We explain what we do not know in terms of what we do.
Consider the word horsepower. James Watt coined that term to market steam engines to people who relied on horses as beasts of burden. They understood how powerful horses were, so Watt explained how powerful steam engines were in terms of how much horsepower they were equivalent to.
In Acts 2:16-21, the Apostle Peter used what his audience knew (Old Testament prophecy) to explain what they did not know (the disciples’ spiritual experience). Here is what Peter said:
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Peter’s “No” reminds us that we can misinterpret what we do not know in terms of what we do. The crowds had misinterpreted the disciples’ spiritual experience as the slurred speech of drunks. Peter rejected their misinterpretation and turned to Joel 2:28-32 for the proper interpretation. He noted four Old Testament expectations that the disciples’ spiritual experience had met:
First, the expectation of the end: First-century Jews looked forward to “the last days” and “the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” The disciples’ spiritual experience heralded the beginning of that end.
Second, the expectation of universality: First-century Jews looked forward to a day when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all people regardless of nationality, age, sex, and class. This happened on Pentecost when the disciples praised God in many foreign languages, which they spoke by divine enablement.
Third, the expectation of signs and wonders: First-century Jews believed the end of time would be characterized by supernatural portents in heaven and on earth. The sound of wind and tongues of fire that manifested themselves on the Day of Pentecost were examples of such portents. So were the miracles performed by Jesus and by the early church.
Fourth, the expectation of salvation: First-century Jews looked forward to the day when God would judge the wicked and save the righteous. According to Joel, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This expectation began to be met when 3000 people accepted Peter’s evangelistic message and were baptized (Acts 2:41).
This is that. We explain what we do not know in terms of what we do. And what we should know best is the Bible, which helps us interpret all spiritual experience.