Last week, Al talked about the Holy Spirit coming upon the Disciples. And they all started speaking in different languages that they were not used to speaking in. And the Jews at Jerusalem, who had come from different nations and had different languages, all heard the disciples speak in their own language.
Now, how many different languages do we have here in this room today?
Would you all be amazed if I started speaking to each one of you in your own language?
I would be amazed, that’s for sure.
Actually, in our Bible study text message thread, I send out a weekly Bible study reminder each Tuesday. And on one particularly Tuesday, I had just added Niel and Rabpreet, who are from India, to the group thread. And so I used Google Translate to craft a Bible study reminder message in Hindi.
And later I got a text message reply from Niel saying that he was very impressed with my Hindi. But really, I can’t take any credit. It was Google Translate doing all the work for me.
I guess you could say my spiritual gift was not speaking in another language, but rather knowing how to use technology. (And I’m kidding of course).
But these Apostles did not have Google Translate. What happened to the Apostles was that the Holy Spirit came upon them.
And all the Jews listening, who had come from different nations, were amazed, because these men who were Galileans, were speaking in other languages that they did not know.
Now, I know I say this, and there may be a number of you who are skeptical of this. And indeed it is a supernatural event. But just to make this real for you, I’m going to share with you a testimony of the opposite case.
Dr. Richard Gallagher is an Ivy League-educated, board-certified psychiatrist who teaches at Columbia University and New York Medical College.
Dr. Richard Gallagher proudly calls himself a “man of science.” However, he has become an expert, or as much of an expert as one can be, in the area of demonic possession.
Upon the request of some clergyman, he will do a thorough evaluation of a patient, and determine if the mental problems are of some medical or psychiatric disorder, or if the patient is dealing with a demonic attack of some kind, with the most serious of which being possession.
Diagnosing patients as being demonically possessed was not part of Dr. Gallagher’s career plan while he was studying medicine at Yale University.
He knew about the biblical accounts of demonic possession, but he always thought they were an ancient culture’s attempt to grapple with mental disorders like epilepsy.
But Dr. Gallagher says demonic possession is real.
And he says a sure sign that you are dealing with a demonically possessed person, and not just some mentally troubled person, is when that person starts speaking a language perfectly, when they have no way of knowing that language. Also, if they possess hidden knowledge of things they should not know.
And he says he has seen it. He has witnessed it.
He has seen victims suddenly speaking perfect Latin. People displaying “hidden knowledge” or secrets about people that they could not possibly have known. And there is other evidence as well. But those two are relevant for our topic now.
So people speaking in a language they have no experience in is not unique to our text here in Acts. Nor is it even restricted to this time period. Because Dr. Richard Gallagher says he has witnesses victims possessed with a demon speak in other languages in the 20th and 21st century.
I say this because this account might seem very fanciful, and make-believe to you at first. But it is very much real and possible. And Dr. Peter Gallagher is one of many witnesses who have seen people speak in languages that they previously had no knowledge of. But for the disciples, instead of being filled with a demon, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now seeing this strange occurrence, that is the Apostles speaking in other languages, the crowd mocked the Apostles, saying that they were drunk with wine.
If wine could make you speak in other languages, maybe we should all be drinking wine. (kidding of course).
Now Peter assures the crowd that they are not drunk. And after refuting the crowd, Peter begins to preach, and to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.
Let’s begin reading starting at verse 22:
22 [You] men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as [you] yourselves also know:Acts 2:22 KJV
Here in verse 22, Peter uses three words to show that the power of God was uniquely at work in the life of Jesus, proving that he was indeed the promised Messiah, the savior of the world.
He says miracles, wonders, and signs.
The first word “miracles” calls attention to the power of God at work through the person of Jesus. I often bring up the scenario that if a 33 year old man came up to you, and claimed to be God; and said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father”; and said, “I and the Father are One”; and said, “before Abraham was, I am”. You would not believe such a person.
And neither would I. I would think he was a lunatic.
But if that same person started doing miracles. If that same person gave sight to a person born blind. Healed a lame person. Completely cured a man from leprosy. Raised a man back to life after 3 days of being dead. Well, that makes it easier to begin believing that that person might be God.
