Pentecost was very familiar to every Jew in the first century. It was instituted long ago by Moses (Exodus 23:16;34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:) The feast day is referred to in Scripture by several names including, the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22), the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16), the Day of First Fruits (Numbers 28:26), and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8) I will not try here to talk about the purpose of the feast, nor even how Christ fulfilled what was a shadow, or type of the coming Messiah.
The Day of Pentecost and the associated events recorded in the early part of the Acts is what I want to focus on for now. This is not the first time I have written about this subject so for some of you who have been reading Gracedigest for some time will find at least some of this repetition, but that’s OK. There is so much of what in my view is mistaken teaching about the significance of Pentecost and how, or if, it effects us today, I think it is worthwhile to say it once more.
THE PROMISES OF PENTECOST
Actually there are two distinct promises that are very important to anyone who wants to know the “why” of Pentecost. The first is the promise Peter mentioned in his sermon in Acts 2 following the tongues of fire, the rushing sound like wind, and many hearing the gospel in their own native tongue in a miraculous way.
1. This is a Promise made by God the Father Fulfilled
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17“‘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;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
This was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel that God would pour out his Spirit on everyone (without regard to ethnicity or gender…it is quite clear) and the result would be “that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. (sinner’s prayer may be Biblical after all)
God made a promise many years before by the mouth of Joel and the promise was kept on the Day of Pentecost in the first century. Nothing could be more clear.
2. This is a Promise made by God the Son Fulfilled.
After giving the disciples their marching orders (Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:44-49) and promising them Holy Spirit power he instructed them to go to Jerusalem and wait.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you areclothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49
It’s hard to mistake this if you only read the text. Jesus said He was sending the promise of the Father and the result would be “power from on high” Don’t miss this simple truth. The result of the promise given by Joel and fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost would be power for witness so that everyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved. The result of the promise of Jesus that He was sending Holy Spirit power on them for gospel witness is on display for all to see in the following chapters of the Acts and the other books of the New Testament. The people of God preached the good news about Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and thousands were saved!
We are always off track when we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say. It is best to read it and believe what it actually says. Here there can be little doubt about the principal purpose of Pentecost, Holy Spirit power for gospel witness. Joel said it, Peter said it, and Jesus said it!
THE CHURCH STARTED AT PENTECOST DIDN’T IT?
NO! The church, the One body of Christ comprised of all the saved, did not start at Pentecost. Over 30 years ago it dawned on me that I had been taught something that wasn’t true. I was shocked when I started to try to prove up the birth of the church at Pentecost. It was not there in my Bible! What I did find is what I just covered in the first part of this post. If anyone can show me the teaching that confirms the church had it’s beginning at Pentecost I’ll quickly admit I’m wrong.
One of the first clues is right after the grand story of Peter’s great sermon after which those who received his word were baptized, the number was about 3,000! That is quite a response to a gospel sermon! In Acts 2:49 “and there were added that day about three thousand souls”.
Added? It’s the same word used later in Acts, 2:47 “And the Lord added to their number…”, 5:14 ”..believers were added to the Lord”, and 11:24 “a great many people were added to the Lord”. The usual meaning of the word “added” is that some number is combined with a previous number. Or, as the Free Dictionary puts it.
To combine (a column of figures, for example) to form a sum. 2. To join or unite so as to increase in size, quantity, quality, or scope: added 12 inches to the deck…
You only add to what already exists! Crammer school children understand this concept. This is the first reason the church did not start at Pentecost. Another problem for the mistaken theory concerns the 120 what waited together for the promise of Jesus to be fulfilled. What about them?
Now some will argue that they and the disciples were indwelt by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost so they, along with the others were all included in the infant body, the church. There is a giant problem with that approach. It just isn’t true. Again, guide me to the passage that teaches that idea.
BELIEVERS FIRST INDWELT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT ON THE DAY OF JESUS RESURRECTION
Consider these passages. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his ensuing death and final departure from earth.
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
The passage is very specific about what Jesus was talking about, “Now this he said about the Spirit, who those who believed in him were to receive…”. OK, got it. Those who believe upon Jesus are to receive the Holy Spirit. But, not yet! Why? “Because Jesus was not yet glorified“.
Later in John Jesus again taught about the Holy Spirit but even more specifically.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)
Those two small words have important meaning. “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you”. This change from “with” to “in” was tied to Jesus being glorified as mentioned above. Jesus glorification began with his arrest and death, burial, and would be final when he was raised from the dead. (John 12:23, John 13:31)
On the very day of his resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked room where they were hiding out for fear of the Jews. He said to them “Peace be with you” and he showed them his hands and feet, there was absolutely no doubt Jesus had been raised from the dead. He continued speaking to them saying,
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
In my best judgement I can’t think of one tiny reason why I should believe those disciples did not receive the Spirit just as Jesus commanded. I have been teaching this for decades and some folks believe it just as I do once they have seen it, others insist the disciples only received the Spirit for a short time because it doesn’t fit the template they have been taught. But it is so plain that its hard to ignore.
The Disciples Fully Believe When they See the Resurrected, Glorified Jesus!
You might ask “How do you know Royce?”. Let’s look at one disciple, the impulsive, sometimes on and sometimes off Peter. Only a few nights ago Peter was swearing he didn’t have anything to do with Jesus. Just as Jesus said he would Peter denied the Lord three times that night. Now a few weeks later Peter is as bold as they get. He not only preaches the first sermon after the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the promised power of the Holy Spirit, he accuses the Jews of murder, the same Jews by the way he was hiding from when Jesus appeared in the locked room on the day he was raised from the dead. The difference was the resurrection of Jesus, Peter had no doubt now and in the face of threats he continued to preach boldly with power the resurrection of Jesus.
Not only from this observation but from Peter’s own words we can learn when the disciples were first indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Peter has seen the vision of a sheet let down and understood that God intends to save Gentiles as well as Jews. Cornelius has sent for Peter, he has gone and preached to him and his household (family and servants..), they believed as Peter preached, the Holy Spirit was given to them and they were baptized by Peter’s consent. Peter, after seeing they had received the Holy Spirit said,
“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47)
“Just as we have”? That’s right, Peter said the Gentile believes has received the Holy Spirit “just as we have”. This is important! Peter will add some detail later.
The big wigs in Jerusalem were not too happy with the news. So, Peter defends preaching to and baptizing Gentiles when questioned by the top brass in Jerusalem. This is his statement to them after telling the story of the conversion of Cornelius and his folks.
If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)
Oh my, Peter said these Gentiles, just like “us” received the gift of the Spirit when “when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ”. This is in your Bible too! I didn’t make it up.
NOTE: Word Press dumped a big part of this post. This is the first time this has happened to me. I had not back up to this is only a part of the original post. Hope it makes sense.