Summary: The early church celebrated this day long before they did Christmas. If we are unaware of this day it is due to the lack of understanding of the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church.
One of the oldest festival days in history is the Festival of Pentecost. It was one of the favorites of
the Jews for centuries before Christ, and it has been a significant day in the church for two thousand
years. It became the third great Christian feast after Christmas and Easter. It marks the anniversary
of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Liturgical churches call it Whitsunday because of the early custom
of wearing white clothes on this day to symbolize the illumination which the Holy Spirit brought.
Welcome, white day, a thousand suns,
Though seen at once, were black to thee;
For after their light, darkness comes,
But thine shines to eternity.
In spite of the importance of this day it has been greatly neglected by many Christians. Most of
us would not even know it was Pentecost Sunday, which means 50 days after the resurrection of
Christ. The early church celebrated this day long before they did Christmas. If we are unaware of
this day it is due to the lack of understanding of the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church.
Dr. Norman Maclean was teaching the Apostle’s Creed to some students, and he had them stand in a
row and each repeat a line. One morning they began and the first student said, “I believe in God the
Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The next said, “I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son
our Lord.” This went on through all the doctrines, and then there was silence. The boy who was
next in line said, “Please sir, the boy who believes in the Holy Ghost is absent today.” Dr. Maclean
remarked, “Lots of folks are absent when it comes to that clause.”
E. Stanley Jones referring to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit said, “It is the undiscovered country
of Christianity, the dark continent of the Christian life. The land where our spiritual resources lie
but undeveloped.” The great need of the church, and of each individual Christian, is the power of
the Holy Spirit. It is the power to do the task for which we exist, and so we want to look at this first
Pentecostal experience of the disciples in the light of their reception of power.
I. THE SECRET OF THEIR RECEPTION OF POWER. v. 1
Jesus had commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, but He
told them that they must first tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high.
For 10 days after Jesus ascended they waited in obedience to His command. Peter had finally
learned to wait on the Lord. He had finally learned to take orders and obey them with perfect
confidence that Jesus knew what He was doing. Ordinarily Peter’s nature would have caused him to
say, “Wait! What do you mean wait! We know Christ is alive now, for we have seen Him with our
own eyes. Why wait? Let’s go tell the world right now.” He would have gone out and instead of
turning the world upside down, would have become an utter failure trying to do a supernatural work
in his own natural powers. But Peter knew better now. He had tried his own power and discovered
it was weakness. He learned that you can have natural powers around you and behind you, but
without supernatural power from above you, you can do nothing. Like his Lord, he learned
obedience by the things which he suffered.
This was the secret of their reception of power. They were all with one accord in one place.
There was unity in obedience to Christ. No longer were the 12 anxious about who was going to set
where in the kingdom. All they knew was that Jesus had promised them power, and so in perfect
harmony and in complete confidence they waited. They were on the launching pad of preparation
waiting for God’s countdown to reach the zero hour and send them soaring out into all the world
with the Gospel. After 10 days you would think that some division would arise. It would have been
easy for some to get impatient and begin to doubt the promise. It is not easy to wait.
Themistocles, the famous Athenian general, once kept his men waiting during a navel battle.
At sunrise they were all ready to advance, but the order did not come. As the hours passed the men
became impatient. Talk spread that he was not going to fight because he was afraid. Themistocles
knew what he was doing. He knew there was a wind that came up in that region at a certain time of
the day. He waited for it to give the command so that he did not need as many men at the oars, but