The proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ: the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit on earth in Christ’s Body, the Church.

The Day of Pentecost

Test the Spirits- I John 4

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (ESV Bible)

According to the Biblical narrative, Pentecost literally represents the “crowning act” of the Incarnation on planet earth. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the new temple on earth is the only proof that we need that Jesus is who he said he was and did what God testified in Scripture that he did. We do well to forget about all other hopes for ever proving the Gospel story to the world’s satisfaction.

Rather as another celebration of the Day of Pentecost arrives, we should concentrate on what Jesus and his first disciples tell us about the inseparable connection of the Spirit’s coming to the story. The better we know the story-line in Scripture, the better we will understand the connection and the role of the Spirit in certifying Jesus as the exalted and enthroned Christ. Read for example God’s decree in Psalm 2:

“I have set my King on my Holy hill of Zion!

Read the Apostle Peter’s application of Psalm 2 to explain the coming of the Spirit in the very first sermon following the Ascension of Christ. (Acts 2: 32-36)

There are simply too many scriptures to list in one post that all come together in the story at this momentous historical event. Read the Apostle John’s record of the words of Jesus speaking of this event and what it would mean for his disciples in his ‘Upper Room Discourse’ on the night in which he was betrayed. (Gospel of John, 16:1 – 16).

Beginning with those first disciples, the incredible courage that enabled them to confront the very leaders that rejected Jesus and had him crucified was visible proof for all to see that the Spirit was in them and His power was their strength. This is seen throughout the Book of Acts, the epistles of Paul, and the Jewish epistles.

The ball, as they say, is in our court now. The burden of examining carefully the proof is on you and me. We are charged with “testing the spirits” in the visible community of the followers of Christ. This has always been necessary beginning with the first generation of Christians for the spirit of the world, which is the spirit of Anti-Christ, is present along side of the Holy Spirit.

So, how do we test the spirits? By observing the life of the churches! Beginning with the work the Spirit has come to do, reproduce the righteousness of Christ in His people; examine the very thing Christ himself gave us as the first thing to look for: His love for oneanother. (Read I John 3- 4) 

Little children, let no man deceive you.

May 11, 2008 – THE FEAST OF PENTECOST

I read this week that the first generation Church probably continued to celebrate the two feasts with Judaism, Passover and Pentecost. As I have previously blogged, I came to the same conclusion on studying the Apostle Paul. I have to be honest and admit that in 2008, for some reason, I was not aware of this incredible celebration at The Washington National Cathedral. But it is a perfect example of what I believe that the Christian churches should strive to do with other Christians, celebrate their faith, especially on these two occasions.

Of course when the Christian celebrates Passover, the Resurrection must be included as the event which demonstrates God’s approval of the Atonement accomplished by the offering of Christ and the inauguration of the Messianic age. I have been celebrating for weeks now as I have been reading many different posts and tweets from the universal Church. Just this week I got into a discussion on a Newsvine post doing a survey on the resurrection. I think at last viewing 35% believed in a literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus in history-that it really happened; and 65% did not believe for various reasons. The comments that followed got a little heated and it was obvious that the Newsvive community at times can be hostile toward Christianity. I’m used to being in the minority opinion, so even there I was able to celebrate what this means in the life of all Christians and the feast days connected with the Old Order.

In this necessary work of emphasizing unity, there are many discouragements. Perhaps the greatest is from well meaning fellow Christians who say something like, “its a great idea/goal, but definitely not possible”. But the greatest personal satisfaction comes from finding new friends from all the diverse faith traditions which post their celebrations on-line during this season. My rejoicing and delight has been like the light show I missed. Thank you fellow bloggers for renewing my faith and my committment to promoting peace and unity.

See my related post, The Abolition of Death

voyageofPaul” Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.”   – ACTS 20:16

Following a three month stay in Greece encouraging the disciples, Luke tells us that Paul set sail for Jerusalem: ” We sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.” (20:6) So Luke begins the narrative of Paul, as on a predetermined schedule that he had carefully thought out, leaving Greece at Passover and heading for Jerusalem and the Day of Pentecost.

