Wind and Fire

Reading: Acts 2.1-6
The brand-new limousine stood in the driveway. The paintwork sparkled. The upholstery had that new-leather smell.

"Hey Pete!" called Andy, "Have a look at this engine!"

"Real power there!" chipped in Jim who had just come from examining the new special-profile tyres.

"Hop in," said John, already in the driver's seat getting the feel of the wheel. "Drop the bonnet first! Mr Gee shouldn't be long. Wants us to take this thing from Burdekin to Brisbane!"

"Fantastic!" commented Pete, carefully closing the door after him. "Boy, is this comfortable! You'd better give us all a turn at the wheel, John. Even though you've been pretty close to Mr Gee, I don't think he meant the rest of us to be passengers all the time, you know!"

"Where is Mr Gee? It's days since we saw him!"

"I'm becoming anxious to get going. I know we're waiting for that special fuel he promised, but we'd be closer to going if we rolled it out on the road."

"Fantastic! What incredible suspension!"

"Mr Gee had better hurry up, or we'll never make it to Brisbane on time!"

"We have had some instructions on how to run this thing - quite a lot of instructions really, when you think about it! If you fellows don't mind hopping out again and giving a push, I do think it's time to get going!"...


The disciples of Jesus had been given a task. He had told them, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Mt. 28.19-20).

He had said, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Lk. 24.46-49).

He ordered them, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1.4-5,8).

"Make disciples," "be my witnesses to the ends of the earth" - an impossible task! What could they do - trim the task to something more realistic? Jesus had made two important interlocking promises - "I will be with you" and "I will send the Holy spirit, then you will receive power."

Unlike our four imaginary friends, Pete, Andy, Jim and John, they waited. During that time of waiting, they were conscious of the mission they had been given - that's why they chose Matthias to fill the vacancy in their numbers - "one of these must become a witness with us of [Jesus'] resurrection" (Acts 1.21). And "they all joined together constantly in prayer" (v.14a). What else did they do? We don't know - except that they didn't attempt to get the mission rolling! They waited!

Wind and Fire!

Pentecost was an important festival held seven weeks ("a week of weeks") after Passover. It was a harvest festival when the first of the wheat crop was being brought in (Lev. 23.15-21; Ex. 34.22a). It also became a time when Jews celebrated the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai. A traditional belief grew that, when God spoke the Law at Sinai, his voice was heard by every nation in its own language.

On this day of Pentecost, the believers gathered together for prayer as usual. "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2.1-4).

Noise like the blowing of a violent wind, what seemed to be tongues of fire, talking in other languages - filled with the Spirit. This was an important moment of history. As marked by the Joel prophecy, God was now going to pour out his Spirit "on all people" (Acts 2.17). That was it. Not the wind or the fire or the other languages, but God's Spirit poured out on his people!

This had never happened before. Up to this point, the Spirit had only been given to isolated individuals for specific purposes - craftsmen working on the tabernacle (Ex. 31.2), prophets, priests and kings. From this point on, there would be a wider ministry of the Spirit in the individual and corporate life of the Lord's people - "I will pour out my Spirit on all people"! And that wider ministry also meant a more powerful influence of the Spirit on unbelievers, bringing conviction of sin, leading them to repentance and faith and to a new birth.

What Happened?

We have often become so preoccupied with questions of how much of this historical event should be repeated for the individual or the church body that we have missed what happened. In fact, the signs of that day have only rarely been repeated, if ever. Most do not expect the wind and the fire, and the speaking in tongues in later N.T. and more recent times appears to be a completely different phenomenon from what happened in Acts 2.

"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit" - this is the factor in common between these first Christians and all who believe. What happened then?

There was a clear and powerful witness to the risen Lord Jesus, the divine plan of salvation in Jesus and the call to repentance (vv. 22-24, 32-33,36,38,39).

Three thousand people on that day believed the message and were baptised. They became new people, and these transformed individuals became Christ's body, the Church - caring for one another to a staggering extent (vv. 43-47) and carrying the good news wherever they went. Persecution and even martyrdom didn't stop them - it only pushed them out of their "Jerusalem club" to carry the message further throughout the land (note 8.1-4)!

"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit!"

Be Filled with the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is God's mark of ownership on the believer. You cannot be a believer without the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who has brought you to faith. It is the Spirit who has sealed your faith with the new birth, the new creation. Jesus had disciples and followers before Pentecost. But never before had there been any Christians - ones in whom the Spirit of Christ dwelt.

So if you truly believe, the Holy Spirit has been given to you, but that's a beginning, not an end, of the matter! The passing away of the old and the coming of the new! The producing of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal. 5.22-23)! Developing the character of Christ within you. Granting gifts for your ministry within the Body and for the Body's mission in the world.

If you truly believe, then the Holy Spirit has been given to you, so "do not grieve the Spirit of God" (Eph.4.30), but "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph.5.18). Because God cares for you and for the whole Body, he deals with us in a whole variety of ways. Instead of arguing about God's beautiful variety, we need to encourage one another in our constant need to "be continually being filled with the Spirit."

If you have never truly believed in Jesus Christ who died for you, who is alive, who is Lord - then know that his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, has been at work within you to bring you to see your need to receive Jesus as your Saviour, to trust him, to bring you to the new birth. Do not resist him any longer. Repent and believe the good news.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Home Hill and Ayr Uniting Churches, 3 June 2001
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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