The Purpose of Pentecost
By: Rev. Mr. Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Acts of the Apostles, Chapter two.
As we came to the close of the last millennium there were numerous groups within the contemporary Christian community claiming that they “really” knew the purpose of Pentecost and the reason for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples who gathered in that Upper Room. Movements both within and “alongside” (“para”) of Christian churches, communities and confessions grew up throughout Christianity, claiming to be especially connected to the encounter that the early followers of Jesus had in the upper room.
Some evangelical and mainline Protestant Churches developed cherished traditions of special outpourings of the Holy Spirit at special times in the twentieth century. A modern “Pentecostal” movement was born out of several of them. Out of it, much good came. The Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church began with a prayer for a “new Pentecost.” Within this Catholic Church, similar movements also began, some helped by the early pioneers of other Christian communities in a sign of authentic ecumenical brotherhood and sisterhood; one of the true fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, small groups within these larger movements began to lay some claim on both the experience of these encounters with the Holy Spirit and the criteria for judging their legitimacy in such a way that this fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit soon became a point of division rather than unity among Christians.
We still have an unusual eclectic group of some within the Protestant traditions who want to carry on this exclusive claim to somehow “having the Holy Spirit” by focusing on certain aspects of what they maintain is the “Pentecostal” experience. They seem to emphasize that they have the Spirit and others apparently do not. Or do the others just have less of it? From within them have come some high profile personalities who appear to “strut” across stages and fill TV cameras with their emphasis on themselves and their own power to perform claimed miracles; others who appear to reduce Christianity to a formula for health and wealth; and still others who reinterpret “biblical prophecy” in a science fiction-like timeline predicting when some kind of “end” was going to come.
This modern subculture of “Christian” television has fashioned almost a caricature of Christianity, far from the experience of these early followers gathered in one place expecting the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus Christ..
Was this encounter with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room, recorded by the Apostle Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, really about a show of personal “power”, in the sense of drawing attention to any individual? Was it intended to enable a select few to “figure out” some kind of timeline so that they could “predict” events or write best selling Novels purporting to explain “Bible prophecy”?
Or, was it a call to all the followers of this Jesus Christ, this Messiah who had been raised from the dead and ascended to the Father, to now become His Body on earth, His Church, and to carry forward in time His ongoing redemptive mission until he comes again? Was it a call to shows of “power” before crowds or an invitation to live lives of sacrificial love, holiness and service on behalf of a world that God still loves - a world into which He still sends His Son…through all of us who are now baptized in water and the Spirit and joined together as the Body of Christ?
Unfortunately, what is lost in the strangeness of this kind of Christian subculture and all these claims of those who maintain they have some “inside track” on experiencing the “power of Pentecost” is the real and primary purpose of Pentecost, the birthing of the Church and its “clothing in power” for the ongoing mission of her Founder and Lord.
In addressing the purpose of Pentecost at the beginning of a new missionary age we should ask ourselves some questions. Had Jesus ever conducted massive rallies to somehow show His “stuff” during His earthly ministry? No. Rather, when crowds would gather He would feed them, preach, teach and then love them in both word and deed. What did he have to say about the timing of His inevitable return? “No-one knows the day or the hour…”
So, what was the primary purpose of this event called ...
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