Why was he so determined to be in Jerusalem at Pentecost? Why was he deliberately heading in to the very heart of the camp from which his most violent opposition was coming from? We can never know for sure, but considering what is given us in Luke’s narrative together with what the Apostle tells us in his letters, we can make an educated but tentative suggestion.

One thing is fairly obvious to the honest reader of the New Testament documents and that is this: all the writers were in agreement that what had come to pass in the Christ Advent- his forerunner’s unusual birth and revival ministry (John the Baptist), his own miraculous virgin birth, his teaching, his miracles, his sinlessness, the manner of his crucifixion and resurrection, everything together convinced the writers that all that was promised and anticipated by the Old Covenant Scriptures found their fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth.

In our last post we saw how Paul’s concept of the Law had been radically altered by the revelation he received from Christ himself. He explains in detail in the Roman letter, that the Law could never make God’s People holy, and that is the crux of the matter. So instead of bringing the untold blessings of the promised Kingdom, the inheritance promised Father Abraham, it could only reveal the “coming short of the glory of God” of the human race;  in place of blessing it brought condemnation and curse. At the close of the seventh chapter he cries out:

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

The Law fulfills the purpose intended when it produces the same cry from the heart of those seeking to please God and leads them to look outside of themselves for a worthy redeemer. Paul had in essence already answered his own cry as he started this section of his letter (Chapters 5-8). I urge you to take time to read 5:5-10  before finishing this post. I’ll put the link on the verses so all you will have to do is click and read. Verse 5, however, is the one I want to zero in on: “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the HOLY SPIRIT who was given to us.”

This I think, is why Paul was so determined to go to Jerusalem for the very Feast which the Jewish nation on one hand was celebrating with the giving of TORAH utmost on their minds, while the heart of the Gospel Paul risked his life to preach was that on the very day of the ancient celebration, after Christ had been exalted in heaven, he together with the Father now gave something even more precious than the Law; the very thing the Law could not do for the worshipper of the Holy God. Pentecost is the very time for Paul to declare once again that God has given the Life giving Spirit of Christ.

There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ (i.e.from chapter six-those who have been baptized into Christ death and resurrection), who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”.

What Christ the redeemer, accomplished for God’s people and finished once and for all (see the message of the book of Hebrews), was poured out at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit Himself was given to the disciples.

Undoubtedly Paul was hoping that the collection he had taken up from the Gentile churches for the Saints in Jerusalem would provide an opportunity to declare the faithfulness of God in keeping His word to the Fathers, and the promises made through the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others. As he sailed on toward Jerusalem I can almost sense that against all the warnings his friends uttered trying to persuade him not to go to what seemed like sudden death, he said : “None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”.

This then is how Saint Paul celebrated The Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. How will you spend this date on the church calendar?

The Festival of Weeks also known as Pentecost

For the Christian of the Twenty-first century, trying to get a handle on the major feast days of ancient Israel can be a difficult undertaking. But the Biblical Christian also recognizes just how important and necessary these festivals are to understanding the flow of the narrative. I’ve decided that in keeping with the “Year of Saint Paul” (which will come to an end June 30th), perhaps it would be helpful to see Shavuot through the eyes of the Apostle. First as a Pharisee before he became a follower of the Christ, and later, perhaps as long as twenty-four years,as he approached Jerusalem to observe Pentecost with the Jewish Church.

The Law-giving

Originally Shavuot was an agricultural festival. The barley harvest that had ripened around Passover would have ended, but the wheat harvest would have just begun. When the Temple still stood, Jews celebrated the harvest by offering its first sheaves back to God. But  celebrating the harvest was only one layer of meaning for Shavuot. Over the years, it was endowed with another: the anniversary of the giving of Torah.

