Believe It or Not.

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Acts 2:14-21 ESV

It should be no surprise to us that, when the time came for the disciples to address the crowd that had gathered, it was Peter who was the first to speak. During the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, it seems that Peter was always the one to open his mouth before engaging his brain. He was impulsive and impetuous, and his tongue used to get him in a lot of trouble. But now that he is filled with the Spirit of God, his words carry weight and significance like never before. This time, he speaks up, led not by his own ego or the need to be noticed, but by the Holy Spirit. And the first thing he addresses is the accusation that he and the 119 other followers of Christ are drunk. Their surprising and inexplicable display of tongues-speaking had left the crowd amazed and bewildered. No one could understand how these unlearned men and women from Galilee were suddenly able to speak in foreign languages. If you think about it, to a bystander, this whole affair would have come across as highly chaotic and confusing. To have heard 120 individuals all speaking in a different language at the same time would have been a bit unnerving. So, there were those in the crowd who simply wrote it off to public intoxication, mockingly saying of the disciples, “They are filled with new wine.”

The first thing that should stand out to us is that there will always be those who mock the things of God. What they don’t understand, they belittle. It was the apostle Paul who said, “when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (1 Corinthians 1:23 NLT). The disciples had just visibly and verbally displayed the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and there were those who refused to acknowledge it for what it was: An act of God. Instead, they mocked and ridiculed the disciples, writing off what God had done and labeling it as nothing more than drunkenness. Something very similar had happened to Jesus when He was still with them on the earth and conducting His ministry among them. One day, Jesus addressed a crowd around Him with the following words:

19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. – Matthew 11:19-20 ESV

That day in Jerusalem, the crowds that had gathered outside the upper room had been witnesses to a miracle, a mighty work of God, but rather than recognize it for what it was, they belittled it. They made light of it.

Over in the book of Matthew, there is a scene recorded where Jesus healed a man who was blind, mute and demon-possessed. The passage matter-of-factly states that Jesus healed him and the people were amazed. But there were those in the crowd, specifically the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of healing the man by the power of Beelzebub or Satan.

“It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” – Matthew 12:24 ESV

Jesus addressed the absurdity of their logic, saying, “if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26 ESV). Instead, Jesus suggests that His power to cast of demons and heal was the result of the power of the Spirit of God.

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” – Matthew 12:28 ESV

Then, Jesus made a somewhat cryptic, but powerful statement regarding what these Pharisees unknowingly had done.

31 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” – Matthew 12:31-32 NLT

Those Pharisees had spoken against the Spirit of God, attributing His divine work to something of someone else, in their case, to Satan. Those in the crowd of people gathered outside the upper room on the day of Pentecost had done the same thing. They had attributed the work of the Spirit of God to drunkenness. And in doing so, they were rejecting the Kingdom of God being displayed in their midst. The disciples had been speaking of the mighty works of God, and there were those who refused to hear what they had to say, but instead, wrote it off to public intoxication.

At one time, during His earthly ministry, Jesus had addressed the heart of the issue going on here..

18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:18-21 ESV

Some in the crowd had asked, “What does this mean?” Others had mocked and accused the disciples of being filled with wine and not the Spirit. And they stood condemned. Not by their words or actions, but by their unbelief.

But under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Peter addressed the naysayers in the crowd, using the Old Testament Scriptures as his proof text. He quoted from the prophet Joel. In doing so, Peter was using the Jewish Scriptures to prove that what they had just witnessed was of God and in fulfillment of the ancient prophecies. What they had heard and seen was a sign of God’s future plans for Israel being fulfilled right in front of their eyes. God had said, “ I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” and that process had just begun. Not “all flesh” had received the Holy Spirit that day, but only the disciples who had been gathered in the upper room. But it was a sign of things to come. As we will see in the rest of the book of Acts, a growing number of individuals would receive the Spirit of God. God was at work. Something new had begun. These were “the last days” as Peter put it, and things were going to be remarkably different than ever before. God had promised, “I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” and that is exactly what had happened. Luke makes it clear that, when the disciples had spoken in tongues, they were declaring “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11 ESV). Luke doesn’t clarify what that means, but it would not be a reach to assume that part of what they talked about was the death and resurrection of Jesus and His offer of eternal life. They most likely spoke of salvation made possible through His sacrificial death on the cross. If you notice, Peter ended his quotation from the book of Joel with the line: “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21 ESV). That was the focus of his message that day. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the whole agenda of the disciples became focused on the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation. Men and women could be made right with God through faith in His sacrificial death on the cross.

And Peter, by quoting the book of Joel, lets his listeners know that there is more to come in the last days. Not all of Joel’s words were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the various prophecies concerning the last days were set in motion. Peter reminds them that Joel had predicted, “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes” (Acts 2:20 ESV). This is a prophecy of coming judgment. Jesus will come back some day and, when He does, it will be as judge of the earth. Those in hearing of Peter’s voice needed to understand that they could accept Jesus as their Savior or one day submit to Him as their judge. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, it was the beginning of the end. The last days had begun. And  those in the crowd that day had a choice: They could believe it not.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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