(June 3, 2019) Dr George Forbes, missionary statesman, reflects on a very special day in church history, one being celebrated by many churches this Sunday…
Suddenly… that word which indicates something out-of-the-blue! Such as what happened to those first followers of Jesus Christ on that special Day of Pentecost over 2000 years ago!
Before the Day of Pentecost came round in the year that Jesus died at Calvary and rose from the dead three days later, and before he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9), he ordered his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem – but to ‘wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about’ (Acts 1:4).
The incredible gift Jesus promised
- That they would receive power when God’s Holy Spirit fell on them.
- That they would be his witnesses not only locally but across the world!
What a bold promise the Lord Jesus made in Acts 1:8: ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’
And so they waited! Then, we read in Acts 2, the Day of Pentecost arrived… that annual Feast of the Harvest, one of Israel’s three major yearly celebrations, lasting only one day. It was on this particular feast day something powerful was going to happen in the plan and purpose of God!
Note the wording that opens chapter two… that ‘they were all together in one place.’ The ‘all’ this time was different from the group in the first chapter; it was the apostles and other disciples who had joined them to celebrate the Day of Pentecost.
This gathering would be unique in both Israel and the early church’s history because it was believers in Jesus who gathered in the upper room of a particular house on this particular day of celebration. It appears likely that the number was about 120 believers in Jesus Christ (Acts 1:15). And they obviously did not even dream what lay ahead!
The promise dramatically fulfilled!
That Day of Pentecost was certainly different for those gathered in the upper room because Jesus would give this celebration a new meaning and power would fall from heaven. Never before did this annual feast day have such meaning as Jesus gave it.
Acts 2:2-4 tells us that something incredible ‘suddenly’ happened – one of those amazing ‘suddenlys of God’…
‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing 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.’
There were probably other believers who might have been there too, but were perhaps uncertain about attending because they might be arrested. (In1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul tells Jesus had ‘appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time’). They missed out on what happened to that Day of Pentecost gathering!
But those who were in that upper room had willingly gathered at the explicit direction of Jesus himself ((Luke 24:49).
Inside that house as these believers sat waiting in faith that particular feast day they had no idea what would happen! Later…
Outside, after their baptism in the Holy Spirit, the sound of their speaking in other tongues was heard by Jews who lived in Jerusalem as well as others who had come from ‘every nation under heaven’ – people of various languages from countries and regions of the vast Roman Empire of that time.
These devout locals and visitors were unexpectedly hearing Galileans glorifying God in the languages of their own native tongue… people from Parthia and Mede and Elamite, Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene. There was even visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians (Acts 2:4-11).
Utterly amazed they exclaimed, ‘We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God!’ (vs 7, 11). At the same time there were the minority who foolishly mocked and said things like, ‘They are filled with new wine!’ (V13).
Reason for this poured out enabling spiritual power
Yes, those early disciples were filled all right! But with the Holy Spirit who had amazingly baptised each believer in Christ who had willingly waited in that upper room – fulfilling the promise of God that he would clothe the disciples of Jesus Christ with power from on high!
‘What does this mean?’ was the question now asked by the perplexed crowd who were drawn to what the Spirit of God was doing on that feast day, that particular special Day of Pentecost.
The reality of that day of Pentecost is that Jesus, now at the right hand of God in heaven, had poured out this miraculous activity of the eternal Spirit that was heard and witnessed by many needing a Saviour (Acts 2:33)! And the ‘suddenly’ outpouring of the Spirit was not only so that the first followers of Christ could worship God in tongues but that they could suddenly extend the kingdom!
And the apostle Peter, enabled by the Spirit, took the opportunity raised by the bewildered listeners and resolved to move quickly and boldly (Acts 2: 14- 41).
Coming outside he preached Christ and 3,000 converts yielded their lives to Jesus! The church of Christ was born and immediately began to grow!
Our resolve today?
Regarding that Acts 2:13 criticism, there has since been other critics of that first century outpouring of the Spirit from then until this day – from both outside and inside the church. But they have been unable to stem the tide of the ever-increasing moving of the Holy Spirit as the ‘Pentecostal Outpouring’ has always continued since that special Day of Pentecost.
And as Christ has been preached, both locally and worldwide, billions have been saved over the centuries!
Today – both locally and right across our known world – a countless many still need Jesus, the only Saviour (John 14:6) who can save people from a lost eternity.
It was further good news that Peter also announced ‘The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call’ (Acts 2:39). That promise of the salvation and the Spirit’s empowerment is for our children, indeed for any who are yet far from the kingdom!
Our responsibility today is to share what we have in Jesus. Paul reminds us in Romans 10:14Mge, ‘But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?’
- The challenge of the Matthew 28 Great Commission to make disciples of every nation (Australia and beyond!) still stands for Christians and churches today.
- And we still need the power of Pentecost, the anointing of the Holy Spirit to win neighbours and those overseas to Christ.
May this coming Sunday not just be one of celebrating that first Pentecostal outpouring, the coming of the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the promise of Jesus and the free gift of speaking in tongues – but one of a fresh resolve of our willingness to share the gospel of Jesus with ‘all who are far off.’
We may not all be Peters, preachers or missionaries but not only can we pray for the unsaved, for our churches, our preachers, our missionaries, we too can joyfully go outside the ‘upper room of our church’ and share…
Dr George Forbes is internationally recognised as a missionary spokesperson with a heart for the lost of the nations. With a wealth of missionary knowledge and a unique ability to communicate the global picture, he is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org