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Pentecost Then and Now

May 23, 2021

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: Acts 2:1-20


CS Lewis, at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, has a passage that feels like it could describe our attitude toward Pentecost. Or maybe some of our experiences in the Holy Spirit when we were younger. It's the desire to go back there. 

Lucy Pevensie is talking with Professor Digory Kirke. Digory is a central character in another book, The Magician’s Nephew.

  • As the book unfolds, the four Pevensie children spend time in Narnia. At the end of the book they end up traveling back through the wardrobe and back to the moment in our time when they went into the wardrobe.
  • They feel the need to explain to the professor how they lost four of his fur coats.
  • Lewis writes:
  • And that would have been the very end of the story if it hadn't been that they felt they really must
    explain to the Professor why four of the coats out of his wardrobe were missing. And the Professor,
    who was a very remarkable man, didn't tell them not to be silly or not to tell lies, but believed the
    whole story. "No," he said, "I don't think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe
    door to get the coats. You won't get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use
    by now if you did! Eh? What's that? Yes, of course you'll get back to Narnia again some day. Once a
    King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don't go trying to use the same route twice.
     Indeed, don't try to get there at all. It'll happen when you're not looking for it. And don't talk too
    much about it even among yourselves. And don't mention it to anyone else unless you find that
    they've had adventures of the same sort themselves. What's that? How will you know? Oh, you'll
    know all right. Odd things they say - even their looks - will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open.
    Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools? (CS Leiws, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Pentecost is a little like Narnia. A magical moment that feels completely out of reach. But then at some point it dawns on you, that you can go back there. But, like the professor said of Narnia, you can’t really control how it’s going to happen. It will simply happen to you. And likely not in the way it happened before. And like the professor said, you’ll meet people who have been there. It’s in their eyes.

This morning we do want to go back there. By looking at the first 21 verses in more detail. We’ll hit the other verses along the way but focus on the first 21.

Acts 2:1–21 is found in Part Two of Luke's two-volume work, Luke-Acts. His gospel tells of Jesus' birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and then at the end he says to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit falls. Then begin the global mission. In Acts, part two, Luke starts there with Jesus talking to the disciples about the Spirit coming. Then he ascends in chapter 1. And then in chapter 2 is Pentecost. 

We'll look at three questions: (1) When Did it Happen? (2) What Happened? (3) What Does it Mean?


I. When Did It Happen?

“The day of Pentecost” would have meant something to Luke’s first readers. To us, the name is a little curious. It’s not a name found in our Old Testament.

“Pentecost” in the OT is called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exod 23:16), there is the “day of the firstfruits” (Num 23:16), but it is most often “the Feast of Weeks” (Exod 34:22; Deut 16:10) because it was 7 weeks after the first grain was harvested and also “50 days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Lev 23:16). Pentecost = Grk for 50th.

Pentecost was one of the three main feasts of the Jewish year—along with Passover and the Feast of Booths/Day of Atonement. The first feast of the year was Passover in March/April when Israel was to remember the night when the LORD killed the firstborn of the Egyptians, passed over the Israelites. Led to their Exodus, their deliverance.

Pentecost was the next festival. In May/June. It was timed with the harvest of grain. When Israel got to the land of Canaan they were to plant their crops. When the first grain was harvested, usually barley, they were to count off seven weeks, and then they were to gather.

It was to celebrate God’s provision. It was to be a time of rejoicing. It was a time to celebrate the harvest. God brought the harvest. There was sowing and caring for the crops. And then the harvest!

That’s why Pentecost is such a fitting time for…Pentecost. The day of Pentecost began with 120 disciples praying together. By the end of the day there was a harvest: “Those who received his word were baptized, and there added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

But it wasn’t just “A day of Pentecost” but “THE day of Pentecost.” It was a day of God doing something he had been prophesying for centuries.

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:29)
14 For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; 15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. (Isa 32:14–15)
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16)
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4–5)

1500 times the calendar and the harvest cycle told them it was the day of Pentecost. But then there was THE day of Pentecost when something truly unique and historical was going to happen.

God’s plan of redemption was moving forward. Jesus had just been crucified to pay for our sins, raised to life again after 3 days so that we might walk in newness of life, he had ascended to the Father’s right hand, and now the Son of God would fulfill this final piece of his redemptive work.

This was no ordinary vacation day in the work calendar. This was THE day of Pentecost.

II. What Happened?

Now we want to see what exactly happened.

Acts 2:1–3: As the 120 gathered are “filled with the Holy Spirit,” God includes signs and wonders as part of it. But these aren’t random signs. Three elements: (1) from heaven, (2) a sound like a mighty rushing wind, (3) fire. Calls to mind the Exodus and Mt. Sinai:

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. (Exod 19:16)

Throughout history God multiples signs and wonders when he’s doing something he doesn’t want us to miss. Here the signs and wonders multiply: from heaven, a sound like a mighty rushing wind, visible fire.

It’s something as momentous as what happened on Mt. Sinai.

