A few weeks ago, we finished up our message series, “Waiting on God.” This morning, we’re about to take a look at the very moment when all of their waiting came to an end and they received the promise of Jesus. Even as the angel declared:
For no word from God will ever fail.
God uses the events, feasts, and festivals in the Old Testament as a foreshadowing of a reality that have now been fulfilled and we now receive in New Testament life. Today, we recall one of these fulfillments as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday!
Pentecostal means a lot of different things to different people. When some hear the term Pentecostal, they picture people swinging from chandeliers, running circles around the sanctuary, dancing wildly, while shouting in tongues the whole time. Some picture a religious form of holiness with women who have their uncut hair up in buns and wearing dresses down to their ankles and men clean-shaven in their best suits all singing together, “bringing in the sheaves.”
Pentecost literally and simply means “the fiftieth day”. It comes from one of the Old Testament festival known as the feast or festival of weeks. This was one of the three festivals that God called the Jewish people to celebrate as a lasting ordinance for generations to come wherever they found themselves living. At the times of these festivals, all able-bodied men were called to travel back to Jerusalem to celebrate them. For the festival of weeks, they were to do no work and to bring two loaves of bread baked with their finest flour and yeast to offer to God from the first of their grain harvest along with other offerings.
9 Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. 10 Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you. 11 And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.
It was not by any means coincidence that Jesus was crucified at the Passover, rose from the grave at the feast of firstfruits, and poured out the Holy Spirit, bringing 3,000 people into the church, on the feast of weeks. God’s plan of salvation was not one that accidentally fell together, but rather was planned and prepared thousands of years before it came to pass. God is a planner and even what we consider to be spontaneous, He knew full well before the foundations of the earth were laid.
God called His people at the feast of weeks to rejoice before the Lord at the place He will choose as a dwelling for His name. Little did they realize that a few centuries later, God would choose all of those people from that list as the place He chose. Their sons and daughters, their servants, the priests, the foreigners, the fatherless, and the widows all chosen as a place for God’s presence to dwell by the infilling of the Holy Spirit!
They were celebrating in faith the reality in which we have received. This feast was a foreshadowing of the promise that the first group of followers of Jesus was waiting on. Year after year that this festival was celebrated, I picture God getting more and more excited about what was coming. Year after year, the excitement and expectation built up until the incredible moment when those 120 were gathered in the upper room of someone’s house praying during that same festival finally received the fulfillment of that foreshadowing.
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. (because they were celebrating the festival of weeks!) 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
For time’s sake, we’ll skip the rest of Peter’s message.
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
In just a few days, these followers of Jesus went from cowering in fear hiding in the upper room of a home to boldly and publicly living out their faith in Jesus. They may have been just gathering together in someone’s home, but Jesus took their home group meeting to every nation under heaven in an instant. What the disciples were doing in private just between them and Jesus, the Holy Spirit took worldwide in a powerful and public spectacle that no one could miss. Never underestimate those private times in intimate prayer with Jesus!
When the promise of Jesus, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was poured out, far more happened than simply speaking in tongues. 3,000 were saved. The wonders of God were declared. Barriers were broken. Confusion, amazement, perplexity, and ridicule were all accompanied with the incredible sound of violent wind and the appearance of tongues of fire. These 120 were not just quietly praying in tongues, they were shouting the wonders of God in untaught tongues of men. Those along the busy streets outside that home heard all that was happening and were left in awe.
As the Holy Spirit continued to work, Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, rich and poor, old and young, all were united. Strangers became friends. Aliens became citizens. Division became unity. Abundance swallowed up need. Favor replaced fear. The temple of God’s very presence, the place where God chose as a dwelling place for His Name became mankind created in His very own image, no longer able to be contained within a simple building called the temple in Jerusalem. Sin was paid for, the veil was torn, and God’s Presence no longer needed to be shielded for our sake. Instead, God’s Presence is to be experienced and celebrated as it fills our lives and transforms us from the inside out!
God chose to place His very Presence within common, broken humans like you and I. The apostle Paul described it in this way:
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Jars of clay. We may not be much, but He is everything. We may overlooked by the world, but in the eyes of Jesus, we’re worth giving up everything for. God chose us to place His most valuable treasure within. It proves that the life that we live is not our own, our life points back to the all-surpassing power of God. It isn’t what I can do, but what God can do in and through me. It isn’t about me, it’s about Jesus. I’m just a cracked pot, a jar of clay, weak and frail.
What is within me, though, wow!!! Inside of me is life and power and glory and splendor and strength and beauty and courage and wisdom. Inside of me is the same One who resurrected Jesus from the grave! Inside of me is the same One who created the wonders of the galaxies! Inside of me is the very Presence of God who makes all things new! When people take a look at our lives, we should leave people bewildered just as the first disciples did.
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.
The evidence should point to the fact that we are common, ordinary, perhaps even unschooled people. However, the evidence that should be undeniable and unquestionable should be the later fact, we have clearly been with Jesus. There should be no doubt that even if we don’t measure up to a whole lot to the world, there is something incredibly different and powerful within us that is clearly evidenced.
God is willing still today to baptize us in the Holy Spirit just as He did on the day of Pentecost so long ago. When we choose to put our faith in Jesus and to follow Him, we are saved. At that very moment, we receive the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 5:5-6
5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Now for this fact, we can all praise God. All those who follow Jesus have received a deposit of the Holy Spirit. This deposit marks us with God’s seal defining us as His own and guaranteeing our salvation. Just as Jesus rose from death to life, so will we. However, our lives are able to contain more than just a deposit of the Holy Spirit.
