TLW21a May 31, 2020 Pentecost
Pentecost: All are on the team in the power of the Spirit
Psalm 104:24-34, 35 — All of God’s creation is sustained and renewed by Him
John 20:19-23 — The disciples receive from Jesus an initial impartation of the Spirit in preparation for Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 — The outpouring of the Spirit empowers everyone to speak out God’s purposes and be part of the mission
1 Corinthians 12:3-13 — The Holy Spirit bestows a diversity of gifts but they all complement one another for one purpose
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – All of God’s creation is subject to Him
Everything that lives is sustained by God’s breath
24 How many are Your works, LORD! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.
“Your words, LORD” – this is the end part of the psalm which praises God for His creation and continuing lifegiving involvement which later references the Holy Spirit.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number — living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which You formed to frolic there.
“Leviathan, which You formed” – a huge, overpowering and fear-inducing sea monster, also the identity of a demonic principality. Man cannot overpower the monster, but God, who created it, can.
27 All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When You give it to them, they gather it up; when you open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
29 When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
“Breath” – linked to “Spirit” in the next verse. The idea is that God both gives and withdraws, life and renewal.
30 When You send Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the ground.
“When You send Your Spirit” – but in the context of an anointing that can be applied, or lifted. In another Psalm David pleads with God not to take away His Spirit and hence equipping for his royal task. Ezekiel and Jeremiah both prophesied about God giving His people and new heart (motivation) to live according to His will.
• For further study, read Ezekiel 36:26-27, Jeremiah 24:7, 32:39, Ezekiel 11:19.”
31-32 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works — He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD.
“May my meditation be pleasing” – the poet recognises that sin pollutes God’s creation, and ends with invoking a blessing to be the opposite i.e. “pleasing to Him”.
God’s creation is diverse but it all works together, sustained by Him and under His control. God’s breath or Spirit is the life-breath of everything created, and it is also the renewing force that living organisms rely on. This points to the move of renewal that is Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit’s renewing work brings change – how much do you want to preserve how things are?
John 20: 19-23 — The disciples receive a foretaste of Pentecost
Jesus’ initial impartation prepares them to receive more
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
“Jesus came and stood” – the doors were shut and Jesus was resurrected with a real physical body, so this was one of a series of miraculous, but not ghostly, appearances.
20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
“His hands and side” – John does not mention feet. Jesus identifies Himself, showing that He did not feign death, but conquered it.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”
22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
“He breathed on them” – a foretaste of what was to happen, an initial impartation preparing the way for the great outpouring at Pentecost. Baptism in the Spirit is often repeated.
23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
“Their sins are forgiven” – by God, not by this action. The apostles (now all believers) become involved in God’s plan of salvation by declaring the truth that God is ready to forgive those that repent and believe.
This is not unlike our experience of receiving Jesus into our hearts and being born again.
As we come to a decision for Him, there is the sense of Jesus revealing Himself to us, and an impartation of the Holy Spirit which changes us from the inside. We know we are now part of God’s plan for salvation, with an important message for others.
This may be the most memorable step, but there will be others. Any encounter with Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives us a thirst for more, and makes us more receptive — just the preparation the disciples needed.
How much do you need the impartation this passage describes? Might you be limiting, what God wants to give you?
Acts 2: 1-21 – The outpouring of the Spirit that moves all into mission
The prophecy is fulfilled: all are empowered to speak out God’s purposes
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
“Day of Pentecost” – the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover and therefore the first day of the week. Pentecost (also called Weeks, Harvest and Firstfruits in Judaism) was by tradition when Moses received the Law, or Old Covenant. Now the Spirit is outpoured to fulfil the promise of the law and prophets and inaugurate the New Covenant.
• For further study, see Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:10; Exodus 23:16, Numbers 28:26.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
“Sound… of a violent wind… tongues of fire” – wind and fire are both signs of the intense presence of God. John the Baptist proclaimed that the Messiah would baptise “with the Holy Spirit and fire”, Luke 3:16.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
“All of them” – probably the 120, not just the 12, including women as in Joel’s prophecy vv.17-18. Spiritual leadership under the Old Covenant was restricted to Aaron’s family. The New Covenant starts by overturning that restriction in an empowering shared by all.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.
“Heard their own language” – here the sign of tongues results in those in the very mixed festival crowd hearing their own dialects and languages. Later the gift of tongues would be a heavenly praise and prayer language not generally understood by others, unless (today’s experience) as a faith-raising sign to them.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?
Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
9-11 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
“What does this mean?” – the sign to them was hearing the wonders of God spoken in a way unmistakably personal to them.
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
“Peter… addressed the crowd” – emerging as a leader able to speak with gravity and explain to the Jews gathered there, “This is that…” and taking them back to words they would know from Joel, v.16
15 “These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
16-17 “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
“In the last days” – or “afterward” in Hebrew, making a contrast with the Old Covenant. Peter grasps that the New Covenant time has started, perhaps remembering the sign of the temple curtain being torn, opening up to all, the old restricted access to God.
18 ‘Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
“They will prophesy” – inspired to declare God’s purposes as a “now”word, not just in the future.
9 ‘I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ “
“Everyone who calls… will be saved” – a revolutionary idea by the general understandings of Judaism. The Holy Spirit was released to the whole world of men, women, son, daughters, Jews and Gentiles — all could turn to Jesus and receive the Spirit.
If we were in a gathering of other nationalities and heard English words praising God, we’d know that He wanted our attention, and we would “listen carefully” to what God wanted for our lives.
The explanation was a challenge: women, and young people would be God’s spokespersons, equal with men, and anyone, not just Jews, could come to God by calling on Jesus to be saved. The salvation and relationship with God won by Jesus is for anyone who will turn to Him. Who is tasked with making this known? We are, but we have to learn God’s ways to do it.
Pentecost changed everything, for ever – but the danger is that we would rather maintain the old ways.
How much do we reflect Pentecost in our lives and gatherings? What might God be saying about that?
1 Corinthians 12: 3-13 – The Spirit confers different gifts which all work together
The creative diversity is like the different parts which comprise one body
3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
“Speaking by the Spirit of God” – what we say comes out of what is in the heart, which is either renewed by the Spirit of God, or not. Jews who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah condemned Him as cursed by God because He died on a ‘tree’, Deut. 21:23. He did die a cursed, shameful death, but it was to release all who believe in Him from shame and the law’s curse into the original blessing of Abraham, Gal. 3:13-14.
4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
“Different… gifts, but…. the same God at work” – an explanation that reflects the Trinity, of how the diversity of gifting that believers carry, all represents a single purpose as God works through them in different ways.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
“To each one… for the common good – those made alive in the Spirit all contribute a particular essential gift or gifts which build up the fellowship and bring God’s presence to the wider world.”
8-10 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
“To one… to another” – not a prescriptive list or a single-label definition of what is organic and situational. Many will experience all of these gifts at different times, but may have greater facility in one or two. These gifts are commonly experienced more in prayer meetings, home groups and personal ministry than in contemporary front-led congregational worship, a pattern that the Early Church might not recognise.
11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.
“The work of… the same Spirit” – together with v.7 “the manifestation of the Spirit” the repetition forms a literary bracket, used by writers of this era to convey emphasis. Gifts were to be seen as God working in partnership, not any individual’s enhanced spirituality.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Many parts… form one body” – an important theme which Paul develops further and often returns to. The Holy Spirit confers revelation, or spiritual insight, and an empowering to bring God’s purposes to earthly situations, but in a way which calls for humble inter-dependence. The body needs every part, and no part defines the body, but Christ does.
Half a century ago the present experience of the gifts of the Spirit was held to be more controversial than today, when we know we need all the supernatural help we can get, to reach an increasingly distant world.
God-given insights, wisdom and faith for what God wants to do, help us to show people that God loves them and understands their situations, and bring the team dynamic of ‘every member ministry’ that changes our outlook.
The expectation of the human authors inspired to write what we call the NT, was that hearers would have a post-resurrection and post-Pentecost perspective of being empowered to live and witness for Jesus.
That is the nature of the mission partnership we are all called into.
Pentecost has happened – and the Holy Spirit and His gifts have been given to the church. Where and when do we make room for them and expect them to help us?
Lord God Almighty, from the beginning You planned to send Your Son to be our way of salvation.
You always intended to send Your Spirit for the whole church everywhere, that we might know the close presence of Jesus and share in His continuing ministry and mission.
May we catch a fresh excitement about what You are doing, and calling us into, at the present time.
With many asking spiritual questions and turning to find hope, peace and meaning in You, empower us all to speak out and explain what You are doing at this time and what Your good plans and purposes are.
Out of crisis, bring revival in the new life of Jesus! Amen.
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