(May 14, 2020) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share…
Pentecost Sunday is only a couple of weeks away – the last Sunday, last day, of this month!
In Judaism, Pentecost – Shavuoth – was the harvest festival celebrated fifty days after the second day of Passover (Pesach) on the sixth and seventh days of Sivan, and commemorating the giving the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Today it’s a two-day holiday for Jews to renew acceptance of God’s gift, pledging everlasting loyalty to him, and God’s ‘re-giving’ the Torah.
Christian Pentecost Celebrations
It’s not known exactly when the first Christian Pentecost Sunday celebration occurred, but it was mentioned in the Epistula Apostolorum, an Eastern church work, 2nd century. As time went on Pentecost celebration became popular, in fact in Europe it was a more popular time for baptism than Easter.
In any case Pentecost Sunday for Bible-believing Christians, especially Pentecostals, became a festival celebration of Holy Spirit baptism, not water baptism!
On the seventh Sunday after Easter, it commemorates the initial outpouring, the descent of the Holy Ghost, on those faithful believers who had gathered together waiting as Jesus had instructed them – ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 1:4-5).
Now we can’t gather in church buildings to celebrate Pentecost this month due to lockdown but let’s take a fresh look at some things that happened in their ‘time of lockdown’ to those faithful followers who were committed to following the risen Saviour.
In fact, if our Jewish friends have their time of renewing, let’s have our own ‘renewing.’ Let’s recall ‘that Acts 2 time of Pentecost lockdown’ – the lockdown of all lockdowns that saw the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ, its first expansion when three thousand people were saved and added to their number (Acts 2:41)!
Those early church leaders were to experience an amazing breakthrough on that Day of Pentecost!
‘Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak’(Acts 2:2-4 GNB).
The Message Bible reads this way, ‘Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force… Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.’
This was really out of the blue! Those ‘lockdown’ disciples hadn’t really known exactly what to expect! In reality this wasn’t just a Jewish celebration for the expected harvest but the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ, a different kind of harvest, one that would grow across the world until today – despite lockdown – it encompasses some 2.3 billion adherents!
This wildfire breakthrough was definitely something more than just worshipping God in tongues, new languages (glossolalia; amazing, wonderful and strengthening as that is in itself!).
Mightily touched by the Holy Spirit those first disciples become ‘instant local missionaries!’
Those early church disciples became daring men and women of faith who immediately witnessed the gospel and saw many converts genuinely repent of sin and turn to Jesus for salvation!
(One wonders what they’d think about us today!)
More than glossolalia wildfire
- Fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to those who follow him (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5).
- Supernatural occurrences of how that promise was fulfilled – flames of fire resting on everyone and a mighty wind (Acts 2:2).
- Additional manifestation of the Spirit causing Jesus’ followers to speak in tongues that not only centred on declaring the wonderful works of God but so confounded ‘wise’ unsaved people outside leading to many salvations! (Acts 2:5-13, 41).
- First public pronouncement of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:31, 32, 36).
- Confirmation that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for every born-again believer, not just a chosen few or a particular church group or only leaders! (Acts 2:38b).
- Ground-breaking declaration that genuine repentance is the only way to forgiveness of sin and gaining salvation – not like many of today’s weak pleas of ‘All you have to do is just give your heart to Jesus, nothing else’! (Acts 2:38a).
- The first instant growth of the church of Jesus… 3000 souls added to the church (Acts2:41). And thousand more would follow – as Acts 2:27, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 9:31, 21:20 records.
A breakout question…
Christians and churches love to celebrate… Christmas and Easter for example! But… how often do we celebrate Pentecostal Sunday as the birth of the church?
The reality is that the Holy Spirit came to enable, empower, anoint those in ‘lockdown’ causing them to break forth and in love boldly go share the gospel with the assurance of the Spirit within to influence and win unsaved (both Jew and gentile) to Christ!
Thus growing the new-born church of Jesus Christ all over the world, something that would continue from generation to generation – until he returns (whenever that may be as only the Father knows as Jesus declared in Mark 13:32, not so-called prophets who are proved false year after year)!
Today every born-again Christian can follow the example of those early Christians, especially when we know in a personal way the Holy Spirit within!
We may not all be preachers or evangelists but by our loving and caring for others we can influence those outside the church! Opportunities continually arise to share with others (even in our time of lockdown we’re getting testimonies of Christians blessing – touching the hearts of – unsaved folk concerned by Covid-19, business or other troubles).
In this connection let’s look at other reasons to celebrate Pentecost…
Hitting the streets
Those first disciples who were so transformed that unique Day of Pentecost when the church was born that they immediately hit the streets!
Oh they’d been having a good old-fashioned glory time in that ‘lockdown’ room, praising God in their new tongues of worship. But they weren’t content with just praising God on their own – they knew something special had happened to them, that they’d been touched by God’s Holy Spirit, and they wanted others to know!
And they knew who had made it all happen – Jesus! They just had to get out there into the streets and share the good news. And they did! They were evangelistically-minded. The church had been born! And it was one of action – those commissioned Holy Spirit-baptised Christians wanted others to have what they had!
No wonder that after Acts 2 we start reading that the new born church grew and grew! Acts is the book of Christians in action! In those verses quoted above we learn of such growth described simply as ‘So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly’ (Acts 6:7).
And with a missionary spirit, those early disciples spread the gospel beyond Jerusalem! The whole world would be touched!
They were caught up in that wildfire experience that they didn’t want to extinguish!
Wildfire today and Acts chapter 29
It’s been long acknowledged that the Holy Spirit fell afresh last century – Topeka, Kansas (1901), then Azusa Street, LA (1906), then in various nations around the world. Converts, not only to Christ but to the Day of Pentecost baptism in the Spirit and accepting ‘speaking in tongues’ would become known as ‘Pentecostals.’
Doctrine-minded mainline churches, not accepting that ‘Pentecostalism doctrine’ was correct or biblical, would lay charges against early Pentecostals such as ‘unscriptural teaching, no doctrine.’
But the reality was that those ‘Pentecostals’ were like the Acts 2 new born church of Jesus Christ and had great biblical doctrine – they promptly hit the streets with an evangelistic emphasis empowered by the Spirit!
In the sixties the Holy Spirit fell again, this time on historically mainstream Christian churches that would adopt beliefs and practices similar to Pentecostalism. This ‘Charismatic Movement’ was to concentrate on the usage of the 1 Corinthians 12 charismata, the spiritual gifts. (Some mainline churches have been rediscovering this in recent years!).
Today, as we come out of worldwide virus lockdown, every church – whether mainline, Pentecostal or charismatic-minded – needs a fresh wildfire outpouring of …
- The all-powerful Holy Spirit,
- Operating the 1 Corinthians 12 gifts of the Spirit, and
- Boldly witnessing Jesus to a needy world!
The book of Acts is 28 chapters long… it’s been often said that we, the living church of Jesus, are Chapter 29, that our story is yet to be documented. We live in a different world today, one of not only new technology but ‘new’ terminology – we learn of businesses calling their teams ‘Chapters’ and that such teams have a ‘Mission.’
Jesus died for the whole world (John 3:16) and we Chapter 29 Christians have the greatest mission of all! Mission 29 opportunities are everywhere, beginning in ‘our Jerusalem’… just round the corner.
And like the early church, we all can move in the anointing of the Holy Spirit with charismata gifts helping to fulfill our mission! May it be with Pentecostal wildfire!
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are firstname.lastname@example.org and Facebook (Scripture/other emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources). Link: Jim McClure’s God’s-Indispensable-Gift / George Forbes’ Led-by-the-Holy-Spirit/