RESPONDING TO PENTECOST

Murray Capill

Murray Capill, author and Reformed Theology College’s principal, challenges…

There are three ways we can respond to the central themes of the narrative in Acts and especially its focus on the Holy Spirit.

1. Seeking repetitions

One way is to continually seek repetitions of the day of Pentecost. Charismatics and Pentecostals treat the events of that day as normative and so they look for spectacular signs as manifestations of the Spirit today and for the baptism of the Spirit as an experience subsequent to conversion.

However this view flattens out the peaks and troughs of redemptive history, failing to take note of what is unique about the day of Pentecost in the unfolding story of salvation. It marked not so much an event to be repeated as the beginning of a new era.

2. Knowing confidence
A second response, therefore, is to see Pentecost as unrepeatable but having initiated the last days between Christ’s first and second comings. In these last days the Spirit is present with his church always. The spectacular markers of his arrival have disappeared but the Spirit is still present. All believers possess the Spirit and the church community is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Such a view encourages confidence that God is with us now through his Spirit, so when we preach, witness or lead in the church we may be sure that the Spirit is present. But while this view accurately reflects the unique redemptive-historical significance of the day of Pentecost, it easily leads to too little expectation of what the Spirit is able to do. The presence of the Spirit is taken as a given and we now just get on with the work of preaching, knowing that he is with us.

The Holy Spirit’s presence is assumed, with the result that he often features little in the life or vocabulary of the church.

3. Seasons of immense spiritual blessing!
A third position is possible and desirable. Pentecost can be viewed as a unique and unrepeatable event that ushered in a new era in salvation history. But the era it ushered in is one in which the Holy Spirit, who now dwells in and with his people, is able to bring to individuals, churches and even nations, seasons, long or short, of immense spiritual blessing.

Just as Peter, who had been filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was filled again when he spoke before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8), and just as the entire community that had received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost received further power and boldness after fervent prayer in the face of persecution (Acts 4:31), and just as the Spirit’s power was extended powerfully beyond Jerusalem to the Samaritans and the Gentiles (Acts 8:14-16; 10:44-46), so we may reasonably expect today that the Spirit is able to come on us with fresh and even overwhelming power.

This is not looking for a ‘second blessing’ experience for individuals, accompanied by speaking in tongues. It is looking for a second, third, fourth, tenth or hundredth blessing for the church community, as the Spirit works with great gospel power, converting sinners and sanctifying the church.

Pentecost
Being expectant of what God’s spiritual power can do
Sometimes this will be evidenced in a time of revival or spiritual awakening but it need not only take that form. The Spirit may bring times of refreshing, of power or of special grace that fall short of what we would call revival, and yet they do not in any way fall short in generating gospel effectiveness. We should not just wait for the big earthquake. We should respond to all the smaller tremors as well.

Preachers and their churches need to be fervent in prayer, asking that God would pour out his Spirit in great measure on each message and on the church as a whole. We need to be expectant of what God in his power can do. We should…
• Be eager to see many conversions
• Have high hopes for what the church can be
• Pray without ceasing and call on God for great spiritual power. [1]

Without this, any techniques for holistic application are essentially hollow and vain. The greatest need of the day is Spirit-anointed preaching. Only with the Spirit’s power will applications strike home powerfully into people’s lives.

[1] See Arturo G Azurdia, Spirit Empowered Preaching: The Vitality of the Holy Spirit in Preaching (Fearn: Christian Focus, 1998).

Dr Murray Capill is principal, Reformed Theological College, Geelong and author of Preaching with Spiritual Vigour (2003).
This article is extracted from his excellent 2014 The Heart is the Target (See Resources). Links: mcapill@rtc.edu.au / RTC, Waurn Ponds, Vic: 5244 2955 / www.rtc.edu.au.
RTC logoRTC also operates SOLA Ministry College serving Geelong region churches. Combining the resources of a theological college and the expertise of local pastors and church leaders, SOLA ably provides affordable, accessible training that equips believers for mission and ministry

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