Pentecost Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Pentecost

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Pentecost is the Christian celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles just after Jesus's ascension. Ten days after the ascension of Christ and fifty days after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost was an established Jewish festival also known as the Feast of Weeks, which drew people from many nations back to Jerusalem (Lev. 23:15-21; Deut. 16:16). Pentecost symbolizes a new beginning. It celebrates the unleashing of the Holy Spirit on the world and the empowering of the church to reach the world with the gospel.

In Scripture

The Spirit at creation “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2).

God’s spirit rest on Israel’s leaders in Numbers 11:24-30 “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again” (Num. 11:26).

God’s spirit renews the face of the earth in Psalm 104 “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground” (Ps. 104:30).

The spirit on God’s chosen one in Isaiah 61:1-4 “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners” (Isa. 61:1).

God’s breath enlivens the dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14 “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezek. 37:5-6).

The promise of God’s Spirit in Joel 2 “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28-29).

Jesus promises the Spirit in Luke 11:9-13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

Born of the Spirit in John 3 “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit’” (John 3:5).

Jesus teaches about the Spirit in John 7:37-39 “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).

Jesus promises an advocate in John 14:8-27 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

The Spirit testifies of Jesus in the world in John 15:18-16:4 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf” (John 15:26).

The Spirit’s work in the world in John 16:4-15 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14).

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance in John 20:19-23 “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20: 21-22).

The Holy Spirit empowers the believers in Acts 4:23-31 “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

God’s love through the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:1-5 “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Rom. 5:5).

Life in the Spirit in Romans 8 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through[k] his Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

The power of the Spirit in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

The Spirit of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 2 “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13).

The Holy Spirit within us in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).

Gifts of the spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1 Cor. 12: 11).

Children of God in Galatians 4:1-7 “And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6).

Marked with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13-14 “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).

"Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls" (Joel 2:28 - 32).

Baptism of the Holy Spirit proclaimed by John the Baptist: "`I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire'" (Matt. 3:11).

The Spirit fills, Peter preaches, the crowd repents: "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. . . . [Peter preached to a diverse festival crowd,] `You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know — this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. . . . 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 both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "The Lord said to my Lord, `Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'" Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.' Now when [the crowd] heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, `Brothers, what should we do?' Peter said to them, `Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him'" (Acts 2:1 - 4, 22 - 24, 33 - 39).

Points to Ponder

Fulfillment of a promise In celebrating Pentecost, the church expresses its gratitude for the faithfulness of Christ in fulfilling his promise to send "another counselor" (John 14:16); celebrates the work of the Spirit in renewing all of creation; professes its confidence and security in knowing the Spirit's power is available for its mission; and grows in awareness of the immensity of its calling to reach the world with the gospel.

Color for Pentecost The traditional color for Pentecost is red, after the flames described in Acts 2:3.

Seventh Sunday after Easter: Pentecost is celebrated by Christians on the seventh Sunday after Easter.

Acts of the Apostles/Acts of God: Acts is titled "Acts of the Apostles," but the title fits only loosely, because what we have here is twenty-eight chapters of the acts of God — the mighty acts of God done through human deputies. Paul's missionary journeys are God's mission to the world. When Peter heals a crippled beggar, it's a divine healing. When the apostles go on trial, it's God in the dock.

The mightiest act of God: The acts of the apostles are the acts of God, and that's true of the mightiest act of all. We read Acts 2, and what gets our attention is the wind and the fire and the speaking in tongues. These elemental forces have always attracted us human beings. But fire and wind and tongues aren't the main event at Pentecost. These things are only attention-getters. They signal that the Holy Spirit is stirring again. They tell us God is about to do something big — something like creation, or the exodus, or resurrection of the dead.

And what is this big thing that God does? What happens on Pentecost is that Peter preaches Jesus Christ to fellow Jews, and they are cut to the heart. Peter lets them have it about their complicity in the death of Jesus, and the miracle is that they don't kill the messenger. The miracle is that they are thunderstruck by their own guilt. "What must we do?" they ask — what must we do to be saved?

The Pentecost miracle is the regeneration of the human heart. Peter says the straight old things: Repent. Get baptized. Receive the forgiveness of sins. Receive the Holy Spirit of God. Peter preached Christ to Jews who were wearing the heavy armor of a corrupt generation, and the Spirit of God cut through the armor and got them in the heart and saved them. The Pentecost miracle, the Holy Ghost miracle, the God-almighty miracle of Acts 2 is the regeneration of the human heart, so that people confess their sins, receive God's grace, and join the church of Jesus Christ that is on its way across the ages.

For all who are far away: In a verse of unimaginable beauty, Peter says, "The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." The promise is for people who are far away, and Luke means this in a double sense. It's not just Jews from Rome, far away to the northwest. When we hear of people far away, Luke wants us also to think of those who are far away from God! He wants us to think of our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, our precious loved ones. He wants us to think of ourselves when we are far away.

Luke uses the word makran for "far away", and he's used words from that family before. (Thomas G. Long) Who is far away in the gospel of Luke? In Luke 15 it's the prodigal son. He's on the way home, and while he was still makran, his father saw him and had compassion on him — while he was still far away. In Luke 18 it's the tax collector. That tax collector did a dirty job for the Romans, and he knew it. Jesus tells us that in the temple the tax collector stood far away and would not even look up to heaven. The prodigal and the tax collector are far away.

Who else? Peter himself had lost his nerve when Jesus was arrested. In chapter 22 Luke tells us that Peter followed Jesus at a distance. Peter followed his Lord from far away.

Prodigals, tax collectors, and even apostles: When God goes out to save, for whom is the promise? Of all people, Peter knows. And so on Pentecost Peter stands up to say, "The promise is for you, for your children, for all who are far away." Peter says the promise is even for people like himself.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.