Pentecost and the Promise of the Father
“…I send the promise of my Father” (Luke 24:49).
“…Wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4).
“…Having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost…” (Acts 2:33).
On the day of Pentecost, God fulfilled His promise announced in our text. For on that day the risen Christ sent the Comforter to baptize His followers with the Holy Spirit and fire. This was the inauguration of Joel’s prophesy.
Peter affirmed this when he said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). In the early church, Pentecost was commemorated as “Whitsunday,” for on that day were many baptisms with the candidates gowned in white.
It was a great time of celebration. But what role does Pentecost play in the life of Christ’s Church today?
Let me attempt to answer that question.
I. The Place of Pentecost in God’s Redemptive Program.
What significance does Pentecost have in God’s redemptive program? That day was glorious in its dual inauguration. First, it marked the birth of the Church, and second, it marked the baptism with the Holy Spirit as promised by the Father.
A. Pentecost marked the birth of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Before Pentecost, Jesus declared that upon the rock of Peter’s confession (i.e., Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God), He would build His Church (Mat. 16:18).
The declarative statement, “I will build my church” strongly suggests that Christ’s “church” did not yet exist. Ephesians 2:13-22 reveals that Christ’s Church is not to be polarized by the racial categories of enfranchised “Jew” and disenfranchised “Gentile.”
He broke down the middle wall of partition that divided Jew from Gentile and made of the two “one new man, so making peace” (v. 15). In Christ’s Church, each Christian is “baptized into one body” by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) and indwelt by the same Holy Spirit who exalts the risen and glorified Christ. But was there no Church in the Old Testament?
The Old Testament believers were as much the people of God as any post-Pentecostal believer.
They were graciously justified by faith just as the New Testament believer is justified by faith. But in the sense that Jesus used the term “church”—speaking of a new body, the body of the risen and glorified Christ in which all members, Jew or Gentiles, will be equal participants—there was no such “church” prior to Pentecost.
B. Pentecost marked the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is the promise of the Father.
Pentecost not only marked the birth of the Church, but it also marked the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which was the promise of the Father. John the Baptist predicted that Jesus, the Lamb of God, would baptize believers with the Holy Ghost and fire (Mat. 3:11-12; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16-17; Jn. 1:32-34).
Jesus used the same terminology after His resurrection when He told His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem. He said, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5).
Perhaps we should pause for a moment to notice the difference between 1 Corinthians 12:13, which speaks of being baptized into one body (the Church) by the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel passages which speak of Christ baptizing believers with the Holy Ghost and fire.
In the former, it is the Spirit who “baptized” or initiates the forgiven sinner into the church. In the latter, it is Christ who baptizes the believer with the Holy Spirit and fire. The former is the work of the Spirit (pneumatological) and the latter is the work of Jesus Christ (Christological).
They are not the same event.
The work of the Spirit occurs at the new birth. The work of Christ occurs subsequent to the new birth, and is synonymous with being “filled” with the Spirit. Christ’s work of baptizing believers with the Holy Spirit and fire began at Pentecost.
In reference to Christ’s work of baptizing believers with the Spirit, John the Baptist and Peter used the term “baptize” to emphasize the initial, but definite, moment of entry by the believer into the Spirit filled life. There is one Pentecostal baptism subsequent to the new birth, but many “refillings” (compare Acts 4:8 with 4:31).
In Methodist circles, beginning with John Fletcher, and fully endorsed by John Wesley, the Pentecostal language of “the baptism with the Holy Spirit” became synonymous with “entire sanctification.”
Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, almost all the leading advocates of entire sanctification used the phrase “the baptism with the Spirit” to mark the moment one is entirely sanctified.
II. The Power of Pentecost in God’s Redeemed People.
The purifying power of Pentecost, symbolized by the “cloven tongues like as of fire,” and actualized by the filling of each believer with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 15:9), brought with it a propulsive power. What Jesus’ post-resurrection presence, assurances, and commission given to His disciples behind locked doors in the upper room did not do (Luke 24:36-49), Pentecost did!
Pentecost got them out of the upper room and into their neighborhood and community. At Pentecost, the assembled believers were empowered and emboldened to become what they were incapable of being before Pentecost: dynamic witnesses. Not all became preachers, but all did become praisers!
They infected others with the knowledge of God, fearlessly demonstrating with their lives and declaring with their lips the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
As a result, unbelievers were smitten with conviction and multitudes became faithful followers of Christ. Petty jealousies and party polities among the newly Spirit-baptized disciples ceased.
Instead of jockeying for position and promoting their own programs, they were united in holy fervor and zeal as they sought to exalt Jesus and spread the glorious Good News that Jesus procured for us at Calvary—not only forgiveness of sins, but cleansing of inherited depravity (Acts 15:9) and empowerment for effective service (Acts 1:8).
III. The Procurement of Pentecostal Power in Daily Living.
With a knowledge of the place of Pentecost in God’s redemptive program, and the power of Pentecost in God’s redeemed people, we come to the procurement of Pentecostal power in daily living. “How does a person receive Pentecostal power for daily living?”
- First, you must become aware that it is God’s will that all believers be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.
- Second, you must make a full, unreserved surrender to God of all you are (spirit, soul, and body plus your past, present, and future).
- Third, by faith receive the promise of the Father which is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, initiating you into the Spirit-filled life.
The main truth to remember is that a Spirit-filled life is a life lived under the full control of the Holy Spirit. In your daily decisions you must take care that you do not consciously do what you know God does not want you to do.
You must learn how to be led by the Spirit and how to walk in the Spirit and daily renew your commitment to full obedience.
As E. Stanley Jones has said,
“There was a time when the Christian Church celebrated Whitsunday (Pentecost), the anniversary of the coming of the Spirit, more than it did Christmas, the anniversary of the coming of Christ.
Now Whitsunday has largely dropped out.”
Did we find it easier to celebrate Christ’s birth than to transfer fully the control of our life to our Lord?
“Was it easier to commemorate His coming into the world than it was for us to go with His message into the world?
Did it cost less to give gifts at Christmas than to give ourselves at Pentecost?
Christmas is the festival of God with us.
Pentecost is the festival of God in us” (The Christ of Every Road, 47).
Dr. Jones further commented,
“Pentecost gave them that inner adequacy.
Inner life became adequate for outer life.
Henceforth nothing could stop them.
Fears fell away as irrelevancies.
Out of that Upper Room which had been the place of fears they burst with the glad Good News.
They smiled at poverty, rejoiced under stripes, were elated at their humiliations, sang in midnight prisons, courted death, and shared with every man everywhere their own abundant life.
God had matched them against that need and they were spiritually adequate” (Ibid., 45).
Most of us would agree that Pentecost made a tremendous difference in the disciples’ lives.
- But what practical difference is Pentecost making in your life?
- Is it simply an historical event that remains on church calendars to remind you of what once happened?
- Or is Pentecost a living reality in your life?
May we be challenged to be one of those Spirit-filled individuals who are living proof that Pentecost makes a difference in the lives of God’s children today!
May we evidence Pentecostal purity and power! We talk about “power,” but we see so little that might be called “spiritual” power. Emotionalism, yes. Exuberance and showmanship, yes. But, Oh, that God would make each of us radiant examples of the “abundant living” promised by our Savior (John 10:10).
May we be victorious saints who are experiencing daily victory over temptation and sin! Surely, when Pentecost has come to us, our focus on the trivialities of place, position, power, and our personal agendas will be behind us, too, and, like the disciples, we will be going everywhere telling the glorious Good News of full salvation.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.