Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit does.
In baseball there's sometimes two umpires on duty. One behind the plate to call balls and strikes and one out in the field to call runners out or safe on the bases.
Recently I got a chance to be a field umpire for a Little League game. Now, I've been playing baseball since I was little kid. But I had no idea where I was suppose to stand as a field umpire. I didn't know which calls I was supposed to make and which ones the head umpire behind the plate was supposed to make.
You see, when you play or watch baseball, you don't really pay attention to where the umpires are unless they get in the way. Your focus just isn't on the umps, even though they're important to the game.
Most umpires are more than okay with not being the focus of attention. They're happy to just float along in the background making sure the game runs smoothly. That's their job, and they like it.
The Holy Spirit is like a field umpire. He doesn't need to have the spotlight. He's glad to float along in the background bringing sinful people to faith and forgiveness through the message of Christ's death and resurrection. He's more than happy to quietly educate strong and weak Christians alike using the Bible.
This is what the Holy Spirit does. He teaches. He communicates. Through the Bible He communicates both God's unbending law and His all-forgiving grace.
Today we're going to talk about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does. We're also going to remember what the Holy Spirit did on the first Pentecost. Lastly, we'll talk about what we can expect from the Holy Spirit today.
But first, let's pray.
Holy Spirit, we know that you are here among us. We are gathered to praise and worship you beside the Father and the Son. Please strengthen our faith through your word. Help us form a correct picture of who you are in our minds. Erase misconceptions we might have about you and give us boldness to be your tools in this world. Speak through our actions, Holy Spirit, and more importantly - speak through your Word on our lips. Amen.
So, what exactly do we know about the Holy Spirit? Well, the Bible says God is ONE God, but THREE persons. The Holy Spirit is one of these three persons. Jesus told His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
If we turn back to the second verse of the Bible, found in Genesis, it tells us that the Holy Spirit was there at the beginning, hovering over the yet-to-be-ordered waters of creation. If we skip forward to the book of Luke, we find out that the Holy Spirit hovered over the virgin Mary also, "overshadowing" her when Jesus was miraculously conceived in her womb. Finally, the book of Acts tells us that the Holy Spirit was "poured out" on early Christians on the day of Pentecost. He caused miracles to be seen and enabled the disciples to speak in languages they had never learned.
Now, I said earlier that the Holy Spirit is content to work behind the scenes. But in one sense the Holy Spirit is prominent everywhere God is at work. He's in charge of heaven's public relations. He was in charge of getting God's word into print, and He's in also in charge of bringing people to faith through that word.
In Second Peter it says...
"...no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21 ESV).In First Corinthians it says...
"13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:13 NKJV).In First Corinthians it also says...
"...no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3 ESV).So, the Bible teaches us that Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible. And not only that, the Holy Spirit is the only teacher who can explain the Bible's meaning correctly and the Holy Spirit is the only person who brings people to trust in the Savior revealed in the Bible.
Essentially, the job of the Holy Spirit is COMMUNICATION. By communicating the message of man's sin and God's grace, the Holy Spirit does two things. He saves people, and then He changes people - in that order.
First, the Holy Spirit convinces us that we HAVE sinned against God and deserve the punishment of eternal hell because of our sins. But then the Holy Spirit pours God's GRACE onto us. He reveals that God's Son suffered and died in our place, for our sins. Through Jesus our sins now stand forgiven.
Once the Holy Spirit convinces a person that the Good News is true, that person is safe from hell. Then the Holy Spirit moves on to change that person inwardly. The change that the Holy Spirit brings about is not instantaneous. It comes about day by day through the Word of God being impressed on our hearts. The Holy Spirit cleans out our old bad habits and flawed ways of thinking, and replaces them with God's good habits and pure ways of thinking.
It's important to remember that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make this change happen in people. He doesn't just recreate our hearts and minds like a mechanic replacing an engine. There's a lot of spiritualism floating around in religious circles today. Spiritualism that likes the idea of God working inside a person. But this modern spiritualism forgets that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to change people.
Even when the Holy Spirit has worked in outward and miraculous ways, His point is always to enhance the communication of the Good News of forgiveness through Christ.
Look back at our Gospel History reading for today: John 14, verse 25. There Jesus told His disciples...
