The disciples had seen Jesus many times in the weeks following His resurrection from the grave.  Certainly, if he could do that, they should pay attention to what He was saying.  Stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promised gift the Father would send them.

The second chapter in Acts describes what happened next.

Acts 2:
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Many Pentecostals and Charismatic Christians have paid great attention to the gift of speaking in tongues.  It was and still is miraculous when someone is empowered to speak an earthly language they have not previously learned. 

But greater than the miraculous sign is the destination it points to.  The empowerment of God’s Spirit makes a way for unlearned people to communicate God’s message across language and ethnic barriers.  This is what the presence of God’s Spirit in us will do.  We will receive the mission of Jesus to go with a message of God’s Love to people that we have previously believed we had nothing in common with.

When someone crosses the human borders to reach you with God’s message and love, it is amazing and perplexing.  It raises questions about why these people have come to care about you.  Greater than the miraculous sign of speaking in tongues is the cross-cultural, barrier transcending reversing of the effects of Babel.  Instead of separating people and increasing the differences, a true move of God’s Spirit brings reconciliation and community.

I have been and continue to be filled with God’s Spirit.  I have also spoken in tongues.  I believe that in the hundreds of world languages and thousands of dialects, these words are words of praise to God.  As the disciples were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues, their words were heard and meant something.

I am personally aware of real-time occasions when people speaking in tongues have said things that were recognizable to other language groups present to hear them.  Inevitably, the messages spoke of Jesus and glorified God.  I’ve been there and seen it first-hand.

Through the history of the Early Church, apostles prayed for people and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They began to speak in unknown languages and to prophesy in their own language.  Throughout Church History there have been pockets of believers who have experienced the same.  The Pentecostal revival of the early 1900’s has spanned the globe with more than fifty million Christians identifying their church association as Pentecostal.

But, Pentecostal has also been an adjective for people whose prayer and worship sometimes led to elitism and division.  Something as pure and holy as the infilling of God’s Spirit can lead arrogant people to build new towers of Babel.  It is possible to get filled with ourselves instead of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of Jesus calls us together in one place with one heart.  The disciples and followers came together with unity.  In this place of humility and commonness, the mission heart of Jesus is imparted. 

Throughout the New Testament all of history we see many examples of God’s people communicating the message of Jesus from their hometown to the most distant and culturally diverse people.

Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?  Has God empowered you to be His message to the world? 

This is what Jesus had in mind when he said that we would receive power after the Holy Spirit moved upon us.  We would then go into the entire world living and teaching the good news about Jesus.  We tell others about the things we have seen and heard, in ways that they will understand.  Have you been baptized in God’s Spirit?


Jon Reid said…
Great thoughts, Kevin! I don't pray in tongues as much as I used to. Some of it is that I'm not in a charismatic church. Some of it may be a reaction against a misplaced emphasis on it for its own sake. And when I hear broader preaching on it, it is usually from people who have never experienced the gift themselves, so the teaching is abstract. Thanks for bringing it together.