The Book of Exodus is read on Shavuot, including the chapter containing the Ten Commandments. The general theme of the day is our traditional love of learning…More commonly, Shavuot has become a time for Confirmation. (“What is a Jew”, p.227, by Rabbi Morris N.Kertzer, 1996 revised edition by Rabbi Lawrence A.Hoffman) 

This book has been a great help to me in understanding through the eyes of twentieth century Rabbis the beliefs, traditions,and practices of Judaism including the ancient Biblical roots. I have posted earlier that Saint Paul was a highly trained Jew himself, and specialized on the Torah and its interpretation. Since his earliest childhood, he knew that there were three times (festivals) all Jewish males were expected to be present in Jerusalem: Unleavened Bread and Passover, Shavuot, and the Feast of Tabernacles. At Shavuot, the focus for him was undoubtedly on the anniversary of the giving through Moses of the Law to Israel which constituted the covenant agreement between their God, the God who had recently redeemed them from Egypt (Passover). It was also all about the promises of God that begining with Father Abraham,He commited to give them a “promised land” if they would keep covenant with Him by obeying the Law, by “walking in the steps of the faith which Abraham had when he was yet ‘uncircumcised’.”

John Bright in his book, The History of Israel writes, ” They (the Festivals) ceased to be mere nature festivals and became occasions upon which the mighty acts of Yahweh toward Israel were celebrated. ”  Saul’s conversion is sometimes dated as early as 34 a.d. which means he most certainly would have been at these great Feast days in the last year of Jesus life at Jerusalem and the first Pentecost just ten days after the Ascension. But as a non-Christian Jew he would be celebrating Shavuot as his foreFathers had done for centuries unaware that a dramatic and non-reversable change in the history of God’s redemptive acts with Israel was even then taking place. He was still a part of the “old” creation and the “old” covenant of which he would have a great deal to preach and teach about following his dramatic conversion.

Now, following over twenty years of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles in obedience to the specific commission the risen and exalted Christ chose him for, he was on the voyage back to Jerusalem with the offering from the Gentile churches for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Undoubtedly he had plenty of time to relive those earlier years when he was convinced that this “sect” inside Judaism was a dangerous heresy and he had personally taken a major role in persecuting and trying to stomp it out. He was proving how zealous he was for the Law of God as he understood it and its importance at the heart of being faithful to the covenant that made Israel a distinct people in the midst of all the nations of the earth.

Yes, this was no ordinary Pentecost celebration he was headed for. But that will have to be in the next post. One other additional piece of the puzzel of God’s narrative. It is almost certain that when Luke wrote his second volume of early Christian history, the Book of Acts,he had these festivals utmost in his mind. I would even venture that one of the major factors in the organization of the Acts, is Pentecost. He begins with the events leading up to “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come“-his words, not mine; and then spends almost the final one-third of Acts around this last voyage to Jerusalem, the attempt there in the Temple on Paul’s life, his life-saving arrest by the Roman Centurion, his awaiting justice for more than two years, and finally his trip to Rome in chains to face Ceasar.

In the next post I will begin to connect some dots to the Saul of the Old Covenant and to the Christ event which all the shadows look to for their fulfillment, the fulfillment of God’s promises to His People and the establishing of the New Covenant. I hope you are seeing what I am seeing: we definitely cannot afford to neglect the Day of Pentecost!

The Coming of The Missionary Spirit- Roland Allen

 (abridged from Pentecost and the World)

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the coming of a missionary Spirit. The Spirit stirred in the hearts of the disciples of Christ a great desire to impart that which they had received. He revealed to them the need which Christ the Redeemer alone could supply. He enabled them to pass on to others that Gospel which they had so generously received. He directed them to reach out farther and farther into the Gentile world, breaking down barriers of prejudice which might have hindered their witness, or prevented them from receiving into communion those most remote from them in habits of thought and life.

pentecost

In the book of Acts, the gospel was spread not only by those set apart for this work, but also by the general body of disciples. After the death of Stephen “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word”, and the Apostles are expressly excluded from the number of those who were so scattered. In Galatia, after Paul’s second visit, it is said that the churches were established in the faith, and increased in number daily. From Thessalonica “the Word of the Lord sounded forth, and not only in Macedonia and Achaia”, but far beyond. The whole history of the Church in the early centuries witnesses to the fact that the disciples were missionaries to the nations among whom they lived.

