Pentecost! It's Mandatory!
Today we celebrate Pentecost. The birthday of the church, the day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the followers of Jesus and Godís people were no longer left orphans. Jesus said,
Joh 14:18 "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
And He came to them in the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus just didnít pour three years of teaching into His disciples and then rely on them to make more disciples in their own mere flesh. No! He promised to send them the Helper!
Joh 14:26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
On this day, the liturgical church changes itís color scheme on itís various vestments from the white of Easter to the red of Pentecost, symbolizing the tongues of fire that appeared on the disciples. The fire being the baptism of the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist talked about in
Lu 3:16 John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
When we celebrate a birthday, we like to put candles on the cake and light them, well, this original birthday feast of the church had a cake topped off with 120 human candles called disciples and God lit every one of them with tongues of fire.
And they each spoke in the different languages of the nations And the curse of the tower of Babel was reversed! Instead of limiting the good news to just one nation, it would now be heard in all languages bringing people into the church universal through the gospel of Jesus Christ
These original candles had been selected by Jesus to receive the fire of the Holy Ghost and then authorized to pass the flame along to others through the Sacrament of baptism. Before He ascended into heaven He told them.
Mt 28:17-20 ďAll authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (read that Satan has now been bound) 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, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always ( I will not leave you orphans) even until the end of the age. (Even until I come again.)
Understand the force of the Greek here. We make disciples by baptizing. We enroll them in the school of Christ and then we teach them all that Jesus has commanded.
Peter understood this great commission and did not hesitate to include baptism as necessary to receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What did Peter say in his very first sermon on Pentecost?
Ac 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
This is what baptism effects, and since we are all sinners from conception on, there is not one man, woman, or child who is not in need of this washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 2:5) Pentecost is mandatory!
This church holiday is not as prominent in the eyes of the church as it used to be. There was a time in the 7th century that the festival had become so important that the whole week was set aside to observe it.
Law courts were not in session. (I wonder if that was because this day marked the end of the bondage associated with the letter of the Law, and the beginning of the understanding of the Spirit of the Law or grace!)
Itís interesting to note that the Jews celebrate this day as the birthday of Judaism believing that it was on this day that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle plan, and the laws for priesthood and sacrifices.
Today, Christians celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the new Israel, the church, with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit or grace into the hearts of men, women, and children, through the Sacrament of baptism.
It was on this day that the bodies of individual believers became the Tabernacle or temple of God, and it was on this day that the priesthood of all believers was established. It was on this day that the Law moved from the external Tablets of stone, to the internal fleshy tables of the heart.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
2 Cor. 3:3 ďyou are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.Ē
If you think about the artistís shape of the heart, it kind of looks like two tablets doesnít it? What a great way to remind us that by Godís gracious pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the law of love has now been internalized in the baptized believers heart.
On the one table we have the command to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and on the other table we have the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
But you say, how is it possible for an infant to believe? A fair question, but one that underestimates the power of the Holy Spirit who comes to man, woman, and child, through baptism.
What did David mean when he said in Psalm 22:9,10:
ďBut You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made me trust while on my motherís breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From my motherís womb You have been my God.Ē
In the 7th century church, Pentecost was such an important feast that most work was forbidden during this week, perhaps a reminder again of our need to remember that we are saved by grace...not works. And baptism is the purest form of grace, the man, woman, or child, does nothing but receive itís benefits, there is no work involved.
But, by the 12th century the week long celebration was shortened to three days, now we basically set one Sunday aside per year and thatís the end of it, although in most European countries the Monday after Pentecost is still considered a holiday!
But given the current spiritual climate of Europe I would imagine that very few have a clue as to why they are celebrating it. I hope and pray that our attitude toward the pouring out of the Holy Spirit through baptism, will never become ho-hum.
Not that we need to make a week long celebration out of it, but we should remember that this was a big occasion in the church, as it marks the beginning of the initiation rite into Godís family, as the Holy Spirit moves in to the individualís heart.
It ranks right up there with Christmas and Easter. In Christmas we celebrate the arrival on earth of the Messiah. The incarnation.
On Easter we celebrate the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and the acceptance of that work by the Father in the resurrection for our justification,
and on Pentecost, we celebrate the fact that He did not leave us orphans, but gave us the Holy Spirit for our sanctification. (initial cleansing followed by the continuous march toward holiness with the placement of His Law in our hearts.)
