WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

THE BOOK OF ACTS: PART THREE

SERMON DELIVERED ON 11-25-17

       Today we will continue in our journey through the book of Acts. Last week I spent much of the sermon time discussing what Jesus meant when He spoke of being baptized with the Spirit.  Today we will look at the events that occurred on Pentecost in AD 31 when the promised Holy Spirit arrived.

       Before we do that, however, I want to return to Acts chapter one where it is recorded that when the eleven Apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives after seeing Jesus ascend into the clouds of the sky, they went up to a upstairs room where they were staying.  The Greek rendered "upstairs" means an upper story room of a private house (Arndt/Gingrich Lexicon).

       Acts 1:12-14: Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city.  When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

       This listing of the eleven being present doesn't necessarily mean others could not have been staying at this location as well.  It is recorded that the eleven “all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”   Where the women, Mary and Jesus’ brothers also staying in the upper room?  Before we address that question I want to address the issue of Jesus having brothers, an issue I very briefly mentioned last time.

       According to the doctrine of a major branch of Christianity, Mary remained a virgin all her life. This doctrine teaches that when the Scriptures speak of Jesus’ brothers and sisters they are referring to step brothers and sisters.  Some go so far as to teach these are references to cousins of Jesus.

       There is nothing in Scripture that speaks to Mary remaining a virgin after giving birth to the Christ child. Just the opposite is the case. In Matthews’s account of the birth of Jesus, it’s recorded that Joseph had no union with Mary until she gave birth to a son.

       Matthew 1:25: But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus (NIV).

        This certainly implies that after Jesus was born Joseph and Mary had sexual relations. The Greek word rendered “union” in this passage has the basic meaning of “to know” and is used 223 times in the NT in many applications. Context will determine how it is used in any one passage of Scripture.  The verb “To know,” as it pertains to a marriage relationship is commonly seen in Scripture to represent sexual union.  Here is how the NET translation renders Matthew 1:25 and footnotes this passage.

       Matthew 1:25: But did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.      

       The verb “know” (in both Hebrew and Greek) is a frequent biblical euphemism for sexual relations. However, a translation like did not have sexual relations with her” is too graphic in light of the popularity and wide use of Matthew’s infancy narrative. Thus the somewhat more subdued but still clear “did not have marital relations” was selected.

       It should be apparent Jesus had blood brothers and sisters and there is no good reason to believe these brothers were not the offspring of Mary and Joseph.

       Matthew 12:46:   While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.

       Matthew 13:55-56: "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren't all his sisters with us?

       John 2:12: After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

       John 7:3: Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.               

       Galatians 1:18-19: Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother.     

Tongues at Pentecost in AD 31:

       Acts 2:1-4: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  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 (Greek heteros which means other or different) tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

       Shortly after Jesus had ascended to the Father in heaven, his disciples were observing the annual feast of Pentecost.  The Scripture says "they were all together in one place."  Who are the “they”?  In Acts, chapter one, it is recorded that when the Apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives after seeing Jesus ascend into the clouds of the sky, they went up to a second floor room where they were staying,

       We can safely assume the “they” included the eleven named disciples who returned to Jerusalem after being present at the ascension of Jesus.  We can safely assume the “they” included Matthias who was added to the group to replace Judas as seen in Acts 1:23-26.  Were their others who made up the "they" referred to in Acts 2:1?

       The listing of the eleven staying in the upper room doesn't necessarily mean others could not have been staying at this location as well. Were the women, Mary and Jesus’ brothers also staying at the upper room location with the Apostles?  After all it is stated “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”  Luke’s Gospel may give us the answer.

       Luke 24:51-53: While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

       Luke records in his Gospel that after returning from Jerusalem, the Apostles stayed continually at the temple praising God. This could indicate it was at the temple that Mary, the women and Jesus' brothers joined the Apostles in constant prayer and not at the house where the Apostles were staying.

