Summary: The church's birthday occurred on the first Pentecost. This sermon studies what occurred at that first event.
Scripture Ref: John 20:19-23
Other Ref.: The Bible Knowledge Commentary
a. Today we are celebrating a major event in the Christian calendar, for it is literally our birthday.
(1) It is the day we know as Pentecost.
(2) Its inception was simple, but powerful.
(3) It did not start as any birthday party we have come to know and love.
(a) The party goers did not go to a residence festive with gay decorations.
(b) There was no cake and ice cream.
(c) No party invitations were mailed.
(d) It started with a simple command, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4)
b. History of Pentecost
(1) Old Testament
(a) Not a new concept, but rather a transformation of a feast celebrated in O.T. times.
(b) In the Hebrew O.T., the customary name is the Feast of Weeks. It was regarded as the second of three obligatory observances, coming between the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles.
(c) In Exodus 23:16, it is called “the feast of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field.”
(d) Dating of this festival also suggests its original agricultural context. Deuteronomy 16:9 required that it be dated seven weeks “from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain.”
(2) New Testament
(a) In the Hellenistic period, 300 B.C.-A.D. 300, the feast began to lose its association with agriculture and came increasingly associated with religious history of the Hebrew people. The book of Jubilees, continuing to refer to it as ‘first fruits,’ identifies it with the covenant between God and Noah.
(b) Probably after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 Pentecost finally transformed into an observance of the giving of Torah on Mount Sinai. Exodus 19:1 was interpreted to mean that the interval between Passover and the arrival at Sinai was fifty days. Thus, in Judaism, Shavuot continues to be an observance of thanksgiving for Torah.
c. Today, Pentecost has a totally different meaning for Christians. It is associated with power and excitement. In fact, it is so significant a denomination has been founded entirely on it.
2. Unusual Party Preparations
a. As we look in on the preparations for the first celebration of this wonderful birthday party, we find a somber scene. As I said earlier:
(1) There were no festive decorations.
(2) There were no party hats and balloons
(3) There was no cake and ice cream.
b. What there was, was a room of frightened men.
c. Read John 20:19-23
(1) Verse 19—the disciples were together with the doors locked, afraid of the Jews. What a contrast to their boldness when Christ was among them or 7 weeks in the future after Pentecost.
(2) Verse 22—the image and wording of breathing on them recalls God’s creative work in making Adam. This reception of the Spirit was in anticipation of the day of Pentecost and should be understood as a partial, limited gift of knowledge, under standing, and empowerment until Pentecost, 50 days later.
3. Happy Birthday to Us
a. The stage has now been set for this great party. Let’s stage a reenactment and look closely at how the church came into being.
b. Read Acts 2:1-13
(1) Verse 1—All the important players are assembled together. It is not known who they are, but only that there were about 120 (based on Acts 1:15).
(2) Verses 2-4
(a) The fireworks start and the party is underway. The references to wind and fire in these verses are significant.
(b) The Greek word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is related to the word translated “wind” here.
(1) It also means breath. Both nouns—“spirit” and “wind” or “breath”—are from the verb pneo, which is translated “to blow, to breathe.”
(2) The sound like the blowing of a violent wind…from heaven points to the power of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of His coming—literally the “breath of God.”
(c) The tongues of fire portray the presence of God. Several times in the Old Testament God displayed Himself in the form of flames:
(1) As a flaming torch to Abram (Genesis 15:17)
(2) As a burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3:2)
(3) As a pillar of fire to the Israelites leaving Egypt (Exodus 13:21).
(4) As a mountain of fire to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:18)
(5) As the tabernacle filled with fire by night to the Israelites (Exodus 40:38)
(6) No believer there was exempt from this experience, for the flames separated and came to rest on each of them.
(d) An evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was other tongues. These were undoubtedly spoken living languages; the word used in 2:6, 8 is dialektô, which means “language” and not ecstatic utterance. This gives insight into what is meant by “tongues” in chapters 2; 10; 19; and in 1 Corinthians 12-14.