The Coming of the Holy Spirit
- Pages: 19
- Word count: 4715
- Category: Bible
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The coming of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy foretold by Prophet Joel perhaps during the 9th and or 5th century B.C. as Biblical scholars cannot ascertain the exact date of the prophecy, due to insufficient information in the book to date the ministry of the Prophet. However, many scholars agree that the Joel who composed the prophecy anticipated a glorious future for the kingdom.
The day of the Pentecost according to the Roman Catholic view of Acts chapter 2, is the celebration of the fiftieth day after the great and Holy Feast of Pascha (Easter). The feast commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost and it celebrates the establishment of the church. The Coming of the Holy Spirit during the day of the Pentecost therefore is a phenomenon that heralded the coming of the kingdom of God on earth in reference to the prayer Jesus had taught his disciples in “the Lord’s payer.” The Pentecost was also the fulfillment of the long time prophesy of the Old Testament Scriptures. In explaining to the people what was going on as they heard strong sound and had seen strange things, Peter confirmed that the on that day the Joel’s prophesy was fulfilled, Acts 2: 16.
According to John R.W. Stott, Bible scholar and author of The Bible Speak Today Series, Pentecost, which was, derived from the Greek word pentekostos, which means ‘fiftieth’, was a feast celebration. The passage in Acts 2 that says, “When the day of the Pentecost came” refers to the annual harvest festival called “the Feast of the Harvest or the Feast of Weeks” (Stott, p. 62).
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost presents three different phenomena or supernatural sign as recorded in Acts 2: 2- 4. The author of the book describes the scenario as follows:
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of the violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongue 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 enables them” (Bible).
The three supernatural signs that heralded the inauguration of the coming of the Spirit age according to Stott were a sound, a sight, and a strange speech. The author of the book of Acts explained that the sound was as if the blowing of a violent wind, however, Stott noted that the noise was not wind, rather these three supernatural signs may have symbolized three essentials of the church such as power to witness, purity of the teaching and the universality of the church (p. 62). The day of the Pentecost therefore was a very special occasion for Christianity as it inaugurates a new period of the history of the church. A period of Christian evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit through the disciples and all those who believed that were empowered by the Holy Spirit in that upper room fellowship. It was also a period of the church phenomenal growth as it was accompanied by the healings and miracles. Indeed on that occasion alone, three thousand men were converted and were baptized.
What does it really mean by the Coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost?
The most important event on the day of the Pentecost was the coming of the Holy Spirit accompanied by three supernatural signs. Going back to the Old Testament prophecy in Joel chapter 2, the prophet had announced that during the last days, “God will pour out His Spirit and He will show wonders in the heaven and on the earth and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Verses 30- 32.). This prophesy about what God will do in the future found its fulfillment in the ministries of the apostles particularly with Peter and Paul, men who were instrumental in the many miracles God had done for people who believed the Gospel that were preached by these distinguished gentlemen. Although the Pentecost it self was an occasion that was generally held by the Jews, Stott asserts that the Pentecost brought to the apostles the tools they needed for their newly commissioned tasked of evangelizing the world through the coming of the Holy Spirit, as instructed by Jesus Christ in Acts 1: 8 to wait for. This particular verse pointed out that the apostle will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes and they will be witnesses of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
What does this mean? This question was asked by people who had witnessed the phenomenon on the Pentecost day. John Stott suggested that the place where all these things happened was either in the upper room where the last supper was previously held, or in one of the large halls of the temple (p. 61). Chapter 2: v.1 noted that the one hundred twenty believers had gathered perhaps to commemorate the teachings Jesus on that very day of the celebrations of the Pentecost, but it was also a fitting opportunity for the fulfillment of the prophesy, as every one was there to receive the promise.
John Stott observed that the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost was not coincidental to the occasion. He explained that the Pentecost was also a feast in celebration of the harvest that “took place seven weeks or fifty days after the Passover” which was the beginning of the harvest. This celebration is rooted in the observance of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai as this was supposedly as having happened fifty days after the exodus of the Israelites in Egypt. This means the Pentecost occasion was generally observed and celebrated occasion. Thus, it is no wonder that in a short period of time an international crowed perhaps of men and women were able to congregate at the scene. I guess it would be safe to assume that there were also women and children and some more others but the author counted only those three thousand men who believed the preaching of Peter, and were baptized. The question therefore may have nothing to do with the occasion but now that prophesy about the coming of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled and the intriguing supernatural signs that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit as people may have worried of its possible consequences on their lives.
