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THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF PENTECOST

Written by Bruce Naumann

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4)

There are eleven men enrolled at the Wittenberg Theological Seminary in Arusha, Tanzania. Eight of them are in the three-year seminary, with three others in the first-year, introductory level. One of the challenges for an American teaching in a foreign mission field is overcoming the language barrier. Although Tanzania has two official languages, English and Swahili, and the students are expected to be proficient in English, differing skill levels may make it necessary for the instruction to be aided by a translator. One recent "miracle" of translation that has the potential to help is computer-aided translation services. Translation to and from Swahili can be made instantly, right on a smart phone. Additionally, seminary textbooks are being prepared with English and Swahili texts on facing pages, courtesy of free online services. The translations, though imperfect, will aid those with marginal English skills and will be improved with use.

Of course, on the first New Testament Day of Pentecost, Jesus' disciples didn't have computers or the Internet. They didn't need them, for the Holy Spirit provided a true miracle, enabling them to speak fluently in a variety of foreign languages which they had never studied. People who had gathered from many nations to Jerusalem exclaimed "We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God!" (Acts 2:11)

And what was the message of the disciples? This is revealed to us in Peter's Pentecost sermon, which culminated in a message of both Law and Gospel: "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. . . . Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:36, 38-39)

It is here in this message that we find the greatest miracle of all. It is more amazing than the valuable tool of computer-aided, instant translation. It is even more wonderful than the sudden acquisition of language skills on Pentecost. It is the content of the message itself that works the greatest wonders. This universal language of Pentecost speaks to the hearts of people everywhere, regardless of race, age, gender, culture, or language. The message of the Law knocks down human pride and self-righteousness, and the message of the Gospel lifts up helpless sinners to know that, because of Jesus, God the righteous Judge has become our merciful and loving Father. There are no exceptions: all have the burden of guilt before God with which they are born, and to which they daily add sin upon sin. Every person has been fully redeemed from this guilt by the promised Savior, Jesus Christ. Every person is the object of God's earnest search with the saving message of a crucified and risen Lord Jesus. People of every language and culture are invited by God to the throne of His grace, having full confidence through Christ, and firmly trusting that the glory of heaven awaits because of His completed work on our behalf.

It is this universal language of Pentecost—the message of sin and grace through Christ—which the students at the Wittenberg Seminary will study as they prepare to proclaim it to the people whom they, as pastors, will serve in the towns and villages of Tanzania and Kenya. Please pray that the Lord will use their hearts and mouths to speak it faithfully, for the welfare of many souls, in a lifetime of dedicated service to their Lord!

Bruce Naumann is a CLC Missionary to East Africa. His home is in Arusha, Tanzania