Practically Supernatural

“As I [Peter] began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15-17 ESV)

Peter’s recall of what Jesus said about the baptism of the Spirit is a fulfillment of the Spirit’s work promised by Jesus in John 14, “…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Commenting on the “gift of the Spirit” often stalls around the idea of speaking in tongues. But the more significant gift of Pentecost is the content of what the Spirit-filled Apostles speak, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God,” which for the Apostles were fully realized in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. (Acts 2:11 ESV)

So it is that the Gentiles baptized by Peter begin to speak the mighty works of God in Christ, and are joined to Christ in baptism.

As is set forth in Ephesians 4, all “gifts” serve one end, the manifestation of Christ to the world, that those who are his can become eternally living parts of his body. From the Lord’s point of view, the gifts are practical, given to humans “so that” a particular result will ensue.

But I don’t want to ignore the supernatural force of what the Bible describes. The gift of the Spirit is remarkable and shocks people out of their sense of “normal.” What “should be” is blitzed by something else, something new, that uses foreign voices to reach people in their own language while at the same time tempering the worldly absolutes of different cultures to allow unity in Christ.

It is a catholic (that is, universal across people, places and periods of time) approach that we see as Jesus calls the first 12 Apostles, men profoundly different and who, at least in the case of tax collectors and zealots, normally wouldn’t associate except to defraud or kill each other. It pours out (yes, an intentionally messy image) across the pages of Acts, the Epistles and subsequent Christian history and leads toward the great vision,

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)

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