“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?” (Acts 2:5–7, AV)
In 1970, the Five Man Electrical Band recorded a song titled, “Signs.” It had a catchy tune and the refrain caught the main point, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign . . . Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign.” Signs everywhere. This really hits home during an election year. As Chris and I were driving to speak at a church one Sunday, you could almost not see the terrain on one corner of the route due to the number of “Vote for” signs. There must have been over a hundred on one small corner. I am sure that if anyone tried to read all the signs, they would have stopped and created a major traffic jam. Yet, some signs are very important. They tell us which way to go.
On the Day of Pentecost, God gave those gathered in the city of Jerusalem for the feast a great sign. It was a sign that would be unmistakable. It would be divine in origin. It would validate a major institution and a change in the kingdom. The sign was that of Jesus’ followers, his disciples, speaking in foreign languages that they formerly did not know. We will see that God used this specific sign two other times to mark major events as well (Acts 10:46; 19:6).
All those from the foreign lands who came to the city for the festival, affirmed what they had heard. They heard these Galileans speaking in their native languages. Their communication was clear. They spoke the languages from the nations of the known world. This was a divine act manifested in the disciples by the Holy Spirit of God. In these foreign languages, they were extoling the excellencies of God (v10).
This particular sign was only recorded in the Book of Acts on three occasions. Each marked a significant new event. Here it marked the initiation of a new age, the formation of the church where all believers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and baptized into the body of Christ, the church. Yes, this was a major change for this Jewish community and it required a major sign to alert people to the movement of God.
Today the Lord still uses signs so to speak. He uses them to get people to focus on His mighty works. These He works by His Spirit in the lives of believers. While I have known people who were given the ability to go to a foreign country and quickly learn to communicate the gospel there, today the sign God gives in every case through the work of His Spirit is a transformed life. The Holy Spirit through the work of regeneration transforms the heart of the believer. It is an inward transformation which greatly changes the outward expression of life. Paul wrote of this transformation.
“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3, AV)
He further explained “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, AV). The believer’s life is to be a living sign that declares the mighty works of God.