The Festival of Pentecost
This Sunday in church we are celebrating Pentecost Day, the birthday of the New Testament church, which is exactly fifty days (Latin: pente-) after Easter.
Pentecost Day is the famous event of the appearance of tongues of fire and the disciples miraculously speaking in many languages they didn’t previously know. Those were one-time miracles of the Holy Spirit, but the true gift of the Holy Spirit happens every day. It is the understanding of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.
In the Gospels we notice that the apostles and other disciples were remarkably dull regarding the work of Jesus, though they knew his person well enough. Even up to the day of Ascension ten days prior they had false notions regarding the work of Jesus. But all this was changed on Pentecost. In the sermon of Peter on that day we have for the first time clear-cut and definite statements of the forgiveness of sins. On Pentecost the disciples received the Holy Spirit in such a manner that they now fully understood what the work of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins really meant. That is the precious gift which since then is given to all Christians, and is the gift that makes us Christians.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is an empowering of believers for work they could not otherwise do on their own. Most often this is simply the day-to-day life of good works that is impossible for the sinful nature to do on its own.
But at other times the Holy Spirit gives a special empowering for a specific purpose, for example, in the inspiration of the holy writers of Scripture. The most dramatic empowering in the New Testament is of course at Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit filled the disciples for the task of going and announcing the kingdom of God, and on that day gave them the ability to speak in languages they did not know. Yet the speaking in tongues is not the essence of the day. The festival of Pentecost is misconceived when it is only described as a pouring out of special gifts in high measure to the apostles. To celebrate Pentecost properly we must be convinced that today the miracle of the first Pentecost is repeated.
Another job of the Holy Spirit is creation, as in Genesis chapter 1. Pentecost isn’t only an act of empowering, it’s also the re-creation of Israel in fulfillment of Ezekiel 37:1-14. Ezekiel had a vision of the reversal of the decomposition of the human body. The wind brought the Spirit of God which brought those dry bones back to life. At Pentecost, the wind brought the Spirit of God which re-created the people of Israel as the New Testament church. 3,000 people were baptized that day and the church was born.