Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Baptized with the Holy Ghost and Fire

Acts 2:1-13

Those who wait on the Lord are always blessed
After an extended prayer meeting (perhaps 7 days), their time of waiting was finally over. At last, the promised Spirit came. The last days began. Now the Gospel would be declared to all the earth in the power of the Spirit.

The account of the dedication of Solomon's Temple (2 Chronicles 5) bears some resemblance to this first Christian Pentecost. When the Temple was finally completed, all of the priests were sanctified, 120 priests sounded trumpets, then, as the priests sang and played in harmonious praise ("were as one" v. 13), the glory of the Lord filled the house in a cloud.

On the day of Pentecost about 120 people were in the house. They were together in prayer and praise. Rather than a cloud, this time the Lord came with the sound of a mighty wind (spirit and wind are denoted by the same word in both Greek and Hebrew).

The association of God's presence with mighty natural phenomena is witnessed repeatedly in the Old Testament (Ps 18:7-15; 97:2; 104:7; Hab 3:3-6; Deut 4:11).

The Spirit came with the sound of wind and the appearance of fire
"Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29; Deut 4:24 cf. Ex 24:17, 3:2-5). Spirit Baptism was prophesied by John the Baptist as a baptism "with the Holy Ghost and fire" (Luke 3:16). The Holy Spirit comes with fire, consuming all that is not like itself. We do well to welcome this consuming Flame, inviting him to judge all that is contrary to his holy nature.

A new temple
Now the temple of God is human. In this last day God lives in the bodies of men and women. Jesus, the new and better Temple, has taken us into himself, making us fit to receive the Spirit into ourselves. What a privilege to live in this wonderful age of grace.

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. -- Luke 7:28

New speech
When the Spirit came the disciples began to speak in tongues, giving praise to God. This was a sign (1 Cor 14:22), and it sure did work. A large crowd was drawn to these tongue talkers.

God's choice of tongues as a sign of his work is certainly fascinating. Speaking in a language that one does not know is without doubt an impossible task. Just as we cannot possibly speak in tongues ourselves, we cannot save ourselves, we cannot baptize ourselves in the Spirit, and we cannot live the Christian life to any degree ("for without me you can do nothing" John 15:15). Pentecost demonstrated clearly the absolute supernatural nature of the Christian religion.

The impossiblity of this sign immediately gave rise to an alternative explanation of the tongues speech -- they must be drunk. And history continues to repeat itself. Some people are receptive to mighty acts of God such as baptizing in the Spirit and the sign of tongues. Others scoff or try to explain it away. Some commentators on the book of Acts even claim that the disciples did not really speak in languages they had never learned. Barclay, for instance, gave reasons why he thought Luke's account highly unlikely, questioning this portion of Acts based on the idea that Luke was probably not an eye-witness. For me, the question is whether we will accept or reject the supernatural workings of our faithful Creator as revealed in Scripture.

The baptism in the Spirit given to the disciples is still being given today
The baptism is being given and the sign of tongues is being revealed today. The gift is not received by human merit. It is not manufactured by human zeal. The gift of the Spirit is freely given to those who will ask our loving Father and wait in the way God chooses (Luk 11:5-14; 24:49).