TEXT: Acts 2:1-11
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
The Power of the Resurrection and the Breaking Down of Racial and Cultural Barriers Among Believers (Powerful Life Lessons from the Aftermath of the Resurrection #6)
No one can deny that the history of the world has been a history of division, hatred, prejudice, and animosity between nations, races, ethnicities, and social cultures. Even today, much of the conflict and tension in our world can be defined by the barriers that separate groups of people: Arabs vs. Jews, Sunni Muslims vs. Shiite Muslims, Hindus vs. Christians, Blacks vs. Whites, the wealthy upper class vs. the poor lower class, and the list goes on.
In Jesus’ day, there was plenty of division to go around as well: Jews vs. Gentiles; the religious, well-to-do upper class vs. the poor, barely-getting-by lower class; slave-owners vs. slaves; Pharisees vs. Sadducees; men vs. women; Rome-hating zealots vs. Rome-loving pacifiers. Just as in modern times, I am sure there were people in Jesus’ day who wondered why folks just couldn’t get along with each other. I am sure that for those people, the coming of Jesus Christ was a breath of fresh air. Jesus was a leader who associated with anybody who wanted to do the will of His Father in Heaven no matter what their status or position was in life. Jesus talked to, mingled with, and worked miracles for Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, Greeks, Romans, military leaders, sinners, fishermen, tax collectors, the pious, the not-so-pious, the rich, and the poor.
After His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus bequeathed that legacy of breaking down barriers to His followers. They, like most sinful, prejudiced human beings, were much slower to accept people who were different from them. But, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they came around to it. As we live in a time when there is much discussion about diversity and racial reconciliation, what can we learn about the breaking down of barriers between people groups which came about in the aftermath of the resurrection?
First, from our passage for today, we see that the breaking down of barriers was God-appointed. The first words of verse 1 state, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come…” This terminology indicates a time had been preordained by God which would be the day on which the Holy Spirit fell on believers. In other words, it was not happenstance; it was not a pleasant surprise. It was a deliberate action of God Almighty.
“Pentecost” is a Greek word indicating a period of 50 days. In this case, it is 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, although on this same day, the Jews would be celebrating the Feast of Weeks, a commemoration of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. However, scholars have noted the significance of this day for the early church. Matthew Henry writes, “The Holy Ghost came down at the time of a solemn feast, because there was then a great concourse of people to Jerusalem from all parts of the country, and the proselytes from other countries, which would make it the more public, and the fame of it to be spread the sooner and further, which would contribute much to the propagating of the gospel into all nations… The Holy Ghost [was] given at that feast, in fire and in tongues, for the promulgation of the gospel, not as that to one nation, but to every creature.”
God specially designed it so that there would be an abundance of people in Jerusalem who were not Jews when the Holy Spirit came down. This, too, was a continuation of the work of Christ. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:17, “[Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” Jesus preached the Gospel to the Jews and the Gentiles. He wanted everybody to hear the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that they could have a part in it if they so desired.
The God-ordained day upon which this preaching began in earnest was 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The reference to this day as a time which had “fully come” gives us the idea of a countdown reaching the last seconds and then sounding an alarm signifying that time is up. When Pentecost came, time was up for divisiveness and factions among the people of God. God had ordained that it was time for the barriers that kept us apart to be broken down.
The second thing we see about this breaking down of barriers is that it was Holy Spirit-driven. The Bible reads, “There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Many well-intentioned people are trying to bring about unity, diversity, and reconciliation between races, ethnic groups, and people of different socioeconomic backgrounds in the church today. While their efforts are admirable, too often, they try to force things to happen and try to force people to get together instead of relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. We see from this passage that the first cross-cultural, cross-racial, cross-ethnic evangelistic outreach after the Resurrection was a direct result of the Holy Spirit’s power.
The apostles and all those in the upper room were filled with the Holy Spirit, and as a result, they began to speak in tongues. There was nothing spooky about this newly manifested spiritual gift. This speaking in tongues was simply the miracle of Jewish men and women (who natively spoke Hebrew and/or Aramaic) being able to share the Gospel in dozens of languages they had never learned themselves. The Bible tells us that the diverse multitude of people who came to hear them “were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”
Dr. Craig S. Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary calls this a reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel. He said, “In Genesis 11, God scattered these peoples at the tower of Babel by confusing their tongues. On Pentecost, by contrast, God again supplies a diversity of languages, but not to divide humanity. This time, through the new gift of tongues, God brings together a church united among many cultures, foreshadowing the rest of His plan in Acts.”
Reconciliation and diversity among different people groups happens faster, easier, and with much less conflict when it is Spirit-driven instead of flesh-driven. Often, the church today operates as though it can solve every problem with a well-formed plan or a strategy developed by experts, and we forget that the Holy Spirit of God working in the hearts and lives of people can bring about swift and supernatural change. If we want to see true, lasting unity and multiculturalism in the church today, we cannot force it. It must be God-ordained and Holy Spirit-driven.
Third, we see that the breaking down of barriers was Christ-centered. We learn from Acts 2 that the message of the apostles, who were newly empowered to speak in tongues, was simply the words and work of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that “Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice” and told of “Jesus of Nazareth” who was “crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.”
That was the message — the simple Gospel of Christ — that He was born, that He died, that He was buried, and that He rose again. Peter didn’t try to preach a message of inclusion. He didn’t preach a welcoming and affirming message. He didn’t preach a message that made everybody feel comfortable or happy. He simply preached a message centered on Christ. And it was this message that brought about a massive harvest. The Bible tells us that the people gathered in Jerusalem “gladly received his word [and] were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
In Revelation 5:9, John envisions a multitude of people at the throne singing praises to the Lamb of God saying, “for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” This diverse crowd of Christians from all nations praises God, not because they were included, not because they were reconciled, not because they were unified, but because they received and believed the Gospel. Their inclusion, reconciliation, and unification with other believers came as a result of the changes the Gospel made in their lives.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes that God “reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” He goes on to say, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” That is the true message of the Gospel and the risen Savior — reconciliation to God. If we desire to see a diverse, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church, that is the message we ought to be preaching. Why? Because all people — black people, white people, Latino people, Asian people, Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Hindus, rich and poor — all people need to be reconciled to God. And, when people are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, they will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and that will bring about changes in their hearts and minds that pave the way for reconciliation with each other.
Is it difficult for people to overcome racial, cultural, and ethnic barriers? Yes, it is — especially if we try to do it without the power of the Holy Spirit. The church experienced this difficulty in its early years. For example, in Acts 6, we read of divisions that developed between the Hebrews and the Hellenists (that is, Greeks and Jews who had adopted the Greek culture and lifestyle). God still had to deal with Peter’s heart about how he viewed Gentiles. There were also heated arguments in the early church about whether or not new believers should be forced to adopt Jewish culture in order to be true Christians. However, as Dr. Tony Evans said at a recent conference on racial reconciliation, “The Gospel can change an environment and it can do it in a day.” When the believers’ hearts are in tune with God and in tune with the message of the Gospel barriers are broken down and reconciliation can take place.
The division and lack of unity in the church and in our society comes about because our sinful, human nature is predisposed to hatred, division, separation, and prejudice. But as we observe the aftermath of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see that all of that can be overcome if we are willing to engage in the God-ordained task of breaking down barriers by the power of His Holy Spirit and through the preaching of the Gospel of the risen Savior.
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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.
First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.
But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.