Sep 25, 2008

Lessons from Acts 2:1-21

In Sunday School at my church, we have just begun a series on the Book of Acts. It's my assignment this coming Sunday to teach chapter 2, vv. 1-21, the first half of account of the Day of Pentecost. Though I know that some of this will be controversial to many people, including perhaps some of the readers of this blog (assuming there are any!), I have come to the conclusion that we can learn the following lesons from this text:

1. Jesus Christ reigns in heaven over the earth today. I know this because Pentecost indicates that he has kept his promise to send the Holy Spirit to the world. This in turn indicates that his ascension placed him on the throne of heaven where he reigns over his Kingdom.

2. The gift of tongues is the ability to speak a human language that one has not learned through natural means. It is NOT the gibberish we hear in charismatic churches.

3. That Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church (the new Israel). When Peter quotes Joel's prophecy made on behalf of Israel, and applies it to the arrival of the Spirit in the midst of the church, what other conclusion should we reach? BTW, that the church is Israel is already indicated earlier in Acts chapter 1 in two ways. First, Luke makes a point that the gathering of Christians in the upper room numbered 120, the required number for the Jewish Sanhedrin. Second, the necessity to replace Judas so that the number of apostles would remain 12--why the necessity of 12? Everyone knows that it's because the apostles of the church represent the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel.

4. That cataclysmic, apocalyptic language in prophetic literature (the moon turning to blood, the sun going dark, etc.) is not to be taken literally, but is symbolic of earthly events that have religious and political significance (e.g., see Isa 13:1-22). This point should give us caution in how we interpret other prophetic literature like the Book of Revelation.

Points 2 - 4 may be strongly challenged by those of certain theological and eschatological persuasions, but I suggest that this text in Acts 2 makes them pretty clear.


Kamilla said...

Dr. Cowan,

I you don't mind too much my taking the liberty of contacting you through your blog.

I'd like to "talk" with you about your paper for ETS this year. I am unable to attend and it would be most helpful for me as I am working on a chapter in my own book on the same problem.

Thank you,


Dr. Steve Cowan said...

You may contact me via email at to discuss my paper.