The Day of Pentecost
Today is the Day of Pentecost. Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people. Some call today the birthday of the Church. Indeed, the Church was birthed by the Holy Spirit and he continues to work within the Church today. The Church I speak of is not a building but those who place their trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation. The Holy Spirit is a key part of the Trinity.
For many of us, the Holy Spirit is a bit of a conundrum. It is a difficult or even confusing theological concept. As I recall going to church when I was a child, the emphasis was on God, the Father. They did teach about Jesus but they were not much into salvation. I don’t recall any teaching about the Holy Spirit. That may be my problem. However, it is a clear teaching that the Holy Spirit is part of the Triune God. We do not believe in three Gods. We believe in one God who manifests himself in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I’ll give you a little Greek and Hebrew lesson. In biblical Greek, the word spirit is penuma. We get the word pneumatic from it. It means containing or operating from air or gas under pressure. We came to chapel this morning on four pneumatic tires that are filled with air under pressure. Penuma also means air in motion, wind or breath. Moving back into biblical Hebrew the word for Spirit is Ruach. It means air or wind or breath. On the Day of Pentecost the Spirit came upon the disciples “like the rush of a violent wind.”
In today’s church culture the understanding of the Holy Spirit presents some issues. On one hand, there are those who believe the coming of the Holy Spirit was a one-time event that happened to the disciples. On the other hand, there are those who emphasize the Holy Spirit and believe that one needs a constant or frequent infilling of the Spirit. Some believe we receive the Spirit at baptism while others believe we need a later baptism of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to get into those theological arguments but rather examine how the Holy Spirit is presented in Scripture.
The account in Acts 2 is the story of God’s faithfulness to his people. Jesus was arrested, died and was buried. Even though God raised him from the dead, the disciples did not have what they needed to continue his mission on earth. They appear in Scripture to be a defeated group who were confused about many things. After Jesus’ crucifixion, they were hiding for fear that the temple leaders would arrest them. They met the Risen Jesus but were still apprehensive. However, in their apprehension, they obeyed Jesus and continued meeting together for prayer in Jerusalem. They did not have power from on high but they had faith to obey Jesus and wait in prayer. Their faithfulness was soon rewarded.
The Day of Pentecost was the beginning of the Jewish celebration of the offering of first fruits. It was the fiftieth day after Passover and was a minor Jewish festival day. We find the core disciple group and other followers of Jesus together in one place. Some scholars believe they were in the upper room Jesus used for the last Passover dinner he had with his disciples. Luke tells us that the group numbered 120 people. They may have been in the upper chamber in an Essene monastery in Jerusalem. Undoubtedly they were in prayer, waiting with expectation for God to act on his promises. Luke tells us, “Suddenly a sound like the blowng of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:2-4).” In their enthusiasm, the group spilled out of the room into the street. Since Jerusalem was a gathering place for people from all over the Roman Empire, people from different countries heard them speaking about God’s mighty acts in Christ Jesus in their own languages. We see a group of unlearned country people from Galilee speaking in different languages. Those who heard them were amazed and perplexed but some sneered. Something big happened and still there were skeptics. The coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples marked the birth of the Church. It was such a powerful time that 3000 people were baptized and the church grew from around 120 to 3120. The disciples received exactly what they needed to be the Church of Christ Jesus.
The Holy Spirit was the source of power for Jesus’ ministry. The Spirit rested upon him and remained with him. The Spirit was the source of power for the disciples’ ministry and is the source of power for the Church today. Without the Holy Spirit working within us, we can do nothing of eternal value. We flounder and waver from one worldly notion to another. The Spirit gives us the power to continue the work Jesus began. Paul taught the Christians in Corinth about the Spirit. He said, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst (1 Corinthians 3:16).” The Spirit dwells within us as the corporate body, the Church; and within each person who has committed their life to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit operates within us in many ways. First, he is the source of God’s power. Without the power of the Holy Spirit working, we lack what we need to be the Church. We cannot live as God wants us to live. We cannot impress the world that Jesus is Lord. The Spirit gives us power from on high. He gives us hope and joy for the journey. Only through the abiding power of the Spirit working within us can we live out the Gospel and be the people the Lord calls us to be. The closest parallel I can see that helps us understand the Spirit is electricity. We cannot see electricity. We cannot see the Spirit. There is no visible difference between a copper wire filled with electricity and a wire non-electrified. Once I was working in a basement that had poorly insulated copper wire. I soon learned that touching it was bad news. Touch a hot wire and you will immediately know that the wire is filled with power. Through the Spirit, God gives us power from on high. He gives us the energy we need to continue the mission Jesus began.
Secondly, the Spirit is also called the Spirit of Truth and points to Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to teach us the truth about life. He comes to open our eyes to the reality of Jesus and the kingdom of God. I’m amazed how people can get caught up in things that are the antithesis of truth. The Bible tells us that the debtor is the slave of the creditor. I recently read that credit card debt in America is approaching $1 T. People need a good dose of Holy Spirit truth. The Spirit comes as the Spirit of truth to expose the lies and deceptions of the evil one. The Spirit comes as the Spirit of truth to give us guidance and direction in living faithfully for Christ Jesus. Without the Spirit of God, we walk in a dangerous world poorly equipped for dealing with lies and deceptions. With the Spirit within us, we are well-equipped to live in a dangerous world.
Third, the Holy Spirit gives believers boldness in living and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. The Spirit came upon 120 believers who were a fearful bunch. Who would anticipate that they would soon be proclaiming in the temple that Jesus rose from death? Who would believe that Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times would be boldly preaching about Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem? That’s just what happened. After they received the Spirit, they were out in broad daylight in the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming the Good News of the resurrected Messiah. Soon they would be in the temple doing the same thing right in front of the people who sent Jesus to the Cross. The Spirit brought boldness to the believers. They did not fear the temple authorities. Their goal was to please God, not others. Believers must have power from on high, even the presence of the Spirit, to boldly reveal the truth of Jesus in a world needing a good dose of truth.
Fourth, God’s love is poured into believers through the Spirit. The Spirit is a constant expression of God’s love. He helps us realize and actually know that God loves us. Paul writes the Christians in Rome: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).” Decades ago the Beatles sang, “All you need is love, love, love.” They gave a distorted message. They were not talking about God’s love. Another song writer hit the nail on the head as he wrote that people were searching for love “in all the wrong places.” The source of genuine love and real acceptance is found in Christ Jesus. We can only love others when we know that God loves us with an unending love and that nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. One can only find God’s genuine love in the right places.
One of the right places is, of course, the Bible. In Scripture, we discover that God is a loving God who forgives our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The right place to find God’s love is in and through Christ Jesus. Dr. Bob Tuttle, Emeritus Professor of World History at Asbury University tells about an experience he had decades ago when he was visiting China and Mongolia. While looking for a famous mountain, they stopped for directions at a house. A woman invited them in, and he began talking about Jesus. Soon the woman’s face lit up and she exclaimed, “So that is his name!” She felt the tug of the Spirit even before she knew Jesus’ name. The Spirit working within Bob Tuttle presented the name Jesus to her. He opened up the Gospel to her and saw that the Spirit was already working within her. Now she knows the name of the God who sought her and that name is Jesus.
The Gospel comes to people by those who let God empower them with boldness. It comes through those who know the Bible and are not afraid to tell others about Jesus. May God’s Holy Spirit fill you with the joy of believing and give you what you need to proclaim Jesus where you live.
A Sermon Preached by CH (COL) Michael W. Malone at Veterans Memorial Chapel, Indianapolis, Indiana