By Dr. Robert McQuillan —
May 28 is Pentecost Sunday when it’s expected many churches will celebrate that Acts 2 occasion when the Holy Spirit fell powerfully on those first Christians.
Pentecost (pentēkostē – fifty) is the Jewish holiday festival of Shavu`ot. Originally first fruits of the wheat harvest were presented to God 50 days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (See Leviticus 23:16-17), celebrating the expectation of a great agricultural season ahead. Its theme became one of revelation – of God Himself, His power and His Torah (teaching, direction, guidance, law).
Traditionally where Jesus followers gathered in Jerusalem has been known as ‘the upper room.’ Acts 2:1 calls it a ‘place’, but interestingly this word is a reflexive pronoun linked with ‘a baffling wind.’ Little did those faithful believers imagine the roaring wind ahead!
That windstorm (NLT) blew through on that first Pentecost Sunday! Acts 2:2CJB records the ‘place’ as a home – ‘Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house…’
Act 2:3-4 records, ‘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…’ They were a changed, charged and challenged people!
Glossolalia is primarily for praising God. Verse 5 tells us that this sudden reverberating worship caught the attention of people outside – visiting Jews from some 15 nations. Verse 11CJB records, ‘… we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done…’
No longer fearful, an on-fire Peter immediately hit the streets witnessing Jesus to those outside, launching the great commission! ‘Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number…’ (v41). The church’s growth really took off that day – thanks to the outpouring of the empowering Holy Spirit!
Interestingly, as I pen this, memories flood back to 1995 when I was in Jerusalem reporting on the 17th World Pentecostal Conference for the denominational magazine I then edited. Some 6,000 delegates including 1,500 Israeli Messianic Jews had gathered to celebrate Pentecost over three days of worshipping, learning, and powerful preaching.
It was also a time of celebration for Israel itself – our conference met at the beginning of Israel’s year-long observance of the 3000th anniversary of Jerusalem as the city of David. Spectacular fireworks exploded over Israel’s museum that first night.
A different kind of ‘firework’ would fall on us… mighty Holy Spirit fire! On conclusion of that lively time, encouraged on-fire delegates left with renewed determination to take the gospel everywhere!
One thing I particularly remember is the evening we had gathered at Sultan’s Pool at the foot of Mount Zion.
The area around us was quite dark and the speaker, Dr. Ray Hughes, was talking about Acts 2:1, how light had suddenly shone on those Jesus followers as the Spirit fell on them in ‘that upper room.’ Unexpectedly he pointed up to the night sky and said, ‘Just like that – up there.’ We all turned to our right and there in the darkness, a bright light switched on beaming from some building we hadn’t noticed before. Not only that but something like an unusual wind breezed among most of us.
We paid attention to the rest of his message! And as we left that gathering, we knew we’d truly been refreshed in the Holy Spirit!
After those glorious three days of impacting messages, touched afresh by the Holy Spirit’s fire, delegates left that power-packed conference with a determination to take the gospel everywhere! It was a time of renewal!
Even as the original Shavu`ot theme was God’s revelation of Himself, power, and teachings, we received fresh insight into our need to know, experience, and rely on the Holy Spirit. Anointed preachers challenged attentive listeners to share the true word of God, hold to sound doctrine, live holy lives, cooperate with others in the body of Christ to accomplish Jesus’ great commission.
Dr. Andrew Evans, then president AoG Australia, strongly challenged delegates to continue reaching the unreached through dynamic witnessing and power.
Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, Christ for all Nations, Germany, reminded all that “There is a flame of the Holy Spirit for every head to take out into the world.”
Dr. Peter Kuzmic, director Evangelical Theological Seminary Croatia, warned “We can do nothing for God… without God. We can’t save one person: we can’t baptize one person in the Holy Spirit. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to do that.”
Dr. David Yonggi Cho, then pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church South Korea, observed, “Many Pentecostals have a tendency to enjoy the blessings of Pentecost – the praise, entertainment, and manifestations. But what we need above all is the power to reach our society.”
We came away with more than a fireworks memory… we had assurance of the Holy Spirit’s fire burning in our heart, light beaming on our future, wind breezing us through every adversity, glossolalia broadening our prayer life, and assistance backing us to fulfill whatever He called us to do for the kingdom.
Did the world change dramatically after delegates, especially denominational leaders, returned home? Well, that great deceiver Satan continues his trickery holding the world in his evil grip… but, praise God, I would receive reports of breakthroughs in various nations of salvations, successful church plantings, the Great Commission being advanced, and missionary activities promoted and supported!
What had me recalling that 28 years ago occasion? The number 28? (2023’s Pentecost Sunday date… May 28?). Only 28 chapters in Acts? To be honest, it just happened… and I felt some spiritual hunger and encouragement could be drawn from that memory.
