Tag Archives: Pentecost

The Church Did Not Begin at Pentecost

pentecost2

by Scott

Yesterday marked the church’s celebration-remembrance of Pentecost. And today in Belgium, we have a day off. Such a very spiritual land……or maybe not quite yet.

Anyways, there are a few different angles one could approach in remembering the importance of Pentecost. The angle of the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all flesh – male/female, young/old, Jew/Gentile. There is the aspect of empowering for mission that the rule and grace of Christ be made known to all peoples. Then there’s the common notion that the church began on that great day of Pentecost.

But that’s not right, is it? Continue reading

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The Significance of Pentecost

by Scott

During our visit to the U.S. for most of the month of April, we were able to be a part of Advent Presbyterian Church in the Memphis area over a couple of Sundays. This is the church I grew up in, and my parents are still part of the church community.

For quite some time, as a whole church, they have been working through The Story – which mainly focuses on reading through and teaching the major stories of Scripture. It looks to make the Bible very practical – in teaching and application to people’s lives.

While I was back, they had just finished looking at the Ascension (though the church calendar celebrates it this coming Sunday). And so I was asked to speak on Pentecost and Acts 2. It’s Pentecost Sunday this coming Sunday (19th May 2013), so I thought it would be worth posting this video below.

Why the Holy Spirit?

by Scott

I would have to say that the second most important event of history, second only to the resurrection of Jesus, is that of the pouring out of the Spirit recorded in Acts 2. So important was it!

Now, what we must realise is that the feast of Pentecost had been annually celebrated for some time. It was connected to the feast of Shavuot, where the Jews also remembered the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai.

So Acts 2 was not the recording of the first Pentecost. Hence, Luke’s words here: When the day of Pentecost arrived…(Acts 2:1). They were already expecting Pentecost to come. I’m just not sure they were fully expecting the fruitful harvest that came on that particular Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. A greater gift was given here than at Mt. Sinai!

What had been intimated at and prophesied about for centuries past (see Numbers 11:24-30; Isaiah 32:14-15; 44:3; Joel 2:26-29), and promised by Jesus himself (John 7:37-39; Acts 1:4-5), had finally arrived. No longer was the Holy Spirit to be given to only a select few. He was to be given and poured out on all God’s people, no distinction made – male/female, young/old, Jew/Greek.

The Messianic age would also be marked as the age of the Holy Spirit! Fantastic news, no doubt.

But, one might ask: Why the Holy Spirit? Why was he given?

Good question. And while Scripture does not answer every single question we ask, it seems to clearly answer this question. It’s recorded by Luke, coming from the lips of Jesus.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Pretty clear, heh?

This statement in the early words of Acts stands as the thesis statement for the whole book. The account of Acts would be an outworking of this one statement. The Spirit would be given, and through such an event of extreme import, the people of God would be empowered witnesses.

This was not something for a group of twelve, or a group of twelve and a few other special people. Again, this was a reality for all of God’s people. Remember, the Spirit would not differentiate via gender or age or social barriers. This is one reason why Peter quotes Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18; quoting Joel 2:28-29)

So, reason number 1 for the Spirit being given – that we might receive power and that we might be his witnesses. If there is anything that should mark the life of the Christ-follower it should be the power of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit to be his witnesses. No, I do not only mean that we all must be used in miracles and healings, though I am definitely not opposed to such. Rather, we are to know the power of God across all areas our lives. The power of God is to be available in every aspect, leading to a life that seasons with salt and shines with light.

I cannot imagine anything less.

So, as I shared in my last post, the Spirit of God was not given to ‘maintain the status quo’. It was not given to make sure we hold together nice meetings, a prayer meeting here, a Bible study there, a fellowship meal here, a finance meeting there. None of those are bad in and of themselves. But they are not necessarily the fruit of Acts 1:8, especially if it is tied into solely maintaining the status quo.

Can you imagine Acts 1:8 saying this?

But you will receive the ability to maintain the status quo when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you might possibly be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

I’m sorry, but I can honestly say I would not want any part of that. The Spirit was not given to make sure we all live out a nice and comfortable life in Christ. The Spirit was given that we might be empowered witnesses. Acts 1:8 does not get any clearer.