John Stott gave three explanations of the signs and wonders that have taken place as well as of the strange occasion that happened before their very own eyes, and witnessed and heard by the people. First, it heralded the final act of the saving ministry of Jesus Christ. The supernatural signs that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit attracted a huge crowed of international audience, in which in one simple yet impromptu preaching of Peter, three thousand men were converted and were baptized. The New Testament identified Peter as unschooled fisherman, yet was able to communicate his message in a crowed of international people in their own languages. It was indeed the work of the Holy Spirit enabling those men of different cultures, intellectual, and political background to grasp the message that was generally in the context of the Jew.
Second, it confirmed the Apostles’ and those early one hundred twenty believers’ that they have now received the power, which Jesus told them to wait before starting the mission given to them. The impact of this confirmation among the disciples were so strong that were bold enough to preach the Gospel and even to defy the religious leaders who had been responsible for the sufferings, death, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Acts Chapter 4 records that Peter boldly rebuked the very influential Jewish Sanhedrin, when they tried to stop the disciples from testifying about the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 19, Peter declares before the very religious authorities that handed sentence on Jesus Christ, through Pontius Pilate, the strong words of rebuked in which Peter said, “Judge for your selves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”
Third, it inaugurated a new era of the Spirit. Here Stott offers a deeper theological and spiritual implication of the Pentecost. Stott pointed that although the inspiration of the Spirit was given to the apostles alone, “the fullness of the Spirit is for all of us” (p. 61). This made it possible to appreciate the “unusual visitations of God” in which the whole community becomes strongly of God’s immediate and over powering presence. The supernatural signs and wonders that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit had also brought spiritual revival, through the physical phenomena, the deep conviction of sin, the conversion of three thousand men, and the spread of the sense of awe throughout the whole place.
The Speaking in Tongues
Among the signs that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit is the speaking in the strange tongue more popularly known today as, the speaking in tongues. This sign proves to have great impact on the early Christianity as it was held by the early believers as one of the most important gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. However, this early claim has been very controversial as it had triggers debates even as early as during the time of the apostle Paul. The author of the book of Acts records at least fifteen nationalities that had gathered because of the strange sounds they heard. Luke, the historian who was also a physician emphasized that each of these language representatives heard in their own language the message, which was delivered by the Apostle Peter. However, Robert Zerhuzen in his article entitled A linguistic Approach to the Understanding of “Other Tongues” in Acts 2 argued that the listings in Acts chapter 2: 1-13 is of people groups and geographical areas rather individual languages. It means there may not have that much language, as most of the crowds were either speaking Greek or Aramaic (Zerhuzen). Zerhuzen pointed out that the entire crowd understood Peter’s message with out difficulty. Zerhuzen noted that Acts chapter 2 does not suggest linguistic diversity as all the areas mentioned by the author have Jewish settlement.
Zerhuzen suggested that the language that Peter may have preached with either Aramaic or Greeks. In his letter to the Corinthian believers, the apostle Paul in chapter 14 tried to explain that though speaking in tongue may be good for personal spiritual edification, it has little to do with the prime task of Christian evangelism. The apostle exhorted the Corinthian believers that speaking in tongue should not be the obsession of every believer but to share clear and understandable message of the Gospel. But this debate extends even today particularly in many Protestant denominations.
In the past decade, it even created controversy among evangelical churches as most conservative evangelical protestant rejected speaking in tongues, while the most aggressive charismatic protestants held that speaking in tongues determines one’s spirituality. Nevertheless, some Bible scholars contend the speaking in tongues in the first Corinthians was different with that of Acts. Stott himself argued that the glossolalia in first Corinthians was unintelligible and an interpreter was necessary. The strange tongue in the book of acts appears to be evidential sign given to all, bearing witness to their reception of the Spirit, as compared to first Corinthians, which were for the edification of the Church (p. 67). No matter was the difference, both were tongues were associated to the coming of the Holy Spirit during the Pentecost.
The next question that could be asked is, “what does the speaking in tongues had to do with the inauguration of the church age?
As partly explained above, the speaking in tongues or glossolalia was a supernatural ability to speak in recognizable language and is of great impact in the church. Stott contends that the extra ordinary phenomenon of Spirit- filled believers declaring God’s wonders in foreign languages is the fulfillment of Joel’s prediction that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. With the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit to the apostles the succeeding period in the life of the church has seen the tremendous growth of the church, and the miracles that was never seen before of that generation. God has done wonders and miracles through the apostles by healing the sick, casting out demons, and in a particular case, putting back to life the dead.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost had brought a new life in the spiritual atmosphere of the Jewish nation and the whole Christendom. It can be recalled that God had established relationship to Israel going back to their early beginnings in the wilderness after their exodus in Egypt. From there, Israel’s spirituality was sustained by God through raising spiritual men to lead his people such as Moses and Aaron the high Priest and righteous political leaders such as Judges and Kings. The Old Testament Scriptures reveals that God has chosen Israel to be his people and wanted to preserve their pure faith in him by warning them against turning away from him and by giving them extreme disciplinary measures if they fall away. However, perhaps due to influence of the pagan nations surrounding Israel, they soon turned their backs against God.
