When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. – Acts 2:1
This verse is the subject of so very much misunderstanding, contention and disagreement. For now, we will focus on what this “one place” means. Some people are stuck on the “upper room” of Acts 1:13. But that just does not work. The attraction of attention that follows in the verses to come because of the sounds of voices indicates that they were present in some publicly accessible place. Some house with a large courtyard or very close to a large area of the temple compound is most likely where the maximum amount of pilgrims who speak other languages would be able to hear what happened.
The next question, of course, is who “they” refers to in the above verse. Again, there are many who are stuck, in this case on the 120 people mentioned in Acts 1:15. But that does not work either for more than one reason. It has now been 10 days since Jesus ascended to heaven. Before the early church fathers started putting chapter divisions in the Books of the New Testament, context for that first verse above would be easier. The comments of Don Dewelt and J.W. McGarvey do a good job of explaining this:
“The persons thus assembled together and filled with the Holy Spirit were not, as many have supposed, the one hundred and twenty disciples mentioned in a parenthesis in the preceding chapter, but the twelve apostles. This is made certain by the grammatical connection between the first verse of this chapter and the last of the preceding. (J.W. McGarvey, The Acts of the Apostles, Cincinnati, Standard Publishing Company,” 1892)
“The fact that the antecedent of any pronoun is found by referring back to the nearest noun (or pronoun) with which it agrees in number etc., clenches the argument of the baptism of only the apostle’s in the Holy Spirit.” (Don Dewelt, Acts Made Actual, Joplin, Missouri, College Press, 1958)
And the last verse of Chapter one says:
“And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.“
What happened was the sound of a mighty rush of wind (not actual wind) filling the house, and divided tongues “as of fire” rested on each one of the apostles (not literal fire – but resembling fire). They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Then we are told that (especially because of Passover) there were devout men from every nation dwelling in Jerusalem; and a multitude of them heard what was happening and came to see and hear for themselves.
Each of them heard the apostles speaking in their own language. Verses 9-11 name a laundry list of countries with different languages that the people hailed from. Of course, they were amazed; and then something important was said: “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?”
That is another clue that only the Apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on this occasion. The fact that all of them were Galileans could only fit with the Apostles themselves. Even if it were possible that the 120 people who others insist upon were all from Galilee, these people could not identify so many as being so! Also, Jesus Himself made a promise only to the apostles that “the Helper” would come, and they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, Acts 1:5).
Why is it important to understand that? This “Helper” that they receive will be with them forever (John 14:16), so they would have the power and understanding that the Lord intended for them to have to perfect the word of God and His church before they all are done on this earth. This was the responsibility of the Apostles, as His chosen messengers.
The ability at this time to speak in other tongues was no parlor trick either. It served to show many people from many nations that this was an act of God, and that these men were speaking for the Lord. Each of them would return eventually to their lands, and the gospel would literally spread like wildfire – getting its first big opening boost from this day.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.