Study 7 THE DAY OF PENTECOST
THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Acts 2:1-21)
No study of the Person of the Holy Spirit would be complete without considering the events in the opening verses of Acts chapter 2. This is a great chapter: great as history, for it describes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; great in inspiration – read it through a dozen times until the wonder of it grips you; and great from the point of view of instruction. The Gospels end with the ascending of God the Son, and Acts chapter 2 opens with the descending of God the Holy Spirit. We have already seen that the Holy Spirit was very active before Pentecost, and that He indwelt, filled and empowered the Lord Jesus for His earthly ministry; but up until then He had never come to dwell within believers and to be within them for ever. Now, on the Day of Pentecost, He came to do just that – in fulfilment of the promise of the Lord Jesus! Look up John 14:16.
1. THE DAY OF PENTECOST DID NOT COME BECAUSE OF ANY HUMAN CONDITIONS THAT WERE MET ON THE PART OF THE DISCIPLES.
Read Acts 2:1. Pentecost was a pre-determined time in the mind of God. In His sovereign will, the date of the coming of the Holy Spirit had been fixed to take place fifty days after the Passover. Look up Leviticus 23:11-16. He could not have come before the fiftieth day, no matter what preparations of heart might have taken place in those who waited for His coming. He came in accordance with Israel’s ecclesiastical calendar. It is true in experience that there are conditions to be met if we would know the conscious presence and power of the Holy Spirit within us for life and service, but it is also true that the Day of Pentecost had to fully come (Acts 2:1 KJV).
2. AS THE GREAT DAY ON GOD’S CALENDAR CAME, THE DISCIPLES WERE ALL TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE.
Verse 1 tells us this, and Acts 1:15 tells us that there were about 120 of them. It is particularly interesting for us to remember the variety of men, women and young people who were present. Look up Luke 24:52-53, and notice that in Acts 2:2 we are told that as they worshipped the Lord, praised Him and prayed together, they were ‘sitting’. It is not the position of the body that counts most, but the attitude of the heart and soul. There must be sincerity and reality first of all, and since there must also be reverence, frequently we feel that it is right to kneel before the Lord, though it is certainly not wrong to sit or stand.
3. THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY STRIKING MANIFESTATIONS OF HIS PRESENCE AND POWER.
Read verses 2 and 3, and notice that this momentous event happened:-
- Suddenly. Have you ever searched the Scriptures to note the things God has done suddenly? For example: The Flood; the destruction of Sodom; the Incarnation; and look up 2 Chronicles 29:36. Conversion takes place suddenly, as it did with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10); Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-18); and the jailer (Acts 16:30-34) – but in contrast, God forms the characters of His people slowly. Look up Malachi 3:3 and compare Philippians 1:6.
- Audibly, for we are told that a “sound…came from Heaven and filled the whole house.” How often, on the other hand, does God work silently, almost imperceptibly! Look up and compare John 3:8.
- Visibly. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire…” Just as the Holy Spirit was seen by John the Baptist to come on the Lord Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:16), so He came upon these believers, not like a dove, the symbol of purity, but like a flame of fire, the symbol of cleansing and purification. Notice the word ‘rest’ in verse 3.
The wind and the fire were symbols of the work He had come to do in and through them. ‘When Pentecost comes, there is a breeze and a blaze.’
4. THE IMPORTANT THING THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, HOWEVER, IS THAT ‘THEY WERE ALL FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT’.
They would not understand it, nor could they explain the philosophy of it, but they knew He had come! Let us always remember that it is not intellectual knowledge that counts, but spiritual experience; not knowing about Him, but knowing Him; and here we see a company of 120 different men and women, and we are told that ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.’
We should be careful in case the language used of the Holy Spirit in verse 4 leads us to think of Him as a mere power or influence. The word ‘filled’ brings before us a mental picture of fluid, energy, breath, force, but (as we have seen in previous studies), the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead, and to be filled with Him means to be possessed, controlled, dominated by Him. It is possible to be filled with Satan – look up Acts 5:3. But God’s plan is that His people should be Spirit-filled so that their hearts and minds and wills are under the mastery of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit does not rob us of our true personality; Peter is still Peter, Paul is still Paul, yet the Holy Spirit is the One who is dominant in the lives of Peter and Paul.
5. ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST THE HOLY SPIRIT CAME TO APPLY IN THE LIVES OF BELIEVERS ALL THAT THE LORD JESUS DIED, ROSE AGAIN AND ASCENDED TO HEAVEN TO MAKE POSSIBLE.
The Lord Jesus gave the ethics, the example and the pattern of the Christian life, but the Holy Spirit came to give the dynamic, the empowering and the energy for that life. Thus, we see that Pentecost was the complement of Calvary, ‘for Pentecost made actual in the lives of men and women all that Calvary made possible. Without Pentecost, Calvary would never have been effective to redeem a lost world.’
Can Pentecost be repeated? Historically – NO! experimentally – YES! As Dr Alexander Maclaren says: ‘Wherever Christian churches do as they did, they will receive what they received’; and as we may say, ‘Wherever Christians do as they did, they will receive what they received.’