And then we read what that something is: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). These disciples were already believers but now “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” They knew who Jesus was and believed in him. But now “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

Don’t pass too quickly over that word, “FILLED.” It’s filling a glass to the top. It’s an empty vessel now being full.

The Spirit is often connected to water images. The Spirit is poured out. People are filled with the Spirit. Jesus speaks of the Spirit as “living water.” Isaiah speaks of the Spirit like it’s water in a desert. The Bible says we drink of the Spirit. The Bible talks about being “baptized in the Spirit,” which has the idea of being immersed in the Spirit. As immersed as when you jump in a river and go completely under.

The Spirit is refreshing, life giving, how God satisfies our thirst for him, cleansing.

This language of filling and fullness isn’t just here. In the book of Ephesians Paul exhorts us to experience the same thing:

Be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:19)

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18)

May God do that to us—fill us to overflowing!

When those first disciples are filled with the Spirit, things happen! They “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

  • In the rest of the NT, “speaking in tongues” means you speak a language YOU don’t know and a listener doesn’t know (Acts 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor 12–14).
  • But here the SPEAKER doesn’t know the language but the LISTENER does.
  • The disciples are simple men and women.
  • For them to speak all these languages and dialects was an obvious miracle.
  • Everyone there knew it.
  • It was so stunning the listeners asked, “What does this mean?”

But this miracle made something else possible—evangelism to “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).

  • Jesus said the disciples would be filled with the Holy Spirit to become witnesses throughout Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)—here it’s beginning to happen!
  • These first hearers are still only “Jews” (v. 5), but “every nation” is represented.
  • Fifteen countries are listed that capture lands to the north and east of Israel, northern Africa, and then the all-important Rome.
  • It’s an image of the gospel going from from Jerusalem—even from the temple itself—to all the world.

In these few verses you get a powerful picture of what the Holy Spirit does in people:

  • Makes them overflow with declaring the praises of God
  • Makes them evangelize to people they never could have without the Spirit
  • Changes people so much that others ask, “What does this mean?”
  • And…we don’t want to miss the other group of onlookers: “They are filled with new wine.”
  • Sometimes the Holy Spirit affects you in a way that makes others think you might be drunk—too much alcohol begins to affect your speech and behavior and mannerisms.
  • The point there isn’t that being filled with the Spirit makes you reckless and dangerous with impaired judgment—which is what drunkenness does.
  • It’s only to say that it affects you in ways other people can see and hear.
  • Peter will make that point in Acts 2:33.

But let’s think about their question, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12).

III. What Does It Mean?

When the question comes, Peter is ready. “What does this mean?” Peter answers with the greatest and most important sermon ever given by a Christian.

It’s the greatest and also the deepst. I’ve been studying this chapter of Acts for years, and this week I read an article on it by a guy who brought two or three things I hadn’t seen before. It’s deep waters. Peter’s sermon is amazing.

But don’t miss that it’s Peter preaching this sermon. Remember, just seven weeks before this he denied Jesus three times to a slave girl.

Now he’s here in the very center of Jewish life, likely in the temple itself, preaching boldly to essentially the same Jews who put Jesus to death. Thousands hear and thousands are saved by this one sermon.

The way he begins tells you this isn’t the same Peter. He’s been filled with the Spirit—Acts 2:14–15.

And then he gives the theological explanation for what has just happened—a THIS IS THAT explanation. This is what was prophesied centuries ago by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16).

The prophecy gives us the WHEN, WHO, and WHAT of the giving of the Spirit.

WHEN will it happen? “In the last days” (Acts 2:17).

  • If God is pouring out his Spirit, then it’s the last days.
  • If it’s the last days, then God is pouring out his Spirit.
  • “The last days” PLURAL continue until “the last day” SINGULAR (Acts 2:20).
  • Until the day of the Lord, which Paul says is when “the perfect comes” (1 Cor 13:10), these are days when the Lord is pouring out his Spirit.
  • The NT itself says that one day spiritual gifts will cease: The day Jesus breaks through the clouds and every eye sees him and we join him in the sky.
  • On that day spiritual gifts will cease.
  • No gift of healing will be necessary because no one will be sick.
  • No word of knowledge will be necessary because we’ll know Jesus.
  • No gift of mercy needed b/c all of our needs met in Jesus our Shepherd.
  • Doesn’t mean every day each of us will have our own Pentecost.
  • But it means on any given day we might!

WHO will pour out the Spirit?

  • This is powerful.
  • The first answer is “God,” “I will pour out my Spirit”—Acts 2:17. We naturally think “God the Father.”
  • But…the sermon will develop this more.
  • As Peter walks through the story of Jesus from the incarnation to the crucifixion to the resurrection, he gets to the ascension.
  • Listen to Peter here—Acts 2:33.

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:33)

  • Who will pour out the Spirit? Jesus!
  • The Jews had expectations about the coming Messiah. They knew he would be anointed with the Spirit (Isa 61:1). But the fulfillment was even greater. He was also the one to POUR OUT the Spirit.