He is with us today, just as He was with the disciples! He came to live in us, to make His home in us, just as He said He would, pouring out His Holy Spirit from above through baptism.
Pentecost was an Old Testament feast that celebrated the initial or firstfruits harvest. It was a celebration that looked forward to the main harvest to come. It was at Pentecost that we get the assurance from the Lord that the harvest will continue!
You know, without Christmas we still await the Messiah. Without Easter, we still foreshadow His sacrifice with the blood of animals, and without Pentecost, we still hover in the upper room waiting for His power to arrive in order to begin the harvest. .
Without Jesus returning to us in the form of the Holy Spirit in order for the Triune God to make His home in us, we would be absolutely powerless to harvest anything. Jesus said in Jn 15:5,
ďI am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; (...bear much harvest!) for without Me you can do nothing.Ē
In Acts 2:1 we read, ďNow when the Day of Pentecost had fully come.Ē What an interesting way to say a holiday has arrived. The Greek word means to be filled up or fulfilled. When the day of Pentecost was completely filled up or fulfilled....we can run with that statement in a couple of ways.
One way is to think of Pentecost as the culmination of a season, much as we think of Christmas in our culture today as a culmination of Advent, or Easter, the culmination of Lent. Pentecost was the culmination of the Feast of Firstfruits, (which began on the first Sabbath after Passover) when the firstfruits of the barley harvest were waved before the Lord and it ended when the Firstfruits of the wheat crop came in seven weeks later.
When the fifty days were complete, counting from the first Sabbath after Passover, the day of Pentecost arrived in its fullness. So, thatís one way of looking at Pentecost fully coming.
The Feast of Pentecost was also called the Feast of Harvest, (Ex. 23:16) The Feast of Weeks, (Deut. 16:10), and the Day of Firstfruits.
It was on Pentecost that the Israelites brought all the firstfruits of the land to Jerusalem. From the barley which was offered on the Feast of Firstfruits which occurred early in spring on the 18th day of Nisan, (the first month of the Jewish calendar, around March /April) to the wheat which was harvested 7 weeks later, and every other kind of firstfruits or firstgrains that ripened in between.
You can see how the Feast came to be known by three different names. The Feast of the Harvest because it was an anticipation of the harvest to come. The Feast of Weeks because the Day of Pentecost was celebrated exactly 7 weeks and a day after the Sabbath following the Feast of Passover, and the Day of Firstfruits because it was the day when all the firstfruits (from barley to wheat) were brought to Jerusalem.
Now., itís important to note that these were just the firstfruits...this was not the final harvest!
Why is that important? Because it tells us that this is just the beginning of the harvest! The feast of Pentecost is just the beginning!
It was on this day that the Lord Jesus, and the Father came in their fullness upon the church in the form of the Holy Spirit. And those who abide in Him, and He in them will, (according to Jn 15:5) bear much fruit....they will have a bountiful harvest.
A bountiful harvest of what? Souls! Thatís the bottom line of the purpose of the church. We are to win souls by our witness with the indwelling power of Jesus Christ. After Jesus won the victory over Satan on Calvary the Book of Revelation tells us that He bound Satan.
This binding will continue throughout the entire New Testament era, the symbolic 1000 years mentioned in Revelation 20:
Re 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
Satan is now restricted in his opposition to the Gospel, and on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit takes full advantage of this binding as He is unleashed on the world through the church and the Sacrament of baptism.
Look at the proof. Before this binding of Satan and release of the Holy Spirit...there just werenít that many believers in the Old Testament. But on that first Day of Pentecost, 3,000 were baptized, then 5,000, and the church continues to multiply through this means of grace even today!
Something I find very interesting in our world today. Demonic possession is rarely heard of in countries that practice infant baptism. Thatís because Godís Word is clear that the devil and the Holy Spirit cannot coexist in the same temple.
Something else you need to know about Pentecost. It was one of three feasts that required a mandatory pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the other two were Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. I donít want that to go in one ear and out the other. These were required, ďthus saith the Lord,Ē feasts to attend.
