The Symbols of the Spirit's Presence
Acts 2:1-4
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.…

It is important that we mark with some precision what actually occurred on this memorable day. On the day of Pentecost the company of disciples met together as usual at the customary hour of morning prayer, but whether in one of the thirty rooms which Josephus tells us were connected with the courts of Herod's temple, or in the private house where they lodged, is uncertain. As we know that they attended morning prayer in the temple (see Acts 3:1), there is much in favor of the scene occurring within the temple precincts. There a large company could be readily and conveniently assembled, and there the high priest and Levitical guard would have the necessary authority to arrest "disturbers of the peace." While the apostolic company was engaged in prayer, a sudden rushing sound was heard, like that which accompanies an earthquake. It seemed to sweep through the room, and fill it with a new and inspiring atmosphere; and then, as each one of them looked in astonishment upon his companion, he saw a central flame come and part, settling in divided streams upon each head. The mystic symbols soon passed away, but they left the disciples conscious of a new life; they were as men moved beyond themselves by a mighty inward impulse. The glow of a Divine kindling was upon their faces, the passion of a Divine urging was within their souls, the freedom of a Divine utterance was upon their lips; they began to speak to the people around about the Messiahship of Jesus, the crucified. The rumor soon spread among the excitable multitudes, gathered from all parts, who were present at the feast. They crowded round the apostles; they felt the influence of their enthusiasm; they heard one and another of them speaking in the familiar language of their birthplace; they were moved by the power of a Divine presence, and that day three thousand bowed the knee to Christ. Those disciples had been told to wait for spiritual power - inward, heart-power. And the signs that attended the gift were designed to indicate the kind of power that came. It was a mighty breath filling them with larger life. They were caught up, and encircled as with a great wind of Divine energy, and in this atmosphere they breathed more freely, and lived more nobly. F. W. Robertson well expresses this in the following note: - "Just as if the temperature of this northern atmosphere were raised suddenly, and a mighty tropical river were to pour its fertilizing inundation ever the country, the result would be the impartation of a vigorous and gigantic growth to the vegetation already in existence, and at the same time the development of life in seeds and germs which had long lain latent in the soil, incapable of vegetation in the unkindly climate of their birth. Exactly in the same way, the flood of a Divine life, poured suddenly into the souls of men, enlarged and ennobled qualities which had been used already, and at the same time developed powers which never could have become apparent in the cold, low temperature of natural life." It may be well to recall the associations of the Feast of Pentecost, especially noting that it was held to commemorate the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Then Law came as a series of formal commandments; now Law came as an inward impulse to righteousness; it was" written in the mind and the heart." The symbols designed to show the character of the Spirit's work in the disciples are three, viz. wind, fire, tongues.

I. THE SYMBOL OF THE WIND. This would recall our Lord's simile used in conversation with the inquiring Nicodemus (John 3:7, 8), "The wind bloweth where it listeth," etc. It would also remind of the later incident when Jesus "breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22). The figure in the Hebrew word for Spirit (punch) is "breath," or "wind." We may note that the wind suggests the freeness of the Spirit, the force of the Spirit, and the elevating and inspiring influence of the Spirit.

II. THE SYMBOL, OF THE FIRE. This would recall the words of John the baptizer, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Fire is conceived as the great purging and purifying agent. John could not forgive sin, or cleanse souls, or sanctify. For this work he prepared the way. Christ cleanses and sanctifies, by his Spirit, with a fullness and a power that can only be represented by the work of fire on precious metal. A Power like fire is needed to destroy and root out self and sin.

III. THE SYMBOL OF THE TONGUES. It is difficult to decide precisely the form of the gift that came to these first disciples. Afterwards we find the gift of tongues explained as an ecstatic utterance, which required interpretation. Here we may assume that the gospel message was delivered by different individuals, in different languages, and in different parts of the temple courts. We should see that it fulfilled the promise made to the disciples of power to witness. The first sign of the Power came in adaptation to the particular circumstances and needs of the day, and they might see in this the assurance that the power would come in adaptation to every day's needs. Not always as power to speak a foreign language, but always as power to speak, as the freed loosened tongue, as a new tongue, so that they might preach Christ, and witness everywhere for the "Prince and Savior, exalted to give repentance, and remission of sins." Conclude by showing that the symbols teach us this lesson - that the same Spirit is still with the Church and with us; and is as certainly and precisely adapting his grace and help to the work and the witness we are called to render. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

WEB: Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place.

The Sending of the Holy Ghost
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