Pentecost Sunday – May 31, 2020
Our two scripture readings this afternoon are from the book of Acts. SLIDE 1
The first is from chapter 1, verses 4 and 5; the second, from chapter 2, verses 1-4.
““On one occasion, while he was eating with them, [Jesus] gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, (lit., “the promise of the Father”) 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.” SLIDE 2
“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.”
May the Lord add his blessing to His holy Word. SLIDE 3
- The Feast of Pentecost, was originally called Shavout in Hebrew. It was an agrarian festival celebrating the initial harvest of the wheat in ancient Israel, so it was called the Feast of Ingathering, when people would bring the first-fruits of their crops to the temple to give Yahweh thanks for his faithfulness. How appropriate that it was at this festival that God began his ingathering of the nations.
- It was also called Feast of weeks, due to the fact that it came 7 weeks and one day after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It later acquired the name Pentecost (from the Greek Pentekoste, “fiftieth”), because of this connection.
- Still later, Pentecost became known as the “Feast of the Giving of the Law”, considered the formal beginning of the Israel’s nationhood in covenant with Yahweh. Again, there is a parallel between Israel and the church: Pentecost marked the giving of the Spirit, who would internalize God’s law in every Christian’s heart, marking the formal beginning of the Church.
- Pentecost was one of three pilgrimage festivals, the others being Feast of Unleavened bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. Every male Jew expected to attend these feasts and offer sacrifices. Jews who were part of the diaspora, who had been scattered all over the world after the northern kingdom was deported to Assyria in the eighth century BC and the southern kingdom to Babylon in the sixth century BC.
- In Acts 1:4-5, which Annelies read for us, Jesus refers to the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost as “the gift my Father promised”, lit. “the promise of the Father”. When did the Father promise the gift of the Spirit? There are a few places in the OT. I want us to look at two of them. The first is found in Ezekiel 36. SLIDE 4
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
- The emphasis in this promise is on the new inner motivation and power the Lord will give his people in the New Covenant to love, treasure and keep to his ways: to walk in the path God has laid out. The OT law didn’t provide this inner motivation, it just laid down the law. But the New Covenant didn’t just give us a law (Love one another as I have loved you) but gave us the Spirit, who provides the motivation and means, the power, to carry it out: “I will put my Spirit in you”. The NT is very clear that the HS liberates us from the power of sin, setting us free to follow the Lord in joyful obedience and holy love.
- The second place where we see the promise of the Father in the OT is found in Joel 2 and is quoted by the Apostle Peter in his Pentecost sermon: SLIDE 5
“And afterward, (in it’s context: after God returns the nation from exile in Babylon)
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
- The emphasis in this text is on two things: the universality of the Spirit (men, women; young, old) and the supernatural phenomena associated with the giving of the Spirit (prophesy, dreams and visions). SLIDE 6-blank
- So, what’s the big deal about the gift of the Holy Spirit? Does it make that much difference in the life of individual believers and the church as a whole? It’s a very big deal! So big, in fact, that Jesus told his disciples that it was better for them to have the Holy Spirit on earth than that they have his continued physical presence on earth. Why? Because as long as Jesus was physically present, He was confined to a single human body: the body of Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter. But by going back to heaven and sending the Holy Spirit to live inside us, his presence would be multiplied: through the Spirit, Jesus would inhabit every believer, so there would be hundred of millions of little Christ’s all over the world. Wherever you have a Christian, you have Christ indwelling them in the person of the Holy Spirit.
- Now, the New Testament describes a number of vitally important things the Holy Spirit does for us:
- Reveals truth to us
- Convicts of sin
- Creates new life in us: regenerates us
- Transforms us incrementally into the image of Christ
- Guides us in making decisions
- Bears His fruit in us, displayed in God-like character qualities
- Gives us supernatural endowments for serving the church
- Empowers us to be witnesses of God’s message of truth
- We will look at these different ministries of the Spirit in future months, but today, I want to narrow our focus to just two ministries of the Holy Spirit, both of which are intensely personal and both of which can really help us in the wake of Diane’s passing last Sunday. Both are found in a single chapter, Romans 8, so I invite you to turn there in your bibles.
The ministries of the Spirit in Romans 8
- Romans 8 is an extraordinary biblical text. It’s one of the most encouraging passages in the New Testament when it comes to explaining what God has done on our behalf in saving us. It’s well worth your time and effort to memorize parts of it or all of it.
- Several ministries of the HS mentioned in this chapter:
- How He empowers us to live a life pleasing to God vv.5-8
- How He gives life to our mortal bodies – v.11
- How He enables us to put to death the misdeeds of the body-v.13
- We will concentrate our attention on just two, one in verses 15-17 and the other in verses 26-27. SLIDE 7 The first ministry of the Spirit we want to consider is found in verses 15-17:
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” SLIDE 8
- We might call this ministry the ministry of reassurance.
