Pentecost is considered one of the foremost festivals in the church calendar. This festival, unlike, the celebrations of Christmas and Easter, is not overshadowed by allegations of so-called pagan influence. Many groups that are heavily influenced by the law of Moses; and who think that the Jewish holidays are relevant for Christians, will celebrate Pentecost with an Old Testament emphasis. For them, Pentecost of Acts 2 did not change anything except that the church started on that day. On the other hand, orthodox Christianity sees Pentecost as a pivotal point in history when God set the stage to reach humanity with his infinite grace by commissioning his Apostles to preach the Gospel and by sending the promised Holy Spirit to empower believers every step of the journey.
Jesus’ task of training his disciples, dying for the world (thus securing salvation), and returning to the Father was now complete. Delivering the good news to the world as a whole and preparing adherents for works of service and a heavenly hope was God’s next big move. This earth-shaking move was in no way an afterthought of the Godhead. Like all other plans of God, this one was planned well in advance before creation. The prophet Joel announced it hundreds of years prior to its occurrence, as an event that was to be accompanied by attention-grabbing signs of astonishment and awe. Joel’s description of this momentous occasion included the “falling of stars” and “the sun turning dark” which though, not a literal affair, transmit the idea of a powerful transforming, unforgettable phenomenon (Joel 2:28- 32).
Jesus also announced the coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. In the final hours before his death, Jesus comforted his disciples with the reality that on his return to the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them permanently (John 14:15-18,25). He told them that the Spirit would give them comfort, guidance, and competence to remember the things he taught them.
The very day Jesus ascended to the Father; he again spoke to his disciples about the Holy Spirit. He instructed them to go and preach the good news both in Jerusalem and in all the world, but they were to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit would endow them with power to accomplish the job, Jesus assured told them (Acts 1:4-5; Luke 24:48).
“And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”Acts 2:1-4 ASV
On the day of Pentecost more than two thousand years ago, the Holy Spirit showed up unabashedly, taking the disciples and eventually the city by storm. He made his debut by filling the house with a forceful gale that whistled through the windows and scattered light objects across the room. The appearance of plumes of fire alighted on the head of every disciple. Then the prophesying started. The noise shattered the quietness of the city where Jews from many different regions had come to celebrate Shavuot.
While God was sending the Holy Spirit, he simultaneously was providing the audience to hear the message he had given the disciples. The noise of the disciples attracted the Jews in the city as they prophesied and spoke in different languages. The people came in droves to listen and to see what the sensation was all about. Some in the audience hastily concluded that the disciples were drunk, so Peter rose to his feet and addressed the crowd.
That day Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit preached a sermon that gripped the hearts of his fellow Jews (Acts 2:29-40). He taught the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, the one the Jews crucified and the one now glorified. People had a change of heart after hearing Peter and the other Apostles. They believed in Jesus Christ, repented of their sins and trusted Jesus for salvation. Five thousand persons became believers that day. The church that Jesus Christ built was to reach into every nation, ethnic group, language group cultural group with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The miracle began that day, but the road would be long, painful, and perilous at times; nevertheless, the Holy Spirit would take the church safely on its journey through the centuries.
After that initial baptism of the Holy Spirit, the disciples and new converts devoted themselves to fellowship, prayer and the breaking of bread (Acts2:42). The work of the Holy Spirit included among others, growing the church both spiritually and numerically, giving the apostles new revelation, bringing a new order within the church, converting gentiles, changing the Jewish attitude to Gentiles, and performing spectacular miracles to provide corroboration to the message the apostles were preaching. The remainder of the Book of Acts lays out the breathtaking and electrifying moves of the Holy Spirit as he builds the kingdom of God and destroys the works of the devil. Here are some of the highlights.
- Ananias and Sapphira drop dead for telling a lie (Acts 5:1-10).
- An angel freed the Apostles from prison and told them to preach (Acts 5:18-20).
- Peter’s shadow heals people (Acts 5:15).
- Peter and John healed a disabled man, and people gathered to see the spectacle. Peter used the opportunity to preach the Gospel (Acts 3:1-26).
- To the shock of Jewish believers, the Holy Spirit fell on Gentiles. Jews had no choice but to accept Gentiles into the church (Acts 10:1-48).
- Saul, the persecutor, had a dramatic conversion (Acts 9:1-31)
- The Holy Spirit confounded the circumcision party in the church by ruling that the Gentile Christians were not to take the yoke of Moses law (Acts 15).
- The church grew and spread all over the Roman world (Acts.13-28)
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the church today has grown more substantial than any of the original Apostles could have ever imagined. The church has weathered the brutal perils of persecution and martyrdom which have stayed with her to this day. Nevertheless, she has still managed to spread the light of the Gospel everywhere.
The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, and with his help, we overcome sin, discouragement, the devil and the world. We are the church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us. This Pentecost you may not see tongues of fire on the disciples’ heads or hear persons speaking in different languages, but the Holy Spirit is amongst us and in us. He is doing a transforming work for the glory of God. He is still equipping the church with gifts, purifying our hearts by faith, interceding for us, guiding us into all truth, calling the shots in the church. He fills and renews us daily for the preaching of the Gospel and holy living, that our light may shine brightly in this dark world.
This Pentecost, may the Holy Spirit shake your world, radically change your life’s direction and give you a boldness and a zeal to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. May Pentecost power fall afresh for we need him, really need him.