Newness of Pentecost

My first car was a 1973 Toyota Corona. My father bought it for my 16th birthday, repainted blue and white, installed a brand new Pioneer Stereo system, and to top it off, he satisfied my desire for Mag Wheels! I was enamored with the Cragar Mag Wheels.

I’d wash my car all the time and polish those wheels. Yes, that car was my pride and joy. But as it is with new stuff, the veneer and flawlessness left. Over time the paint chipped, the shininess of those wheels faded and dents appeared. But, oh the memories! I’m sure you can relate.  

The newness of stuff generally fades despite the best of our intentions. But you know as Jesus followers the bible describes for us an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading – our new and eternal life we have through our Messiah Jesus (1 Peter 1:3-4).  When I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior 31 years ago, I became a new creation in the Messiah. I believe God is in the “newness business.” Don’t you? 

When the Church was born 2000 years ago on Pentecost (the Jewish Feast of Shavuot, which begins sundown on May 26th), much became new in the life of Jesus followers. And it was such a momentous event, even today in 2023 we observe Pentecost Sunday on May 28th to remember and rejoice.

In Acts 2 we are introduced to the birth of the Church. Specifically, in Acts 2:1-17, we highlight newness and it’s relevance to our life and witness. 

But first, in Acts 1, the Resurrected Jesus gives some final instructions to His disciples just before His Ascension. In verse 3 Jesus speaks to them “of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” God was going to do a new thing! What new thing? 

Jesus tells us when He says to His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And now His words come to fruition here in Chapter 2.

If we try to put ourselves it the shoes of those first disciples, the staggering newness and profound impact of that day cannot be overstated. For on this day nearly 2000 years ago, they would receive new power for ministry, they would begin a new method of outreach, and they would gain a new perspective on an established Jewish holiday,

A New Power 

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4). 

While the power of the Holy Spirit was not new to God’s people in the Old Testament, his filling everybody who knew Him was! You see, in Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit primarily fell upon, filled, or empowered prophets, priests and kings. I commend you to do a word study of the Spirit in the Old Testament. But note that now “they all”, meaning all the followers of Jesus, were filled! 

Praise God! Today, each of us who know Christ are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Now, I desire to live and witness in His power. For I realize I can do nothing without Him (John 15:5), but I can do all things He calls to through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). And by faith, I need to daily appropriate His power that dwells within me (2 Corinthians 5:7). 

As we begin a new year, the Lord may place you into new relationships and situations where you are forced to walk by faith, trusting Him to empower your witness. Certainly those disciples of Jesus at Pentecost were empowered by the Lord to give testimony in a singular and unprecedented way.

A New Methodology

As the disciples witness in a unique and singular way, their testimony is also a foreshadowing of the broader Great Commission mandate:

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine” (Acts 2:5-13).

These disciples, simple Galileans, are speaking the wonderful works of God [good news] in the various languages of the day to people from all over the known world. Shavuot was one of three Jewish Feasts where God commanded all Jewish men to come to the city of Jerusalem to worship. This is why Jewish men from “every nation under heaven” was present – each hearing and understanding them in their own language. And in the culture of the day, making this event even more remarkable, would have been that these Galileans would have been perceived as local-yocals or simpletons by the audience.

Ancient Israel was commanded by God to be a “Kingdom of Priests” (Exodus 19:6). They were called to bring the knowledge of the one true God, the God of Israel to the Nations. They were to be a “light to the Gentiles.” And we’ll unpack this more in our next post. But additionally and importantly, they were called not to go out to the nations, lest they fall into idolatry. Israel, in being a witnessing community, brought gentile or non-Jewish called proselytes into the fold. Those who believed in the God of Israel would come in to the community of faith. 

Now at Pentecost, with the coming of the Spirit, we have a whole new strategy to be employed by God’s people, His Church. What is this new evangelistic and discipleship strategy? The “Great Commission”:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19).

After the Church was born on Pentecost, God’s people would eventually fan out into Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Today, you and I are evidence of the beautiful testimony of the gospel going forth to the nations.

How does this new methodology for God’s people on mission relate to you and me today? We’ll unpack that next time.

For now, may we praise and thank God for Pentecost, see the newness it brought and brings, and ponder how our witness today in 2023 may reflect the newness, power, and wonder of Pentecost. 

See, I am doing a new thing! – Isaiah 43:19

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