A person has to do God like things, in order for me to begin to think that He might be God.
And miracles are abilities that only God can do. And we know for certain that Jesus’ life and ministry was full of some very extraordinary miracles.
And Jesus did not just do simple miracles (as if miracles could ever just be simple). But Jesus did miracles that created a sense of awe and wonder among those who saw it.
In Luke, chapter 9, Jesus healed a young boy possessed with a devil. And apparently it was a remarkable thing what Jesus did because the disciples were not able to do it. But Jesus was. And the crowd responded:
42 And as [the child] was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and [the boy convulsed violently]. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did…Luke 9:42-43 KJV
So it’s safe to say that everyone was amazed and in awe in seeing the miracles that Jesus performed. And what we just read was one of many, many miracles.
Now the third word, “signs”, carries the meaning that Jesus’ miracles were not just random miracles for entertainment, but instead they signified, and authenticated, the message he was preaching.
In Mark, Chapter 2, when Jesus saw the paralytic man coming down from the room in his sick bed, the first thing Jesus said to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven”. Then certain Jewish scribes responded, “Why does this man speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?”
Then Jesus responded:
9 “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”–He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”Mark 2:9-12 NKJV
Jesus did this miracle as a sign, so that the Jewish leaders could know that Jesus is the Son of God.
Now going back to our text, Peter said that these miracles Jesus did, Jesus did publicly, in their presence. Peter said, “as even you yourselves know”.
The people of Jerusalem saw and heard about all the miracles Jesus did. They knew Jesus claimed to be God. They also knew that Jesus, who claimed to be God, was crucified and died on the cross.
Understandably, this would be a very hard concept for the Jews to understand. If Jesus was God, and could do amazing miracles, why could He not save Himself from death.
Peter begins to explain:
23 Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, [you] have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:Acts 2:23 KJV
Jesus being “delivered” by God means that Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan. It was part of God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge.
The word “foreknowledge” means “to know beforehand because of preplanning”. In other words, God knew the Messiah would die because He planned His death in advance. It was predestined for the Messiah to die.
The Greek word for “foreknowledge” is prognosis. When a patient is seriously sick with a disease, they will ask the doctor, what is your prognosis? The doctor will be able to forecast and tell in advance the outcome of the disease, and what needs to be done in order for that patient to live.
In other words, the Doctor knows before hand what is going to happen, and what needs to happen, so that the patient may live.
Well, we humans have a spiritual sickness that the Bible calls sin. And it started all the way back in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve. And because God gave us a free will, all so that we could exercise real love in this world, God knew beforehand that we would also sin.
And so from the very beginning, God knew the prognosis of creating men and women in His own image, with the real ability to choose to love, or to not love. To obey, or to disobey.
But along with God’s prognosis, God also prepared an antidote to solve this problem of sin. And the antidote involved: 1) Jesus dying on the cross as a perfect sacrifice; 2) God’s people confessing and repenting of their sins; 3) and God’s people accepting God’s protocol of how to become healed and cleansed from this spiritual disease of sin.
You know, when you are physically sick with a serious disease, you do not reject the doctor’s words just because you do not like the medicine, or because of how inconvenient the treatment process is. Instead, you do whatever it takes because the doctor is telling you the truth, and you want to get well.
And the doctor also doesn’t force you to take the medicine, or to get treatment. If you refuse treatment, the doctor is morally and legally bound to respect your freedom of choice.
Well, the same is true about your spiritual state. Jesus is our Great Physician. And Jesus in the Bible is also telling you the truth about your human condition. That you need help. That you can’t be a good person on your own. That you have offended God and that you will have to give an account to Him of all the things you have done in your life, whether they be good or bad.
And like a good doctor, God also will not force you to make the decision to become permanently healed and cleansed from your sin.
So in God’s prognosis, in God’s foreknowledge, God planned the death of his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. And He did it so you and I could be healed, and be restored back into a right relationship with God, being filled with His presence through the Holy Spirit, and in the future, life in the New Heavens and New Earth.
Now back to our verse, we read:
23 [Jesus], being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, [you] have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:Acts 2:23 KJV
The wicked hands here means the Pharisees and Sadducees, the leaders who represent the Jewish people. And the guilt of the leaders is the guilt of the whole nation. So Peter groups the whole Jewish audience with the “wicked hands” of the Pharisees and Sadducees, saying “you” have taken Jesus and crucified Him and killed Him.
