Summary: How is it possible for the Pentecost message, of unity in the church, as the vehicle to undo the Babel confusion, to occur?
Babel, Pentecost, and the Church Montreal/Cornwall
June 11, 2006
“The tower of Babel” speaks of an impressive intervention in human affairs that God did in order to guarantee that his plan would work out in the time frame of his choosing, rather than through different effort, means and timing.
Genesis 11- read the story
Jump ahead several centuries to the dramatic Pentecost events in Jerusalem 10 days after Jesus’ ascension.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer- “Letters & papers from Prison”- “Whitsunday, June 14th 1943….The strange story of the first Whisunday, with its miraculous gift of tongues, has once more provided a good deal of food for thought. At the tower of Babel all the tongues were confounded, and as a result men could no longer understand one another as they all spoke different languages. This confusion is now brought to an end by the language of God, which is universally intelligible and the only means of mutual understanding among men. And the Church is the place where that miracle happens…”
How is this possible within the church? How does this miracle occur- where division becomes unity, independence become interdependence, and human ingenuity becomes buried in a new kind of ingenuity led not humanly but divinely?
One key, much overlooked in the matter, is key to the experience of Pentecost and is vital to the dramatic expansion of the church.
Acts 2.38- repentance, which requires humility.
Eph.4- speaks of a goal of the church and of the individual members of the church- it is to ‘maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.’ The Spirit is united- it has unity. The Spirit is fully united with the Father and with Jesus- there is not the slightest deviation from unity within the Trinitarian community, which sets us the example of the kind of community to seek within the Christian body, the church. Again, to be able to aspire to this and to maintain this requires humility, something that is possible as the Spirit works in and through individuals and the entirety of the church.
The greatest impact of Pentecost comes through the humility of those impacted by the day and the experience of the overpowering of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This is our experience. We’re here as individuals overpowered by the Holy Spirit. Our lives have been changed because of the impact of the Holy Spirit. We are different because of the Holy Spirit. It’s hard to conceive of how much different we are with His indwelling and activity in our lives, but it’s true. Our life is because of Jesus and His Spirit.
Col.3.3, 4- we have no life apart from Jesus. There is no life apart from Jesus. We thought we were alive before, but we were sadly mistaken. Apart from Jesus, there is no life. He has taken up in Himself all of our inability and inadequacy, offered these to the Father being forsaken in the process, and then brought life to us through resurrection. This is what we declare in that great declaration of Paul:
Our complete yielded-ness to the activity of the Spirit in us is therefore necessary, as it represents our complete giving up of self to the living Christ in us, and this requires the ultimate in humility on all levels, something that we’re not particularly good at as humans, or as human Christians. We have to even give up our efforts to be humble and seek for Christ’s humility rather than our own.
We all come to Christ with baggage- some of it very hurtful and destructive. And sometimes we try to continue to carry that baggage and we bristle whenever someone, with desire for our spiritual development, attempts to suggest a different course. Scripture tells us to be able to speak, in love, to one another, suggesting that we are to respond to one another, too. We are to be humble toward one another, yet we tend to reject something that goes against our baggage. In other words, we continue to resist the Spirit as He works through one another toward the building and strengthening of the church. We are proud, arrogant and self-willed and these do not lead us to growth.
Jas.3.13-18- the wisdom of man does not produce the righteousness and wisdom of God.
Are you willing to learn and to change through submitting your humility to Christ’s humility? What about in your marriage? With your children? In your serving in church? What about in your understanding of scripture or the practices of other churches? Are you willing to submit all? We sing that song, “I surrender all” but don’t want to. We say we want to be living sacrifices, but then we take it all back because we want to run our lives ourselves. I bring far too much of my background to my present in Christ; do you think you could be guilty of the same thing? How often do you repent of it? Some of you have great hurts from the past- maybe in this or other churches, maybe in your families of origins. Do you lay that before God, in humble repentance constantly, so that it doesn’t continue to dominate you? Some of you are ‘prickly’ because of the past. Some of you insist on your own way in matters that impact others and even hurt others. Will you lay these before God, seeking Christ’s humility rather than your own? Do you recognize that we even have to repent of our efforts to repent- all our efforts, even religiously, are not enough- however, we simply have to recognize that, do it, and ask for Christ’s efforts/humility to overpower our own and to give them life where we don’t have that life in ourselves and our efforts.