There is no substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When his power is present there is no difficulty we cannot face, no sin too big to overcome, no task too difficult to achieve. And the Holy Spirit is what the holiday of Pentecost is all about. But I fear that in some churches’ self-sufficient rush for more, bigger, fancier and more entertaining, Pentecost and what it represents has become a forgotten, or at least a neglected, holiday.
Not that simply observing Pentecost or even studying this event guarantees the Holy Spirit’s power, but perhaps it could be a start. This year Pentecost drops on May 28, but it was celebrated by the Jews long before the events recorded in Acts 2. Pentecost was the middle of three annual harvest festivals celebrating God’s provision. The word “Pentecost” means 50, and it was the culmination of the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22, Deut. 16:10). Historically, shortly before the time of Jesus, Pentecost was observed as the anniversary of the giving of the Jewish law through Moses.
Interesting that God chooses Pentecost as the day on which he sends the Holy Spirit to indwell believers (Acts 2:1-4). Next, we read that, “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” hear the gospel preached in their own language (Acts 2:5-12). Then, the Apostle Peter preaches a profoundly powerful evangelistic message. And “those who accepted his message and were baptized, numbered about three thousand” (Acts 2:13-41). Those are the kind of results that only the power of the Holy Spirit can produce. How often do we settle for less?
There is much more to say about Pentecost, but let me mention two implications. First, the Spirit is given to unify the church. Remember, the crowd that gathers on Pentecost is racially and nationally mixed. I’m reminded that at Babel (Genesis 11), God confuses the languages and scatters the nations. At Babel the nations pridefully try to ascend to heaven. At Pentecost God overcomes the language barrier, humbly descends to indwell people and bring the nations together. Pentecost represents a new unity in Christ, a unity that can overcome any and every social barrier.
Second, the Spirit is given to empower our witness. Prior to Pentecost, the disciples are a frightened band who feel far more secure behind closed doors. After Pentecost they practically explode out of the room to tell others about Jesus. That’s what the filling of the Holy Spirit does, and the results speak for themselves.
It makes me wonder, if we were weaker, perhaps we would experience more of God’s power. If we were less self-sufficient and more dependent on the Spirit, perhaps we would see more of the miraculous. I guess, in the end, I’m not so concerned that we will forget Pentecost as a holiday. What concerns me is the possibility that Christ-followers and churches will forget that only the Spirit of God can accomplish the mission of God. That’s what Pentecost tells us. My prayer is that May 28 will remind us that in the end it is “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).
Mike Andrews is pastor of Gospel Fellowship Church in Wolf Point, Montana.