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that [death should hold Him].Acts 2:24 KJV
Peter moved on to the resurrection of Jesus. The Greek word for “pains,” ōdin, means “birth pangs”. Like when a woman travails while giving birth to a baby. In our text, it is a picture of Jesus being born out of death.
It was impossible that death could keep the Messiah, the Christ, God’s Son, God himself, imprisoned forever.
So Peter’s story to the Jewish audience is simple:
1) Jesus came; 2) He presented His credentials by miracles, signs, and wonders; 3) He was rejected and killed; 4) then He was resurrected.
Then in the next few versus, Peter presents supporting arguments that Jesus was indeed the Messiah by quoting Pslam 16:8-11.
25 For David [speaks] concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because [you will] not leave my soul in hell, neither [will you] suffer [your] Holy One to see corruption. 28 [You have] made known to me the ways of life; [you shall] make me full of joy with [your] countenance.Acts 2:25-28 KJV
I will not spend too much on this for time sake, but Peter declares King David, second King of Israel, who was anointed with the Holy Spirit, to be the author of this Psalm.
And David, speaking of the Messiah, could rest in hope because even though the Messiah would be slain, God would not leave the Messiah in death to decay, but would raise him back to life.
29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy [Spirit], he hath shed forth this, which [you] now see and hear.Acts 2:29-33 KJV
Some rabbis had concluded from Psalm 16 that David’s body would not undergo decay. That David would somehow not die, or be brought back to life. But Peter is saying that David did die, his body is with them now, and that they can see his sepulcher, or his tomb. So David could not have possibly been talking about himself.
Peter declares that David understood the promises made to him from God, that a child from one of his descendants would be the Christ, and permanently sit upon the throne of David.
Peter says that David also understood that the Christ would die, but that God would not leave his body in death, but raise Him back to life. And then Peter confirms that this Christ that David is talking about is Jesus of Nazareth, whom Peter and the Apostles, and over 500 witnesses, saw alive after his death.
And then Peter confirms that the promise of the Holy Spirit has been poured out, just like Jesus promised after having now gone back to the Father.
It is this pouring out of the Holy Spirit that the crowd is now seeing and hearing, and appearing to them as “cloven tongues”, as of fire, according to Luke.
Remember, Luke was a doctor during his time. And no doubt they were all seeing strange things that they were not accustomed to seeing. And Luke, along with the other gospel writers, are trying to give us some helpful analogies describing what they saw.
When Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist said:
And the Holy [Spirit] descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon himLuke 3:22 KJV
John the Baptist was able to see visually the Holy Spirit fall upon Jesus, and described what he saw as having the shape of a dove. It does not literally mean that the Holy Spirit is a dove, but as an analogy, The Holy Spirit had the appearance of a dove.
In a missionary biography that I read dating back to the 1800’s, there was a scene where the travelers first experienced eating a banana while in India. In their diaries, they described the banana as tasting like a “rich pear”.
It is difficult to describe what a banana might taste like to a friend who has never seen or heard about a banana.
We take for granted being able to send pictures on our phones, and having almost everything in the world documented and labeled. But before technology, you had to use your words to describe new noises or new sights that you saw. And it was often challenging, especially for those who wrote the Bible, because they saw things outside the ordinary.
In the book of Revelation, John described an end time scene of a large fiery mountain falling to the earth from the sky.
And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;Revelation 8:8
Now that may sound a bit strange to us, but John did not have in his vocabulary a word for a meteorite hitting the earth. Actually, I think a great mountain burning with fire is a pretty good description of a meteorite.
So in our text, Luke saw what appeared as “cloven” or divided tongues, looking like fire, but not fire, falling upon the disciples.
The dividing of the “fire” into small, tongue-shaped flames, visually shows the giving of the Holy Spirit falling upon each of the disciples. It also shows the giving of different gifts and abilities wherewith each believer could serve God with.
In this case here in our text, each disciple speaking was given the ability of speaking in a different language.
