Acts and Mission 5

Pentecost.jpg We are looking at the Book of Acts, and we are looking at Acts through the lens of “mission,” and we are looking at the Book of Acts with the help of Beverly Gaventa’s commentary on Acts (The Acts of the Apostles (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries)

We are in Acts 2, the Story of Pentecost. The Story is the Story of God acting through the Holy Spirit to empower God’s people for mission. Our text today is Acts 2:5-13:

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

When the Spirit empowers God’s people, ….

1. Ordinary Jewish followers of Jesus are given words that proclaim God’s wonders. [These are not Gentile visitors but Jews, though there are some converts amongst them.]

2. The tongues of Acts 2 are ordinary languages and this suggests God wants the kingdom gospel to spread to all language groups. Those who heard the gospel in their language had come to Jerusalem from all over the world. So, we have followers of Jesus speaking in languages they did not know to the amazement of the onlookers.

3. Spirit empowerment provokes humans at the deepest: some respond positively while others mock and reject.

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  • Jim

    Thank you for the reminder that the Spirit empowers for mission and not just so we can stand around and say, “Oooooooo, tongues!” I have often thought that we can be like dogs. When I point toward something my dog always looks at my finger rather than what I am pointing toward. Seems to me that, if we are not careful, we can fail to see that to which the Spirit (and the signs an gifts) point if all we do is become enamored with the signs, gifts or the Spirit.
    Thank you for ALL of your work, Scott.

  • Travis Greene

    Any comment on this being a kind of reverse-Tower of Babel?

  • Scot McKnight

    Travis, yes, in the big picture, probably so: the unification of language groups through Spirit-inspired tongues undoes what we see at Babel. The thing about it for me is that it isn’t permanent. There are still massive language divisions.

  • Scot McKnight

    Travis, one more observation: Peter connects this event to Isaiah’s view of judgment on the leaders but does not clearly connect it to Babel. Or do you think he does?