We have seen in our study of Pentecost so far, one of the major purposes for the gift of tongues was to bypass the language barrier so that everyone at the feast in Jerusalem could understand the wonderful works of God in their own language. In other words, God wanted to make the message clear to all. We follow the will of God in this when we translate the Scriptures and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the languages of the nations. This clarity does not need to be confused with man’s wisdom as though we could present the gospel more effectively using human means. Our purpose is to clarify rather than to find ways to make people believe. This is God’s job.
Of course, when the gospel is clearly proclaimed, opposition will arise. In this case, opposition arose from within the Jewish community. Today, people who are in the church are sometimes the biggest opponents of the clear exposition of the truth. As soon as the truth is proclaimed, it makes people accountable to God who is judge. Somehow, many think that salvation comes from ignorance of the will of God. So long as they can make the defense that they did not know or that the message was unclear, that they cannot be held accountable before God at the judgment.
In this passage, the mockers of the good news made the claim that the Apostles were drunk. They were trying to offer an alternate explanation to what was happening. It wasn’t the work of God, it was just a bunch of inebriated Galileans. Galileans were seen as uneducated rabble. So these mockers were trying to completely discredit the message by destroying the credibility of the messengers.
What they were really doing, of course, was to discredit the Holy Spirit who had given the utterance. They were mocking God, just as they mocked God the Son. This is very close to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit if it is not downrightly so. When the works of God such as Jesus’ healing were attributed to the devil or when the words of God are equated to drunken babble, this places these mockers in extreme jeopardy.
The Devil is always ready to offer an alternate explanation to the work of God. And the people who assist Him shall suffer the same fate before the judgment seat of Christ as Satan, unless God grant them repentance. Paul was one of these miracles who was radically saved by God’s grace. He tells us that he had persecuted God’s church through ignorance, and God had mercy on him. As we see in Paul’s case, he was saved from his ignorance by the knowledge of the truth. He was not saved by ignorance or to ignorance.
We must not blindly accept the world’s labels, but need to vigorously defend the work of God. We have to explain the hope that is in us, with fear and trembling of course. Christians are accused of being emotional and leaving their minds at the door. All too often, we have fallen into the world’s stereotype of the Christian. The truth is that it is the world and Satan who wish that people leave their brains at the door and act on emotion. In this passage they mocked. They did not offer any rational explanation why this phenomena was not the work of God. Rather, they tried to squelch it by saying that the message was not to believe because the 120 were drunk. Leave your brain at the door; shut your mind from the message they are bringing.
We can see at Stephen’s trial how he had made a brilliant and rational defense of the faith, fully knowing that his life was in jeopardy. It was the opponents who stopped their ears and rushed Stephen in a rage to stone him. Now who is being emotional? This is no different than the way Jesus was treated at His trial. Jesus, who had the most to lose was the only man in the room. Pilate shook with fear as did the disciples. The Sanhedrin was full of rage. The people shouted “Crucify Him.” Yet Jesus was composed. When He was wrongfully beaten, He calmly noted to Annas that this was contrary to the law. When Pilate told Jesus that he had the power to release or crucify Jesus, Jesus calmly told Pilate where true authority came from. Jesus did not cringe; neither did He try to save Himself.
Here, the Holy Spirit uses Peter to answer the slanders of the mockers. First a rational note that people are simply not drunk at nine o’clock in the morning. But this is almost an aside to the message he is about to bring. His defense was not from observation of human behavior, but rather from Scripture. God does not use human psychology; He uses Scripture and Spirit to support His Word. The emphasis of Peter is to tell the people that event had been prophesied by the prophet Joes hundreds of years before. He makes an extensive quotation from Joel 2 at this point, which will form the basis of the following sermon in which Peter will use this and other Scriptures to tell the listeners the meaning of this Pentecost miracle. We shall cover this in more detail in the next lesson.
What is important here again is that Christians need to be knowledgeable of the Scripture so they might be able to offer a reasonable explanation of the Christian message, including the Old Testament prophecies to explain to mocker and potential converts alike. The disciples had spent three years with Jesus learning the Scriptures. In addition, Jesus had opened their ears to understand them and given them the Holy Spirit of continue their education. Even the educated Paul would have to spend years on the backside of the desert learning before He was ready for public ministry. This has been forgotten in the church today which relies on some warming of the heart experience or speaking in tongues as a substitute for the hard work of Bible study and prayer. This is one reason that the church is suffering such losses in membership today. The answer is not to sell out to the world’s stereotypes and double down on silliness and irrationality. Instead, we have seen from Scripture how we should respond to Christianity’s cultured and uncultured despisers. It is with all of our hearts, all of our minds, and all of our strength and not just experience. An experience happened here, but it needed rational and Scriptural explanation.
A rational defender might also notice here in this passage that drunks do not speak in languages they do not know. They might babble and speak incoherently, but this is not the case here. They spoke in the known languages of other nations. What was happening could not possibly be the result of too much new wine. People were confused at what was happening because the experience was totally outside their expectations and experience. But God wants His message to be clearly understood. This is why Peter stands up and explains it.
How would you respond to those who challenge your faith? Will you simply retreat into the shadows and say: “I don’t care what you think? All I know is that He lives in my heart. Or will you be able to explain why you believe from the Scripture? I am afraid that far too many are anti-intellectual in their faith. But the Bible speaks thus “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I realize that many mockers of the faith wear the toga of the Christian faith and brag about their education. There false teachers have wormed into the church and taken many of our mainline denominations over. But the answer is not to retreat from them into our own little cave of experience, but rather to boldly challenge them, even as the Apostles did before the highly educated Sanhedrin with a coherent and Biblical argument. It is time to be bold in articulating the faith.