May 20, 2018
Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost means, “fiftieth.” It refers to the 50th day after the Jewish observance of Passover. It was also called the Feast of Weeks, because it came after a 7 week period of harvesting. And by the time of Jesus it was considered to be the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Pentecost was one of the 3 great pilgrim festivals of Judaism.
But we are Christians, followers of Jesus. What does Pentecost have to do with us? In Acts 2 we learn that the Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost, some 9 or 10 days after Jesus ascended to the Father.
Luke does not explain the significance of the Spirit’s coming on the day of Pentecost. And that isn’t as important as is the fact that the Holy Spirit has been given to carry out the ongoing work of Jesus in the world today. But what is most important for us is that the Holy Spirit is given specifically to believers. On the Day of Pentecost God poured out the Holy Spirit on all believers.
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT’S COMING IS POWERFUL. Acts 2:1-3
In Lk.24:49 Jesus says, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." In Acts 2:1-2 it says, “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.” Make no mistake about it. The coming of the Holy Spirit has much to do with receiving power. The Holy Spirit is fully God and brings the presence and power of God. It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew and Greek words for, “Spirit” can also be translated with the words, “breath” or “wind” depending on the context. The breath, the wind, the Spirit of God is powerful. Let me give some examples.
In Gen.1:1 we read that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” In Gen.8:1 God brought a wind to blow the flood waters away. It’s the same word as in Gen.1:1. In Is.27:8, referring to the Babylonian Exile, we find the same word translated in two different ways. It says, “…he removed them with his fierce breath in the day of the east wind.” Isaiah 40:7, says, “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it.” We understand something of this when we sing the Hymn, “Breathe on me breath of God.” We are singing about the Holy Spirit. So on the day of Pentecost it was appropriate that a sound like a mighty rushing wind filled the place where the believers were sitting. It was a powerful manifestation of the presence of God the Holy Spirit.
Then we see another manifestation. In v.3 it says, “And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them.” Throughout the Bible we find God manifesting himself in fire. When God appeared to Moses in Ex.3, He appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, but the bush was not consumed. In Ex.13:21 we read that God guided his people in a pillar of fire at night as they traveled away from Egypt. In Ex.24:17 we learn that when the Lord appeared on Mt. Sinai at the giving of the law, his appearance was like a devouring fire. In Is.6 when Isaiah has a vision of the Lord seated on a throne, the house was filled with smoke and an angel took a burning coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips. It was an act of purification. In Mt.3:11 John the Baptist says, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” And now on the day of Pentecost divided tongues as of fire appear as a manifestation of the presence of God the Holy Spirit.
When God signals a new stage in his work of reconciliation and new creation, there often seems to be an extraordinary display of his presence. Whether it is seen in the miracles in Egypt, or on Mt. Sinai, or with the angelic announcements and the star at the birth of Jesus, or the resurrection and ascension, or the coming of the Holy Spirit, the event is powerful and memorable. This is what we see on the day of Pentecost. God and his Son, Jesus, are doing something new.
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT’S COMING IS PERSONAL. Acts 1:3-4
Verses 3-4 says, “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.”
In the Old Testament it appears that the Holy Spirit was given by God to specific people for specific tasks. But with the coming of Jesus things began to change. When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit came upon him and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. After his temptation in the wilderness, Luke writes, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” As we read through the gospels we see that Jesus modeled for us how to live in and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The day of Pentecost marked the moment when the Holy Spirit was officially poured out, given by God to followers of Jesus. It wasn’t just the apostles who were filled with the Holy Spirit. It was all the believers, young and old, men and women.
In fact when Peter explains to the people who wondered what was happening, he quoted from the prophet, Joel. In v.16-18 it says, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” And then in v.38, Peter says to all who were listening, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That is what is happening in v.4. It says, “they all began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” If you have embraced Christ as Savior, Lord and King, the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in you.
