If we had to forego the celebration of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter or Pentecost, which one would seem the least crucial?
Most of us would have a tough time picturing a year with no Christmas, no Holy Thursday/Good Friday or no Easter. Many Christians, because of the congregational and cultural emphasis of the first three, would probably say, “Well, if I must choose, I can do without Pentecost.” And many seem to do.
Absolutely not! The bottom line of what I’m trying to say is that without Pentecost the other three would not be celebrated at all!
There could not have been a Good Friday without the advent of Christ’s coming which we celebrate at Christmas. Good Friday would have been a meaningless martyrdom without the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ which we celebrate at Easter. But it is Pentecost that enables the gift of faith by which we can know that the birth, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are for us! Jesus was not finished when He rose from the dead and ascended to be glorified. He came back to give the greatest gift of all — the gift of His own Spirit to live in us.
It is with the excitement of this reality that we focus on Pentecost.
Let’s look at the promise of Pentecost in receiving God’s power.
The promise is quite straightforward. Jesus gave it in His last words to the disciples when He declared, “‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth'” (Acts 1:8).
That’s the obvious promise. But there were earlier promises of the Spirit of God coming in Pentecostal power. Hundreds of years before, the prophet Joel quoted God as saying:
“Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will My people be shamed. And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, 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 dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:27-32).
Those who have repented of sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation are promised God’s Pentecostal power. This is not a divine energy that is restricted to some movements and denominations that go by the label charismatic or Pentecostal.
Acts 1:14 tells us, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Acts 2:1 declares, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” There is no substitute for Christian community!
There were three great Jewish festivals to which every male Jew who lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to come. They were Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. The name Pentecost means “the fiftieth.” And another name for Pentecost was “The Feast of Weeks.” It was so-called because it fell on the fiftieth day, after a week of weeks — 7 weeks, each having 7 days, after Passover. Passover fell in the middle of April. Therefore, Pentecost fell at the beginning of June. By that time traveling conditions were at their best. The rainy season was over. Some scholars say that there may very well have been more people in Jerusalem at Pentecost than there were during Passover.
The Feast had two main significances. One, it had a historical significance in that it commemorated the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Two, it had an agricultural significance in that at Passover the first omer of barley of the crop was offered to God, and at Pentecost two loaves were offered in gratitude for the completed and in-gathered harvest. No work was to be done on that day. It was a festive holiday occasion and the streets were filled with people.to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2-4).
Luke goes on to describe how there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation who heard the sound and came and gathered in bewilderment, each hearing disciples speak in their own languages. Some, deeply perplexed, wanted to know, “What does this mean?” Others made fun of the disciples declaring, “They have had too much wine.”
The Hebrew word for spirit and wind is ruach. The wind had been an emblem of the Spirit for the Hebrew people throughout the generations. This wind of God was present at the creation. It was this wind of which Ezekiel spoke of in the valley of dry bones in which a dejected, defeated people would be brought back to life (Ezekiel 37). Jesus used the image of the wind for the Spirit when He was describing to Nicodemus what it is to be born-again by the Spirit (John 3). In the Upper Room, the wind was blowing, rushing with an irresistible force.
The danger of organized Christianity today is that it can become powerless! There is nothing more boring than empty theological words. There is nothing more enervating, life-sapping, than dry institutional religion that simply becomes a head trip and a business. Jesus did not come to found a new religion called Christianity. Jesus said, ‘”I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”‘ (John 10:10).
Let’s look at the preaching of Pentecost of a people receiving God’s power.
We hear a lot of talk today in political circles about staying on message.” It’s important that we, as followers of Jesus, have a Pentecostal power that enables us to stay on message.
Let’s look at the practice of Pentecost of a people who have received God’s power
Luke shows us four specific practices of a living, Holy-Spirit-filled church. Luke records, as history, the practice in these words ofActs 2:42-47: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
It was a learning church. There were 3,120 people devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching. This was not some mystical experience that caused them to neglect theology. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is not anti-intellectualism. Today we do not have the apostles, but we do have the apostles’ teachings. We have the prophetic teachings of the Old Testament, which the early church had, and we have the apostles’ teaching as recorded and preserved for us by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. A Spirit-filled church is a biblical church, committed to the Word of God.
It was a caring church. They were involved in the practice of fellowship. They came together in intimate groupings. They saw everything they had was God’s, given to them to use. They shared with each other, as common, all that they had. Some sold their possessions and goods.
It was a worshiping church. These early believers met together regularly to break bread and pray together. Their worship was formal in the Temple. And their worship was informal, meeting in their individual homes. Their worship was both joyful and dignified, celebrative and reverent.
It was an evangelizing church. The teaching that nourished the believers was balanced by a continuing emphasis on the kerugma that called others to repentance and faith. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Evangelism is central to our work. We are called to share our faith individually and corporately.
Will you join me in praying this prayer?
“Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me, empowering me and us to be and do all you dream of us being and doing!”