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What Happened At Pentecost?

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
12 min read
What Happened At Pentecost?
Photo by Quality Pixels / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on May 28th, 2023 at Christ Our Hope Anglican Church in Olympia, WA. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

I am setting a timer for myself because we're talking about the Holy Spirit and that's fun. And that's some divisive what church dividing? That's crazy talk. No, it's not because it happens. So I'm gonna do my best to stay focused this morning on uh the passages that are before us. However, I'm going to call this a two-parter because uh today's Pentecost and uh some of the questions I received from folks had to do with the gifts of the spirit and manifestations and others had to do more with who the Holy Spirit is.

Since next Sunday is Trinity Sunday, I'm going to save the more Trinity centric bits for next week. Today we're going to look at Pentecost and how the gifts of the spirit fit in and what some of that looks like. I'm going to share with you what makes the most sense to me. The Anglican church, unlike other churches, doesn't have a lot of narrowed down point by point definitions of agreement. On things of salvation? Absolutely. On other areas of questions of theology, not as much because we want to maintain a level of unity while hanging on to the essentials of the gospel. Other things we can agree to disagree on and still come to the table together and that's fine. So I'm going to share with you my take on some of these things which is not unique by any means. But it's also not official church doctrine because there isn't necessarily official church doctrine on this one little bit.

Why is this such a complicated topic? Because, among other reasons, there are theological traditions and sometimes there might even be agendas. Some of it has to do with semantics or terminologies. One person says this word and they mean it this way while another person uses the same word and they mean it a different way. They don't know that. So they don't get along and they don't know why. Sometimes it's fear because sometimes things of the Holy Spirit can make us a little uncomfortable. I think that's why it's a complicated thing. So, let's look at the facts of the case of what happened here, then we'll dig into some other things.

Let’s go over the timeline. In our John 14 passage, we read Jesus's words concerning him being the way the truth and the life and followed up with how he himself doesn't even speak on his own authority. He speaks with the authority the Father gave him and then says that the Spirit will do the same. The Spirit will not speak of His own authority but will speak with the authority given to Him. It's interesting that the Holy Spirit never points to Himself. The Holy Spirit always points to the Son or to the Father. He's not here to draw attention to himself. He's here to draw attention to them, which makes some of this a little frustrating and a little confusing.

The Holy Spirit dwells with you and will be in you. So without getting into the whole history of the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we do see seasons and times where we know that the Holy Spirit is with His people, but now we are talking about the Holy Spirit is going to be in you. That's something different. Then we have the crucifixion at Passover. Then we have the resurrection at the Feast of First Fruits. After the resurrection in John 20, Jesus does something weird. He does a lot of things that are weird, but he does something that's especially weird; he blows on his disciples. He breathes on them and he says, “receive the Holy Spirit.” I believe something had to have happened. Something not visible, not tangible, something on a spiritual level happened in that moment. He did something. He blew on them and said, receive the spirit.

As you may know, spirit has to do with breath or wind. Pneuma has to do with air and the movement of air. So him blowing on them did something to them so that the Spirit was not just with them, but in them. Now, all of this happens in a really short period of time. So it can also get kind of confusing from that perspective.

Some 40 days after the resurrection, we have the ascension which we celebrated last Sunday and the ascension happens about 10 days ago on our calendar. At the ascension, in Acts chapter one, Jesus before he ascended, says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” The purpose of this power is to be witnesses of him. That's an important thing to remember. I heard an engineer once describe power as energy at work; it's energy that does something. It's focused energy and the purpose of this power is to be witnesses.

Then at Pentecost, today is what we're marking and celebrating (50 days after the first fruits), many Jews assembled in Jerusalem. Some were born Jewish, some were converted Jews in other parts of the world. They gathered there and there was the sound like a rushing wind. It doesn't say it was actually wind, but it says there was the sound of a rushing wind, which to me sounds like breath in spirit.

