On May 31 we will celebrate the holy day of Pentecost. Pentecost is more than an important Feast on the Hebrew calendar. The etymology of the word is derived from the Greek meaning fiftieth because it falls on the fiftieth day after Passover. It was, for the Hebrews one of the three great Feasts each year when every male was expected to be present in Jerusalem. Today the significance of Pentecost is lost to many Christ followers. Yet, it is vitally important to God’s Master Plan.
When many Christians think of Pentecost, Pentecostals, or Pentecostal experience, they relate it to “speaking in tongues” (glossolalia) or other spontaneous, ecstatic and mystical behavior. This is unfortunate, because Pentecost is primarily about the fulfillment of God’s promise (Joel 2) to send the Promised Holy Spirit. Jesus knew He was to ascend to heaven and the assignment He was leaving for His disciples to reach the world was monumental. They would need help. So, He and the Father, together, sent the Helper – the Holy Spirit. To consider myself a “Pentecostal” because I speak in tongues is like considering myself a tree because I grow leaves. A tree is known by its fruit. The fruit of receiving the Promised Holy Spirit is giving witness to the good news that Jesus is alive! In other words, obeying the Great Commission.
“Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24
“Gathering them together, [Jesus] commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:4,5,8
When observing these passages, a few things are evident.
- Receiving the Promised Holy Spirit was part of the Great Commission. Wait in Jerusalem until you receive. When He is sent and you receive Him, you are can go into all the world.
- The Promise would come with accompanying power. Without the necessary power, you are not fully qualified to carry out the rest of the Commission.
- Receiving the Promised One and accompanying power carries the specific purpose of turning the believing ones into Witnesses in the world. Becoming transformed by God’s power to be a WITNESS is the primary purpose of Pentecost.
This is the meat and potatoes of the Pentecostal experience. Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is the dessert. It is possible to be so caught up with the manifestations of the Spirit, we forget He first came to transform and empower us to be witnesses of Jesus. The same time these early believers received the Holy Spirit, they received a new identity… WITNESS. (A witness is one who gives evidence based on personal, firsthand, knowledge or experience.) They clearly, unabashedly identified themselves as Jesus’ witnesses while they shared He was risen and alive. As His witnesses, they harvested over 3,000 souls immediately.
Pentecost in the time of the Apostles was a great harvest celebration. The streets of Jerusalem were clogged with thousands of pilgrims who had come from every point of the compass to celebrate the goodness of God and the bringing in of the wheat harvest. Today we celebrate a different harvest. Never in the history of the world has the harvest of souls been so great and ready. What is necessary to bring in this harvest is for followers of Jesus to be transformed into witnesses by receiving the Promise of the Holy Spirit. To quote the Apostle Peter, “for the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized in the Holy Spirit are one and the same. This experience is transformative; it is for all; and it is continual.
As we celebrate Pentecost together, let’s not skip to the dessert, as sweet as it is, and forget about the main course. The Holy Spirit has been poured out to make me a WITNESS and live like a sent one.