An initial $25 deposit may guarantee me a checking account, but how many here are content with only that initial deposit? How far will $25 get us these days? That account is able to contain far, far more than that initial deposit!
Even before Jesus ascended into Heaven following His resurrection, He breathed on those disciples and gave them a deposit of the Holy Spirit (John 20). However, He also told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1). Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life from birth. This can only be possible through the Holy Spirit. However, He didn’t begin His full ministry until the Holy Spirit filled His life at the moment that He was water baptized (Matthew 3).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit better equips and empowers us to live our lives to their full. The deposit is awesome, but there is more! That’s why Jesus gave them that deposit, but told them to wait right where they were until they received more. Then, they could go and transform the world and begin a move of God that would last until Jesus returns!
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a promise of Jesus for anyone to receive who is willing still today. Now they didn’t receive it as soon as Jesus promised it to them. In fact, they spent days together praying and seeking after Jesus to receive it and they still didn’t. God’s timing was perfect and they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at just the right moment. Not only were they who received it blessed, but also thousands of others were blessed by it as well!
The baptism of the Holy Spirit continued to be experienced as the church reached out to the world around them.
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
These men had been saved, but they hadn’t received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
* Click *
Sometimes this is true because we’re just like them, we’ve never even heard of such a thing. Sometimes, we haven’t received it because we’ve heard bad things about it. Some say that this gift ceased back after the Bible was written or that speaking in tongues is of the devil. Maybe we’ve just seen someone do some pretty nasty things while claiming to be filled with and lead by the Holy Spirit. Maybe we haven’t received it just because it isn’t something that we’re comfortable with.
In any case, I challenge you to take Jesus at His word. If He promised it, it has to be His will for us to receive it, right? If Jesus told His disciples to wait until they received it, it must be good, right? It must be important for us to receive, right? Jesus, however, doesn’t force us to receive anything from Him. He simply offers it to us and waits on us to receive it.
I also don’t see where Jesus has ever promised something and then took it back. There is no evidence anywhere to suggest that the baptism of the Holy Spirit nor the gifts of the Spirit would stop operating just because we have a Bible in our hands or because the first apostles died. The only time that the gifts of the Spirit will cease is when Jesus returns and they are simply no longer necessary or relevant. Paul taught about this here:
1 Corinthians 13:8-10
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
All of us still only know in part, none of us know everything. All of us still prophecy in part, none of us know everything that will happen. Once we do, the gifts will cease due to their lack of need. Who needs the gift of healing in Heaven where there is no sickness? Who needs the gift of raising the dead in Heaven where there is no death? Who needs the gift of encouragement in Heaven where there are no tears or mourning? That’s why our identity in Jesus is not based on our giftings, but based on the fact that we are a child of God!
As far as the baptism of the Holy Spirit being of the devil, well, why would Jesus give you a demon when you ask Him for the Holy Spirit? In fact, He knew that some would think this very thing, so He approached the subject here:
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Don’t let other people and their opinions or their misbehavior stand in the way of you receiving everything that God wants to give you! If you haven’t received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, ask God for it and He will give it to you. It’s really that easy and there’s really no need to complicate it.
There’s another misconception out there about the infilling of the Holy Spirit as well. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not just something that we experience once and that’s it for the rest of our lives. In fact, we are called to be filled with the Spirit, an ongoing act as we live out our lives.
During the trail of Peter and John that we mentioned earlier, the church came together to pray. After Peter and John were commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus any more, the church came together to pray. That same group of people who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit back in Acts 2 were filled once again and this time, they weren’t even asking for it! We pick up at the end of their prayer here:
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The early church didn’t hang their hats on one experience or encounter with Jesus. They didn’t even settle for being filled with the Spirit on one occasion. They didn’t let fear control them, either. They passionately pursued Jesus alone and Jesus chose to fill them with the Spirit over and over again.
They intentionally went out to the lost world around them to teach them all about Jesus and what He had done for them. As they went out, signs, wonders, and miracles followed them. The Holy Spirit confirmed the words of their mouths with actions that only He could accomplish. Those dozen guys that Paul ran into who had never even heard that there was a Holy Spirit eventually became the church in Ephesus. Paul later wrote to them:
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no such thing as a small beginning when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Those twelve men became a mighty church and Paul’s letter to them became the very word of God. Even as he encouraged them, God is encouraging us today to be filled with the Spirit.
This is what it means to be Pentecostal. It will intentionally look just as different as each of us are from one another, but there are core attributes that we all share in common. To be Pentecostal is to acknowledge the fact that we carry God’s very Presence within us wherever we go. We are led by Him and walk by His guidance alone. We love God and love others. We allow the Spirit to breathe His breath into the ancient words that He inspired in the Bible and brings them alive within us as He speaks to us. We live by His power and strength and not on our own. We are jars of clay, but there is a treasure within us that is clearly evidenced by God’s own work within us.
The Spirit can do a work in our lives that we could never do on our own. We can read and study and try to live out God’s word through discipling ourselves. We’ll likely end up either very religious or very frustrated. Or, we can allow the same Spirit that authored His word and also authored our life to fill us with His Presence and do a work within to transform us from the inside out. It is His joy to do it, too!
On this Pentecost Sunday, be continually filled with the Spirit, walk according to His lead, and find rest in His strength alone.