The same has been true for every church throughout every generation. God pours out his Holy Spirit upon believers, and equips them with gifts and abilities so that they can faithfully serve God.
Remember, it is God Himself who is interested in spreading His gospel message. That is why God equips believers with unique gifts and abilities.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.Matthew 24:14 KJV
Let’s keep reading:
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he [said] himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make [your enemies your] footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom [you] have crucified, both Lord and Christ.Acts 2:34-36 KJV
In other words, let there be no doubt about the fact that God the Father has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, whom the Jews crucified.
Peter makes two points clear here. First, Jesus is God. Second, the Jews crucified God when they crucified Jesus.
This message really had an effect on the hearts of the Jews who were listening to Peter. We read:
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the [forgiveness] of sins, and [you] shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit].Acts 2:37-38 KJV
I like this word “pricked”. They were pricked in the hearts. Pricked means pierced with a sharp point; spurred; goaded; stung with pain;
Out at the farm, we have an abundance of these goat-head plants.
And they will drop their seed, and be a real thorn in your side as you try to work the land on your hands and knees.
What these plants will do is that they will prick you. And the pricks are painful enough that you will stop what you are doing in order for you to deal with the pain that you just experienced.
And that’s the same type of “pricking” that happened in the hearts of the Jews who heard Peter’s message. They felt genuinely bad now having understood that they killed their Messiah and their God. And this is what we call conviction.
Conviction is when your conscience charges you as guilty for some action you did.
Your conscience is a really interesting human trait to consider. We all have it. And where does it come from? We can’t control it. It’s always there accusing us if we doing something wrong. We can try to ignore it or drown out the voice of our conscience by distracting ourselves, but it’s always there nagging us. And it’s not even our own voice or thought.
And It’s your conscience that does the “pricking” of your heart. And that’s what the Jewish audience was experiencing in our text.
I remember when I was an atheist, I always thought I was a good person, because I would compare myself to some murderer or evil person in prison. Compared to them, I thought I was pretty good.
But when I started to read the gospel of John, and I read the righteous and holy life that Jesus lived, and his standard of righteousness, my heart was pricked. Compared to Jesus, I became ashamed of the type of life I was living, and the corrupt moral standard of goodness I defined for myself.
And when you are genuinely pricked in your heart, when you genuinely feel bad and remorseful for the things you have done, you inevitably ask, “what can I do?”
And that is what the Jews asked Peter.
Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
To repent means you have to change your mind. You have to change your mind about the way you are living your life. You have to change your mind about what is truly good and righteous. You have to change your mind about how you currently understand God, and accept God for who He truly is as revealed in the Scriptures.
This is what God wants from you.
You have to understand that God died on the cross for you. God had the capacity to put Himself on the cross, thinking of you. All so that you could be touched in your heart. That your heart could be pricked. And that you too will say in your heart, “what must I do?”.
And there is nothing more important, nothing more precious in this world, than a man and woman humbling themselves before God, confessing their sins to God, repenting of their sins, and trusting and believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.
There are three times in the Bible where angels are recorded as celebrating and having joy.
The first was during the creation week. The second was when Jesus was born. And the third, the Bible says:
…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.Luke 15:10
From this, you get a sense of how important it is to God for communicating the gospel message, and reconciling people back into a right relationship with God.
The Bible says very clearly, that in our natural state, we are enemies of God. And for Jews listening to Peter, that fact could not be more true, for those same Jews literally crucified God himself by crucifying Jesus.
And what Peter says God wants from them:
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
God is not asking for money from you. God is not asking for work from you. Or of some kind of sacrifice. All He wants from you is for you to give him your heart. And to acknowledge Him, and believe in Him. Doing so would mark the beginning of your relationship with God. And that is what God wants more than anything, and what the whole Bible is really all about.
God wants you to be in right relationship with Him. And not just in this life only, but also in the life to come, in the New Heavens and New Earth, for eternity.
And this is so important to God.
You have to understand that God loves you with a deep and everlasting love, more than a mother her child. I know for certain that my wife Angie loves my three kids very, very much. But you know what, Angie has not sat there and counted the number of hairs of each of my kids. You typically count things that are important to you.
You may count money. You may count trophies. You may count social media likes. The Bible says that God counts and knows the number of your hairs. You are very important to God.
