By J.R. Miller
This is the story of the beginning of the Christian Church. It was fifty days after the death of Christ. It did not occur at a convention--it was not an earth-born organization that was effected that day--it was was heaven--born. When Jesus ascended, He sent His disciples to prayer, continuous prayer. The prayer was for a definite object. A promise had been given to them--but they were to get it by prayer, persevering, believing prayer. Ten days had passed, and here is what is said about the disciples, "They were all together in one place." This was an ideal meeting. For one thing they were all there--the ministers and the women and the men, too. At some prayer meetings there are many women--but very few men.
All the friends of Christ living in Jerusalem, were present at this meeting. None excused themselves, because they had other things to do. The interest was so deep, that nobody thought of remaining away from a single meeting. This is now the tenth day of the meetings--and yet no one had grown weary. What a loss to the person it would have been if anyone had stayed at home the day the Spirit came! People who miss even one meeting, do not know what blessing may come that day which they will lose. Thomas was absent from a meeting one evening, and we know what he missed. Jesus came that night, and for a whole week Thomas was unhappy and lived in doubt. If anyone had been absent on this day of Pentecost, he would have missed a great blessing.
We must notice, too, that these people all came promptly. A long while after the meeting began, Peter said it was only nine in the morning. They must, therefore, have met at daybreak, at the latest--and yet they were all there. That was another good point--promptness and punctuality. They were also there with one accord. They were all of one mind. There was no discord among them. They had one purpose. Their hearts made music, and God heard the music in heaven. There is another thing about their praying--it was importunate. The meetings had continued now ten days--but none of them had wearied. All these points we should treasure up, so that we may pray in the same way.
The breath of God was breathed upon the waiting company. Breath means spirit. The night after the resurrection, in the upper room, Jesus breathed upon His disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." On the day of Pentecost they heard a sound like the wind. It was not a wind--it was the breathing of God. Until the wind of God blows upon our hearts and lives there is no divine blessing for us. Hiss Havergal tells of receiving once from a friend a gift of an Aeolian harp. She did not know how to use the harp to make music on it. She tried picking and thrumming its strings--but there was no music produced by this process. Then she looked over the friend's letter that had come with the harp, and leaned how to use it.
"Raise your window," the instructions ran," and put it under the sash, that the wind may blow over the wires." Then the room was filled with gentle strains. The only way to get the music from these lives of ours, is to have the wind of God blow upon them.
First the wind, then the fire--both symbols of God--and then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Here we see the blessing of importunity and persistence. If they had ceased praying any time before the tenth day the blessing would not have come. No doubt many of our prayer fail to be answered, because we grow weary and give up too soon.
We talk a great deal about submitting to God's will in praying. That is right--but we may be altogether too submissive. It is God's will offtimes that we should not cease to cry to Him. He wants us to be importunate, to press our request, to pray, and not faint. It was a wonderful answer that came that day--they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They were filled; not a little measure of the divine blessing was granted--but all they could receive. God will give us all we have room for, of His grace and love. The reason some have more blessing than others, is because they make more room in their hearts than others do for the blessing.
They boy who has his pockets full of nails and marbles, when his mother tells him to take all the cakes his pockets will hold, does not get many cakes. Just so, people whose hearts are full of this world, get but a small measure of the Spirit in their praying. It was the Holy Spirit that was given to these first disciples so richly; it was not mere good feeling--but warm emotion, not fresh enthusiasm, not a good influence--but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God--it was Himself that God gave them. He came down to live in the, not with them only--but in them. So this was the same blessing we may receive--if we will only ask for it.
We all like to have visits from pleasant friends. Here is a Friend, the most pleasant, the most tender, the most helpful Friend in this world. He will come to visit us if only we ask Him, if we really want Him to come. He will come, not to make a short stay of an hour or a day--but to remain always as our guest; not merely in our house--but in our heart.
The effect of being filled with God was seen at once. "They ... began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." It was very important, then that the disciples be able talk to the crowds of foreigners on the streets in their own languages. They were to be missionaries, and they could not tell these strangers about Christ unless they knew their language. This miracle of tongues made them ready at once for their work. When our missionaries go to heathen lands the first thing they must do is to learn the language of those to whom they would tell the story of Christ. This takes a long time. On the day of Pentecost the foreigners from all countries were right there, and there was no time for the disciples to learn the different languages in the ordinary way; so God taught them at once how to preach in different languages. The Spirit does not give this same power to Christians in these days. You will not be able, without any study, to speak German, or Spanish, or French the moment you are converted.
But there is a sense in which the Spirit gives every new convert a new tongue. A Christian has a new speech. The tongue that once spoke lies--speaks truth now. The tongue that once spoke bitter words--utters now only kind, loving words. So we do get new tongues when we receive the Holy Spirit. If a boy or a man swears or lies and speaks bad words, or gets cross and utters angry words--we know that he still has his old tongue and has not yet gotten a new one. But when he has the language of love, of praise, of prayer--we know that he is under a new power, the power of God.
"Every man heard them speaking in his own language." This was a token that the gospel of Christ should be preached in that language. In a certain sense this was fulfilled in a far more glorious sense, for the Bible has been translated into nearly every important language of the world, and is sent to every nation, so that the people of all lands may literally hear the gospel and the wonderful works of God in their own tongue.
That was a wonderful day. No matter from what country a man in the throngs on the streets had come, there was someone to tell him of Jesus Christ and His love, and of the great redemption offered now to all the world. "How is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? ... They were all amazed, and were perplexed." No wonder they were amazed. It was really a wonderful thing that had happened. Indeed, everything about redemption is wonderful. The sending of Jesus Christ, God's Son, to be born as a little babe and to live a human life, was wonderful. The dying of Christ on the cross was wonderful. Then the coming of the Holy Spirit was wonderful.
Yet there are many people who find more to interest and amaze them in bits of shells or stones or minerals, or in birds or ants or beetles, than in the gospel. They think the subject of redemption a matter suited only to Sunday-school children, ignorant people, and sick folks; while they find subjects suited to great minds in the fields of the sciences and philosophies. How little earth's wise people know of the wonderful treasures of wisdom hidden in the gospel!
We are told in a later verse that some of the people mocked. There are always some people who will scoff and ridicule every extraordinary manifestation of God's grace. When Jesus performed great miracles, they said He was in league with Beelzebub's power. Festus pronounced Paul mad when he saw his great zeal and earnestness in Christ's service. These scoffing beholders accounted for the wonderful things they saw the disciples doing, by saying that they were drunk. The same kinds of scoffing are heard in modern days when a great work of grace is going on anywhere. There are always some who mock.