One of the most difficult feasts to celebrate is the feast of Pentecost. Difficult because of its unique character. A wind is heard that does not blow, a fire that does not burn, and a speech that was never heard before. It is the feast where all is so extremely difficulta to understand. Intangible are the signs, their meanings, and also their applications. For, after the signs are seen and heard the multitude asks: ‘What meaneth this?’ while others mocked. Mocked, because Pentecost brings to light two spiritual powers. The power from above, descending upon the Church here below and praising God for His mighty works, and the power of darkness, not being satisfied with the perfect revelation of God. For the power of darkness, always being centered around itself, denies the great works of God. They may be stricken with fear for a moment, but when danger is passed they will manifest their boldness anew. What after all is a sound that cannot be explained and a fire that gives no heat? And what difference does it make whether man makes use of his own tongue or speaks in a different language?
The same is true of every-day life. The power that is revealed in the mighty works of God is minimized. And the whole race is divided into two groups, the ones who are for and those who are against God and His anointed. When the revelation of God comes to man the race is divided into two groups: the children of light and the children of darkness. Man is for or against. A third possibility is impossible.
On the day of Pentecost this is clearly revealed when the Holy Spirit is poured out. The eleven speak, inspired by the Spirit, with different tongues. They speak concerning the wonderful works of God, which He wrought through Christ.
The world also speaks, accusing the Church of being filled with new wine. The well-known weapons of mockery and slander are employed to ridicule the events of the great and powerful revelation of God. Of course, there is nothing strange in this. Man by nature will deny God and His Christ. Man will always reveal who he is, because in such things he cannot be neutral. For it is either or, for or against. Peter, standing with the eleven, shall answer the mockers and refute their arguments. Yes, sometimes it is better to remain silent, and as a rule it is a more effective weapon, when man attacks us. We should not make too much of it and rile back when mockery is the instrument that intends to hurt us, but on this blessed day it was not a question of man over against man. But the work of the Holy Spirit is the object of ridicule and therefore an answer must be given.
From a certain point of view Peter is the leader who shall answer the enemies and he shall do it with their own arguments. His testimony shall be the testimony of the whole Church. We do well to take note that this fearless champion is ready to testify in such a way that the enemies will never try again, in his presence to mock again.
How simple is his approach. Let us, for this is the meaning, let us be reasonable about your accusation. (I believe Peter had his eyes fixed on the scoffers when he spoke) and examine your charges for just a moment. O, how simple are his words and at the same time how accusing. Peter could have started out with all kinds of arguments, but he simply says let us consider your grievances. You say these men are drunk, filled with wine? You mean to tell me that they are perhaps used to drinking and now have forgotten themselves? Peter realizes that they are far away from the spiritual things. Hence, leaving the spiritual rest for a moment, let us argue from your own point of view. So let this be known, no man is foolish enough to start drinking at such an early hour.
Moreover, granting their arguments, that it is possible to be filled with wine at such an hour, Peter asks, do such people gather for the purpose of prayer? Explain what is happening from your own point of view, but dare you or any one maintain, that ever man came together for the purpose of prayer in such a condition? Canst thou conceive of a better explanation? Let me prove to you, from your own point of view that your arguments cannot be maintained in view of this early hour.
‘Be this known unto you and hearken to my words.’
Peter means to say, the way you try to explain the miracles just seen and heard will never do. But let me inform you concerning all that has happened in this early morning hour.
Remember, Peter does not speak to strangers but to Jews and men of Jerusalem. His preaching is positive. He speaks to the seed of Abraham. Peter confines himself to the Scriptures. That is, to the revelation of God. Not in any wisdom of this world should anyone find its foundation, but in the revelation of God. Without it there cannot be surety. We will fail in our attempt to take the position that our enemies should be met in their own territory. Never attempt to place yourself on their basis. No. But always reserve the right to argue from the point of view of the Word of your God. There is your foundation that will make the argument possible and convincing. If then you must seemingly lose before the enemy, which by the way, never happens, all is lost when one does not cling to the Scriptures.
Peter refers his audience to the Scriptures. He may expect a common basis even from the side of the scoffers. I know that they did not understand him spiritually, but that does not make any difference. They most assuredly understood these things intellectually. Apart whether this is a question of favor, they must be willing to admit that they knew what it was all about. It is not true when we say they did not know, for they did know. Peter refers to the Old Testament Scriptures. More particularly to Joel. Joel spake about the things that happened at Jerusalem in no uncertain terms. That we must note first of all. How important it is to maintain any given circumstance, as far as the basis is concerned, the Scripture. Especially when our opponents are acquainted with the Scriptures.