This Spirit, the missionary Spirit, was given to every believer. Whosoever received the Spirit of Christ in some degree, if only by approval and support of the efforts of others, expressed that desire for the conversion of the world which the Spirit inspired. What was wholly unknown, what was unthinkable in the early Church, was that Christians should oppose, or deride, or even fail to support, men who were laboring to spread the knowledge of Christ in the regions beyond. Those that knew the Biblical narrative knew that God had the “ends of the earth” as His ultimate passion.

Not even the Judaizing party in Jerusalem did that. The Judaizers protested strongly against the form in which the Gospel was proclaimed to the Greeks; they sent out their own emissaries to attack, to undermine, and to destroy the influence and teaching of Saint Paul. But their opposition was directed, not against the conversion of the Gentiles, not against missionary work itself, but only against a particular form of evangelism which they deemed to be dangerous. It was universally agreed that the Gospel must be preached to all the nations. (see Luke’s statement from the resurrected Christ himself that is used to bring to a close his first volume- Luke 24:45-49)

All who received the Spirit of the exalted Christ were more or less conscious then of the missionary passion and impulse of the Spirit. They all truly obeyed the command of their Lord to go into all the world, for they possessed a Spirit which impelled them to desire the world-wide manifestation of their Lord. Now it is the world-embracing Spirit himself which obeys the command rather than the wandering body. Christ came into all the world, though in the flesh He never went outside Palestine. It is obviously necessary to avoid the mistake of thinking that the reception and expression of the missionary Spirit of necessity involves going on missionary journeys, or that missionary journeys are truer and fuller expressions of the missionary Spirit than any other. The Spirit of redeeming love is manifestly expressed as truly in striving for the salvation of those around us where we live as in preaching to multitudes across the seas. It is the reception and the expression of redeeming love which is the all important issue, rather than the manner or the form of the work in which that Spirit is expressed.

The desire produced by the Spirit for the salvation of the world may be expressed in any form of Christian activity; but that Spirit is not revealed to others with equal clearness by every form of activity. In the book of Acts, Saint Luke makes the revelation of the Spirit clear to us by setting before us the acts of those whose lives were devoted to what we, today, call “missionary” work. If he had dwelt upon the labors of those who were not engaged in this special missionary work the revelation would have been less clear. The work of those who organized the churches may well have been as true expression of the Spirit of redeeming love as the work of those of whom we are told the most. But if Luke had written at length of church organization we should have probably missed the revelation of the Spirit of Christ as the Spirit which labors for the salvation of the world.

By insisting upon the missionary aspect in the book of Acts, we learn to know the Spirit as the Spirit who inspires active zeal for the salvation of others which enables us to easily perceive the same Spirit in other forms of activity as well. We understand that the organization of the churches and the addressing of social conditions are equally forms in which the Spirit in us finds expression. Every form of work can be undertaken by that same Spirit, each individual finding his unique activity to best manifest that same desire for the salvation of humanity which the Holy Spirit inspires.

In this sense, if we believe in the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the Acts, we must be missionaries. We cannot accept the teaching, we cannot believe that the one thing of eternal importance to our souls is to receive and to know this Spirit, without feeling ourselves impelled to the missionary task of Christ. We cannot believe that the Holy Spirit reveals our own need and the need of all humankind without beginning to feel that need of others for Christ laid upon us as a serious call to participation. We simply cannot believe that this Spirit is given to us precisely that those who so need Christ may be brought by us to find the one way of salvation for their souls and bodies in this world and in the world to come, without feeling impelled to present ourselves as His human instruments. We must embrace the world because Christ embraces the world, and Christ has come to us, and Christ in us desires to embrace the world.

Activity world-wide in its vision and intention and hope and goal is inevitable for us unless we are ready to deny the Holy Spirit of Christ revealed so clearly in the Acts.

Roland Allen was an Anglican missionary in China working with the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel. Later he labored some 40 years writing missionary principles, retiring to Africa, where he died in Kenya in 1947. First edition of Pentecost and The World was in 1912. 
-another selection from Pentecost and the World: The Sole Test of Communion
-for further reflection, The Embodying of The Spirit , A.J.Gordon
Spirit of Life in The Life of Christ – John Owen
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