Life in the Spirit, Part 2: Pentecost
May 21, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This Sunday is Pentecost. For the Jews, Pentecost is the feast celebrating the first fruits of harvest, the late Spring harvest. Jews from throughout the Roman empire would gather in Jerusalem to offer thank offerings to the Lord.
For Christians, Pentecost is the day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. We read in Acts 2 of this unique event from redemptive history, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (2:1-4).
Unfortunately, the event of Pentecost has been debated among Christians, causing confusion and even ignorance about this significant event. We may even be tempted to avoid celebrating Pentecost, fearing we may be associated with a certain brand of Christianity. Pentecost, however, is significant for the church and individual Christians. What can we learn about Pentecost?
1. Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit, is a unique work of Christ in redemptive history. Christ died providing atonement for our sin. Christ rose from the dead giving hope of eternal life. Christ ascended into heaven to intercede on our behalf. Christ sent forth his Spirit to empower the church to be his witnesses. Pentecost is not repeated, just as the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are not repeated. Therefore, we should not look for a “Pentecost” experience of the Holy Spirit.
2. All Christians are baptized in the Spirit at conversion. Paul describes this normative work of Christ’s Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Paul does not differentiate between Christians who have been baptized by the Spirit and those who are not. He says “all” were (past tense, emphasizing the reality is true upon conversion) baptized. Pentecost marks the beginning of the new work of Christ in pouring out his Spirit. Since Pentecost, people of faith not only are regenerated by the Spirit, but also are baptized and filled by the Spirit.
3. The unique event of Pentecost was accompanied by unique, symbolic activities that highlight the benefits of the new covenant. God promised in the Old Testament to pour out his Spirit in a new way (Joel 2, Ez. 36, Jer. 31 etc.). The “rushing wind,” “divided tongues as of fire,” and the speaking in tongues all point to the blessings of the new covenant inaugurated by the blood of Christ. We should not look to experience the symbols, but enjoy the rich blessings of the new covenant:
Rushing Wind: In the Hebrew language the same word is used for spirit and for wind/breath. In Genesis 1:2 we read that the “Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.” The Spirit/wind of God was present and involved with creation. Now He is present and involved with new creation. Because of the work of the Spirit, we are regenerated and given a heart of flesh and are being transformed into the image of Christ (see 2 Cor. 3:18). Therefore, Paul celebrates “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”! Because of Pentecost we can celebrate the new creation at work within us!
Tongues as of Fire: You may remember that John the Baptist said of Jesus that he would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Lk. 3:16). Fire is associated with judgment. Instead of baptizing Christians with the fire of judgment, Jesus takes this baptism upon himself: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Lk. 12:50). Sinclair Ferguson says, “Part of the symbolism of the ‘tongues of fire’ may well lie in the hint that this is a baptism of gracious rather than of destructive power because of the judgment which Christ had vicariously borne in his passion” (The Holy Spirit, p. 59). Pentecost and the gift of the Spirit reminds us that God’s wrath has been satisfied in Christ and he is gracious to the people of faith.
Speaking in Tongues: With the outpouring of the Spirit we see the reversal of Babel, where God confused the languages of humans. The curse from the Fall into sin is being reversed in the work of Christ, and the presence of the Spirit in and through the Church demonstrates to the world that salvation is found in God alone. With the gift of the Spirit, Christians have hope of final redemption and the restoration of all things.