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What Really Happened
At Pentecost?
Since Shavuot/'Festival of Weeks' occurs 50 days (7x7+1) after Passover,
Hellenistic Jews gave it the name "Pentecost" (πεντηκοστή, "fiftieth day").
  Early Sunday morning AD 30, seven weeks after the Resurrection of Jesus,
as the Shavuot offerings were being presented in Jerusalem's Temple – It happened!
 
A few
minutes later, spokesman Peter declared to the puzzled street-crowd, gathered because of the noise, that this was because Jesus, the ascended Christ, had on that unique day –
 "poured out this which you see and hear".  
What  had  happened?
Acts 2:33.
Ten
days earlier, Jesus had said that this special event would launch His disciples' ministry, just as His own water baptism by John had launched His ministry (Ac.1:5), signified in its new-beginning by the symbol of the dove as that had meant to Noah.
But, what actually happened that day?
 
To
answer, let's first get rid of a common myth – the idea that the disciples were fearful and hiding in their Upper Room until this Pentecost event. In rebuttal, the Bible tells us that, immediately after Christ's final departure, His disciples were continually in the Temple courts (their city's most public religious place) praising God with exceeding joy! 
Luke 24:52-53.
 
This does not sound like people who needed some new experience to motivate them. The forty days before His ascension, in which their resurrected Lord had repeatedly met with them, had taught them, and had commissioned them on the mountain in Galilee (Matt.28:16-20), had long banished the shock hurt and despair of His public crucifixion. Even preaching and healing the sick was not new to them for they had been sent out previously by Him to do just that (Matt.10:7-8).
 
 
So, what was really new to the disciples on this particular Pentecost morning?
 
 
Beyond a description of the audio-visual phenomena which occurred (wind-noise from the sky, and flames coming down on each disciple) and the disciples' excitedly noisy worship experience (praising God in unlearned languages) – what had happened?
What had really changed?
 
What was new?
Our New Testament draws a clear distinction between the relationship of the Holy Spirit to believers before,
and His relationship to believers after, that Pentecost morning.
They knew that Jesus had promised, in publicly inviting the Thirsty in the Temple to come to Him and drink, that –
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water'."
That is, 'he will continue My ministry', for as the believer had come to drink from the Christ,
so consequently others would then drink from them.
 
 
And the apostle John the foundation-apostle explains to us what this specific statement meant –
"Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; 
for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
John 7:38-39
On that Pentecost morning – the Holy Spirit Himself was Given!
Sometimes
the Bible refers to the disciples' Pentecost-experience as a 'baptism' in the Holy Spirit (Matt.3:11; Acts 1:5) in the sense of initiating their ministry, or, for later participants, as 'receiving' the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:47; 19:2).  However, whatever description is used, a real and historic change occurred between the Spirit of the Lord and His waiting disciples on that day of Pentecost.
 
This
'gift', this 'receiving', this 'baptism' of the Spirit – is not seen in the New Testament as an add-on spiritual-extra for more effective Christian service! In terms of its Old Testament prophetic anticipation, it inaugurated a relationship to God only associated with the end time
 
 
When Peter explained to the street-crowd what had happened to them, he quoted to them Joel's prophecy of the Spirit being poured out to inaugurate the Messianic Age – the "last days" (Ac.2:17-20). This was Peter's interpretation of Joel's word "afterwards" (2:28) – that is, after God's judgment and restoration of Israel in the end time.
 
This
is why Christ's herald, John the Baptist, described to Israel the Messiah's mighty end-time act of 'harvest–winnowing' as –
"He shall baptise you 
John's audience (the 'wheat' – Jewish believers; and 'chaff' – Jewish unbelievers)
with the Holy Spirit –  
messianic-age state of believers
and Fire" –  
damnation of unbelievers
Matthew 3:7-11.
 
For the same reason, in the letter to the Hebrews, this same Holy Spirit gift of God is described with regard to even an immature Christian experience as – the "powers of the Age to come" (6:5). It was to be a special characteristic of the future Messianic age!
 
1.
What then is the difference between before and after Pentecost?  
Well,
let's first eliminate what the difference certainly is not!
 
It is NOT the 'presence' of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit most certainly did not 'arrive' at Pentecost.
 
 
God's Spirit was here from this planet's beginnings (Gen.1:2) and He had never left.  He is omnipresent and has been active throughout all history.
 
It is NOT being "filled with the Spirit"!  
 
