Who Received The Holy Spirit In Acts 2?
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Last week I was asked who received the Holy Spirit in the above passage: was it all the disciples or just the apostles?
Luke says there were about 120 disciples gathered in Jerusalem at this time (Acts 1:15). This included the 11 original apostles (v. 13), “the women and Mary the mother of Jesus” and His brothers (v. 14), and Matthias who replaced Judas as an apostle (v. 26). These disciples were together in the days following the Lord’s ascension into heaven. It is reasonable to believe they were together on this occasion at the beginning of Acts chapter 2. However, did they all receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, or was it just the apostles?
The context indicates it was only the apostles who received the Holy Spirit.
1. The pronoun “they” is identified as the apostles. The Holy Spirit fell on individuals identified with the pronouns “they” and “them.” The rules of grammar state the antecedent of any pronoun is identified by referring back to the nearest noun with which it agrees in person, number, and gender. The nearest noun is the word “apostles” in Acts 1:26.
2. The apostles were being equipped to do their work. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit was promised to the apostles by the Lord before His ascension. “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now… But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’” (Acts 1:4-5, 8).
The event in Acts 2 is the baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit being given to the apostles to empower them to do their work. This was not promised to all believers, only to the apostles.
3. The sound of the rushing mighty wind attracted the multitude. One of the wonders of this event was the sound of a rushing mighty wind from heaven (v. 2). It was this sound that attracted the multitude to hear the first gospel sermon (v. 6). When they came together, they heard the apostles speaking in their native languages, which caused them to be amazed and to question what had happened, giving Peter the opening to preach the gospel.
4. Those speaking in tongues were Galileans. The multitude “were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?’” (Acts 2:7). We know the apostles and the Lord’s family were Galileans, but we can’t prove that all 120 disciples (1:15) were from Galilee.
5. What about the promise of Joel’s prophecy? Peter identifies the event in Acts 2:1-4 as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, which states that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, including women (Acts 2:16-17). How can we then limit what happened in Acts 2:1-4 to just 12 men?
Joel’s prophecy was beginning to be fulfilled on Pentecost. There is no record of individuals seeing visions or miraculous dreams on that day. The apostles, empowered by their baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit, would later lay their hands on believers, allowing them to receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-19), thus fulfilling Joel’s prophecy.