But how does one know if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in them? At least these people had some outward indication. They were given the ability to speak in languages that were unknown to them. Imagine if you were in that room and found yourself speaking in another language on that Pentecost Sunday. That would be pretty wild, at least for that moment. But that moment didn’t continue. It’s not as if every day these believers were speaking in other languages. It’s not as if on Tuesday each one could ask, “Let’s see, do I have the Holy Spirit today? And if they could speak in another language they could feel certain that they have the Spirit. In the initial giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts the believers spoke in other known languages, but as we read further in the New Testament we do not get the sense that this is the norm when it comes to receiving the Holy Spirit.
And while I am on it, let me point out that in Acts it is clear from v.5-13 that the believers were speaking known languages. But in 1Cor.14 Paul refers to the gift of tongues in which believers speak or pray in unknown languages. But in 1Cor.12, Paul makes it clear that not every believer speaks in tongues. I have never spoken in tongues. I do not believe that speaking in tongues is the sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit. In my understanding when a person turns in faith to Jesus that is when they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Wonderful spiritual experiences can be very enriching in our journey with Christ, but we do not base our faith on those kinds of experiences. There are times when God seems to meet us in a special way through the Holy Spirit, but we walk by faith, not by sight or feeling. This is not to say that there are no telltale signs of the Holy Spirit. There are. And that leads me to the third thought.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT’S COMING IS PURPOSEFUL. Acts 1:5-13
Why did Jesus pour out the Holy Spirit? In Jn.16:7 Jesus says, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Because Jesus has a physical body he is not physically present everywhere. However, the Holy Spirit is present everywhere. Just think about it. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God is personally present in you and me.
When I think about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers four ideas come to mind. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is for assurance, sanctification, prayer, and for witness. Romans 8 is a great chapter on the Holy Spirit. In Rm.8:16, Paul writes, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” In other words there is an inner witness from God that we belong to him. Obviously this is subjective, but none the less real. The Holy Spirit directs our hearts into the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. I have found over the years of walking in the way of Jesus that when doubts flood my soul, there is an inner assurance, awareness that I am a child of God. Like the song says, “I’m no longer a slave of fear. I am a child of God.”
And then the Holy Spirit has a ministry of sanctification. The word, “sanctification” refers to the process of being made holy or becoming like Jesus, in our daily living. In 1Cor.6 Paul reminds the believers that at one time they were unrighteous, but he says, “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” In 1Cor.6:19-20 Paul writes, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
The idea here is that the indwelling Holy Spirit is seeking to help us become holy, righteous men and women. In Galatians we read about the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” In addition to this, in John’s gospel, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our teacher, bringing to mind the things Jesus taught.
Now the Holy Spirit does not do this apart from our cooperation. As Paul writes in Rm.8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” We can’t sanctify ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit.
Again in Rm.8 we learn that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we pray. In Rm.8:26 Paul writes, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
The fourth way that the Holy Spirit helps us is in witnessing. Here in v.5-13 we learn that a crowd came together because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. Who were the people in the crowd? Well Luke tells us that they were devout Jews from every nation under heaven who were dwelling in Jerusalem. And then in v.9-11 Luke lists the various countries that these people came from. In v.11, the crowd says, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God."
What is the Holy Spirit of God doing? He is drawing people from every tongue, tribe, and nation to the Lord Jesus. In Genesis we read about the tower of Babel when God dispersed the people by mixing up their languages. Here in Acts 2 God is drawing people from all languages together around the person of Jesus Christ. God is calling people out from the world into his Church. As Peter stood up to explain what was going on, he preached the gospel and in v.41 we read that some 3,000 received his word and were baptized. The Holy Spirit has been sent by God to indwell every believer so that we can be witnesses of Jesus. We will think more about this next week.
If you are a follower of Jesus, then the Holy Spirit indwells you. This morning, I want to encourage each of us to regularly surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Let us regularly ask the Holy Spirit to fill our lives and guide us into the way of Jesus. God wants to use us in this world to show and tell the wonders of his grace and mercy and salvation through faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the One who will bring this about in our lives as we yield ourselves to him. Amen