Study 7 THE MEANING OF PENTECOST
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 2:1-21
In verse 12 of this section of scripture a very important question is asked: “What does this mean?” If we had been in Jerusalem on that day we would have asked the same question, for something amazing had happened. Jerusalem was packed with people, many of whom were there to present the first-fruits of the harvest for the year; they would have come from many different places. The Lord Jesus had completed His earthly ministry, having died, risen and ascended; but before going back to heaven He had given a command and a promise to His own disciples – Acts 1:4-5. In simple obedience these disciples met together to wait upon the Lord, and they did this for ten days – look up Acts 1:13-14; Acts 2:1-3. Then something very wonderful happened – Acts 2:1-3; and in the opening part of verse 4 we read of the essential thing which happened – “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” These disciples of Christ then began preaching the gospel in known languages (though unknown to themselves) so that people from foreign countries heard God’s message in their own native tongue – see Acts 2:4-12. But what did all this mean? What does Pentecost mean? Here are some straightforward scriptural answers:
1. Pentecost means that the Christian faith and the Christian gospel have to do with certain great facts of history, great acts of God.
It is in this respect that Christianity differs from and is superior to every other religious system. The Christian gospel is not just a lovely story, although it is that, because it is the story of something very wonderful that God has done in history. He has sent His own Son into this world (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15). At just the right time Jesus came, rose, and ascended and went back to the right-hand of God (Galatians 4:4-6). The other wonderful thing that God has done in history is this: He has sent the Holy Spirit to live within and to empower His own people, and the second chapter of Acts records this.
2. Pentecost means that God is working for the redemption of men and women according to a carefully pre-ordained plan or programme.
There is nothing haphazard about God – Pentecost teaches this. From Acts 2:1 we learn that it was a pre-determined event in the mind of God. The Holy Spirit was not poured out as the result of the prayer meeting held by the disciples. In Leviticus 23:15-16 we read of the feast of Pentecost, which was to take place fifty days after the Passover feast. The Lord Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after His resurrection, and then ten days after that came the Day of Pentecost. Notice in Acts 2:13-17 that Pentecost was the first fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy which had been made 850 years previously (Joel 2:28-32).
3. Pentecost means that the Holy Spirit, who in Old Testament times came upon God’s servants to empower them, has now come to live for ever within every Christian.
In many of His sayings, the Lord Jesus anticipated the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; John 14:16-17). He promised that He would come to indwell all Christians, and at Pentecost that is exactly what happened – “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (verse 4). Since that day, immediately someone becomes a Christian the Holy Spirit takes up residence; this is the distinctive mark of a real Christian; look up and compare Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19.
4. Pentecost means that the Holy Spirit who indwells every Christian waits and wants to fill every Christian.
If you look again at Acts 2:4 you will notice that they were “all filled” – young and old, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, preachers and pray-ers, were filled. This is God’s plan and provision for every one of His children; this is to be the normal experience for Christians – look up Acts 4:31; 9:17 and 13:52.
5. Pentecost means that God’s power is available to enable every Christian to live the Christian life and to serve God effectively.
If you study the Lord’s pattern for Christian living and serving you will find that Christians are to be new people (2 Corinthians 5:17); they are to be love-filled (John 13:34-35); holy (1 Peter 1:15); courageous (Acts 4:13); willing to suffer (Acts 5:41); they are to witness with power (Acts 1:8); to take the gospel to the ends of the world (Matthew 28:19). But how is this possible? – Zechariah 4:6!
6. Pentecost means that Christians are not isolated units but they are joined together as members of one glorious body, the Church.
Look up 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and notice that there is only one body…there are many members… all Christians have been baptised or united into the one body…and all Christians have received the Holy Spirit. This is true unity! It is the Holy Spirit who creates the unity of the Spirit and who unites believers – look up Ephesians 4:3.
7. Pentecost means that the Gospel is for everybody and that anybody, anywhere, may be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We get this clearly brought out in Acts 2:21. What an amazing thing it is that provision has been made by the Lord for “whoever believes in him” (John 3:16) to know the Lord Jesus Christ as the living Saviour and the Holy Spirit as the abiding, indwelling Comforter!