Issue 52

June 1, 2010

Pentecost (Whit) Sunday

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth - Acts 1:8.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all ... filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance - Acts 2: 1-4.

Sunday May 23, 2010 has come and gone, probably without much notice, yet it is as significant in the Christian liturgical year as Christmas and Easter, Pentecost , also known as Whit Sunday, occurs seven weeks from Easter Sunday, and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 men and women who were carrying out the instruction of Jesus to wait in Jerusalem until they were baptized into the Holy Spirit cf. Acts 1:4-5.

Pentecost means fifty, so named on account of the fact that the Jewish feast of Pentecost (in Judaism it's called Shavu'ot) occurs precisely fifty days i.e. seven weeks plus one day, after the weekly Sabbath of Passover:And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD... And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations - Lev. 23:15-16, 21.

One of the problems with liturgical celebrations, Judaistic and Christian, is that they formalise and restrict what should be dynamic and progressive. Traditionalists tend to engage the event as a once off annual celebration, a practice which the Evangelical and classic Pentecostal churches have tended to rightly boycott, resting in the fact that they effectively celebrate the occasions on a weekly or daily basis. In the practice of true faith the incarnation, resurrection and for that matter the procession of the Holy Spirit on Whit Sunday, are celebrated on a regular basis. Having said that I don't think there is anything intrinsically wrong with a special annual recognition and celebration notwithstanding the uncertainty of dates and the nature of the origin of the practices. Our point has always been that we should use any and every opportunity to witness to our Christian faith.

Recently I carried out a Google search on "Pentecost and Whit Sunday" and was struck with nostalgia as I read of the revival of the Whit Walks in Manchester, UK, where my wife and I ministered for some 16 years during the 1960/70s. Whit Walks were new to me as a young pastor when I moved to the area. Even way back in those days they tended to be ecumenical so we, at the Droylsden Pentecostal Church, marched on Whit Sunday while most other churches, except the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), who marched separately on another day, walked in united witness on the Friday of the so called Wakes'4 week. One of my early tasks was to obtain a new Banner to lead our procession. It was quite large and required strong men to carry it, especially if the wind was boisterous. That banner served other occasions e.g. the "re-opening" of the renovated Church building and the dedication of the new Tameside Christian Centre, when, in order to extend evangelism in the community, I invited the local Member of Parliament to march with us and to address the gatherings. The late Hon. Robert Sheldon became quite friendly to the extent of inviting my wife and I and our family to visit Westminster Parliament as his guests.

Pentecost has to do with Mission

 Evangelical theology, for the most part, wrongly applies the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to the "birth of the Church." No, the basis or birth of the Church relates not to Pentecost but to Passover/Easter. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any idea that the new birth or the start of the new "organism" [Greek "ecclesia" = "church"] relates to Pentecost but rather to the resurrection - for example:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, - 1 Pet 1: 3.The entire Gospel hangs on the resurrection, without which there is NO Gospel and NO Church:Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God, which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead - Rom 1: 1-4.

The one factor common to all major sermons in the Acts of the Apostles is the resurrection, which relates to Easter not Pentecost. So, what happened in respect of the coming and work of the Holy Sprit at Pentecost? 

You Shall Receive Power... You Shall Be Witnesses

The Greek rendered "power" in Acts 1:8 is "dunamis", which signifies "ability" or "energy". It is "power" to perform. Energy is the ability to do work. This promise was given to those who were already in the Church, which had been previously established on the basis of the resurrection of Christ. The "church" was born on the day of the resurrection not on the day of Pentecost. We read that it was on the very day of the resurrection that Jesus,

.. breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit ..."-  John 20:22.

It is a denial of the significance of words to suggest that nothing really happened to the ten apostles and possibly some other disciples gathered there and that this was only a promise of what was to occur some seven weeks later at Pentecost. Individually we are born-again and corporately the "church" is born on the basis of the resurrection and to this the entire doctrine of the Gospels, and the Acts and Epistles of the apostles bears testimony. We are told that Thomas was not present, and we are NOT told how many were present, when Jesus breathed on them. What is very clear from the words and action of our Lord is that something definite happened. Those in that room received the Holy Spirit, which points to the fact that followers of Christ are "born again" and the Church is established on the basis of Christ's resurrection. Think about it!Jesus promised another [Greek allos (Strong 243) = "other of the same or similar character"; not heteros (2087) = "other of a different character"] helper:

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever -  John 14:16.So if this occurred on the day of the resurrection, what was it that happened at Pentecost?Classical Pentecostals answer: "On the day of Pentecost the Church was militarised - empowered for service and thrust forward into the world."

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen - Matthew 28:18-20.And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." - Mark 16:15-16.

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" - Acts 1:4-5.When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance - Acts 2:1-4... But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ..." (vs 14-16) ... Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (v. 41)

... But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ..." (vs 14-16) ... Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (v. 41)

Let The Fire FallThey were gathered in an upper chamberas commanded by the Risen Lord,And the promise of the Father there they sought with one accordWhen the Holy Ghost from heav'ndescended Like a rushing wind and tongues of fireSo dear Lord, we seek Thy blessing Come with glory now our hearts inspire.

Let the fire fall, let the fire fall, let the firefrom heaven fall,We are waiting and expecting, now infaith, dear Lord we call;Let the fire fall, let the fire fall, on thypromise we depend;From the glory of thy presence, let thePentecostal fire descend.  We dedicate this issue to EVANGELISM and MISSION

Happy reading - God bless you - Philip

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