“How is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? … We hear them speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:8, 11
The first time something is mentioned in the Bible it gives us a base point upon which all else on that subject is built. The book of Genesis has many first mentions of a subject. For example, the first mention of marriage in Genesis 2:24 and sin in chapter three. There are many, many others.
In Acts chapter two we have the first activity of the Holy Spirit in the church as it commenced on the day of Pentecost.
Jesus had already told His disciples what role the Holy Spirit would have with regard to the church:
- He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 15:26)
- He will testify of Me (John 15:26)
- He will convict the world of sin (John 16:7)
- He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)
- He will glorify Me (John 16:14)
It is sad that many Christians totally miss the point of the first thirteen verses of Acts two. It is not that the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in other languages; it was that this is the first enabling of the Holy Spirit in the church and it was the beginning of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the role revealed by Jesus to His disciples mentioned above.
The ability to speak and be heard in another language was incidental to the real event, “we hear them speaking … the wonderful words of God.” That they heard it in their “mother tongue” is miraculous but it is not the main event.
In Acts one Luke records Jesus’ commission to His disciples,“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”
The events recorded in chapter two are the commencement of the church being a witness to Christ and the Holy Spirit’s enabling.
The ‘first’ of Acts two is the beginning of Christian mission, taking the Gospel to the entire world. After His resurrection Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). The Holy Spirit is the enabler to accomplish Jesus’ mission through the church. Everything else we read in the N.T. concerning the Holy Spirit has its foundation in this first.