Even Moses' craftsman Bezalel was "filled with the Spirit" to construct the Tabernacle of Israel (Ex.31:3) long, long, BEFORE Christ was glorified.
 
Some
teach in looking for a answer that, although the filling-with-the-Spirit occurred before Pentecost, it was then only for Israelites and that Pentecost merely took away the Israel's national hedge of precedence in this working of the Spirit.
 
 
In other words, the Spirit was democratised to believers of all nations. This strange idea makes the prophet Balaam's inspiration even more questionable than the prophet's later compromise with Moab against Israel (Num.22-24). The Bible nevertheless included prophecies of this NON-Jewish prophet as being directly inspired of God! So this nationalist twist is simply not true.
 
It is NOT any supernatural gift of power! See
: Definite Article 'the'
concerning the Spirit
 
Some teach that the New Testament term 'Holy Spirit', without the Greek definite article ('the'), means not the Spirit of God Himself but merely His power or energy, and that this was all that was actually given at Pentecost.
 
In other words, Acts 1:5 would be written without capitals, as – 'you shall be baptised in holy spirit'. As though His holy energy or power can be "given" or distributed as a distinct and separate reality from His person. Apart from the fact that the term "Holy Spirit" occurs BOTH with and without the definite article with reference to Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church was an obvious consequence of that Day's event. Further, it must be remembered that this effect of the Spirit of God had already been seen under the Old Covenant in the lives of the prophets. It was NOT new! 
 
Of
Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, who need say more? Miracles, healing, prophecy, raising the dead, are all known long BEFORE the Spirit was given at Pentecost. Even the seventy disciples that Jesus sent out in training before Pentecost cast out demons and healed the sick, and they had certainly NOT yet received the Holy Spirit but they had experience of His power (Lk.10).
 
We
must also be careful not to confuse God's Pentecost gift with His reason or purpose for that gift. The Gift of His Spirit is the HOW, not the WHY.
 
So,
the question is still – 'What did God DO at Pentecost?' – in order for us to be like Jesus; for us to be His "body" in His ministry continued. To simply say – 'He gave the Spirit' – needs more definition if the Spirit was already here, already filling people, and already doing miracles through them before Pentecost.
 
 
What difference did this gift of the Holy Spirit make for the disciples? What happened at Pentecost?
 
2.
But, wasn't the Holy Spirit just a substitute for Jesus?
 
Jesus
didn't think so! Yes, just as Jesus, the Spirit also "proceeds" from the Father in the authority of His ministry, that is, He has the Father's authority just as Christ had (Jn.15:26).  And so the disciples would submit to His authority just as they had previously done to Christ. But, the Spirit would be MORE, much more, than merely a substitute for a presence lost!
 
While
He was still with them, Jesus had spoken of this difference in relationship as it would affect them –
"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 
When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth..."
John 16:12-13.
Jesus
described this coming change for them at Pentecost as –  
"He is WITH you and  shall be IN you"
This spiritual change is described in spatial language – from 'with' or 'alongside' them, to 'in' or 'inside' them. This did not mean human skin was a container or boundary to the Spirit's presence. This picture language simply and graphically expresses a coming change-of-intensity or intimacy in the Holy Spirit's relationship to believers. The Holy Spirit had been "with" them through Jesus. Now He would relate to them directly. He would be "in" them!
John 14:17.
 
Far from being merely a substitute for Jesus, the Lord Himself emphasized ("truly, truly") that those who believed in Him would not only also do His works but –
"GREATER works than these will he do, BECAUSE I go to the Father"
Who then needs to speak of Philip being instantly transported by the Spirit from one place to another (Ac.8:39), of Paul publicly striking a Roman governor's sorcerer with blindness with a word (Ac.13:11), and of other miracles unprecedented in the ministry of Jesus? – AFTER the Spirit had been given!
John 14:12.
3.
But, isn't the Spirit just God's power?
 
Jesus
said – "God is spirit" (John 4:24). This is the very essence of God! This is NOT His power, or any other ability. Spirit is His essence! God is more than energy. He is a person, with all the qualities that belong to person-hood. Spirit is pure person-hood.
 
 
But remember, the Spirit of God, as distinct from Father and Son, is not the whole of God. In His infinite divine plurality, the Spirit of God is God direct – God outside the role of Father (the one upon the Throne), and God beyond the historical role or incarnation of the Son. 
 
In
His love the Father gave His Son as an Offering for our sin.
So, in the Son of God,
God gave Himself FOR us. 
And in consequence,
     in the Gift of the Spirit,
God gave Himself TO us.
 
