation gap. Even the will behind the words of our neighbors don't always communicate. Confusion is made in places everywhere. No one can live with anybody. This world is a world torn apart. It is but the fruit of humanity's arrogance and pride.
9. But, in this passage of scripture something totally opposite to what happened at the tower of Babel happens. Suddenly they began to speak different words and languages. But, they weren't scattered in all directions. They were made one by the Spirit of God. Though speaking different languages, it was no longer a Babel of confusion. Because the Spirit of God filled them and controlled them. The rule of the ego severs relationships between two people. The rule of the Holy Spirit joins different persons making them one.
10. With the descent of the Holy Spirit the work of missions and proclamation had begun. What happened on that Pentecost was a demonstration given by God. As he showed by it, the word of God would soon be proclaimed among differing people of differing languages. And the Jews and the Samaritans who had been against each other thus far will be made one by the Spirit of God. Moreover, Jews and Gentiles will be made one. The unity and the fellowship of the church comes into being only by the work and the rule of the Holy Spirit. When we seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit we are not seeking an individual spiritual ecstatic experience. We are seeking to become one with many different kinds of people [in the Lord].
Liberation By The Holy Spirit
11. Thirdly, we need to keep in mind what they were saying. The Bible says this, "Even though there are among us persons from Parthia, Media, and Elam ... even though there are also persons who have come from ... Crete and Arabia, we are hearing them talking about the great works of God in our own languages," (verses nine through twelve). They were earnestly declaring the "great works of God."
12. People don't just naturally get to the point of turning their thoughts on only the work of God or praising the great works of God. Because no matter where you go people are more interested in their own works and people business rather than in God's works. That's the normal way to be. Rather than saying "What has God done for us?," we want to speak on "What have I done? What have I accomplished?," and we want to have people recognize us. The church is the same way. A lot of times it's that way even with those we might call fervent and devoted christians.
13. But how needful it is for a person to be liberated from such a trap of self works! Because the important thing in life is not what we've accomplished. Because it is what God has done in us and through us that is much more important. In the church the important thing is not what the church has accomplished for God. It is what God is accomplishing in the church and through the church that is of any import. It is in this way that the work of the Holy Spirit is what frees us from our clinging so hard to the deeds we've done. The rule of the Holy Spirit is [what sets us free from the trap of self].
14. Therefore, [in the text before us] there was a true liberation and real joy within those who were filled with the Holy Spirit. Certain ones watching it all said, "Those people are drunk with new wine." The figure of being set free and filled with joy overflowing might certainly have appeared as being drunk with wine. However, being drunk with wine is fundamentally different from being filled with the Holy Spirit. Even if a person depends on wine, that will not bring true-to-reality human freedom. The infilling of real freedom and joy becomes actual in this world through the rule of the Holy Spirit. We ought to seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit in order that we might live freed from all types of bondage and [live] overflowing with happiness.
15. Well, we have been looking at what started there at the first infilling of the Holy Spirit which took place that day on Pentecost. There was an obedience to God. There was a unity that came from the Spirit of God. There was a liberation by His Spirit. There was joy. The kingdom of God verily appeared by taking on a specific form according to the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is at the last day that we will see its perfection. But, we can already live the kingdom of God being first to this perfection. The new hour has already started then and still is. Paul expressed it in these terms, "It is God who joins us and you all steadfastly to Christ and who has shed his oil on us. God, also, has pressed his seal on us and has given his 'Spirit' as a guarantee into our very hearts, (Second Corinthians 1:21-22). In saying guarantee he meant "earnest money or downpayment." It means that we are given ahead of time a portion of what will be given to us perfectly or completely at a later time.
16. This very thing [we're given for now] is the power for proclamation. "The kingdom of God lies in power but not in words," (First Corinthians 4:20), said Paul. Of course, our preaching to others is done using words. We preach the kingdom of God in words. But, among us and in the real world in which we live, the kingdom of God which we proclaim has real substance as the churches' words of proclamation include His power when it takes a definite form through the Holy Spirit. Since we have absolutely no power whatsoever in this regard, we should earnestly seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit like the first disciples did.