I want to examine
the meaning of Pentecost under three headings: the Unique Event, the Unquestionable
Emphasis and the Universal Experience.
Unique Event of Pentecost
Pentecost marked the birth of the Church,
born in but out of Judaism. We
all have birthdays but these actually only commemorate the first birth day. So
it is with Pentecost. The meaning of Pentecost will remain hidden until we note
the similarities and contrasts between Moses and Jesus, between Mount Sinai and
Mount of Olives, between the giving of the law and the giving of the Spirit, between
the first and the second covenants. Both Moses and Jesus ascended to meet with
God the Father. God's people were told to wait for their return. While Moses was
absent the people disobeyed and 3000 were slain, while Jesus was absent His disciples
obeyed and 3000 were saved.
The events of that first Pentecost
when the Lord gave the Holy Spirit to the Church were as unique as the Day Moses
brought the Law of God under the First Covenant. Not only is there a link between
the two covenants, we must be careful also to note the relationship between Easter
To teach that Pentecost is a
continuous or repeatable event is as misguided as to teach that the Jesus is still
suffering on the cross. Both events were unique but the consequences of both impact
us all. You cannot separate the cross, the resurrection, or the ascension of the
Lord Jesus Christ from the Day of Pentecost. Without the Cross there would have
been no Pentecost.
These four historical events
were unique and unrepeatable. As
on Good Friday when a great darkness fell over the land and the giant curtain
in the Temple was torn in two, so on the Day of Pentecost there were great signs
and wonders. Read 2:1-4.
Some of the bystanders initially
thought the disciples were drunk. They were not. They were perfectly sober, speaking
about God in known languages.
It was the supernatural ability
of unschooled fisherman to speak other known languages, boldly with no fear, that
aroused scepticism. Those who ridiculed the Apostles with the accusation that
they were drunk, were rejecting the message of Jesus. Biblical history reveals
that the manifestations associated with Pentecost were as much a sign of God's
judgement as His blessing for Pentecost. As much a predicted curse upon the Jews
for rejecting Jesus as a blessing on those who heard and believed in him. No wonder
Isaiah who gave us such a moving picture of the Suffering Servant, also foresaw
that the Day of Pentecost would be a day of decision, testing and judgement.
"Very well then, with
foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, To whom he said,
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is
the place of repose"--but they would not listen. So then, the word of the
LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a
little here, a little there--so that they will go and fall backward, be injured
and snared and captured. Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers who
rule this people in Jerusalem... So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See,
I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who trusts will never be dismayed. (Isaiah 28:11-16)
"Do and do, do and do, rule and
rule" is Hebrew for gobblygook. No
longer would God speak plainly in Hebrew through the prophets to the Jewish people.
From now on he would use unschooled fishermen speaking foreign languages. That
is why Peter could not allow people to misunderstand Jesus or misrepresent the
Holy Spirit. They must understand what they had done to their Messiah. For Pentecost
was a sign of great blessing but also of awesome judgement. Pentecost was a unique
historical event because it was the birth day of the Church. Made possible only
through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pentecost - the unique
The Theological Purpose
Why was the Holy Spirit given
at Pentecost? Illustration of the Paraclete. Jesus
gives three specific reasons why the Holy Spirit came in John 16:8-15.
To Convict the World of Sin, Righteousness & Judgment 16:8-12
The primary place
in which the Holy Spirit operates is not the church but the world. Unseen, unheard
yet innside the consciences of unbelievers, breaking up hard ground so that they
are ready to receive the seeds of the word of God, as it is scattered. The Holy
Spirit convicts the world of sin.
To Guide Believers into all Truth 16:13
When Christians are led into teaching
or practice inconsistent with the Scriptures, one thing is clear, they are not
being led by the Holy Spirit. It
is as simple as that. He is the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit convicts the
world of sin, and guides believers into the truth.
To Glorify Jesus 16:14
Holy Spirit's ultimate purpose is to glorify Christ (John 16:14-15). He
doesn't draw attention to Himself. There is no competition for glory in the Triune
God. Any individual, church or organisation that is truly filled with the Holy
Spirit will turn the spotlight on Jesus not themselves, not their organisation,
and even on the Holy Spirit. How do we glorify Jesus? By
allowing the Holy Spirit to make us like Jesus. By sharing what we know of Jesus
with those who don't.
Three reasons the Holy Spirit
came - to convict the world of sin, to guide believers into the truth and to glorify
Jesus. These three reasons are summarised in Jesus final words to the disciples
in Acts 1:8
"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."
The Holy Spirit was given
primarily to bring power to our witness for Jesus. That
through Christians Jesus become visible. Why? Because Jesus is the sole mediator
between God and the world. The Holy Spirit came to make Jesus known so that others
might come to know the Lord God, and we are His hands and feet, his ears and lips.
The gifts of the Spirit are therefore
not toys to be played with or to give us ecstatic experiences. The gifts are given
for service, given to equip the Church so that we can reach out to help others
in practical ways. The unquestionable
emphasis of Pentecost is evangelism - the proclamation of the Gospel. That is
what occurred on the Day of Pentecost.
People heard the good news of
Jesus Christ in their own language. After that day, those who heard returned to
their own countries to share Jesus with their own people. That is why we are here
Pentecost : The Historical Context
Pentecost : The Theological Purpose
The Universal Experience
When ever we say in the Creed
"I believe in the Holy Spirit..." we are really saying we believe in
the Living God who willingly enters my human personality, heart soul and mind
and makes me more like Jesus. Were
the events of the Day of Pentecost a miracle? Yes. A unique miracle? In
the historical sense - yes, Pentecost was unrepeatable. But experientially, no.
Illustration from John Baxter... You are special because God the Father
has made you, the Lord Jesus Christ died to save you, and the Holy Spirit breathed
His life into you. He has a plan for your life. He wants you to be his disciple,
a fisherman too. He wants you to introduce others to Jesus. There
is no greater privilege. He equips you with all His good gifts to do it.
Lets use the Jesus Video Project,
the men's breakfasts, the golf society, football like last Sunday, murder mystery
plays, Festivals, Family Services, Carnival Capers, the Sunday school picnic,
the Summer BBQ's and other special events, to make friends, build relationships
and share Jesus.
No matter how insignificant we
may feel, empowered by His Spirit, we can make a world changing contribution.
The next time you feel small and insignificant, remember the butterfly effect,
and trust God in His strength not your own. On Wednesday, God willing, I shall
fly to Israel/Palestine to introduce a group of people to see what God is doing
through his church in the schools, the hospitals, technical colleges and refugee
camps. There are two ways to get there in an aeroplane. Over land or through the
sky. Pentecost - The Unique Event,
the Unquestionable Emphasis and the Universal Experience. Lets pray.
"Blessed Spirit of the Lord,
forgive us for neglecting you, and grieving you by our proud self sufficiency,
by resisting your influence and quenching your fire. Make our hearts tenderly
impressionable, then turn us as wax to the seal, and stamp within us the image
of the Son, Amen."