Pentecost Sunday

My pastor, Jim Williams of Gloucester Assembly of God, preached a fantastic sermon today on Acts 2. It was perhaps the most refreshing sermon I’ve ever heard on the chapter. Being a Pentecostal, I can assure you, I have heard many a preacher wax eloquent on this passage! For the most part, they’ve tended to focus on things like “tongues” or “power” or “witnessing” or some other kind of phenomenon having to do with the Pentecostal distinctives of today, but rarely have I heard a sermon that actually “agrees” with Peter’s own explanation of the events of Pentecost. The mighty rushing wind and the tongues of fire were not merely manifestations geared towards producing goosebumps on the backs of the people of Judea and beyond!* The proclamation of the “wonders of God” in other tongues (v. 11) was not meant to serve as a mere precedent for Pentecostal prayer. (There are other places in Scripture that support that!) No. The manifestations of Pentecost pointed to the exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. My pastor’s homiletical point was that “believers are to be compelling evidence that Jesus is Lord and Christ.” Jesus’ status is made explicit in Luke’s account of Peter’s sermon:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
   ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
     “Sit at my right hand
   until I make your enemies
     a footstool for your feet.” ‘
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

The manifestations of Pentecost were evidence of the inauguration of the risen and exalted Christ. In today’s Pentecostal circles (at least the circles where I’ve grown up), the issue of “evidence” is very important. For instance, the Assemblies of God “Statement of Fundamental Truths” (our “creed”) states that speaking in tongues is “the initial physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”** Of course, I know that this point causes a bit of a interpretive hiccup even among many professed “Pentecostals” (myself included). That’s not the point of this post, though. What strikes me about Acts 2 (coming away from my pastor’s sermon) is that the phenomena that attended that first Pentecost does serve as evidence – not primarily of “Spirit baptism” (at least in “Pentecostal” terms) – but rather as evidence that the once crucified Jesus was now the exalted Messiah of Israel. He was not only the promised Messiah. He was also exalted as Lord. This is a scandalous statement for a sect birthed out of monotheistic Judaism given that kurios (the Greek word translated as “Lord”) is the the word often used in Greek translations of the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew name of God – Yahweh. Jesus, the exalted Messiah – Jesus, the exalted Lord, poured out his Spirit on the church that was to stand as evidence of his status at the right hand of the Father.

Well, I’ve rambled long enough. All that is to say that I very much appreciated my pastor’s sermon this Pentecost Sunday!

* Note that Michael Barber at “Singing in the Reign” recently posted an interesting explanation of the “tongues of fire” phenomenon in Acts 2 [HERE].