The
Bible says – "he who is joined to the Lord is ONE SPIRIT with Him". This statement expresses the believer's new intimacy in relation to the Spirit, which Jesus had anticipated in His words of change from "with" to "in" (para.2).
1 Corinthians 6:17.
 
But, this statement needs to be read in its own context:
"Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? 
For, as it is written, 'The two become ONE FLESH'. 
But he who is joined to the Lord is ONE SPIRIT with Him"
Paul's quote from Genesis 2 is significant. God's design of marital intimacy, even in its most abused form (with a prostitute) is an analogy of this oneness of spirit. In sexual union, the two are still two, but there is a oneness, a commonness of sexual identity – "one flesh". In the same way, in the union of the believer with the Lord there is a new spiritual identity – a commonness of spirit identity.
1 Corinthians 6:16-17.
4.
What shows this new oneness-with-the-Spirit after Pentecost?
 
This
new oneness was IMMEDIATELY demonstrated in that Pentecost as Galilean disciples began to praise God in mixed foreign languages unknown to themselves.
"THEY ...began to speak with other languages, AS the SPIRIT was giving them utterance"
Acts 2:4.
 
This joint act of the human and divine expressed the new relationship between believer and God the Holy Spirit. This was NOT an inspired preaching of the gospel. Peter needed to do that. Nor did a miracle of understanding to no effect happen in the ears of the scoffers. Inspired speaking in unlearned languages produced only "great perplexity" among unbelievers (Ac.2:12). But, it was the natural expression of the believer's NEW UNITY with the Spirit of the Most High.
 
 
The unique significance of these 'languages' of praise is confirmed in that every kind of supernatural gift of the New Testament (apart from Christ's vicarious/salvation acts) can ALSO be found in the Old Testament – EXCEPT speaking in "other languages". This uniqueness confirms its unique place in expressing the new intimacy between the spirit of the believer and the Spirit of God that was given on that Pentecost.
 
  So . . . at that Pentecost?  
At
Pentecost, God GAVE the Holy Spirit to His people! The Holy Spirit did not 'arrive', nor was He given as an object of exchange. He, the Spirit, was given as in a marriage one is given to the other. A NEW RELATIONSHIP came into being between the spirit of the believer and the Spirit of God.
...Hallelujah!
 
In this new relationship, its natural expression is in communion with God, that is in PRAYER. It was therefore in prayer and in worship that this speaking in other languages occurred. This is not the ministry of the "gift of tongues" or "languages" which is certainly NOT given to all (1 Cor.12:30). But this is the intimately enriching experience of which the Word of God says –
"... I wish that you ALL spoke in languages ..."
but not in the congregation, for there one must be understood in order to encourage others, but in personal up-building.
1 Corinthians 14:5.
As
an example, Paul cites his own experience –
"I speak in languages MORE than you all, but not in the assembly" 
1 Corinthians 14:18.
5.
What practical difference did this new relationship make?  
Two
features are described as specially characteristic of these first Christians (Ac.9:31). They are –
1 –  the FEAR OF THE LORD, and,
2 –  the ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
These two characteristics are practically two sides of the same coin.
 
This
holy Fear of the Lord came to a particular focus in the discipline of Ananias and his wife. Their deception of fellow believers is described as an attempt "to lie to the Holy Spirit" (Ac.5:3), their death ensues, "and great fear came upon all who heard of it" and "great fear came upon the whole church" (Ac.5:5,11). The believers learned reverence for the person and immediate presence of the Holy Spirit – that is, the Spirit IN the Church. 
 
To
deceive God's people is to lie to the Holy Spirit – to dishonour God directly, in His presence.
 
 
This realization changed attitudes and produced results. The Comfort of the Holy Spirit was and is therefore more than God's kindness in our personal 'down-times'. The realization had reinforced a sense of God's holy presence among His people (so that the insincere stayed away from the Christian meetings), resulting in many miracles and the multiplication of believers, as the Church walked with God, in submission to the immediacy of His Spirit.
 
When
this reality of the Holy Spirit is mixed with the faith, faith in God, which has always been the only appropriate attitude toward Him, then the works of power, as the Holy Spirit Himself chooses, will be demonstrated. This is exemplified in Stephen the first martyr ("a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" Ac.6:5) – who by taking the responsibility of his opportunity closed the chapter on those who had crucified Christ and sealed his witness with his blood.
 
What a legacy to us – their spiritual heirs!

The Whole Gospel How Do We Know? The Grace of God is Dangerous

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