Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Calvin Lashway

May 2010

The Holy Spirit is a major theme of Pentecost. It was on this day, that Jesus, having “received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit” poured it out on his disciples (Acts 2:1-41). Who received “the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23), becoming “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18 Unless otherwise stated, all scripture quoted are from the English Standard Version).

The Promise of Coming Holy Spirit

In both the Old and New Testaments we find predictions of this outpouring of the Spirit on Jesus’ disciples. The Old Testament has several references to a future time when God will pour out his Spirit. Isaiah likens the pouring out of the Spirit on humans, to water poured out on thirsty dry land, causing it to become fruitful (Isaiah 32:15, 44:1-5). Ezekiel writes of a time when God will give men “a new heart, and a new spirit,” by placing his Spirit within them, making obedience to God possible (Ezekiel 11:14-21;36:22-27; 37:13-14; 39:25-29). The prophet Joel writes of a future outpouring of the Holy Spirit on mankind (Joel 2:28-32). A prophecy the apostle Peter references on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, to explain ability of the disciples to speak in a multitude of languages (Acts 2:14-21).

In the New Testament all four gospel writers record John the Baptist saying that he came to baptize with water. And after him, another was coming, Jesus Christ, who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16; John 1:32-34).

In his gospel, John records many of Jesus’ statements about the coming Holy Spirit. During the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus speaks of giving the Spirit those who believed in him (John 7:2, 37-39). This is followed by John’s account of Jesus’ final Passover with the disciples (See John 13-17). Jesus having much to say to them before his arrest and execution, tells them he will ask the Father to send the disciples a Helper, the Spirit of Truth to be with them (John 14:15-17). This coming “Helper, the Holy Spirit” will teach them, and bring to their remembrance what Jesus said to them (John 14:25-26). Jesus says he will send the Spirit of truth from the Father, and it would bear witness to him (John 15:26-27). Jesus tell the disciples that if they are to receive the Spirit, he must leave them (John 16:5-7). He continues, saying that when the Spirit comes it will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment (vv:8-11). Jesus has much to tell to the disciples, however at the time they can’t bear what he has to say. But he will send the Spirit to guide them into “all the truth.” In doing so, the Spirit will glorify Jesus, because it will take what is Jesus’ and declare it to the disciples (vv:12-13).

Following Jesus resurrection, in an appearance to the disciples, he breathes on them, picturing their future receiving of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Just before his ascension to heaven. Jesus orders the disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . . 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 1:1-8). Peter in defending his baptism of the Gentile Cornelius and his household, says: “I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:15-18).

Using the Spirit of Pentecost

The first Christian Pentecost saw the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' followers (Acts 1:1-8; 2:1-4, 37-41). Until this time they only had the Spirit working with them, not in them (John 14:16-17). God gives us the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 2 Corinthians 1:20-22; 2 Corinthians 5:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8; 1 John 3:23-24; 1 John 4:11-13). As the firstfruits of those receiving the Spirit (Romans 8:22-23), we have a responsibility to use the Spirit, making sure not to quench it (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The parables of the Talents and Pounds teach us that God will hold us accountable for what he gives us, which includes the Holy Spirit (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27). The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to: 1) Obey God, 2) Produce spiritual fruit, 3) Have spiritual gifts.

When we receive the Holy Spirit, we have the laws of God written on our hearts. The Spirit makes obedience to God possible (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel. 11:19-21; Ezekiel. 36:22-27; Hebrews 8:7-13; Romans 8:1-9). God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey. The more we obey, the more Spirit we receive (Acts 5:27-32). We can loss the Spirit because of not obeying God, or at least lessen its effect in our lives (Psalm 51:10-12). Saul received the Holy Spirit when Samuel anointed him king of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1, 6-13). Later, because of Saul's sin in not obeying God's command to destroy the Amalekites. God takes the kingdom of Israel from him, giving it to David (1 Samuel 15-16), as well as taking the Spirit from him (1 Samuel 16:14). When we sin, we grieve the Spirit, and it appears lessening its impact on our lives (Isaiah 63:10; Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:30).

The "natural" outcome of living a life of obedience, living by the Spirit, is producing the fruit of Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). In John 15:1-17, Jesus compares himself to a vine, with branches (his disciples), and the Father as the vinedresser. He says, that “every branch of mine that does not bear fruit [the Father] takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit [the Father] prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (v:2). Our bearing spiritual fruit is important to Jesus and the Father. Those branches, Christians, failing to produce fruit, the Father cuts off the vine, and are “thrown into the fire, and burned (v:6); clearly a reference to being cast into the Lake of Fire (Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 20:10).

Through the Spirit, God gives us special gifts of ability so we can serve others (1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-31; Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:4-13; 1 Peter 4:9-11). With these spiritual gifts comes the responsibility to use them. Paul tells the Roman Christians that “in his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly (Romans 12:6-8 New Living Translation). In his letter to the brethren of Asia Minor, Peter writes, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11 New Living Translation).

Pentecost is a reminder that those us with the Holy Spirit have a responsibility to use that Spirit to obey God, produce spiritual fruit and faithful use our spiritual gifts.

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