A Pilgrim-Like Response
A sermon manuscript on Acts 2:5–13 by Brian Mann
The audio and video of preaching based on this manuscript will be available to listen at https://www.sermonaudio.com/solo/brianmann/sermons/82122168231439/
Jesus was most gladly received in Galilee of the Gentiles, where he began his ministry. He went on to say upon visiting his hometown,
Matthew 13:57 ESV “And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.””
I spoke with a brother this week who is academically qualified and seasoned in ministry about his experience in getting a book published. He shared with me how he had received three ‘no’s’ from different publishers until a man from Africa contacted him and the result being translating his book into their language and will potentially be read now by millions of foreign speech.
Ezekiel was told,
Ezekiel 3:4–6 ESV “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.”
Jesus made it clear that the Jews in Jerusalem would face judgment in their generation (11:50–51), something they affirmed this upon themselves when they demanded Jesus be crucified (Matthew 27:25). Their response is included in Acts 2:13 as the “others” who mocked him. But strikingly, the response to the miracle God wrought, that is given astounding attention is that of the foreigners. The foreign response is the one we need to have, because it is the response that receives Jesus. And it is a great condemnation upon the fact that if anywhere should have received Jesus it should have been the place where he arose from and walked! So, this text beckons us to received Jesus like the foreigners, to have a foreign response.
What is the cause of this struggle? The fall, we have to work hard in ministry because of the fall. Why don’t family and friends easily receive Jesus? the fall. Etc. But Adam and Eve knew God’s promise, they could do the work with hope. Even though we have hard work ahead of us, we have the promise of God, and we can be certain that God will fulfill his promises. We preach to have a response like the foreigners because the normal response of the natives is not acceptable.
Here we have not merely foreigners, but foreigners who traveled for religious reasons (I.e. Pilgrims). Stephen Charnock comments,
As God chose the time of the Passover for the death of Christ, that there might be the greatest number of the inhabitants of the country, as witnesses of the matter of fact, the innocence and sufferings of Christ, so he chose the time of Pentecost for the first publishing the value and end of this blood to the world. Thus the evangelical law was given in a confluence of people from all parts and nations, because it was a covenant with all nations: and the variety of languages spoken by a company of poor Galilaeans, bred up at the lake of Tiberias, and in poor corners of Canaan, without the instructions of men for so great a skill, might well evidence to the hearers, that God that brought the confusion of languages first at Babel, did only work that cure of them, and combine all together at Jerusalem.
Thus, these are pilgrims by definition. We need a pilgrim-like response to God’s mighty works. How do we promote a pilgrim-like response to God’s mighty works?
1. A Pilgrim-like response to God’s mighty works is promoted with the contrasting character of other devout people
The character of these Pilgrims is contrasted with the character of that of the “others” in v.13 who mocked them. The Spirit writes, “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven” (v.5). And in v.13, “But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” The word “devout” is defined earlier by Luke to speak of Simeon explicitly in Luke 2:25 and of Anna implicitly in Luke 2:38. Of Simeon he wrote he was devout by his waiting for the consolation of Israel:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (Luke 2:25)
Of Anna he wrote that to be devout meant remaining in the temple in service:
“And there was a prophetess Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:36–38)
Luke also uses the word devout throughout Acts to define devout people as God-fearing people. In Acts 10:2, 22 is Cornelius, a gentile God-fearer:
“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to all the people, and prayed continually to God.” (10:2; cf. v.22)
In Acts 13:16, 26 Jewish God-fearers are described when Paul stood and addressed them as such,
“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen…Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God…” (13:16, 26).
The same contrast between these God-fearers in Luke 2:5–12 is made after Paul spoke to the God-fearers noting another group (just like in Acts 2:13) in Acts 13:45 “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy.”
Devout means that one is looking with hope to the coming of the Messiah to reign (like Simeon); one is remaining in the church (like Anna); is fearing-God as expressed in generous giving to all (not just those they wish to gain by profit) and dedicated to prayer (like Cornelius); and is willing to be excluded by the liberal church of the Jews (like those whom Paul addressed in Acts 13).
