Acts 2:1-4

1 1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. NASU

Together in One Place

On the Day of Pentecost the disciples "were all together in one place." A couple of questions about this arise: (1) Where were the disciples? (2) What is the meaning of "all together?"

As background for our discussion, let us consider what took place right after the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:12-15). The disciples returned from mount Olivet to Jerusalem and went to the upper room where some of them were staying. The upper room was their headquarters. The disciples who were staying there, along with others, were continually devoting themselves to prayer. Luke describes their attitude with the Greek word homothumadon, which means "with one accord" or "with one mind." Thus, they were in an upper room praying with one accord.

Ten days later, the disciples "were all together in one place." According to Acts 2:2, they were sitting in a house, but Luke does not say what house. When the Spirit came upon them, a crowd gathered. Because a crowd was able to hear the disciples, some believe that they were in the Temple courts. In Acts 7:47 the Temple was called a house. Moreover, it was the third hour (9:00 a.m.) of the day (Acts 2:15). Believers might have been at the Temple for prayer.

Many others, however, think that the disciples were in the upper room mentioned in Acts 1:13. A large crowd could not gather in the upper room. Therefore, when the Spirit came upon them, they may have left the upper room, met the crowd in the streets, and moved on to the Temple.

The disciples were all "together (homou)." In this verse, Luke does not stress that they were "in one accord" or "with one mind." Here, Luke uses the Greek word homou rather than homothumadon (Acts 1:14). Homou means simply "together" physically. We can be sure, however, that a sense of unity prevailed among the disciples. Today, we often use the word "together" in the metaphorical sense of being united in our views.

Noise Like a Violent Rushing Wind

As the disciples were sitting in the house, a noise like a violent rushing wind suddenly filled the whole house. Luke does not say there was a wind, but that there was a noise that sounded like a violent (biaias) rushing wind. Another translation of biaias (violent) is mighty. A violent or mighty wind creates a huge noise.

Luke uses a simile to describe what happened. A "noise like a violent rushing wind" filled the whole house. The wind, as a figure of speech, can have several meanings. We need not limit the figure to one meaning. Indeed, by recognizing more than one meaning, the richness of the figure is made evident.

Here, we could say that the wind (pnoe) represents the Spirit Himself. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, but it also can mean wind. Luke uses the word pneuma concerning the Spirit in verse 4. However, we might say also that the wind represents the presence of God. The sound of the wind rushing signaled that God was present. In addition the wind can be a symbol of the Spirit's power. On the Day of Pentecost there was a sound of a powerful wind. Putting all this together, it is apparent that the sound of the rushing violent wind reminds us of the Spirit manifesting Himself in power.

Tongues Like as of Fire

Another simile appears in verse 3. Luke writes, "And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them." As in the case of the wind, it was not actual flames of fire that appeared, but rather "tongues as of fire."

The emblem of fire is rich in meaning. At a minimum the fire represents the presence of God (Exodus 3:2 and 19:18). The presence of God among us has many results. Here, as Bruce (p. 54) points out, the fire as well as the wind is an emblem of the Spirit's power. Although some would emphasis the power of the Spirit to transform us inwardly, the major point of the context is that the disciples are empowered to speak prophetically.

Given this, we can see the connection between Luke 3:16-17, Luke 12:, and Acts 2:3. According to Luke 3:16-17, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire will result in the separation of the wheat and the chaff. In Luke 12: the fire that Jesus kindles results in discord and division. The division foretold in both of these passages is brought about by the preaching of the Spirit-empowered Word. Thus, in Acts 2:3 tongues as of fire represent the empowerment of the Spirit. The disciples will proclaim a Spirit-inspired message.

As the fire-like tongues distributed themselves, they rested on each of the disciples. According to Robertson, "distributing" is a present middle or passive participle. If the middle voice is accepted, the tongues as of fire were parting themselves asunder and distributing themselves. However, if we choose the passive voice, then "being distributed" is the better translation. Robertson concludes (p. 21) that "the middle is probably correct." This suggests that something with the appearance of a mass of fire appeared over the group then broke up into single fire-like flames.

Filled with the Spirit

Concerning the disciples, Luke writes, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." It was this experience that Jesus mentioned in Acts 1:5. Here, in Acts 2:4, Jesus baptizes the disciples in the Holy Spirit. As a result of the baptism in the Spirit, the disciples were empowered to speak in tongues. This is a major event in the "empowerment" history that Luke writes.

When Luke says (verse 4) the disciples were filled with the Spirit, he uses the Greek word eplesthesan, which is the aorist passive form of pimplemi or pletho. Luke uses some form of pimplemi in connection with the Spirit the following eight times: Luke 1:15; 1:41; 1:67; Acts 2:4; 4:8; 4:31; 9:17; and 13:9. In Acts 13:52 he uses another verb, pleroo, for "filled."

Three times prior to the Day of Pentecost, Luke used the term "filled" with the Spirit. According to Luke 1:15-16, John the Baptist would be filled with the Spirit "and" he would turn many of the sons of Israel back to God. John would do this, of course, through his powerful message. Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-42), the mother of John the Baptist, was filled with the Spirit. As a result of the filling, she spoke prophetically. John's father, Zacharias, was filled (Luke 1:67) with the Spirit "and" he prophesied.

The empowerment theme continues in the Book of Acts. According to Acts 2:4, the disciples were filled with the Spirit "and" began to "speak with other tongues (lalein heterais glossais) as the Spirit gave them utterance." Two more times, Luke (Acts 10:46 and 19:6) Luke mentions speaking in tongues (lalein glossais). When people speak in tongues, they speak in a language that they have not learned. On the day of Pentecost the disciple spoke in languages known to the hearers but not to the speakers. As we will see (Acts 2:11), the tongues spoken by the disciples became a powerful witness to the gathered crowd.

The disciples spoke in tongues as the Spirit "gave them utterance." According to Robertson (p. 22), the Greek word for utterance (apophtheggesthai) is used only here, in Acts 2:14, and in Acts 26:25. This word, says Robertson (p. 22), "is used of eager, elevated, impassioned utterance."

Salvation

A major school of thought holds that Pentecost has to do with salvation. The outpouring of the Spirit resulted, according to this view, in the disciples becoming truly New Testament believers. In effect, this view says, "They were filled with the Spirit and were saved." It is at this time that they entered the new covenant relationship with God. There are, of course, many variations of this view.

Contrary to this view, there is nothing in the immediate context (Acts 2:1-4) that would suggest that this is a salvation moment. Moreover, as we have seen, the emphasis of Luke-Acts as a whole is on empowerment, not on the work of the Spirit in such matters as entry into the body of Christ, regeneration, justification, sanctification, and adoption. This does not mean Luke is unconcerned about salvation. He is reporting that the disciples were empowered to take the message of salvation to the world.

George M. Flattery

Sources


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Unpublished Dissertation

Palma, Anthony David. "Tongues and Prophecy--A Comparative Study in Charismata" Unpublished Master of Sacred Theology Thesis, Concordia Seminary, 1966.

Copyright © 2001. GMF