The speaking in Tongues were a clear sign of the beginning of Christian evangelism, which was momentarily held by Jesus as he told the disciples to wait a little more for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Utterances were, according to Luke intelligible and were understood by the different nationalities. The fact that these mostly unbelieving crowds were allowed to hear, to witness, and experience the very presence of God in that upper room, and later heard the message, it appears that the apostles could start their ministry at that very moment. The speaking in tongues in Acts 2 is the public declaration of God’s wonders and sharing them with others.
The Gift of the Spirit
The New Testament Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ coming in to this earth was meant for the salvation of human being and for the human reconciliation with God. Jesus’ teaching often times contradict the teachings of the Judaism, which, they traced their roots in the Old Testament Hebrew religion. Christianity of the New Testament therefore was not the continuation of the Old Testament Hebrew religion. The coming of the Holy Spirit heralded a new Spiritual community on the making. A community that is empowered by the Holy Spirit to overcome the forces of evil that had defeated the Old Testament Assembly of God’s people.
In his Book entitled What we Believe John F. Walvoord Cited that this new Community was given gift by God through the Holy Spirit, to perform spiritual task for the Lord. The apostle Paul pointed out in first Corinthians 12 that it is the Spirit that gives different kinds of gifts to church. The coming therefore of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost has set the direction of the church. First, the Supernatural signs that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit heralded the inauguration of the community in the making. The Holy Spirit indwells with apostles and the one hundred twenty believers and empowers them. With the Holy Spirit at work, the preaching of Peter penetrated in the heart of the people and three thousands men were converted and were baptized on that single occasion.
It can be noted that from then on, many miracles were performed by the apostles. Furthermore, the work of evangelism, which Jesus Christ instructed them to do, attracted more people and generated more converts to Christian teachings. The article published by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America entitled The Feast of the Pentecost noted that daily, the Lord added to the church those who were being saved (2: 42-47). The very influential religious sect that had persecuted Jesus Christ and had him killed on the cross were seemingly unable to suppress or to stop the new the growth of Christian teachings, despite of their stern warning against preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Spirit that empowered the early believers has dwelled in them and has been dwelling in every believer. Ssince then, Holy Spirit had also been at work among the believers beginning from the Pentecost down to the apostolic era, to the first century Christianity and even today. Dr. Walvoord pointed out that the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the church to be able to accomplish its mission of evangelizing the world (p. 103). These gifts according to the apostle Paul involve the gift of teaching, the gift of serving, the gift of administration, the gift of evangelism, and the gift of Pastor, the gift of encouragement, the gift of giving, the gift of showing mercy (Romans 12: 6- 8; I Corinthians 12: 1- 11).
The impact of these gifts to the church had made the new community of believers strong in their spiritual relationship with God and in their fellow believers. The difference therefore of the Old Testament community with the New Testament was that in the New Testament community it is the Holy Spirit that is control of the life of the church. The church is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost and the Baptism in the Spirit
One key issue related to the coming of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost was the baptism in the Spirit. In his article entitled On the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Craig Simonian noted that the phrase “Baptize in the Holy Spirit” is mentioned in the New Testament seven times including four times by John the Baptist in each in the four gospels pertaining to the disciples’ experience on Pentecost. According to Simonian, Both the apostle Paul and Luke spoke of the within the context of their purpose. Luke’s viewpoint of the baptism of the Spirit according to Simonian is the unfolding of redemptive history and the mission of the church while Paul’s perspective focus on the experience of the individual believers when they turn into members of the church. Simonian emphasized that Luke’s understanding of the baptism primarily refers to an empowerment for prophetic witness.
It is generally held that Luke was the author of the book of Acts. On the other hand, while the water baptism was generally considered in Judaism and by the early church to be a rite of initiation into the people of God, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost and the indwelling and empowerment of the Spirit was connected with baptism in the Holy Spirit (Simonian). Simonian asserts that the scene of Jesus baptism in Jordan River where the Spirit descended upon Jesus right after his baptism by John the Baptist strengthens the relations between water and Spirit baptism. Thus, the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 provides a very important experience for the church to be able to discern the course that the church is going to take.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit cannot be done by men but by Jesus Christ alone through the Holy Spirit it self. However, Simonian pointed out that the Pentecost cannot be the bases of a second spiritual experience for the believers. Contrary to the claims of many Pentecostal fellowships that baptism in the Holy Spirit is a necessary experience for an active spiritual life, which is manifested by the speaking in tongues. Simonian argues that Luke’s emphasis was primarily service and not a second stage of one’s inner spiritual growth. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens only once and the Holy Spirit indwells and fills the believers. In other words, the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens when one receives the indwelling of the Spirit, which can only be possible in Jesus Christ. The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 is a one-time event but Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever (John 14: 15- 17). The baptism in the Spirit means receiving of the Holy Spirit who is Christ substitute in the church. Based on the doctrine of most Protestant churches, when one receives Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, that is the time that he or she receives the Holy Spirit in our heart.