Today’s definition of devout accords with this. The Oxford Writing Thesaurus gives these synonyms for devout: “religious, devoted, dedicated, reverent, God-fearing, believing, spiritual, prayerful, holy, godly, saintly, faithful, dutiful, righteous, churchgoing, orthodox.” Moreover, the antonyms are are, “insincere; lapsed.” It is very simple here: A pilgrim like response is fostered or promoted with other people who are regularly attending the church, prayerful, generous, willing to be excluded by others, and are looking for the kingdom of Jesus to come. There are different crowds you can hang around. All of these were professing believers, but there were the Pilgrim-type in vv.5–12, and the Jewish unbelievers in v.13. Paul wrote elsewhere, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” The people you gather with will contribute to the way you respond to Jesus. If you want to be responding like these God-fearing men, then you need to be gathering with such like these (v.5), and you need to not fear being excluded by the “others” (v.13).
The “others” accuse those responding in the Pilgrim-way of drunkenness. This is refuted by Peter in v.15. What they were likely saying is the whole group was out of their minds to believe this miracle to be genuine. And the same reason that Paul gives in 13:45 informs us that it is likely here because of “jealousy.” There is truly a different character that you want to be running with, and it is not the character of these jealous unbelieving Jews, but of the God-fearers you must be around to have a pilgrim-like response to God’s mighty works. These have hope that Jesus’ kingdom will come; they regularly attend church; they are generous to all people; they are dedicated to prayer; they are willing to be excluded by “others.” You will respond to God’s mighty works based largely on the kind of people you run with or not.
2. A Pilgrim-like response to God’s mighty works is promoted by the conquering quality of this miracle.
This miracle had the conquering quality to take devout men who gathered to worship from every nation under heaven, and bring them all together to see they had no way out of responding anything but positively to it.
“And at this sound, the multitude came together” v.6 is literally “This voice having happened.” Before this we read it is “devout men from every nation under heaven” (v.5). The providential providing of the multitude to be in Jerusalem is one thing, but the conquering quality is here the “voice having happened” which brought this multitude together to witness the power and might of this miracle of God. This is sovereign power preceded by providence.
The Spirit goes on to say, “and they were bewildered” literally “poured together.” This describes a mixture of liquids that is confused or mixed together. So the ESV uses the word “bewildered.” The word is translated “confounded” in 9:22 where it is said that “Paul confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.” To “confound” means to overthrow as an enemy by a powerful argument; to defeat or prove. It is a picture of conquering with words, but here a Word in action.
The reason for this conquering quality was “because each one was hearing them speak in his own language” (v.6b). This is the ground fact of the miracle: each of these men understood their own particular dialect. The word “language” indicates that tongues was indeed a language. The word originally means discourse or conversation, then mode of speech, style, or diction; then diversity of languages whether national or provincial (J.A. Alexander). The conquering quality of this miracle had nothing to do with how they felt about it. Nothing they felt toward this miracle made it any less or more powerful than it was. This miracle was in itself the grounds to conquer them. It was undeniable, compelling, objective truth before them. The quality of this miracle was such that it could not be resisted by God-fearing men whom God providentially brought together from all nations, but only by unbelieving Jews who looked on with jealousy. The quality of a miracle like this will conquer every person who is brought in the fear of God to worship him. (Other examples include the blind man given sight, or the resurrection itself).
3. The Pilgrim-like response to the mighty works of God is promoted in corresponding questions substantiating the reality.
Three corresponding questions are put forward affirming the reality of the miracle of tongues by all nations providentially brought to witness to the sovereign rule of Christ over the whole earth. When you have a substantiated miracle like this, it points out the reality that man could not do this without God, only man could experience this because of God, and they are then faced to be face to face with God to respond no other way than with positive affirmation of the truth. This is a Pilgrim-like response, one that offers question of wonder (like Mary) not questions of doubt (like Zechariah). The former will grant blessing, the latter will humble the man until he undergoes discipline or further education by the Lord.