I am stirred deep by the reality of the reason the Holy Spirit was given when reading Acts 1:8.

The second reason the Spirit is given, not that it is subservient to the first reason I pointed out, is found in the very first verse of Acts 1:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. (Acts 1:1)

Luke’s first volume, the Gospel of Luke, was an account of the things Jesus began to do and teach. Jesus was not finished. He had more to accomplish and say. Hence, he poured out the Spirit to continue his work, for the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus (see Acts 16:7; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19).

But, though the Lord of heaven and earth, as one man, accomplished quite a lot, he was not able to accomplish all as that one human being. Remember, he did not grasp at his equality as the divine (Philippians 2:6).

So, as I have emphasised, to continue his powerful work, Jesus pours out his Spirit to empower an entire body, though that body started at about 120 (Acts 1:15). Hence, why his words in John 14:12 make a lot of sense:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Not a select few, but whoever believes. I know there are plenty to argue that this does not mean everyone, since Jesus was only talking to the disciples-apostles. Or that this does not really mean all of Christ’s works, since some of those works are not needed much any more because the gospel has spread enough and we have the testimony of Scripture.

I am glad that gospel has spread, though I am not sure we understand the power of the gospel at times, and I am glad we have the God-breathed Scripture. But I am not sure whoever believes can be any clearer as to whom Jesus envisioned when he uttered those words. Suffice it to say, I am clear on what Jesus clearly meant – whoever believes. But if you want more to chew on, here is a great article to read.

Now, let me also note that I do not believe the ‘greater works’ is so much speaking qualitatively as it is speaking quantitatively. You get me? We can’t really walk out much greater a manifestation of the works and power of God than raising the dead, healing the blind, seeing withered hands restored, etc. Thus, I believe this is speaking more about the whole Spirit-empowered body of Christ being able to accomplish more than the Son of God as one human being.

Can you imagine millions and billions of Christ-followers empowered with the same Spirit? I’m thinking greater works, quantitatively. Remember, the same Spirit that Jesus relied on in the flesh, even post-resurrection (see Acts 1:2), is the one who indwells and empowers the body of Christ now.

Of course, I am not so silly as to believe that John 14:12 is only speaking of major manifestations of God’s power through healings and miracles. The works of Jesus include compassion for the hurting, mercy for the downtrodden, food to the homeless, respect and love for our spouses, tender care for our children, overcoming the temptation of the enemy and flesh, etc, etc. But I could never deny and step back from recognising that the works of Jesus also include healings and miracles and other demonstrations of the powerful work of the Spirit. We cannot argue our way out of this one.

Again, whoever believes in me will also….

So, why was the Spirit given? Simply put: 1) to continue the works of Jesus and 2) to empower God’s people as witnesses, so that those works might continue. This didn’t stop with Jesus. And this didn’t conclude with Acts 28. This has been continuing for some 2000 years and will continue on until all is accomplished and he returns to marry his prepared bride.

Oh, that we might know his power.

What Continues?

by Marv

Continuationism is not a wholly satisfactory term.  In some ways I prefer Non-cessationism. However, this latter is a term of negation rather than affirmation, and as such communicates reaction to another view, i.e. it denies cessationism.  So it not only states what it is not rather than what it is, but it grants the initiative to the side it disagrees with, and to a degree lets that side establish the terms of the debate, which may not be helpful.  Continuationism is not totally free from these criticisms, since “continue” is an opposing response to “cease.” Yet, at least it is a positive, affirmative term, as it should be.

Moreover, the term, both terms, imply a complement that may or may not be clearly understood.  With cessationism, there is something that ceases. With continuationism, there is something that continues.  The “something” may not necessarily be the same in both cases.  It certainly does not have to be so for one side simply because the other side defines itself in particular terms.  This is one reason I have objected to the term “sign gifts.”  Some cessationists may hold that what they say has ceased is this category, “sign gifts.”  However, when I use the term continuationist, I am not thereby asserting that “sign gifts” continue, since I find that term problematic.

What then is it that continues?  This post is an attempt to provide an answer and to elaborate on that answer.  The views are my own, though I welcome reaction and input from others.  I see this as a starting place for establishing some definition.  So this statement will surely require refinement and expansion.

