Summary: The meaning of Pentecost, God pouring out His Spirit to empower the mission from Jesus to go into all the world as His witnesses to make disciples from all nations.
A children’s catechism class was learning the Apostles Creed. Each child had been assigned a sentence to repeat. The first one said, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The second child said, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son…” When he had completed his sentence, there was an embarrassing silence. Finally, one child piped up, “Teacher, the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit isn’t here.” (from the sermon, The Impact of Pentecost by Bruce Howell)
It seems there have been churches where, by deed or word, or lack of them, those who believe in the Holy Spirit were absent. But we are “Trinity” Church and we believe in the Holy Spirit. The church cannot survive without the Holy Spirit.
WAITING FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT
What the Apostles and the 120 were constantly praying about for the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost was the Mission Jesus had given them and the baptism of the Holy Spirit he had promised them. The baptism of the Spirit would give them the power to carry out the mission.
“The chief actor in the historic mission of the Christian church is the Holy Spirit. He is the director of the whole enterprise. The mission consists of the things that he is doing in the world. In a special way it consists of the light that he is focusing upon Jesus Christ.” (Brad Long, Listening Evangelism, The Dunamis Project, p. 70)
The first church was so clear on this: it is not a human enterprise done in human strength. Our mission is God-inspired, God-initiated, God-directed, God-empowered.
Jesus said at the start of it all that they were not to go it alone in their own strength and responsibility:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this 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.”
Their resources and plans and strategy were not what counted:
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In fact the marching orders for their mission and gift of the Holy Spirit were to come in the same package. This is the point Jesus makes according to John:
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Luke makes the same point succinctly in Acts 1:2 when calls the apostolic mission mandate “instructions through the Holy Spirit.”
How could it be any other way since Jesus himself received his call to mission and empowerment by his own baptism in the Holy Spirit?
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit, and opened the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah which says:
(Luke 4:14, 17-19, 21)
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
If for Jesus himself – he who gave up his divine attributes to truly become a human being – if both messiahship and mission came from his own baptism in the flood tide of the Holy Spirit, how could his followers possibly be involved in the same mission except through the same baptism and immersion in the Holy Spirit?
The incredible missionary achievement of the early church was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Over and over again they moved out in obedience to the Spirit. Now it’s true that against a static Church, unwilling to obey the guidance of the Holy Spirit, no ’gates’ of any sort are needed to oppose its movement…for it does not move! But against a Church that is on the move, inspired by the Pentecostal Spirit, neither ’gates of hell’ nor any other gates can prevail! Say, “Amen.”