This Miracle Was Substantiated By the Reality of What These Men Could Not Perform
Question 1—The Spirit writes in v.7 (KJV) “And they were all amazed and marveled, saying to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?” Galilee was the place where Jesus called his first disciples (John 1:43ff). He was received well there. And these all being related to Galilee speaking as they did, appeared to the Pilgrims as something of an impossibility, rather a miracle. This is further stressed in the words “amazed” and “marveled” —language that appears in other places in Acts to indicate when a miracle really did take place (E.g. 3:10; 4:13). The word “amazed” here means to be besides oneself with wonder. It comes from the root word for “ecstasy.” The word “marveled” (KJV) or “astonished” (ESV) is a specific application of the amazement they reasonably felt. Their feelings matched the fact there was a miracle. It conquered them in their chests because they knew intellectually a miracle really did take place. They were not merely feeling there was a miracle, but were reasonably feeling it to be the case because they knew Galileans simply couldn’t do what was presented before them on their own, or without God—but it happened.
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to observe the same thing about the reality of his miracles:
John 3:2 ESV “This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.””
This Miracle Was Substantiated by the Reality of What These Men Did Perform
Question #2—They asked another question in v.8–11 with a closing affirmation to stress this, “And how is it that we hear each of us in his own native language?…we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” The whole mentions at least 13 different nations:
Acts 2:8–11 ESV “And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.””
They say they are hearing the languages of their native birth. The order is geographically Northeast then proceeding West and South (J.A. Alexander, et). The first three (Parthians, Medes, and Elamites) are left over from the Persian empire, formidable hindrances to the Roman empire which were conquered (J.A. Alexander); yet there is something stronger than Rome here. Mesopotamia is called such because it is between the two great rivers—Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Ibid). Judea had its own dialect. And the next five after Judea are from five separate provinces of Rome (Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia). The way these are listed is similar to the disciples list in 1:13–14 corresponding to the allotment of the earth given to the church to take the world! The naming of Egypt, parts of Libya belong to Cyrene, visitors (literally from the word epidemic) from Rome are described lastly as both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, to show forth a representative group of all nations under heaven’s sovereignty. Psalm 2 the nations raging are brought here to kiss the Son! By their question they testify that what they heard in conclusion was “the mighty works of God.” Some translated “wonderful.” The term is simply μεγαλεια meaning magnificent like in Luke 1:49 where Mary says that the Lord has done “He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name!” In contrast, the Israelites of Deuteronomy 11:2–7 where it is said,
“Consider the discipline (Lit. education) of the LORD your God, his greatness (LXX: μεγαλεια), his mighty hand and his outstretched arm his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land, and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued after you…your eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD that he did.”
These God-fearing devout men from every nation testified that God was to be trusted in more than chariots and horses! He was that mighty! He was that wonderful!
This Miracle Was Substantiated by the Reality of Where It Placed Them Before God
Question #3–The last question they asked corresponding to the reality of this miracle is in v.12, “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another What does this mean?” The word “amazed” you have seen in v.7, but added here is the word “perplexed” which is a compound word that comes from a word meaning passage (πορος) and impassible (απορος) and implies having no passage, outlet, or way of escape. So they say literally “What will this be?” We see the word “perplexed” used of Herod in Luke 9:7,
Luke 9:7 ESV “Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead,”
Herod felt he was in a place of no escape, no outlet. He had no way out. He felt this way because “it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead.” Unlike the reality these nations were responding to, he was feeling perplexed on the basis of a non-reality. But the feeling of these nations corresponded to reality.
Sometimes being perplexed is met with hope like in Luke 24:4 where those were perplexed about an empty tomb and were met by two men in dazzling apparel.
The word “perplexed is used in Acts 5:24 where the apostles were missing from the prison:
Acts 5:24 ESV “Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.”
Again, the same word is used in Acts 10:17 of Peter receiving the vision of the nations:
Acts 10:17 ESV “Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate”
It is the experience of feeling there is no way out of this! When we think there is a way out of dealing with God we are not acting like these Pilgrims in response to God’s mighty works. We are acting more like Satan, trying continually to find a way out of surrendering to God’s Word. A Pilgrim-like response to the mighty works of God is completely opposite to Satan’s response. When demons were faced with Jesus Christ, they only asked for a delay of time, but when pilgrims of God are faced with the mighty works of God they seek no delay, but they ask reasonable questions testifying to the fact that God has conquered them before the first word of the sermon is uttered by Peter in v.14.