That Pentecost Sunday immediately following Christ’s resurrection forever changed what Pentecost stood for. From this point forward, Christians who have encountered the Holy Spirit as those 120 followers of Jesus did now call themselves Pentecostal. (Check out Acts 2:1-12, 16, 22-24, 37-39.)
If you had been present on that day, there were three pieces of evidence you would have noticed:
- Wind—this is the Greek word pneuma, which is the same as the Hebrew word ruach. This is the impartation of the Spirit that brings a true life connection to the Trinity (Genesis 2:7). This power was foretold by Jesus when He promised, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (Acts 1:8a).
- Fire—this was foretold by John (Luke 3:16). This fire was to light up our witness to a dark world (Matthew 5:14-16). Again Jesus promised, “you will receive power to be My witnesses…” (Acts 1:8b).
- Tongues—this fulfilled the promise of Jesus, “to be My witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8c).
Some have tried to call this speaking in tongues an “ecstatic utterance,” or just nonsensical gibberish. But notice the descriptions Luke gives: each one heard them speaking in his own language (v. 6), each of us hears them in his own native language (v. 8), and declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues (v. 11). Luke lists visitors from over 15 different places around the world that heard their native tongue being spoken by these native Galileans. Luke pointed out that these Spirit-baptized Christians spoke like this as the Spirit enabled them (v. 4b).
Two types of vocabulary are happening here—language (vv. 6, 8), which is the Greek word dialektos, and tongues (vv. 4, 11), which is the Greek word glossa.
Dialektos is a learned language. Glossa can also be learned, but it’s not something that one just casually picks up. The Greeks said glossa is “not a word of everyday speech but one belonging to dignified and elevated discourse.” The Greeks called glossa the language of prophets, wisemen, and philosophers.
“But,” you might say, “speaking in tongues sounds weird!” Yes, it does. As N.T. Wright said:
“God acts completely unexpectedly—as He always said He would.”
Remember this—God is God. He is uncontainable, indefinable. If we can define Him, He is not God, but we are. He always does things “out of the box”—at least out of our box, not His! Like sending His Son born of a virgin, and empowering Jesus to restore sight to one born blind, and enabling Jesus to cure someone who contracted leprosy, and even reversing the laws of biology to bring Jesus back to life!
So it’s not unexpected that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by someone praising God in a dialect they have never learned. Speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables you is the unmistakable, objective, outward, initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus wants us to have rivers of living water flowing—bursting!—out of us. This living water can flow out of anyone who has the Spirit IN them! Don’t wait another day: be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Please join me this Sunday as we consider some of the ongoing evidences in the life of someone baptized in the Holy Spirit.