Continuationism, then, is the belief that between Christ’s first and second advent He continues His work of glorifying His Father, building His Church, and advancing His Kingdom through the ongoing, vital and dynamic interconnection He maintains with those who are in Him, accomplished through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit through whom the individual members of His redeemed community are enabled to fulfill the good works prepared for them, such that in interrelation with all the others, the entire community, despite differences of time and place, constitute Christ’s bodily presence on earth during this age.

  1. This reality exists by the Father’s good pleasure, in the Son, and through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God.
  2. Christ made it clear that the same works that He did in carrying out His mission on earth He expected to be performed through believers, empowered by the Holy Spirit as He had been, starting with Pentecost and continuing to the end of the age when He will return in glory.
  3. The completeness of Christ’s ongoing ministry is a function of the community of those who are in Him, who constitute His Body, while individually each member participates and contributes according to the part assigned to him or her, as the Holy Spirit directs and according to his or her measure of faith.
  4. Christ established a small group of people to establish and found this community, whom He designated His apostles, and each of these in himself seemed to function in completeness of ministry, while non-apostolic members are apportioned aspects of Christ’s ministry, characterized as “gifts.”
  5. Through the apostles and a few individuals closely related to them, the corpus of the New Testament was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, forming the completion of Canonical revelation, which together with the Old Testament constitutes the only inerrant and infallible rule of faith and practice for humankind and the Church in particular.
  6. Canonical revelation, that which God chose to inscripturate and establish as the only inerrant and infallible rule of faith and practice, is to be distinguished carefully from God’s other acts of revelation which in His wisdom He has chosen to do throughout history.  He has revealed Himself and continues to reveal Himself in ways both general and specific, whether in imagery, in proposition, perceptibly to the physical senses, or perceptible only to individual cognitive functions, such as memory, dream, or intuition.  This is far from saying that any and all perception or cognition ought to be treated as God’s revelation, whenever it may happen to appear to be such to a particular person.  The standard for evaluation of any purported revelation from God is, as for all other things, the Canonical revelation, the Scriptures, as stated above.
  7. All of God’s revelation and communication is wholly true and free from error.  Human perception, reasoning, and interpretation is fallible, to put it mildly.  Scripture is that which is specifically designated as inspired or God-breathed and so designated God’s very words and recognized by inference as inerrant.  Non-inscripturated prophecy has never been given this guarantee and so requires discernment by those to whom it is spoken, since it entails one or more human act between the Spirit’s act of revelation and the report of that revelation by a person.  In all cases an accurate and complete report of the revelation is expected and required, though never guaranteed as it is with Scripture.  In the Old Testament, the theocratic role of the prophet was matched with severe consequences for inaccurate representation.  The situation in the Church changes with the generalization (“democratization”) of revelation and prophecy inherent in the New Covenant.  Reports of revelation, prophecies, are to be weighed and evaluated within the community.
  8. The Holy Spirit’s work in this age, in Christ’s body has many aspects which together make up a unified whole.  Sanctification, illumination, and empowerment for ministry, along with others, are integral parts of the whole, according to the way God was well pleased to arrange the Body of Christ.  The vital ongoing connection in terms of empowered ministry is variously described as abiding in Christ and bearing fruit, effectual prayer of faith, doing the works of Jesus, spiritual gifts, signs, wonders, and mighty works, and other terms.  Some understanding of these matters may center on specific terms (“spiritual gifts” for example) or draw questionable distinctions (“sign gifts,” or between “gifts of healing(s)” and prayer for healing, for examples) which tend to obscure the holistic nature of the vital, dynamic interconnection with Christ.
  9. God has established this ongoing, vital and dynamic interconnection in His wisdom, in His good pleasure and for His purposes, including confirmation of the gospel message, though there are many others, including encouragement, comfort, conviction, and edification.
  10. The provision of this ongoing interconnection is God’s own intitiative and is wholly within His sovereign control.  How He chooses to manifest it at different times and in different places is His choice to make.  At the same time the recognition of and participation in it by the Church has also varied because of factors within man’s responsibility, such as awareness, understanding, and acceptance. However, none of this means that God has at any time Himself withdrawn His provision for it or no longer wishes it to continue. What indications there are in the Scriptures for its duration is that it is continuous from Pentecost through the Second Advent.