In thinking about Pentecost Sunday, with the world being in such a mess (See Dr Jim McClure’s Paul’s Sound Advice), I believe we need effective spiritual renewals in our lives to be actively sharing Jesus and living for Him in these uncertain days. We should be remembering to seek fresh spiritual fire daily. And not just for ourselves, but for our churches and the kingdom in general.
The Holy Spirit will help! Quotes from Ephesians are popular among preachers/writers these days. Here’s one of Paul’s: ‘I pray that… He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being’ (Ephesians 3:16).
Jesus loves us and wants us to be about His business – kingdom business. The smallest thing we do for Him is important, be it speaking a kind word to someone, blessing a non-Christian in some way, spiritually praying earnestly for the troubled or sick, sharing the gospel, supporting a missionary, or shepherding a church!
There are moments with all Christians when we hear God’s voice in our inner being and we ‘just know that we know’ the Lord wants to do something ‘extra special’… whatever it may be. Just remember that we can call on the Holy Spirit’s help.
In verse 16 above Paul mentions being strengthened by the Spirit’s power… strengthened is krataioō, which basically means empowered, to be invigorated and wax strong. Think of this in terms of the Holy Spirit’s anointed fire waxing strong within you, enabling you fulfil whatever task He lays on your heart. Whatever we do for the Lord is important, be it little or vast.
‘Whatevers’… this may not even be church planting, growing one’s church larger, or being a missionary to some troubled, dangerous country. I’ve written before of a dear lady, somewhat incapacitated physically, unable to work. Come pension day she’d buy envelopes and stamps; then mail a painstaking-written simple note of encouragement to some ministers she didn’t know but were on the long list of names she’d collected from phone books and magazines. Many servants of Christ were encouraged!
Whatever God calls us to do, remember that Jesus promised us a great friend in the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26 NIrV). In John 16:13, He said that your friend would ‘take you by the hand and guide you.’ We don’t have to fear any commission!
One Pentecost Sunday, as a guest preacher at a large church, I encouraged everyone to be like the Acts 2 gatherers. All agreed and we heartily worshipped God in glossolalia for several minutes, then I said, ‘Now let’s do the next thing they all did. Like Peter, let’s hit the streets!’ And I headed for the exit – then stopped abruptly. Silence had fallen… only the pastor was following me! Returning to the platform and, not critical in any way, warmly encouraged those precious people (and myself!) to be bold at whatever God inspires us to do – especially witnessing.
Is the Lord encouraging you to boldly testify? Or to move in the 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 gifts, so needed in churches today, and bless disadvantaged individuals? Your friend will enable you!
But it’s vital that we seek and know the Holy Spirit! Often I’ve come across Christians who have never sought, discovered and built a relationship with Him!
I’ve also had Christians tell me that their church has never taught about the Spirit or His gifts. Some didn’t even know they have Him within, unaware of Paul’s 1 Corinthians 6:19TLB declaration, ‘Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you…’ Or read 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13,19; 3:20, and Romans 8:9 warning to the unsaved ‘… if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.’
On accepting Jesus, the Holy Spirit immediately indwells us! Develop a relationship with Him through prayer, reading scripture, knowing and trusting. Recognize Him and dare to be used by Him demonstrating His powerful spiritual gifts on appropriate occasions!
Now don’t think you have to go to Israel or have an experience such as I’ve depicted above! No, just desire the Spirit’s fullness and go forward, not backward!
I did! A ‘hungry for more’ young man decades ago, one Saturday morning I stuck my head in the closet, closing the doors against my neck, and sincerely cried out to God, “Lord, I’m not taking my head out until I know the fire of the Holy Spirit.” I stood there for some time. Silly, wasn’t I?
Suddenly the fire fell, and I knew that I knew I was a changed, charged Christian! I was reassured in my faith and the rest, as they say in the classics, is history!
Now you don’t have to be closet desperate! But be hungry and sincere. Paul wrote much about the Spirit in his epistles, and also pointed out that every Christian is a minister! ‘He has made us competent as ministers…’ (2 Corinthians 3:6).
That term minister is diakonos, a servant, a waiter! May we all wait on God and rely on the Spirit to help us serve Jesus… and others! (Link: Dr Richard Winter’s How-are-you).
Looking forward to attending a memorable service next Sunday with demonstrations of Holy Spirit gifts such as the prophetic word and words of knowledge? How about seeking a fresh infilling of that lifechanging Acts 2 fire?
As the late Reinhard Bonnke said, “There is a flame of the Holy Spirit for every head…”
May you too have a personal reassuring Holy Spirit encounter.