       We can’t be certain from the information provided who was all staying in the upper room. We know the Apostles were staying there. Where the Apostles the “they” who were all together on the day of Pentecost or were there others who made up the “they”? 

Who are the "they" who spoke in tongues?

       Who were the "they" who were all together on the day of Pentecost?   Were the “they” only the Apostles?  Did the “they” include the women, Mary and Jesus’ brothers?  Were the “they” the nearly 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1:16? 

       Acts 1:16: In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)

       In Acts 2:5-8 it’s recorded that the Jews who witnessed the speaking in tongues asked, "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?" 

       Acts 2:5-8: Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?

       It’s to be noted that the word “men” does not appear in the Greek in this passage.  Therefore, this passage can’t be used to definitively determine it was only Galilean men who are speaking in tongues.  This passage only establishes those speaking in tongues were all Galileans.

       So who are the “they” gathered together in one place on Pentecost who are seen as speaking in tongues?  Was this tongues speaking limited to only the Apostles or were other disciples of Jesus involved, included women?  There are arguments that can be made for seeing only the Apostles as speaking in tongues and arguments for others, including women speaking in tongues. Let's look at the arguments.

       It is recorded that some made fun of what was happening and accused the tongues speakers of being drunk with wine.  It’s then recorded that Peter stood up with the eleven and defended the tongues speakers.

       Acts 2:13-15: Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine.  "Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning (NIV).

       It’s again to be noted that the word “men” is not in the Greek.  Peter stands up with the eleven and says “these are not drunk.”  Who are the “these”?  It could be argued that because Peter stands up with the eleven and makes this statement, it was the eleven plus Peter who were the “these” who were doing the speaking in tongues.  If this is the case, the tongues speaking may have been limited to the twelve Apostles and only the twelve Apostles were the “they” of Acts 2:1 who were gathered together in one place. 

       It is to be noted that the promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit was initially given by Jesus to the eleven Apostles who were present when Jesus ascended to the Father. Acts 1:1-9 shows it was only the Apostles who were present at the ascension. This could indicate that it was only the Apostles who initially became recipients of the Holy Spirit.

       As we will be discussing, the tongues event may have occurred at the temple. If this is the case, it can be argued that women would not have been involved because they were not allowed to mix with men at the temple.  They had a designated separate area where they could congregate called "The Women's Platform."  Women were also not allowed to express themselves on theological matters.  This would indicate women would not have been proclaiming the things of God in different tongues.

       On the other hand, Peter tells those who were accusing the tongues speakers of being drunk that they were not drunk but what they were seeing and hearing was a fulfillment of what Joel prophesied.

       Acts 2:17-18: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

       Peter tells the accusers that what they were experiencing was the result of the pouring out of the Spirit on both men and women. Does this indicate both men and women were speaking in tongues? 

       So who are the “they” gathered together in one place on Pentecost who are seen as speaking in tongues?  Again, as we saw in our discussion of who it all may have been that stayed in the upper room, we don’t have enough information to arrive at a definitive answer as to who it all may have been who spoke in tongues on Pentecost in AD 31.    

The location of the "one place."

       Luke records in Acts 2:1 that “when the day of Pentecost came, “they were all together in one place.” Where was this one place? Is Luke even speaking about a location as such?

         The Greek word homothumadon, rendered "place" in Acts 2:1 means to be with one mind, purpose or impulse according to Greek Lexicons.  In Acts 1:14, where it is said "They all joined together constantly in prayer," the words "joined together" is homothumadon.  Other translations render hemothumadon in Acts 1:14 as "one accord" or "one mind."  Homothumadon appears 12 times in the NT and except for Acts 2:1, this word is generally rendered "with one accord," or "one mind."  Therefore, when it is said "they were all together in one place," it may not be their location that is spoken of but their state of mind.   They were of one mind and purpose as the Greek word homothumadon implies.        