This reminds us just how glorious Jesus is. That he is fully God. Only God can pour out the Spirit of God on the people of God. That’s what Jesus the Son of God has done, and in some ways he is doing.

WHAT will it be like when the Spirit is poured out?

First, it’s “POURED OUT.” A deluge. Like a dam breaking. A river flooding across a dry field. Jesus wasn’t stingy in giving the Spirit. It wasn’t a SPIRITUAL SIP. There’s no sprinkling of the Spirit. This isn’t a Spirit drizzle. He’s “poured out.”

Our God is generous with us. He’s ready to pour out the Spirit on his people.

Second, “ON ALL FLESH.”

  • This is the GREAT CHANGE that happened on the day of Pentecost.
  • People operated in the power of the Spirit before. But now “ON ALL FLESH.”
  • “your sons and your daughters”— gender barrier removed. BOTH genders have equal access to the power of the Spirit.
  • “young men…old men” — age barrier removed. You’re not too young and you can’t be too old for the Spirit.
  • “my male servants and female servants” — class barrier removed. Kings or beggars, fishermen or Roman Centurions. The powerful in a society or the very lowest. All can receive the Spirit.


  • In some ways this prophecy from Joel 2 is like the 1 Corinthians 12–14 of the OT.
  • It gives us a massive amount of variety and diversity in the spiritual gifts God gives.
  • “They shall prophesy”—broadly defined. Remember, this is the explanation for the speaking in tongues that’s just happened. “Prophesy” here is really all the ways God inspires people to speak to others.
  • Dreams, visions—revelatory gifts. People are given images and scenes instead of words. But it’s still God speaking to them. In Acts Paul will see in a vision a man from another country and know it was God telling him to go to that country to preach the gospel.
  • Wonders and signs (Acts 2:19)—Peter adds the word “signs” to the Joel text. Gives us “wonders” and “signs.” And then in Acts 2:22 he’ll speak of Jesus doing “wonders and signs.” Stephen the deacon in Acts 6:8 is described as doing “wonders and signs.” Philip the deacon in Acts 8:6 is said to do “signs.”
  • A wonder is a mighty work of God that is…wonderful.
  • A sign is a work of God as well, but the emphasis is on what the sign points to.
  • It reveals something about God or the gospel or the truth of what’s being taught.
  • When the lame man is healed in Acts 3 it’s really a wonder and a sign.
  • It’s a wonder because something wonderful has happened.
  • It’s a sign that the name of Jesus is powerful and saves!

This variety is important. Reminds us that when someone is filled with the Holy Spirit it can look a lot of different ways:

  • Might be tongues and prophecy
  • Dreams and visions
  • Signs and wonders
  • But in Acts 13 the evidence is a new experience of joy
  • Sometimes it’s boldness in evangelism
  • A new overwhelming sense of the love of God (Rom 5:5; Eph 3:14–19).
  • The key is that it’s an experience with God that leaves you changed.
  • Can almost look like you’ve been converted.

This Joel prophecy says a lot!

But then Peter’s sermon also gives us the SO WHAT?


The so what speaks to us right here and right now.

Look at Acts 2:36–39

  • Repent and be baptized—notice the order.
  • Some of you haven’t repented.
    • Living your own life as if God doesn’t exist.
    • As if you have total control of what you do and no one will judge you for it.
    • But the truth is, God is there. He sees everything you do. And he will judge you for it.
    • But he sent his Son as an offering for sin.
    • Like in 2:36, see Jesus as “Lord and Christ.”
    • The sacrifice for sin you need.
  • Then we’re baptized—Baptisms on May 30th!
  • You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—hear this promise with the rest of what we have in the book of Acts. Can’t read it in isolation from everything else.
  • If you read 2:38 by itself then it sounds like an absolute law: First you repent, then you’re water baptized, then you’re filled with the Spirit.
  • That isn’t Peter’s point or Luke’s point.
  • Sometimes a person believes and water baptized but not filled with Spirit (Samaritans).
  • Or filled with the Spirit before they’re water baptized (Cornelius, Paul).
  • But…faith/repentance are always first.
  • Acts shows us what to do if someone has believed and is water baptized but hasn’t been Spirit baptized to their knowledge: Pray and lay hands on them.

And then Peter emphasizes the invitation with this promise—Acts 2:39.

  • “for you and for your children”
  • Your child needs to “repent and be baptized.”
  • A parent “repenting and being baptizing” doesn’t affect the spiritual state of the child.
  • It does affect the spiritual home and environment of the child.
  • But each child has to “repent and be baptized.”
  • “for all who are far off.”
  • Everyone… “whom the Lord calls to himself”—the invitation is for everyone, but who responds is in the Lord’s hands.

But with those caveats, hear Peter’s invitation: Acts 2:38–39!

To remind us that this invitation is for us, Sam Taylor’s testimony.

Sam Taylor’s testimony.

Response in prayer.

Closing song.

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