Next Sunday is the fiftieth day after Easter. It is the day of Pentecost when the church received the gift of the Holy Spirit and came to new life in Christ. The lessons for the Sabbath and Sunday that celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church are as follows: Acts 2:1-21; Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 104:24-35; 1 Corinthians 12:3-13; John 20:19-23; John 7:37-39.
The story of the original experience of the post-Easter church with the Holy Spirit is told in Acts 2:1-21. You will want to re-read and review this testimony that emerges from the beginning of the history of the Christian Church. Some theologians have said that the Church is an extension of the Incarnation of God in Christ. It is a continuation of the life of Jesus in the world. Many of the attributes that could be observed in the historical Jesus can also be noticed in the Church which is the body of Christ. To participate in Christ is not to stay home and watch television, but to be a living, worshipping, learning, growing, serving, praying, loving witnessing member of the body of Christ which is His Church. There is no Christ without a Church. Likewise there is no Christian who is not a member of the Church. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church that makes the Church the Church. The word ‘Spirit’ in Old Testament Hebrew is ‘ruah’. The word ‘Spirit’ in New Testament Greek is ‘pneuma’. Both foreign words mean the same thing, namely ‘breath’, ‘air’ or ‘wind’. Can anything live without wind, breath, air, oxygen? The Holy Spirit is God breathing upon the Church the ‘oxygen’ of heaven, without which none can live. Life on earth is predicated and established upon energy, power and wind from God. The source in history and in the world of that power, energy, air and life is Jesus. John 20:19-23 is the story of the risen Christ, breathing new life upon the doubtful, defeated, disenchanted, depressed, discouraged band of disciples who had believed that Jesus was destroyed. The One who had defeated death invaded their despair to empower them for life and work in the world by means of the same power that defeated death. If death, our greatest enemy, has been defeated by the Holy Ghost, Jesus is now breathing that same power upon the body of the Church in these days of challenge, controversy and much conflict.
You will now want to turn to Numbers 11:24-30 to see the Holy Ghost operating and empowering the Elders of Israel to organize and mobilize the march of the people of God through a long period of desert denial, doubt and dislocation in the wilderness east of Jordan. It was the power of the Holy Spirit that fell upon Moses, the Elders and others that sustained the Children of Israel through their trials. There is nothing new about the Holy Spirit. It is the same spirit that was operating in Genesis 1, Numbers 11 and Psalm 104. The Holy Spirit is beyond history. It transcends the church, the nation, the race or the denomination. It gives life to every living thing. All creatures are equally dependent upon God for breath, life, meaning and hope.
Without Pentecost, the disciples of Christ would have been left alone in the world; but with Pentecost, Christ returns to the disciples and makes them the Church. John 7:38,39 testifies that the Holy Spirit makes the receptive Christian so full of Christ that the witnessing Christian becomes a “sub-source” for the distribution and communication of the Spirit of God to other human beings, Church life and public affairs. What an awesome responsibility is ours who are courageous enough to receive the Holy Spirit and pass it on to others and into the life of the world!
1 Corinthians 12 testifies that the Holy Spirit is the Creator of both diversity and unity in the Church. Notice three things in the Bible’s teaching on the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit is from God through Jesus Christ, and from Jesus Christ through us who have received the crucified, risen, glorified and ascended Savior. There is no Holy Spirit without God. There is no God without Christ. There is no Christ without us who are the Church.
- The Holy Spirit is associated with the commission of Christ to the Church that they must continue his mission in the world. The Holy Spirit is not for personal ecstasy and private enjoyment. It is for us to receive, in order to continue to go where Christ would go, and to do what Christ would do.
C. G. A.