So much so, that God was willing to die the most painful death imaginable, all so that you could be touched in your heart, pricked in your heart, that your heart be converted, and you restored into a right relationship with God.
Let’s jump down to verse 41, and finish out the rest of the chapter:
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.Acts 2:41-47 KJV
The second thing that Peter called the Jews to do was to be baptized.
To baptize means “to change one’s identity”. In a Jewish context, to baptize or immerse in water means to identify oneself with a message, a person, or a group.
There are actually many different kinds of baptisms.
For example, there is proselyte baptism. There was the baptism of John. But Peter is telling the Jews they must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ means you are associating yourself with Jesus Christ. You are identifying yourself with Him. When you identify yourself with Jesus Christ, you are also separating yourself from former groups. This could be separating yourself from your former religion. Separating yourself from other false gods. Separating yourself from a former sinful lifestyle.
Becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ requires you to be exclusive. God will not share you with other religions, or with other gods.
The act of baptism will also confirm the belief you already have in your heart.
We humans are such fickle creatures. We can easily be moved to adopt a new religion, accept a new philosophical teaching, or follow a new personality.
The solemn act of baptism confirms in God’s eyes the serious belief you already have in your heart.
It is similar to having a marriage ceremony. It is easy to meet a new person, and to be smitten by them. Initially, you say to yourself you want to marry that person. But by the end of the week, or month, you change your mind.
But when you are sure, you and your spouse will have a marriage ceremony where you declare to the world, and to God, your commitment to each other.
And the same is true when becoming a Christian. It is easy to be moved to want to follow God. But Jesus really wants you to be thoughtful, and sure, in your desire to follow him. Jesus taught through parables about the dangers of not giving your whole heart to God.
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.Luke 14:26 NKJV
To “hate” in this verse means to love less. In other words, if there is a person you love more than God, God is saying you cannot be my disciple. Obviously we can and should have a strong and fervent love for our spouse, and for our kids, and for our friends. But when you love those relationships more than God, that is a problem.
27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it– 29 “lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 “saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.Luke 14:27-33 NKJV
So you see, Jesus wants you to be sure in your commitment to follow Him. Which is why Jesus commands you to be baptized. It is hard to go through the process of baptism without thinking twice about your commitment to follow Christ.
When my wife Angie and I were engaged, and we were planning our wedding, there was a moment where she thought twice about her commitment to me.
She had all the wedding invitations in her hands, and she was by the mailbox. And at the moment before dropping all the envelopes inside the mailbox, she thought, once I do this, there is no turning back. Do I really want to be married forever to this person?
And fortunately for me, she said yes, and yes again.
But you see how the process of a marriage ceremony allowed Angie to confirm her commitment to me. And likewise, going through baptism will have that same effect on you as you confirm in your heart your desire to believe and follow Jesus.
And so you will ask yourself, do I really want to follow Jesus?
When you become double and triple sure that you want the blood of Jesus to cover your sins. If you are certain that you want to believe and follow Jesus, following through with baptism declares to the whole world, and to God, the seriousness of your belief.
And when you are faithfully obedient to the commandments of God (and God does command all professing believers to be baptized), when you are faithful to be obedient to God’s commands, then you can confidently stand on the promises of God.
And the promise of God for confessing Jesus as Christ, confessing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and following through with being baptized in the name of Jesus, Peter said: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
God pouring His Spirit out upon you is how God shows you have been accepted by Him, and adopted into the family of Abraham. Into the family of God.
And this is what the gospel message is all about. How you can be forgiven of your sins, adopted into the family of God, be restored into a right relationship with God, and inherit everlasting life.
Let me close in prayer.
Feel free to leave discussion comments below.
Q. What kind of credentials would you require from your University professor in order for you to do research under him, or to take his class?
Q. What kind of credentials would you require from God in order for you to trust in His written word and in his messengers?
Q. How do you understand being “pricked” in the heart? Have you ever been “pricked” in the heart?
Q. Why did God, according to his foreknowledge, deliver Jesus to be crucified?
Q. What does God want from us?
Q. What is the difference between only saying you believe in Jesus, and saying you believe in Jesus along with getting baptized?