Summary: There are significant denominational distinctives about what happened on the Day of Pentecost, which has polarized the body of Christ. This message is intended to find common ground from the Scriptures for those on every side of the isle.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 NIV)
The beautiful creator God of the Universe chose to give the Holy Spirit during the Jewish observance known as the Feast of Harvest / Pentecost, which was 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus. It was the celebration of the wheat harvest, and it marked the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
Pentecost was a national holiday where the people would be reminded of their time in Egypt and bring offerings to God to celebrate with great rejoicing in music and dance that they had been delivered from their bondage. Everyone was invited to this feast, including Levites, servants, sons and daughters, the fatherless, the widow, and even strangers (Deut 16:9-12).
The tongues of fire were a sign to the Jewish people that God was exceedingly pleased with those who had received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. On at least three occasions, because God was pleased, He sent fire from above to consume a sacrifice (1 Chron 21:26; 2 Chron 7:1; 1 Kings 18:38). Each time this happened God was making an important point. In David’s case, He was forgiving his sin, halting a plague in Israel, and choosing the place where the future temple would be built.
On the day of Pentecost, God was showing the people that their sins were forgiven through the death of Jesus, the promised Messiah, and that He was stopping the plague of sin’s eternal consequence, as well as showing that those who become Born-Again are now His dwelling place, His temple, the new Holy of Holies.
In Solomon’s case, God was consecrating that location as the place where His name would dwell forever (2 Chron 7:16). The people’s reaction was to worship the Lord and say, “He is good; his love endures forever” (2 Chron 7:3 NIV). God was telling the crowd of people at Pentecost that those who become Born-Again by receiving Jesus as the promised Messiah were now consecrated for His glory, and He would dwell within them forever.
In Elijah’s case, God was shaming the prophets of Baal, whose god sent no fire, and claiming His rightful title as Lord God of Israel. The people on Mount Carmel “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD - he is God! The LORD - he is God!’” (1 Kings 18:39 NIV) God was showing the people on the day of Pentecost that He alone is almighty God who alone deserves to be worshipped, honored, and praised forevermore, and the shed blood of Jesus destroyed the works of the enemy who is now powerless against the Church, and nothing will ever prevail against it.
THE NEW COVENANT OF GRACE
Pentecost was so incredible that it affected the entire human race and their relationship to God. The Holy Spirit was given as a gift from the Father on that day as the confirmation that the New Covenant of grace - paid for by the shed blood of Jesus, and now written on the heart of every Born-Again Christian - is more effectual than the Law given at Mount Sinai that was written on stone (2 Cor 3:3-18). It also confirms that those who place their trust in Jesus find true deliverance and healing from the penalty of sin. There is no better reason to celebrate with great rejoicing in music and dance on that day!
Pentecost was the birthday of the Church universal. It began the ministry of the Holy Spirit, indwelling and sealing the Born-Again Christian at the moment of salvation, and the daily filling with power for the work of ministry. Prior to the day of Pentecost, a person could not be Born-Again and receive eternal life. However, there is an interesting one-time exception that I will address shortly.
THE ENDOWMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
There are many titles given to the Holy Spirit. He is not a ghost or an apparition of God. Throughout Scripture, He is called the Eternal Spirit (Heb 9:14), the Spirit of God (1 Cor 3:16), Truth (John 16:13), Grace (Heb 10:29), Life (Rom 8:2), Glory (1 Pet 4:14), Wisdom and Revelation (Eph 1:17), Comforter (John 14:26), Promise (Acts 1:4-5), Holiness (Rom 1:4), Faith (2 Cor 4:13), and Adoption (Rom 8:15).
The Holy Spirit endows the Christian with power to serve. He is not a power or tongues or a force but is a person who is fully God, co-equal with the Father and Son, and is a member of the Trinity. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is placing Christians into the body of Christ. Receiving power from God is actually being filled with a member of the Godhead Himself. The natural eye cannot see the Holy Spirit. Jesus compared Him to the wind: