Today, May 19, 2013, is Pentecost Sunday. This day plays an important role in the history of Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ. Since some have expressed an interest in knowing more about it and its impact on us today, I thought I would share some biblical insight about its place in the heart and history of believers.
Pentecost, along with Passover and Tabernacles, is one of three Jewish feasts or festivals established by God for the nation of Israel as a celebration and memorial of God’s blessings on the nation and key historical events in the nation’s history. Each of these feasts call for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate.
Pentecost is a memorial of God giving His Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, and is also a celebration of harvest or first fruits. The term Pentecost means “fiftieth day” because it is observed fifty days after the Festival of Passover.
In the second chapter of Acts is a record of what occurred on the day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. On that first Pentecost the letter of the Law was given, on this Pentecost the Spirit of grace filled the first fruits of the faith. As the 120 in the upper room reeled from the overwhelming advent of the Spirit, they began to speak in languages that flowed effortlessly from their lips. This inaugural Pentecost Sunday is held throughout Christendom to be the day the Church was born.
Jews who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost heard God glorified and the Gospel proclaimed. But they soon began laughing at the disciples because they appeared to be drunk. Peter rises and gives the first sermon of the fledgling faith.
“Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem…these men are not drunk, as you suppose…but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: and it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth of My Spirit…and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit…”
When Peter finishes his quote of Joel, he begins to preach of Jesus who was crucified and died, but in keeping with King David’s prophesy, He rose from the dead, and that Father God has exalted Him at His right hand, until His enemies are defeated. Peter declares this is “Jesus whom you crucified.”
When the crowd that had assembled “heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren what shall we do?”
With the Spirit of conviction heavy on the heart of the crowd Peter does not hesitate, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Three thousand souls were added to the Church on its birthday.
If I were asked to estimate the number of Bible colleges and seminaries within the borders of the United States, I would feel safe in saying there is probably a greater number of such institutions here, than there are in the rest of the world. Yet, despite this, our nation for the most part seems to be in a headlong hedonistic hurry into oblivion.
I have a great respect for biblical scholarship. I attend seminary myself and I am pursuing a Master of Divinity degree. But I also recognize no amount of scholarship will ever supplant the need for a genuine move of the Spirit of God to convict the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls of their sinful ways and the need for Jesus Christ.
We need to free the Holy Spirit from whatever pneumatological box we have locked Him in and give Him free reign in our lives, our churches, and our ministries. Otherwise we might as well scrawl “Ichabod” across the doors of our churches and quit pretending to be something we are not.
America needs a move of the Spirit of God as never before. Peter said, “For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far off [in time], as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” Acts 2:39.
I wrote this to remind us of the Church’s first Pentecost Sunday, and even though it was the first, it doesn’t have to be the last.