       If it is true Luke is reporting that the "they" were of one mind and purpose, they still would have been of one mind and purpose at some location when they experienced the tongues event. Where was this location? The Scriptures show that those who experienced the sound of a violent wind were setting in a house. Where or what is this house that is being spoken of? 

       Acts 2:2: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house (Greek oikos) where they were sitting.

       Some believe it is the house with the upper room the Apostles and possibly others were staying at after returning to Jerusalem from witnessing the ascension of Jesus.  Was this the house?  Let's take a look at this issue.

       The Greek for house is oikos. This word appears 114 times in the NT and the Greek Lexicons show this word to have broad meaning. It can refer to a private home or it can refer to a public building.  It can also refer to a group of people. 

       In the NT it is used in all three ways.  It is often used to designate a private residence. It is used figuratively to represent a group of people such as Israel.  You will often see the phrase "house of Israel" in the NT.  Oikos is also used in the NT to designate the physical temple standing in Jerusalem.

       When Jesus threw out the money changers on the temple grounds, He referred to the temple as His Father's house {oikos} (Matthew 21:12-13).  In prophesying the destruction of the temple, Jesus told the religious leaders their house {oikos} would be left to them desolate (Matthew 23:38). In Luke 11:51, Jesus speaks of "the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the temple" (oikos).  Was the house the "they" were sitting in a residential house or was it the temple?      

       As mentioned, some see the house the “they” were sitting in on Pentecost as the same house where the Apostles were staying in the upper room.  However, as already pointed out, Luke 24:53 shows that when the Apostles returned from Jerusalem "they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."  This being the case, you would think they would have been at the temple on the day of Pentecost seeing this was a High Day Sabbath. Acts 2:15 shows it was the third hour of the day (9:00 AM) when the tongues event occurred. This would have been the time of the Morning Prayer and sacrifice at the temple.

       The temple was the seat of worship for Israel. It was virtually considered the dwelling place of God. Pentecost was a required observance.  Many thousands were in Jerusalem for this event. A great deal of space would be needed to accommodate all these people. The temple grounds would be the logical place for this gathering to take place. The church historian Edersheim writes that the temple grounds had room for 210,000 people. It is evident from Scripture that when the temple was referred to, it was the temple complex that was being referred to which consisted of a number of buildings as is clearly indicated in Scripture.

       Mark 13:1-2: As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

       The temple grounds consisted of a number of buildings besides the temple. There were two large courtyards and multiple dozens of porticos which were house-like structures that ran along the walls of the temple grounds and were used for a variety of activities. It could very well be it was one of these porticos where the Apostles and possibly others were sitting when the tongues event occurred. 

       In Acts 2:6 it is recorded that "When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language." Where was this crowd that came together when hearing this sound? It would be logical to conclude they were at the temple complex which means this is where the tongues speakers would have had to be. 

       It is recorded in Acts 2:41 that that after Peter finished what has become known as his Pentecost sermon, around 3000 were baptized and added to the fellowship on that very day of Pentecost. Where were they baptized?  While the temple was still standing, there was ritual immersion pools located around the southern and southwestern portions of the Temple Mount. It is believed it was these pools that would have been used to baptize these converts. This further indicates it was at the temple grounds where the tongues event described in Acts chapter 2 took place. 

       Finally, we see recorded in Acts 2:46 that "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts."  The temple area continued to be the gathering place for those who had accepted the message delivered to them on Pentecost.  While we can’t be absolutely sure of the tongues speakers’ location when the Holy Spirit descended, the circumstantial evidence seems to favor the temple as the “house” they were setting in when they heard the sound of a wind and began to speak in tongues.

The tongues experience:

       This whole experience of speaking in tongues began with the hearing of a sound like the blowing of a violent wind.       

       Acts 2:2: 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.

       The Greek word translated "sound" is eekos and simply means a sound. Luke uses a cognate of this word to describe hearing the roar of sea waves (Luke 21:25). In Hebrews 12:19 the writer uses this word to describe the sound of a trumpet. The Greek word translated "violent" means strong and mighty. 

