This Sunday, we will celebrate the birthday of the church—not First Baptist Church (that’s in November), THE church.
Pentecost, which is a transliteration of the Greek term for “fifty” (pentekostos), is observed 50 days after Passover. Acts 2 records that on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and enabled them to speak to the gathered crowd in various languages. Just as Jesus, God the Son, had ascended to heaven ten days earlier in the sight of His followers, God the Spirit now descended onto those same followers. As we approach Pentecost this year, I want to share a few reminders for us from this powerful episode.
First, God keeps His promises. In John 16:5-15, Jesus tells His disciples that He is going away so that the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls “the Counselor,” can come and guide them into all truth (also see John 14:15-18, 25-26). Before He left His disciples, Jesus “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise” (Acts 1:4). He also told them that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses throughout the world (Acts 1:8). After they faithfully waited and continued in prayer, God fulfilled His promise to send them the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost.
Second, God is with His people. God’s presence was the central blessing to the people of Israel. When Jesus came, He did so as Immanuel, “God with us,” to dwell in our midst just as the tabernacle occupied the center of the Israelite camp. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, every believer is now filled with the Spirit of God and experiences His holy presence in our lives. We have become the temple—the dwelling place—for God (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20)! That same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, spoke through the disciples, and emboldened them to suffer for the cause of Christ now fills each of us and empowers us daily to follow Jesus, bear fruit, and reach the world with the gospel.
Third, God has a purpose for His church. In God’s providence, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred when the disciples were gathered together in one place. In that moment, He launched His mission to the ends of the earth, and He did so through the church. Just as Jesus had commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations, they began to fulfill His commission that morning with a crowd gathered from across the eastern Roman Empire—different languages, races, and cultures. By the time Peter finished preaching, about 3,000 new believers were baptized and added to the church. In two thousand years, our purpose still hasn’t changed.
Every Pentecost should be a reminder to us that, just as was promised, the Holy Spirit is active in our lives helping us to become more like Jesus and empowering us to fulfill our mission to make disciples of all nations.