You are Still Part of the Body– Even in Isolation!
“On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.” (Acts 2:1-4, NLT)
The day of Pentecost… In summary, a group of people gathers in one place, with one goal. Suddenly, God’s Spirit comes down and confuses their language. From there, the people scatter into the world. Does this remind you of a different Bible story?
For me, I immediately go back to Genesis 11: The Tower of Babel. Think about it; a group of people gathered together with one goal– to build a city with a tower that reaches into the
heavens– and God comes down to confuse their language and they end up scattered over the face of the Earth.
Almost the same story, but with very different motives. In Acts 2, the people are given language to empower them– unite them– and send them out with a mission and a Helper. In Genesis 11, the people are confused by language to disassemble them and scatter them through confusion. So we have all the same elements, but a different end.
Why? What is the difference between the stories to make them have a different end? The difference is within the people. In Genesis 11, the people very obviously do not trust the Lord. We can tell by their directive and common goal to build a city and a tower that they don’t. “‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 11:4, ESV)
Their distrust and rebellion against God are multi-faceted: First, they want to build a city so that they cannot be dispersed, or scattered, across the Earth. This is in direct disobedience to the Lord’s command to go into the world and populate it in Genesis 9:1. The Lord commanded Noah and his family to go out and be fruitful, filling the earth with their descendants, but the people of Babel are the first record of people actively working against that. Their defiance shows their mistrust of the Lord and His desire to work for their good.
The second clue to their lack of trust is that they want to build a tower into the heavens. I’m starting to think that the tower’s purpose was not to make themselves out to be as powerful as God like I was led to believe in Sunday School years ago. I think the reason is far more practical than that. I think the purpose of the tower was an insurance policy for the people should God decide to go back on His promise to never flood the earth again. If the people didn’t trust that God would keep His word, this Biblical version of a skyscraper would make sense. The water would rise, and the people would go up into the tower to keep from drowning.
Lastly, and probably most obviously, the people of Babel want to build this city and tower primarily to make a name for themselves. There is no part of this plan that is meant to glorify God. In fact, the plan at its very core is devised to be a statement of how much the people want to be rebellious against God. They want to erect a monument that essentially states that God may still want to wipe out the human race. So what happens? God says, “Let us go down and confuse their speech so they cannot understand one another.”
The cool part is when God says “Let us,” there’s only one person he could be talking to: the Holy Spirit! No angel could confuse people’s speech. No heavenly being but God Himself could create languages and pour that out on the people. So God goes down and releases language on a people that formerly only spoke one dialect, which confuses them enough to abandon their construction project and forces them to break apart and scatter across the world.
So the difference is that the people in Acts 2 not only trusted the Lord but regarded Him as the head over them. They trusted in Jesus’ goodness and that His promise to send a Helper was for their benefit. This is one of the first times we get to see the Church act as the Body of Christ without Jesus as the training wheels. And because they came together to make HIS name great, the Holy Spirit poured Himself out in much the same way and the people began to speak in other languages.
And the beautiful thing is, the tongues that were poured out on them did not confuse them and cause them to scatter. It united them, empowered them, and encouraged them to carry out the Great Commission: to go out into all the world and tell everyone about Jesus. It scattered them, yet united them as the Body of Christ, connected to one another through the Holy Spirit, with Jesus Christ as the Head.
And that body– the Church– continues to grow! And I can’t help but think that even today, while we are all more scattered than ever before, we still stand united as the Body of Christ. Although we are self-quarantined to our homes, we are still the Body. Although we can’t meet on a Sunday, Jesus is still our head. We’re still united in our separation by wanting to make His name known!
Today, I want to encourage you to remember that you are a part of a body. You don’t need a church building or a live feed or a podcast or a Youtube video to confirm that for you or connect you to it. The Holy Spirit is that connecting force for us, and Jesus is over all of us, with God the Father as the facilitator of it all. No isolation can break you away from that fact, so if you find yourself going stir crazy or in solitary confinement, take courage in this: You are never alone– not even for a moment! Not only is the body of Christ connected to you in an unbreakable bond, but God Himself is never far away.