If you were a male, you had to make this trip to Jerusalem three times every year. Think about it, while youíre traipsing off to Jerusalem, whoís staying home to guard the fort? Try putting yourself in the shoes of these people as they were required by God to leave their homes and land and trek off to Jerusalem three times a year!
What would they find when they returned? Would their homes be razed, their crops burned? What if somebody left the bathtub running? Well, they need not worry because of an incredible promise of God found in Exodus 34:23, 24.
ďThree times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the Lord God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.Ē
What a promise! Not only will God cast out the nations before His people, (give them a buffer zone) but no one will so much as covet, even think about touching the property of those males who would obey God and make the trek to Jerusalem.
Friend, make the mandatory trek to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Come to Christ through the waters of baptism. This is your personal Pentecost, and it is mandatory:
Mr 16:16 Does not say He who believes will be saved. It says, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (That simply means that even if you are baptized, if you do not keep the flame of faith burning you will be damned, baptized or not.
Donít play with the faith given to you at baptism. Donít let it die out even though Jesus is able to rekindle it. Matthew 12:20 says, ďHe will not even put out a smoking wickĒ He will still seek to relight it with the fire of the Holy Spirit, just as He did for the Prodigal Son. I know, for I was such a smoking wick Relit as He came to me through His Word with His gift of repentance.
Listen, once you make that trek, that required Feast of Pentecost, once you are baptized, God gives you a buffer zone from the great enemy of your soul...the devil. (Remember, he is bound and he canít even covet you because you have been sealed in baptism. You are untouchable!
However....you can get careless with your baptism and wander inside his domain through disbelief and sin. And your baptism alone will not save you, it must always be accompanied by faith.
Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Do not cause your baptism to be for naught....keep the faith, stay out of the junk yard dogís realm!
The harvest, or Pentecost is a required Feast! We must leave our homes (the ways of the world) and go to Jerusalem, (follow Christ!)
As you follow Him, He will give you a heart for the lost as well.
God did not birth His church on this day so we could gather once a week just to worship and enjoy God and His blessings. He birthed His church in power because He wants an active, dynamic church to bring His message of salvation by grace, to the ends of the earth. He wants us to go out among those who do not know Christ to tell them, (not in our strength) but in the power of the Holy Spirit.
He wants us to pass the Holy Spirit on to others as we preach repentance and bring them to the waters of baptism.
As we seek to do church here at Living Word Lutheran, the harvest must always be in the forefront. It must be the reason for our existence. Pentecost and harvest cannot be separated. The birth of the church and harvest cannot be separated.
The power of the Holy Spirit and harvest cannot be separated. The great commission and the Christian cannot be separated...repentance and baptism canít be separated. Pentecost is a required feast, a must pilgrimage for anyone who professes to follow Christ.
Jesus said in Jn 4:35, , ďlift up your eyes!Ē take them off yourself, donít let them get stuck in your worship books or even in your Bibles. ďLook at the fields,Ē look at those people God brings into your life! ďFor they are already white for harvest.Ē
Most have already been baptized in our land, but I tell you we are seeing a generation being brought up who have not been baptized, who have never darkened the doorway of a church.
We are seeing children restrained from baptism by well meaning but misinformed parents who have turned baptism into something we do for God, rather than something He does for us.
Mt 21:25 "The baptism of John--where was it from? From heaven or from men?" A question from Jesus we all need to answer.
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'
Many who have been baptized have (through sin and disbelief and carelessness) wandered into the domain of the chained up junk yard dog, (the devil) and are paying for it. They sorely need someone to lead them out into the green pastures of forgiveness and restoration.
If this describes you, I encourage you to do an about face. Stop allowing yourself to be prey for the evil one. God has stamped you with His seal at baptism. But that seal will do you no good if you travel into the devilís domain. He is on a leash, God has no trespassing signs all over the place. (The ďthou shalt notís of Scripture that were written on your heart at baptism.)
The Prodigal ignored those signs and took his fatherís inheritance of grace into the realm of the junkyard dog and paid a heavy price. But he came to his senses and decided to return to the safety of his fatherís estate. His father was waiting for him with open arms, just as God awaits you today.
Come home to your personal Pentecost. Your baptism! By itself, it will not save you, it must be accompanied by faith. Come to your senses and put your trust in Jesus once again. And if you have not yet been baptized, I implore you to come to the waters today!