Pentecost Sunday Thoughts

We call it “Pentecost Sunday,” but where did it come from? While it’s not found anywhere in the Bible, it does celebrate a Biblical event. As a matter of fact, Pentecost is actually a two-fer. It’s a prominent feast in the Jewish calendar, celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and it is also part of the Christian liturgical year commemorating the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Some people call it Whit Sunday, Whitsun, or Whit, especially in the United Kingdom. It always falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost means “fiftieth day”: it is celebrated 50 days from Easter Sunday (including Easter Sunday in the counting), hence its name.

It’s always interested me that many Churches seem to love celebrating Biblical events rather than taking them seriously. If you look at the kinds of churches that make a big deal of Pentecost Sunday, with their banners, special hymns, and such, rarely if ever do they ever allow the Holy Spirit free reign in their services. Just an observation with a little criticism mixed in.

Something a lot of churches have forgotten is that the Holy Spirit is not just “an influence,” but rather God Himself. The Holy Spirit is as much God as God the Father and God the Son. Together, the form the Trinity. Even though He is always mentioned last, various verses in Scripture put Him on the same level at the other two members of the Trinity.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14 | TNIV)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…. (Matthew 28:19 | TNIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4 – 6 | TNIV)

A Person

The Holy Spirit is a Person just as much as Jesus is. It may be because older translations of the Bible refer to Him as “the Holy Ghost,” but a lot of Christians don’t look at Him the way the look at Jesus. But they should. Consider this:

He thinks: And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:27 | TNIV)

He wills: All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11 | TNIV)

He teaches: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 | TNIV)

He shows love and affection: I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 | TNIV)

He can be lied to: Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3 | TNIV)

He can grieve: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 | TNIV)

Those verses and more tell us that the Holy Spirit is a Person. Only a person can have those attributes.

God Himself

But like the Son who is also Gcd, the Holy Spirit is also God.

He is omnipresent: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7 – 10 | TNIV)

He is omnipotent: I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:18, 19 | TNIV)

He is eternal: How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrew 9:14 | TNIV)

He is the co-creator of the world: When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:30 | TNIV)

So the Holy Spirit is much more than so many Christians think He is. He certainly deserves more than the lip service too many churches give Him. The precious Holy Spirit has always been in the world and He has always been a powerful presence in the lives of His people. But His very public entrance into the new Church marked a turning point.

Incident at Pentecost

We’re all familiar with what happened in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost:

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. (Acts 2:2 – 4 | TNIV)

But that was in fulfillment of something Jesus said a little earlier. In the Gospel of John, we read this:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:15, 17 | TNIV)

That’s the promise. But if you just read that bit, you miss the reason for the promise in the first place:

If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15 | TNIV)

That’s what Bible scholars call “a practical exhortation,” and the Bible is full of them. They are what the reader (or listener at the time) was expected to do. “Love one another” is another practical exhortation. In this case, our Lord gave His disciples a simple test to prove their love for Him. If you love Jesus, then you’ll obey Him. It’s a very simple test that involves His moral teachings. The problem is, though, living on earth as we are, it’s very difficult to live every moment of every day in obedience to the Lord’s teachings. Therefore, Jesus said, He would ask God to send the Holy Spirit. We are to depend on Him – the Holy Spirit – to help us live obediently to the teachings of Scripture.

In the lives of believers

Jesus gives us some valuable information about the Holy Spirit and His roll in the lives of believers.

He teaches, John 14:26

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “another advocate.” Other translators use the word “comforter.” The word properly means “advocate,” “intercessor,” “pleader.” The original Greek word is actually a passive word that means something like, “the one who is called to someone’s aid.” The Holy Spirit is the helper, identified as “the Spirit of truth,” which brings us to verse 26:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 | TNIV)

As “the Spirit of truth,” the Holy Spirit is the great revealer of God’s truth. He is able to take the things of Christ – His words, sayings, and actions – and not only make them known to believers, but He makes them make sense. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the believer is supernaturally able to recall the teachings of our Lord. But His work is far more than just helping us to remember the words of Scripture, but rather the true meaning of those words. Barclay wrote,

The Holy Spirit saves us from arrogance and error of thought.

He guides, John 16:12 – 13

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:12 – 13 | TNIV)

Actually, Jesus was wrapping up His conversations with the disciples when He remarked that He had much more to tell them. The Lord’s wisdom and truth are truly inexhaustible! But here, He was laying the foundation for the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. In spite of their enthusiasm and devotion to their Lord and His teachings, the fact is they were unable to comprehend or understand the depths of His teachings. It’s not that they were mentally deficient, but that the human mind is incapable of grasping the deep, spiritual truths of Scripture. But, fortunately for them (and us), One was about to arrive on the scene who would lead.   The Greek word translated “guide” looks a little funny, hodegesei, but is very serious. It means “to lead or guide along the way or path.” Jesus Christ is the way in which we must be led by the Spirit, and He is also the truth to which we must be guided.

The power of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with secret revelations and mystical experiences, but rather in getting a believer to the place where he can not only recall Biblical teachings, but also understand them and apply them to any given situation or circumstance.

He intercedes, Romans 8:26, 27

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26, 27 | TNIV)

That phrase, “in the same way,” links the Spirit’s ministry of intercession with the hope of the preceding verses. Never underestimate the power of hope in the life of believers. It’s essential, and it’s an essential ministry of the Holy Spirit. Hope is essential because we are weak. We are so weak that sometimes we don’t even know what we should be praying for! It’s like writer’s block – a strange phenomena that writer’s fear: Too many ideas but not enough words – there are so many needs blowing around the hurricane in our minds that we can’t focus on any one in particular to pray for. When this happens, the Holy Spirit comes along and does it for us. Or perhaps a better way to put would be that the Spirit prays with us. Paul clearly says we are praying with “wordless groans.” I suggest this is what Pentecostals refer to as “praying in the Spirit.” Not all Bible scholars think this, but they’re sometimes wrong about other things, too. You may wonder what the point “praying in tongues” is. After all, who can understand such gibberish? God can! The words of Karl Barth are relevant on this point:

God makes Himself our advocate with Himself. He utters ineffable groaning, so that He will surely hear what we ourselves could not have told Him, so that He will accept what He Himself has to offer.

And once again, God comes through for us! He makes it possible for us to do what He wants us to to.  So, Pentecost Sunday is more than just a special Sunday that some churches celebrate.  It’s a good day to recall who He is and how indispensible His work and ministry in our lives is.  Whether we realize it or not, we can’t get along in this world without the remarkable Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

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