The Filling of the Spirit
What is filling of the Spirit? Filling of the Spirit simply means being filled by the Holy Spirit. Dr. John Walvoord, Cited that in the Old Testament, filling of the Spirit seems to be sovereignly given while in the New Testament the Holy Spirit was given to those who were spiritually yielded to God. The coming of the Holy Spirit means the continuation of the presence of Christ in us as he promised, and the Holy Spirit will be believer’s councilor, comforter, and teacher of truth. The Holy Spirit empowered and gives us courage to declare God’s wonders and miracles before men just as those men who had first experience the filling of the Holy Spirit during the Pentecost. Stott cited that the remnants of the Old Testament assembly became the Spirit filled body of Christ (Stott, p. 81). According to Stott, the very evidence of the Spirit filled life of the early church is that they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles. Stott contends that the Spirit filled church submits to the reaching authority of the apostles and also hungry to receive instruction from the apostles whose authority had been authenticated by miracles and signs and wonders.
The impact therefore of the Pentecost in the church is from that occasion, the church had experienced the power and the fellowship of the Spirit through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The phenomenal growth of the church was a result of the power that is at work in the church and in the personal life of everyone who believe.
The striking difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament congregation is that God appointed men to take care of the spiritual life of the people, God gave them spiritual guides such as the Torah and the Pentateuch as well as the different ceremonial and ethical laws, aside from the righteous men and women whom God raised to lead his people towards faithful relationship with Yahweh, yet they all failed. The New Testament on the other hand, was born out of the miracles and signs and wonders from God. The Holy Spirit dwells and empowers, convict, comfort, counsel, and moved the people’s heart and mind. The New Testament church clearly reveals Gods redeeming grace as the laws were no longer written in stone but in the heart men through faith in Jesus Christ. The filling of the Holy Spirit is the power and strength behind that enables the church or the individual to perform their given task.
The scene on the coming of the Holy Spirit in acts chapter 2 was describe by Luke as like tongues of fire descending on each one of the believers. Verses 3 and 4 describe the scenario as follows: “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled by the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enables them.” It can be observed that immediately after the tongues of fire came to rest on each of the believers, they were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. The speaking in tongues which intelligible utterances were declaring the glory of God came as a result of the filling of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the strengths, the and activeness of the believer in serving God is dependent on the Holy Spirit on the condition that the believers are willing to submit themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that it is the Holy Spirit is the one enabling the believers to do something. However, though it looks like the believers in Acts chapter 2 were passive instrument, I believe that this is not always the case. It is quite clear that God does manipulate human being to do his will, but invite every one to come to him and serve him on a voluntary basis. The filling of the Holy Spirit therefore, must be a voluntary surrender of one’s self to be able to render service to God. What is important is the desire to serve God.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost may not just be a coincidental but a fitting occasion for the Holy Spirit as the all the disciples including the twelve were present. The coming of the Holy Spirit was a very important occasion for the church for it was not only heralding the inauguration of the Spirit age, but also it marks the founding of a new community in the making. The signs and wonders that accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit authenticated the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and that it affirms the disciples’ spiritual qualification to carry the task that the Lord has given them. Indeed it was a great spiritual experience for the disciples that to witness and experience the awesome power of God that they may have only heard from their ancestors. Their first hand experience of the power and of God must have transformed their faith and commitment to become like what Jesus said of them in Matthew 16: 18 in which Jesus said, “Even the gates of hell cannot prevail.”
The Pentecost experience of the disciples must have given them enormous courage to testify for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit gave them wisdom to effectively do their ministry despite of the persecution coming from the religious authorities. The impact of that experience must have shaped their vision of their ministry and their commitment to Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the role of the Holy Spirit in the founding of the new community provides an assurance that the believers are truly belong to the Lord as they have received the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus Christ as his substitute, as comforter, as a teacher, and as a wonderful councilor. The Holy Spirit equips the church by giving various gifts that can facilitate its growth. As a whole, the Pentecost occasion was a very strong demonstration of God’s commitment to reach out his people. God is committed to save as many of those who will believe him and obey him.
Finally, God is committed to extend His kingdom on earth. The inauguration of the Spirit age and the establishment of the Church will bring righteousness and peace, and blessings to every one who will believe. The church will serve as the center of God’s grace and blessing. The church is the extension of the kingdom of God.
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