UNDERSTANDING YOUR FAITH: PENTECOST
By Vic Scaravilli
Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church because it is the day when Jesus fulfills His final promise to His believers. The gift of the Holy Spirit was sent to the infant Church so that it could continue the ministry that Christ started and entrusted to his disciples. The New Covenant is now fully established.
The name Pentecost is the Greek word for fifty because it is celebrated 50 days after Easter. This feast day brings the Easter season to an end but commemorates the beginning of the ministry of the Church. Jesus promised his disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit after He left them to lead them in the complete truth. The apostles were commanded to go out to all nations and make disciples by teaching the truths that were taught them by Jesus and to build up the Church. Once the Holy Spirit was sent on them, this process began.
Luke uses images of the Holy Spirit’s arrival such as “a mighty wind” and “tongues of fire.” This is reminiscent of the fire and smoke of God’s visitation to Moses on Mt. Sinai when he delivered the Ten Commandments. On Mt. Sinai, God delivered the law of the Old Covenant, or the Commandments, to Moses and his chosen people. At Pentecost, God sent his new people, the church of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit. The Law of the Old Covenant was delivered on stone tablets while the new law of the Spirit came into the hearts of people.
Once the people received the Holy Spirit, all of the men began to speak in their own different language from all parts of the world but were understood by all (Acts 2:4-13). Luke is telling us that there is now the same unity among all people when the Spirit is received.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit were what the first Christians used to spread the Good News of Christ. The Holy Spirit, who is God, can dwell within ourselves to empower us to do extraordinary things by his grace. The Spirit is a source of power within us because it can cause events to happen if we allow it to do so.
The Bible tells us that the first thing that happened after the Holy Spirit was sent was that Peter begun to proclaim the Good News to the non-believers. Peter spoke to the crowds and preached about Christ and what he did for his people. Acts 2:37-41 gives us an account of the first conversions to the new church. When asked by the crowd “What are we to do?” Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” After giving other arguments, those who accepted his message were baptized. Three thousand persons were brought into the Church that day!
The Church began to grow in number because the Holy Spirit allowed people to boldly proclaim Christ’s teachings throughout the earth. As more people began to receive the Holy Spirit, more could be done to build up God’s kingdom. This gift of the Spirit has allowed people from all parts of the world to build up Christ’s Church.
The Holy Spirit was first given to the leaders of the church to give them the power to spread God’s Good News. Now, everyone that has been baptized and has also received the same gift of the Holy Spirit as did those first Christians. We all are given gifts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge and the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, patience, and faithfulness. It is our responsibility to use those gifts to proclaim God’s Good News.
Paul says in 1Cor. 12:7, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” Every one of us must use our gift of the Holy Spirit to give glory to God by building up his Church. Otherwise, we are wasting the wonderful gift that God gave us.