Then something like tongues of fire appeared over each one. Not just the 11, but everybody who was gathered at that prayer meeting. Something like tongues of fire appeared. And it says that they were filled with the Spirit. In this case, they began speaking in other languages known on earth, but unknown to the speaker. I highlight that because the plain definition of this word for tongues means languages. They started to speak languages they didn't know but others on the planet knew. It would be as if I started speaking German spontaneously. If I just started spontaneously speaking German, that would be an example of speaking in tongues. It wouldn't just be for no reason. It would be because presumably somebody here is German and understands German and I was speaking to them. It's to communicate. When you think about it, it's the perfect gift for this moment. I can't think of a more appropriate, more useful gift that would have been used because of the people gathered, who spoke many different languages. It says that they all heard. All the people gathered heard these people speaking about the mighty works of God. They weren't just shouting these random phrases. They weren't delivering a message to them. They were declaring God's mighty works.

What was the point of the power? To be witnesses of Jesus. To be witnesses of God. It's the gospel. Some people thought they were drunk, but obviously they weren't. Peter then gives a sermon in their common language. He doesn't give a sermon in another language, but he speaks the language that they all spoke about how they were responsible for the death of the Messiah. That's evangelism. Jesus is dead. It's your fault. That's actually pretty true. If you want to get picky about it, Jesus died because of me. It's my fault. It's your fault too because we're all sinners.

This sermon affected these people and they said, “what must we do to be saved?” When the Holy Spirit is at work, one of the primary results is that people come to Jesus because that is the point of these gifts. It's not to show off, it's not to be this demonstration of whatever. It's to bring people to the Lord. And that was what the case was here.

Peter gives a sermon and about 3000 were saved that day. That's some harvest, isn't it? The feast of first fruits was when Jesus was risen from the dead. 50 days later, just to continue celebrating this harvest, the feast of weeks occurred when they would bring more offerings from their harvest. 3000 people get saved. That is a pretty good crop and he's not done. That harvest is still happening.

That's the general gist of what Pentecost is. This event in Acts two is usually equated with what John referenced as the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This is where terminology and semantics sort of come into play and why things could get confused because to be baptized means to be baptized with the Spirit and that’s the same picture as baptism with water.

Now, ideally, we would like to baptize by full immersion. We don't have a baptistry here, so we use another method for doing so. We use the same word used for making pickles. You put the cucumber in the brine and you seal it up and it just soaks. It's fully immersed. Then, when you take it out, it's a pickle. It's a miracle. Praise the Lord! That's kind of what baptism is: to be fully immersed.

I love that picture of coming out different. Coming out changed. To be baptized with the Spirit has the same basic meaning, but it doesn't always look the same. There is a first time for everything isn't there? This is the first time we see something like this on this scale happen and does the first time look like the rest of the times? Now, I'm not saying that God or the Bible are inconsistent. I'm just saying that He's not locked into one way of doing something.

For example, God makes Adam out of the dirt, out of the elements of the earth. He didn't do that with Eve. He took some of Adam out and then made Eve and told them to reproduce. Well, he didn't make more little people out of dirt. They came into the world through the means that we are much more familiar with. So when God made people, he didn't do it the same way all the time. At least at the very beginning, now it's pretty standard. But that would be one of the ways that God does something first in a unique way, then after that it can be different. If you are one who wants to call this the first baptism with the spirit, I'm fine with that. But that doesn't mean that every event or experience that looks like this is another baptism with the spirit. This is another place people like to get hung up because they say, “do you get baptized once or do you get baptized many times?” The answer is: Yes.

To me, if you want to get really picky about it, there is an initial baptism when someone comes to the Lord. God does something to them in their spirit that you could call the baptism with the spirit. And at some point, hopefully they get water baptized. Now, does that baptism with the spirit come with some kind of manifestation of the spirit? Not always, maybe not even usually, but it's still a baptism with the spirit. Something new that God did before this.

Peter tells the crowd who wants to repent and be baptized and he says, “be baptized in water and they'll receive the gift of the spirit.” This gift is the word Caris. It's the word grace. That's where we get the word charismatic from. When it says gift, it means that's what it is. It's a grace from God. It's not a present like when I was a kid and I got a Huffy Pro lightning bicycle. That bike was a gift. It was mine to do with what I wanted, right? That's what gifts are. This is where I think it gets confusing. These gifts are not presents for us to say “this is my gift now and I'm going to use it as I will.” It's not a superpower that you've been given. The Holy Spirit is not the Force.

