Sunday, June 5 is Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church. The church was born 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. The word Pentecost means 50th and refers to a Jewish feast which is celebrated 50 days after the feast of Passover. The event is recorded in the second chapter of the Book of Acts.
The story is as follows. Jesus’ disciples and other believers were together celebrating this important festival when suddenly something unusual occurred. They heard a noise, like the blowing of a mighty wind. They saw tongues of fire resting on believers, and each believer was able to communicate in languages they had never spoken before. They were able to speak with Jewish pilgrims of many languages from all over the world.
People who witnessed this extraordinary event thought these people were intoxicated. But Simon Peter got up and explained that they were not drunk at that early hour. Then he delivered a Spirit-inspired sermon, the result of which was spectacular: 3,000 souls repented and were baptized, giving rise to the newborn church.
It was the Holy Spirit who created the wonderful experience of Pentecost. It was the Holy Spirit who prepared the early followers of Christ to be the people that Jesus wanted them to be and to do the kind of things that God wanted them to do. It was the Holy Spirit who produced miraculous results in the lives of the community of the committed.
The first result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the transformation of the followers of Christ. Before the Pentecost event, those early disciples had barricaded themselves behind locked doors. They were afraid that the Jewish authorities might bring harm to their lives. But now they were out proclaiming Jesus as God’s Messiah. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit they acquired a new sense of boldness.
The second result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the breaking of the barriers of communication. The believers were able to speak the languages of many different nations. Barriers of nationality and language began to crumble. The Book of Acts also tells us that the Holy Spirit broke down the walls of prejudice among the early Christians. It broke down the walls of differences between the Jews and Gentiles, between the rich and the poor, and between men and women.
The third result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the empowering of the church. There were 3,000 people who made a decision to take on a new way of life by committing themselves to Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:43 we read, “Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.”
The fourth result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was evangelism. Acts 2:47 states, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Those committed followers of Christ didn’t rely on the disciples to win the lost; nothing stopped them from spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
Whatever happened to that community of believers has happened time and again throughout the past centuries. It can happen today because “God (the Holy Spirit) is the same yesterday, today and forever.” In the long history of the Christian church, every time a religious revival has taken place and has transformed people and empowered the church, inevitably it has been the work of the Holy Spirit.
There are, however, prerequisites for that to happen. Here again, we can learn from those who experienced the miracle of Pentecost. The disciples and the early followers of Christ felt themselves bound together in a unique fellowship. In Acts 2:42, they devoted themselves to each other in fellowship. They had settled their differences with one another. They supported each other. They spent time in prayer. They ate together, sang together and worshiped together. Acts 2:45 states, “All of them were together and had everything in common.” They drew their strength from their powerful sense of unity. When they were all “with one accord” all heaven broke loose!
The message is very clear: only by the power of the Holy Spirit did the disciples initiate the cause of Christ on earth. And only by the power of the Holy Spirit will we ever conclude the great commission to preach the good news, making disciples of all nations.
Pentecost is both the birthday and the challenge of the Christian church!