Acts 2:1-21 – Pentecost


Acts 2:1-21


As promised by Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the “power from on high,” comes upon his followers as they are all gathered together in one place. This power appearing as “divided tongues, as of fire” and sounding “like the rush of a violent wind” is interpreted by Peter as God’s gift in accord with the words of the prophet Joel.


The story of Pentecost is crucial in Acts for several reasons. First, it  fulfills Jesus’ promise that the “power from on high” would come upon his followers to empower their witness (Luke 24:49). Second, the Holy Spirit is poured out on all the believers who are gathered together in Jerusalem. It is not a gift limited to the Twelve apostles or to men; it is given to the whole assembly, including women (see Acts 1:13-14). Finally,  the Spirit empowers believers  to testify in other known languages (“tongues”) to God’s work in Jesus the Messiah. This great gift is like the “deeds of power, wonders, and signs” (2:22) that God did through Jesus and will continue to do throughout  Acts. This work of the Spirit is consonant with the work of Jesus, who pours out the Spirit from on high (2:33).

Much of Acts details the ways in which the Spirit guides and empowers the leaders of the Christ movement.  The Spirit enables Peter and Paul to proclaim the gospel of Christ with boldness,  raise persons from the dead, heal the sick in Jesus’ name, and overcome the powers of other so-called deities and spirits. The Spirit equips Stephen to bear witness to Christ with wisdom and power (6:8, 10). The Spirit whisks Philip the evangelist from one place or another (8:26, 39-40). The Spirit falls upon Cornelius and his household even before Peter finishes speaking to them (10:44; 11:15). Many activities of believers in Acts are directed immediately by the Spirit or through dreams and visions.

All this energy for witness in word and deed comes to believers on the day of Pentecost. The Jewish festival of Pentecost, coming seven weeks after Passover, was both a harvest festival and celebration of God’s giving the law through Moses. The giving of the Spirit parallels the giving of the law, God’s gift to a renewed people who experience a foretaste of full salvation in the community of repentant believers. Because many Jewish pilgrims came from outside the Jewish homeland to Jerusalem for Pentecost, the good news of this salvation is immediately extended across social and cultural boundaries in Acts 2.