There's no evidence that these people, these 3000 who were saved that day, began speaking in tongues or experienced any other manifestation. It just says that they were baptized and we assume they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. We don't know what they did, if anything at all.

But this gift that they were given in that moment of speaking in tongues, in that crowd in that environment was the perfect gift for that moment. Now again, all Christians are baptized with the spirit when they are saved. What we see happening in Acts with these original disciples, this group of 120 or so, is that they were filled with the Spirit. It does not use the word baptized with the Spirit, but it does say that they were filled with the Spirit.

At least two more times in the book of Acts, we see that phrase. This idea of being filled with the spirit is something that can happen more than once. You don't need to be baptized in the Spirit more than once. That's a one time thing, but we can be filled and refilled with the Spirit. These subsequent fillings are what we tend to call the expressions or gifts of the spirit. Again, not a superpower, not your gift. It's for others. Those who benefit from this gift are other people. If God uses you with the gift of healing to heal somebody else, who really received the gift? The sick person, not you. If God gives you something having to do with tongues, speaking in another language, who benefits from that event? Not you because you probably don't even know what you said, but the hearer does. So these gifts are not for me and they're not for you. They're for the person who's on the receiving end of the gift through you.

Now there are different views of this, but I'm giving you my view. There is a spectrum. There are those who are called cessations. They believe that once the Bible was complete, there are no more manifestations of the Holy Spirit. That's it because we have God's word. That's all we need. There's a little kernel of truth to that, but I think it over extends and is an overly rigid interpretation of some scripture.

The other end of the spectrum are what some people call the crazy charismatics. Like the Holy Spirit is doing whatever He wants, however He wants, in whatever way He wants. It's a little scary sometimes. There are some extreme examples and they also have an overly rigid interpretation of scripture. I think that God's gifts of the Spirit are more like a toolbox.

Picture if you will: A garage with a parent and a child. The parent is fixing something in the car, changing the oil. They want to teach their kid to do it with them. The kid goes into the car. The parent shows the child how to use different tools for different purposes and how each tool functions. I think that's the way the gifts of the Spirit are used in scripture. He gives somebody a gift, a tool, and then they use it and they might not ever use that gift again or they might use it repeatedly. We see Peter raising somebody from the dead. How often did that happen? We know at least once, but it doesn't mean he went around to cemeteries, raising everybody from the dead.

In Corinthians, they're sometimes called pneumaticos, they're things of the spirit. I think of that instead of focusing on one particular gift being a sign. I think we just need to pray to God: “How do you want me to help build your kingdom? What tools do you want to give me to help build your kingdom?”

If there is a sign, I believe that it is a little combination of things. It's a conviction of sin combined with a strong sense of God's love for you and your love for God. I think if you want evidence that somebody is experiencing something supernatural in the Spirit from God, it's that they have this sense of, “I have sinned, but God still loves me and I love him back for it.” I think when somebody's in the Spirit, that's what's happening. Jesus said that the well don't need a doctor, the sick do. And that's what the Spirit is. It brings life, it regenerates, and it brings people back to God. If we are going to pray for anything, let’s pray for that sign.

Pray for God to remind me, not to condemn me, but for the Spirit to convict me of any sin that maybe I'm trying to hide. Convict me of that. God remind me how much you love me. Remind me of the cross with Jesus. Make sure to ask, “how can I express my love for you?” I think that's what the Holy Spirit is really all about.

You could say that the sign of the Spirit in somebody's life looks like an allergic reaction to God. There's something visible. There's an itch and you must deal with it. You have to scratch it. “God, how do I deal with this? What is this thing you've put in me?”

The point of Pentecost is to celebrate the harvest so far. So when we pray for the spirit, we pray for God to use us to be harvesters. To have our Holy Spirit radar on for people who are looking for Jesus so that we can provide Him. If you're in a season where you feel like you need to work on yourself, ask God to show you what needs to be cleaned out. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for help to confess sin before Him so that you can have a quiet mind and be of use to Him.



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