Peter refers boldly to the Scriptures because he speaks to men of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem should know concerning the Scriptures. The world does not know, but Jerusalem does. And in referring to the Scriptures it will not be difficult to explain this great holiday of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Without the light of the Word the feasts of the Church lose their significance. And in the case of the Jews it proved how far away they lived from their own Scriptures. Had not Joel spoken concerning these things? He prophesied concerning the latter days as to the end of the shadows. True it is, Joel’s prophecy did not keep all the features of this great feast rigidly separate, for that is the case with every one of the prophets. They received, so to speak the broad announcement, the whole and not every particular part. They themselves did not understand their prophecy to the full as is plain from the following ‘Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow’. Thus it was concerning the Savior as the incarnated Word and the suffering to follow and the glory for the Church (Isaiah’s prophecy). So it is here. Joel spoke of the great day of the Lord to come and in that light of his prophecy an undeniable reality became manifest of the fulfillment of what was said before. Men of Jerusalem cannot plead ignorance on this basis and they must confess: This is the day.
Of the last days it is spoken. It may mean, from our point of view, the days immediately before the second coming of the Lord. And we know that also the last days are included. But as far as the feast is concerned it refers first of all to the day of Pentecost. Christ was crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. And to crucify the Lord, to mark Him as a deceiver, makes it impossible to understand this great day of Pentecost. But it does not change the prophecy of Joel. And the important fact, prophesied before, that the Spirit was to be poured out upon all flesh is to them of great importance. In Joel’s day the Spirit was not upon all, but upon some. Only a few knew concerning the plan of salvation. And not a great, but a small number of prophets instructed the people of God. First of all, because the people were not of a mind to serve the Lord and consequently could not understand the Word of the Lord with a view of the day that was to come. And secondly, because the prophecy itself was clothed in such language that it demanded spiritual effort to somewhat grasp its meaning.
Hence, God’s people found no relief except that the prophecy comforted them: It will come, it shall not be this way forever. And it came to pass. Literally Peter says, referring to Joel’s prophecy, it is realized now! Now it is realized that the Spirit is poured out without measure. The power of the Holy Spirit descended upon all of them. The fire upon the congregation, the speaking with different tongues, are as so many proofs of this great fulfilment. All received instead of a few. All flesh was to be partaker. No longer a select few. No longer confined to one people. No longer confined to prophet and priest. But every one small and great shall partake of Christ’s work. The servant of the Old developed into the son of the New Dispensation on the day of Pentecost.
That is the excellency of Pentecost!
All received the Spirit, even as Moses prayed so many centuries before, “O, that they all were prophets,” is now fulfilled. This is clear from the text. It does no longer speak of the aged alone (certain officebearers), of rich and poor. No, it speaks of sons and daughters, of servants and handmaidens and thus upon all flesh, according to character and talents, the Spirit shall make his abode with them. One people prophesying and seeing the wonderful work of God.
The result of this outpouring shall be that “your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams”. Notice how revelation was given in the Old Dispensation. Prophecy, Visions and Dreams were the ordinary means employed by the Lord to make known unto His people His eternal counsel. Being filled with the Word of God, prophecy signified the rare and excellent gift of understanding. Every individual in the Church of God, in connection with the whole of the Church, shall understand and thus know the Lord. The congregation of Christ knows all things. All the riches are bestowed upon it, because all is prepared for them by their Christ and all that is necessary to be known by them. The thoughts of the Lord, the whole of His revelation is given, through the Spirit, to her.
Not as some would have it. Now as yet dreams, visions and prophecies. In the sense as it is practiced by certain sects, who separating themselves from the Word of God, claim new visions and dreams and prophesies. This would mean that again the Church is placed under tutors and teachers, waiting for maturity. In other words, it means a return to the Old Dispensation. Which in turn is a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit and the pouring out of all the benefits of salvation, and is also a denial of the completeness of Scripture. Besides, in such cases all this bombast is unintelligent and never in harmony with the Scriptures.
But the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh results in young men who do not desire to serve the world. They understand spiritually the Word of God, love it, and they live.
Daughters whose souls are not filled with the pleasures of the world, clinging to the Word of their God.
Old men who are filled with the salvation of the Lord.
And all of it in subjection to the Word of God. Visions not of false and vain ideals. But the visions in perfect harmony with that Word alone, visions received through the Spirit from the Lord.
They prophesy. Being filled with the Word of their desire, holy desire is fixed upon the final coming of their Lord, expecting the New Jerusalem that shall descend from heaven.
Hence, servants and handmaidens. Which does not mean to distinguish between one and the other, but serves as a distinction of equality. My servants and my handmaidens. One who belongs to the company of the saints is first of all a servant and handmaid. For although he is at the same time a friend of God, nevertheless this is not at the expense of being a servant.
And together they prophesy.
They speak in connection with present and future of their hope and their peace, theirs through liberty in Christ Jesus.
To the end, that He alone may be great in the Church and through Him God shall be praised for ever and ever, when the day shall be fulfilled in His return upon the clouds of heaven.