I. Who was there when the Holy Spirit was given?
To find that answer we have to look back at chapter one of Acts, verses 13-14. “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. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” This is the group that was meeting together to pray and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. These are the people who were in that place when the Spirit came, these are the people who spoke in tongues and preached the gospel in the languages of all those present.
II. What is Pentecost anyway, and why were all those people in Jerusalem?
Pentecost is the fourth Spring Feast in the Jewish year. Passover is first, then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then First Fruits, then Pentecost-Celebrating the giving of the Torah. That is why people were gathered together in Jerusalem from all over, they were there to celebrate the feast of weeks, the giving of the Torah. I want to highlight this statement from my Jewish resource here: “The Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavu’ot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality.” We can see that Jesus came and brought Messianic fulfillment to the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. In his sacrifice, death, and resurrection, he freed us from the penalty of death for our sins. He freed us from the bondage we were in, setting our souls free from everlasting punishment. And, here fifty days later, on Pentecost, the day of celebrating the giving of the Torah, God’s law written on stone, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. In giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, God wrote his law on our hearts. No longer do we have to abide by the letter of the Law, which leads to death, but we follow the Spirit who brings life.
III. How did Peter preach that first evangelistic message?
Peter just told them the facts. He connected them to Christ in their sanctioning the actions against him in his crucifixion and death. He gives God the glory in raising Christ from the dead. He shows very simply the prophecies and their fulfillment. He didn’t spend twenty hours crafting his message. He didn’t show fancy video clips or lead with a poem. He stood up, he told them the truth, and it brought them to their knees. That is not the work of man, that is the work of the Holy Spirit through Peter, and the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of those who were listening.
On the day that the Torah was given to the Israelites, 3,000 men died because of their treachery in worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32). On the day that God gave his Holy Spirit, 3,000 people came to know Christ, to accept his sacrifice and were saved from everlasting punishment. This was the first wave of new believers. And we are connected to them by what Peter says in verse 39. We, too, have been promised salvation if we will repent and believe, and we have been promised the Holy Spirit to guide us as we follow our Lord Christ.
If you have not repented from your sins and received Christ’s free gift of salvation, I would encourage you to do so now. You don’t have to say fancy words, just admit that you are not perfect, that you have done things that you know are wrong. Admit that you can’t fix those wrong decisions, those wrong actions, that you need help, that you need a savior. Tell Jesus that you are willing to accept his free gift of salvation and that you believe that he did die on the cross, and raise again to life on the third day. Thank him for his willing sacrifice on your behalf and trust that if you have done this, he has heard you. The promise to us if we will do this is eternal life, starting with your life right now. We receive power to walk through life victorious no matter what is going on around us. We have power to live abundantly, the life God wants for each of us.
Want to know more about Messianic fulfillment of Jewish Feasts? Check out this resource:
Understanding the Seven Major Jewish Feasts