Pentecost June 8, 2014
231, 740 [TLH alt. 227], 510, 230
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
What are the three major festivals of the Christian Church Year? When I ask that question in my instruction classes, the students always come up with two very quickly: Christmas and Easter. But they struggle with the third one. Ash Wednesday? Reformation? Jesus’ Baptism? The answer is Pentecost—the festival we are celebrating today.
Pentecost is the Festival of the Holy Spirit, the day when we especially consider the Spirit’s work—work which is sometimes misunderstood and other times almost forgotten. When the Apostle Paul arrived at Ephesus the believers there said, “We didn’t even know that there was a Holy Spirit” (cf. Acts19:2).
So what is the special work of this third person of the Holy Trinity? It is well-illustrated by the Scriptures themselves in the many places where it is said that someone was “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
When Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist greeted Mary, the mother of Jesus, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message (Luke 1:41ff).
When Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit he spoke of how God was sending salvation to the earth (Luke 1:66ff).
When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit he began to preach about his God and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 4:8ff).
When Jesus told His disciples in the upper room on Easter Sunday to “receive the Holy Spirit” He immediately went on to tell them that they had the authority to tell others that their sins were forgiven (John 20:22f).
When the believers prayed for boldness they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).
What is the Spirit’s work? We can see it clearly, can’t we? The Spirit gets the Word out! Wherever the Spirit is involved, there is preaching going on and God’s message is going out! So the Spirit sees to it that the Good News of Christ—crucified for sinners and raised again to secure their eternal life in Heaven—is shared throughout creation. The Spirit sees to it that the message of the forgiveness of sins and salvation in Jesus goes out into all the world and people believe it.
This work is truly important and really does require the power of God to accomplish it. Think about it, if it were left to humans alone to spread the Gospel, it would never happen. Remember what the disciples were doing on the day Jesus rose from the dead? They were hardly telling the world about it. They had locked themselves in a room and were afraid to say anything. Thankfully, the Spirit gets the Word out!
Nowhere is this work of the Spirit more evident than on the day of Pentecost itself. Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ten days after His ascension into Heaven, the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost—the Jewish harvest celebration. They heard a sound from heaven like the blowing of a violent wind and they saw what seemed like tongues of fire resting on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.
On the Day of Pentecost, the apostles were suddenly given the ability to speak in languages they had not previously known. This was a special gift to them from the Holy Spirit, but that in itself was not really the Spirit’s main work that day. Giving those men the ability to speak in other languages was only a means to an end. More important was the fact that Peter and the others were declaring the wonders of God. The people listening realized this too. They did not only marvel that they were hearing their own language: “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? [vv.7b-8]; they also exclaimed: “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” [v.11]
You see, the Holy Spirit was getting the Word out. That was the real business of Pentecost. The special gifts that the Spirit gave that day were for nothing else than sharing the message of Christ crucified. Peter went at it right away, preaching a beautiful sermon to the crowd that had gathered:
Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him…you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay…Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay… Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. [vv.17ff NIV]
That sermon was the Holy Spirit at work. The Spirit enabled Peter to share the Gospel. The Spirit enabled Peter to tell the crowd that while they were sinners, Jesus had died for them. Peter was able to tell the crowd that Jesus had paid their debt to God and had risen from death to guarantee their eternal life in Heaven. The Spirit gets the Word out!
Is the Holy Spirit still doing this work today? Absolutely! How? By filling each one of you. Yes, you heard that correctly. You too have received the Holy Spirit.
“But how do I know that?” you might ask. And that would be a legitimate question, especially when there are many popular churches today teaching that the only way you know you have received the Spirit is if you speak in an unknown tongue, or if you feel the Spirit filling you, or if you have some sort of spiritual experience that is out of the ordinary. But these are not the ways to be sure that the Spirit of God is in you. You can be sure because the Bible tells you that the Spirit is in you. Quoting the prophet Joel, Peter spoke God’s word to the crowd: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” [vv.17,18 NIV]
God said that in this New Testament age—in these last days—He would pour out His Spirit on all: men and women, sons and daughters, adults and children. This was would be true whether they spoke in tongues or not, whether they had an extraordinary spiritual “experience” or not.
A little later in Acts 2 Peter stated this truth again when he said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The gift of the Spirit was for all who trusted in the forgiveness of sins. Thus every believer in Jesus has the Spirit living in them. Every believer has received the Spirit and has been filled with the Spirit.
And what is the sign that the Spirit of God has been poured out on someone? That person will declare the wonders of God just like everyone does who has the Spirit in them. Simply put, those who are filled with the Spirit will speak of Christ! They will “prophesy” as Joel said. That is, they will tell the good news. All of you Christians do that!
Always remember that the Spirit’s work is to get the Word out. So the things He does are always done with that goal in mind. At Pentecost He obviously gave some extraordinary gifts to His people. The apostles could do other things too like heal the sick and raise the dead. These gifts helped them to get the Word out. The Spirit can and does still give gifts today—not necessarily the same ones to each person, and not necessarily the same gifts that He gave to the apostles.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit Paul told the Corinthians (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4). Maybe one person’s gift is wisdom. Maybe another has a keen ability to detect false teaching. Maybe another has a special boldness to share the Gospel with strangers. Whatever gifts the Spirit grants, you can be sure they will support His goal of spreading the Word.
We still need the Spirit to get the Word out today because the days of this world are numbered. You may have noticed that the prophet Joel also talked about the coming end of the earth.
We do not know when those last hours will come, but we do know what the end of that prophecy says: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [v.21]
So on this Pentecost we look to the Holy Spirit to keep on getting the Word out, to keep on focusing our hearts and minds on Jesus, to keep on persuading us—and others everywhere—to look to Christ and be saved.
In the end, it all comes back to Jesus and His death and resurrection. It comes back to the forgiveness of sins we have in Him. He is our salvation on the Last Day. The Holy Spirit comes to us to enable us to know and to share that great message! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.