The purpose of Pentecost
We have been on a journey from Easter to Pentecost. The first Pentecost following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus is the birthday of the church. The events of that day are vividly described in Acts chapter 2 and reveal the purpose of Pentecost through the powerful images of wind, fire, and tongues.
Wind is descriptive of power. Fire is descriptive of purity. However, it was not power for the sake of power or purity for the sake of purity—it was power and purity given to do something. That purpose is revealed in the image of tongues: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4).
The last words Jesus said to His first disciples are known as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Yet, how were they going to do that? They did not have the power, courage, or passion for that assignment. They needed something they did not have to fulfill the missionary mandate given by Jesus: they needed a gift. Therefore, Jesus gave them this promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
It is interesting that in all three of these Pentecost images, there is a reference to speaking or hearing. They “heard” the sound. They were given the gift of language to proclaim. Even the flames of fire looked like tongues. This is no accident. The Church was born to give witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gives the Church a voice to share the gospel to every generation, even to the ends of the earth.
God does not pour out His Spirit to make us a holy huddle—God moves on His Church to make us a mighty army. Pentecost gives us the passion to care, the power to speak, and the boldness to move out. Pentecost is what purifies us, sets our hearts on fire, and enables us to communicate the unquenchable love of God and the restoration of all things through Jesus, who is making all things new.
Not even a global pandemic can prevent the purpose of Pentecost from being fulfilled. Let us be a church on mission, empowered by the promise of the Father, purified by the sanctifying Spirit, and boldly proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord.
--Board of General Superintendents
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