Commemoration and Empowerment
Each year churches commemorate the Day of Pentecost on Pentecost Sunday and it is good and proper that we do so. It is the anniversary of the infilling of the Church with the power needed to fulfill her mission.
What Is Different about Pentecost?
Unlike Calvary, the Resurrection, or even The Day of Pentecost itself, the Pentecostal baptism of power is a repeatable event. I grew up in a classical Pentecostal church. I received my Spirit Baptism when I was fourteen. It was many decades before I ever celebrated Pentecost Sunday. As I came to a greater understanding of ancient worship, the need for this commemoration became clear: All great moments in the history of the Church need to be noted and honored every year.
Of these commemorations, Pentecost is unique. The Lord’s Table enables us to spiritually participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus and to anticipate His return. Water baptism is an outward sign of the inner reality of being buried with Christ and rising with Him to new life as a member of His Covenant family. We sing of being “At the Cross” but we know this is a spiritual reality; our physical address hasn’t changed.
Pentecost is repeatable; that’s the difference! Each believer can be empowered for service just as the disciples were on the Day of Pentecost.
Theologies differ on the details but we all agree on the reality of being filled with the power of the Spirit of God as a necessity for effective ministry. In the 21st century we are no more able to accomplish our mission in our own strength that the followers of Jesus were as they stood on that 1st century mountain watching Him fly out of sight. The promise Jesus made to them He has also made to us. Peter confirmed this promise in his famous sermon.
Looking Back—Looking Forward
Looking Back: 1st Century
The church, cleansed and commissioned, needed supernatural power to fulfill her purpose in the world. Jesus told the people exactly what to do: Go to Jerusalem and wait for the power you need to be witnesses. He called this empowerment the “Promise of the Father.” He promised them they would be immersed—“baptized”—in the Holy Spirit and be infused with the power they would need to tell His story to the world.
At least 120 of them obeyed, returning to Jerusalem to wait for the promised power. Ten days later, when they finally arrived at a deep unity—“one mind and one accord” the Bible calls it—The Promise of the Father came. The Holy Spirit filled each of them. His entrance released a deep spirituality that previously had lain dormant in them. Each of them felt the Spirit of God well up within them until they were full to overflowing.
Their praise for God exceeded the limits of their vocabularies so the Spirit gave them a new language to express what each was experiencing.
Such a thing will not stay confined in a room, upper or otherwise. Soon they were in the streets shouting their praise, delighting in the release of praise so unlimited. Jews gathered from all over the known world for the feast heard them praise God in their native languages. This won a hearing for Peter.
“What is this?” They asked.
Peter preached the Jesus Story to the crowd and the same Spirit that empowered the disciples’ praise and His sermon, targeted the hearts of thousands within the crowd.
“What must we do to be saved?” was the convicted cry from the multitude.
Peter’s answer formed the shape of evangelistic preaching to this day. “Repent and be baptized!” Three thousand obeyed and suddenly water was at a premium in and around Jerusalem because all three thousand were baptized.
Looking Forward: 21st Century
To commemorate this historical event, worship leaders will need to fully engage their creativity to re-enact this day of empowerment. Worship Leaders should not allow this celebration to be one of looking back only, but also one of looking forward.
- A Pentecost Sunday service can be a renewal service, not just a commemoration.
- Pentecost Sunday, therefore, should be a day of reconciliation so that the Church may be in “one mind and one accord.”
- Songs about the ministry of the Holy Spirit can be chosen, and relevant scriptures can be read.
- Time should be given to solemn prayers of reconciliation among the people.
- The people can also be led in congregational prayers for a new baptism into the power of the Spirit. There are wonderful, simple songs that enable the people to pray these prayers.(see graphic)
- The liturgy should enable the people to look forward to the final victory of Jesus Christ.
The Day of Pentecost marked the beginning of the Last Days. In Ephesians 1:13-14 the gift of the Holy Spirit is connected with the fullness of redemption that is yet to come. This has less to do with years, decades, centuries and millennia than it does with the Day of Grace—the era of the Church. Pentecostal scholars teach that the power of the Spirit in the lives of believers is actually a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of Christ—the sound of a wind yet to come, the fire of a day yet to dawn, but a very real flame for each of us today.
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