Monday 20 May 2013

The Purpose of Pentecost

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear... Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
Acts 2:32-33, 36

Many Christians belong to a Pentecostal denomination, but there’s a sense in which all Christians are ‘Pentecostals’. We take our identity from the giving of the Spirit on that first day of Pentecost as much as we do from the crucifixion and resurrection.

Peter explains the significance of the dramatic events unfolding before the eyes and ears of those gathered in Jerusalem. The Father has raised Jesus and enthroned him as Lord of all. Now seated at the Father’s right hand, he has given the Spirit to his people, just as he promised. The coming of the Spirit has started God’s countdown to the last great day of the Lord.

And in this period before the end, what are God’s people to do? Jesus has already laid it out for the disciples in Acts 1:8 – they are to be his witnesses. That’s what the Spirit makes possible – empowerment for mission.

What comes with Pentecost is not a superficial burst of energy and excitement, or an injection of spiritual adrenaline to give us a boost when we’re feeling low. What comes with the Pentecost gift is the power to witness to Jesus. Nor is it just for overseas missionaries or church leaders, or for those who have attained a second tier of discipleship. Previously the Spirit was given only to special people or only for specific tasks; now all of God’s people receive the Spirit – men and women, old and young – as part of God’s end-time renewal of all things.

By God’s grace and the power of his Spirit, all of us are made a part of his mission to reach the ends of the world with the message that the crucified Jesus is none other than the Lord and Messiah, the only name on whom people must call if they are to be saved.

The book of Acts is clear that God calls some, like Paul, to plant churches. But it is equally apparent that the work was carried out by ‘ordinary’ believers, who spread the news wherever they went. The same gracious God, the same exalted Christ, the same powerful Spirit, and the same amazing plan means we too play a part in the continual unfolding of this story – witnessing to a renewed relationship with God and the restoration of the whole of life under the lordship of Christ.

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