"25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 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. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:25-27 NKJV).If you read through all the post-resurrection words of Jesus you'll find He's always emphasizing that His disciples are going to be witnesses to the world of His death and resurrection. That's the emphasis. Jesus doesn't hardly even mention the miracles they'll be doing because the miracles aren't the main point. The important thing was communicating the soul saving message of forgiveness through Christ's cross. If the people didn't believe it, they wouldn't get the benefits of it.
Now, the first really big growth spurt in Christian church happened on Pentecost. It happened because the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to communicate the Gospel to crowds of people. Our sermon reading for today tells us the story.
It's a big reading, so we'll need to work to stay focused. Watch closely in your mind's eye. There are miracles, but the miracles serve to frame the real power at work - the Holy Spirit communicating the Gospel to sinners.
Acts 2:1-39 (ESV)
2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Think about the miracles that happened on Pentecost. There was the sound of wind with no wind. There were flames of fire on the disciples that didn't burn them. They were enabled to speak the Good News in languages that they had never learned.
From the response of the crowds, apparently the only miracle that the public saw was the miraculous speaking of foreign languages. This miracle wasn't done just for the sake of doing a miracle. The Holy Spirit made this miracle happen in order to open up a door so that the disciples could COMMUNICATE THE GOSPEL to lots of people on that day!
And it worked. Three-thousand people came to faith on that day and were baptized.
Of course we understand why so many were converted on that day. These weren't Godless heathen people. These were converts to Judaism who had come to Jerusalem from across the world to worship at the temple of Jehovah. They knew the Old Testament and it's prophesies of a Savior. This tree was ripe for the picking! Just add Gospel and BAM! There was now a mega-church in Jerusalem.
But let's not forget that it was the Holy Spirit who did it. He had prepared these visitors through the Old Testament. He had taught the eleven disciples through Jesus' ministry. He, the Holy Spirit, had given them the miraculous gift to speak in unstudied foreign languages.
Just as the Holy Spirit had overshadowed Mary and caused Jesus to be conceived and born into the world, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit overshadowed the people of Jerusalem and caused the Christian church to be born - through the Word of God proclaimed clearly.
So, this brings us to our last question. What can we expect from the Holy Spirit today?
Well, we can expect the Holy Spirit to continue creating faith and strengthening Christians through the Bible. Especially through the message about Christ's death and glorious resurrection.
We can expect the Holy Spirit to be at work among us when we gather to worship the Triune God.
We can expect the Holy Spirit to open doors for us to share the Gospel with others.
But here's the thing, we need to remain in contact with the Word if we're going to be in contact with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn't usually text, or Facebook or speak audibly from the sky. The Holy Spirit usually speaks through the Word of God.
So, if we want the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, we need to be in the Word of God as a habit. Like breathing or sleeping. We need to be in contact with the Word through which the Holy Spirit works.
We need to gather together with our fellow Christians to worship. To confess our sins. To receive the comfort of the Gospel. To study the Bible.
We need to look for the doors the Holy Spirit wants us to step through in service to Christ and the Gospel. And when we find those doors we need to step through them confidently, knowing that the SAME Spirit who empowered the early Christians to gather in that huge Pentecost harvest of rescued souls, is the same Spirit who powers our ministry today.
This past week I read through the first five chapters of the book of Acts. One thing that is really noticeable is how the apostles keep coming back to the Gospel message.
There's a little sermon in Acts chapter 2, 3, 4, and 5. in each of these little sermons the apostle brings his message back to the simple fact that Jesus died and rose from the dead and through repentance and faith in Him the sinner has forgiveness. Go ahead and read those first five chapters. You'll see that the focus in on the Gospel message. (See Acts 2:22-24, 3:13-15, 4:7-12, 5:29-32)
Acts 5, verse 47 summarizes the ministry of the apostles in this way...
" 2 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus" (Acts 5:47 ESV)
May the Holy Spirit move among us here at Redemption Church also, so that we may like these early Christians. Full of the Holy Spirit. Knowledgeable and continually learning from His Word. And always coming back to the simple message that the Savior is Jesus in our worship, and in our conversations with our neighbors. To the glory of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.