       It must be noted that what was experienced was not the actual blowing of a violent wind but a sound like a blowing violent wind. Who all heard this sound?  Was it just those who spoke in tongues or did others hear this sound as well?  Did the crowd gathered for Pentecost hear this sound?

       Acts 2:6: When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in  bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.   

       What sound did the crowd hear?  It is interesting that the Greek word translated sound in Acts 2:6 is different from the word translated “sound” in Acts 2:2 where it is recorded that those sitting in the house heard the sound of a violent wind. The Greek is not eekos in Acts 2:6 but phonee. 

       Both the Arndt/Gingrich and Thayer's Greek Lexicons define phonee as sound, tone, noise and voice as in the utterance of words. Phonee is found 141 times in the NT and is almost always translated "voice" where it can be seen by context to refer to the utterance of words. On a few occasions phonee is used to describe the sound of a trumpet, wind, water and even wings.

       In Acts 2:6 phonee is used in association with the crowd coming together in bewilderment because of hearing the recipients of the Holy Spirit communicating with them in their native languages. Since we see NT writers almost always using phonee in association with the utterance of words, it may be reasonable to conclude that the sound heard by the crowd was not the sound of a violent wind the tongues speakers heard but the utterance of the different languages the tongues speakers were speaking.   

Tongues in the Greek:

       The English word tongue is taken from the Greek word glossa.  Greek Lexicons define glossa as the physical tongue or as language.  Glossology is a term used to identify the study of languages and dialects.  The word glossa appears in the Greek New Testament fifty times. It is used in a variety of ways.  It is often used metaphorically to represent speech. 

       James 3:5-6: Likewise the tongue (Greek: glossa) is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue (Greek: glossa) also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

       1 Peter 3:10 For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue (Greek: glossa) from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.

       By context, we know that both James and Peter are using the word tongue to speak of expressing thoughts in language that are commonly understood by those who are within hearing distance of such language. 

       Acts 2:25-26:  David said about him: "`I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue (glossa) rejoices; my body also will live in hope.

       Here glossa is used in a figurative sense to express the thought that ones speech is one of expressing joyful language. Glossa appears eight times in the Revelation and in seven out of the eight times is used to identify cultures of people who speak a particular language.  Here are a few examples:

       Revelation 5:9: And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language (glossa) and people and nation.  

       Revelation 14:6: Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language (glossa) and people.

       It should be evident from the context in these passages that glossa is being used to identify groups of people who speak the same language within their group and that such language is commonly understood by those in the group who speak it.

Tongues of fire:

       It is recorded, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” The Greek rendered “seemed” is optomai and simple means to see something and is used in this manner multiple times in the NT.  Many translations render this word as “appeared” in the passage under consideration.  The Greek word pur rendered “fire” in this passage is used both figuratively and literally of fire in the NT.   

       In reviewing several dozen translations of this passage, the indication is that what were seen were not actual tongues of fire but flame-like projectiles that appeared as physical tongues.  Flames of a fire fan out in many directions. This tongue like phenomenon of fire appears to be used here to show how the observed tongues flared our and landed on the recipients. Here are several renderings that indicate this.

       And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them (New English Translation {NET}).

       They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated, and one rested on each of them (International Standard Version)

       And tongues like fire that were divided appeared to them, and they sat on each one of them (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

       Tongues that looked like fire appeared to them. The tongues arranged themselves so that one came to rest on each believer (God’s Word Translation)

       And they saw tongues of what looked like fire distributing themselves over the assembly, and on the head of each person a tongue alighted (Weymouth Translation)

      The implication here is that the fiery looking tongues that landed on the recipients of these tongues were separated or divided with the result being that different tongues fell on different recipients of the tongues. In other words, they all didn't receive the same tongues but different individuals received different tongues which facilitated the speaking of different languages. They weren't all given the same language. They were given different languages.

PART FOUR