- Spirit here is called the Spirit of adoption; lit. the “Spirit of son-making/daughter-making” hiosthesia, (wee-ah-they-SIA). He is the Spirit who makes us sons and daughters of Abba, our heavenly Father. How does He do that? By putting the very Spirit of Jesus in us! SLIDE 9
- Look at Galatians 4:6:
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
- Who is doing the crying or yelling in Rom 8:15? We are. Who is doing the yelling in Gal 4:6? The Spirit of the Son is. Isn’t that interesting? We both are calling out to the Father.
- Now, where does this cry originally come from? SLIDE 10 We first hear it in the account of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.
“Going a little farther, Jesus fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
- So, it’s the Spirit of Jesus himself who cries out from inside our hearts directly to the heart of the Father, “Abba ho Pater”, which means “Father, Father” in two languages: Aramaic (language of Jesus) and Greek (language of the people to whom Paul is writing).
- One NT scholar, Doug Moo, writes: “In crying out ‘Abba, Father,’ the believer not only gives voice to his or her consciousness of belonging to God as his child but also to having a status comparable to that of Jesus himself.”
- As Martin Luther put it: we are “beloved because Jesus is beloved”, and we are refashioned in his image.
- Notice that this cry is taking place inside us, inside our hearts: so it resonates in the deepest parts of us, our innermost thoughts and feelings at our emotional and cognitive center. Again, quoting Doug Moo: “our awareness of God as Father comes not from rational consideration nor from external testimony alone but from a truth deeply felt and intensely experienced.”
- The second ministry of the Holy Spirit I want us to consider is found in verses 26-27. SLIDE 11
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through groanings too deep for words. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” SLIDE 12
- We can call this the ministry of communication.
- In our attempts to put into words our deepest thoughts and feelings, the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness”. “Helps” is a compound Greek verb that means to: “take part with, assist in supporting, lend a hand, come to the aid of”; lit. “to grab hold of something together with another person.” It’s like the Holy Spirit grabs a hold of all the thoughts and feelings you’re trying to express and helps you carry those to the Father.
- You may recall that, before his death, the Lord Jesus had promised the Apostles in John 14:16 to send to them allos parakletos, another “Helper, comforter”: lit. “one who comes alongside us to help us.” This is what Paul has in mind here in Rom 8.
- How does the Holy Spirit do it? He takes what’s in our hearts and translates those things into what Paul describes as “groanings too deep for words”, a kind of silent, inarticulate communication from our heart directly to the Father’s heart. He’s not talking about praying in tongues, which is a gift given to some but not all believers according to 1 Cor 12:30. Here Paul is talking about a ministry to every single believer. The Holy Spirit communicates our hearts to the Father for all of us.
- Is that a good thing? This last week, many of us have come face to face with our utter inability to express the depth of our sorrow over losing Diane and our heartache for Larry and the family and our intense longings to comfort them. We’ve cried, we’ve lost sleep, we’ve felt this gnawing ache at the core of us and we’ve petitioned the Father to be present to Larry, his kids and grandkids. And we’ve felt so inadequate in the process.
- Well, we haven’t been inadequate. Because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, all of those yearnings, desires and prayers were translated into eloquent prayers to the Father. The Father knows exactly what we have intended, and because the Holy Spirit always prays according to the Father’s will, He is in the process even now granting those requests.
- James Dunn writes: “The Spirit is active not so much in the heights of spiritual rapture as in the depths of human inability to cope”. He then quotes another scholar by the name of Gaugler: “Only the weak really pray”. Friend, it is when you most acutely feel your weakness that you can be most certain of the Holy Spirit’s coming alongside you to strengthen you in your weakness and give form to your prayers SLIDE 13
- Well, let’s summarize what Paul is saying here. Out of his extraordinary love for us, the Father gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church to make it possible for every believer can know with certainty that they belong to God through His ministry of reassurance and to communicate accurately and effectively the thoughts and feelings of their hearts through the ministry of communication.
- God wants you to be certain that you belong to Him: that you are His beloved son or daughter; that you bring him untold delight. He does that by sending the Spirit of His Son Jesus to reassure your spirit.
- And God wants to help you communicate your deepest frustrations, fears, needs, wants, joys and desires to Him. He does that by putting His Spirit inside our hearts to translate those things we find so hard to express.=
- Guys, our Lord is for us in every way. He has done everything necessary for us to successfully live the Christian life. As the Apostle Peter expressed it in 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
- Let’s pray.
Quick reminders – Tom
- Community group meets Tuesday night at 7pm
- Can give online or by sending in a check
- Next week, bring bible, bread and grape juice/wine for communion
- Email or text me your availability for meeting in person
Benediction – Sharon