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The Significance of Pentecost (1)

E W Rogers

There are certain chapters in the Bible which may be regarded as crisis chapters. For example, in Genesis 12 God adopts a different method in dealing with man by calling out Abram. Another such chapter is Matthew 13 when the Lord Jesus, having been rejected by His earthly people, adopts a wider and more comprehensive ministry. Likewise with John 13 when, having been rejected, as recorded in chapter 12, the Lord concentrates His attention on His own small loyal band of apostles. Another such chapter is Acts 2, which we are to consider in this article, when the Spirit of God, leaving heaven as the seat of His operations on earth, comes to earth and occupies a new residence by forming the Church "the body of Christ". There are other like chapters, and the Bible student should make himself thoroughly acquainted with them.

In these articles we will endeavour to ascertain the true significance of what happened on the day of Pentecost, a word which reminds us of the great portion in Leviticus (ch.23) which deals with the "Feasts of the Lord". Verses fifteen and sixteen of that chapter read: "And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meal offering unto the Lord". Pentecost means fifty, and Acts 2 is the fulfilment of that which is figured in Leviticus 23.15-16. Then was formed something altogether "new", ultimately made up of "two" parts, namely the Church which is the body of Christ. We shall not, in these articles, develop the subject matter of the Church, but rather focus our attention upon the day of its birth. Of four things which may be observed, the first is that the events of that day were

The fulfilment of a divine promise

John Baptist had told the people of Israel that he indeed baptised them "with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me", said he, "….shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Mt 3.11). The Lord Jesus Himself confirmed this when, after His resurrection, He said, "John truly baptised with water, but ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1.5). The contrast is clear. The baptiser was John in the first instance but would be the Lord Jesus in the second. The element was "water" in the case of John, but it was to be "the Holy Spirit" in the case of the Lord Jesus. John spoke of "water and fire" but the Lord Jesus mentioned only "water", for the baptism with fire awaits yet a future day. The Lord Jesus showed most clearly that, up to the time of His speaking, the baptism in the Holy Spirit had not then taken place, that it was imminent "not many days hence", and that then and there would be a complete fulfilment of the promise. That fulfilment took place on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out upon the assembled company (Acts 2.17). With that agree the important words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.13: "For in one spirit were we all baptised into one body…and were all made to drink of one Spirit" (RV). Paul envisages both Jews and Gentiles, and, while on the day of Pentecost only Jews were involved, in Acts 10 we have the record of the extension of this to the Gentiles (Acts 10.45; see 11.16).

We should also bear in mind four things pertaining to the baptism in the Holy Spirit for it is not, as has been alleged, a "second blessing"; it is not "an experience". It is an initial thing, and it has to do with the believer’s position, irrespective of his condition.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is historic

First, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is historic. So the aorist tense of 1 Corinthians 12.13 denotes. It took place at a certain place and time which can be pinpointed on map and calendar. The place was Jerusalem (with the extension to Caesarea in Acts 10) and the day was the day of Pentecost. Just as the birth of the Lord Jesus was historic, and just as His death and resurrection were historic, so the events of the day of Pentecost were historic. And history is not experience!

Paul uses the pronoun "we" showing that he is referring to the universal church. When he speaks of the local church of which he was not a member he uses the pronoun "ye" (see 1 Cor 3.16 and 12.27). "We [were] all baptised" - it being a common thing applicable to all genuine believers.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is unique

Second, it was unique, for there is nothing like it elsewhere recorded in Scripture. The reader has his Bible and may endeavour to check the accuracy of this statement. The writer believes he will fail to find anything like it referred to in any other part of Scripture.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is final

Third, it was final because it admitted of no repetition. Just as the incarnation, the death, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus admitted of no repetition, so Pentecost admitted of no repetition. Why?

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is corporate

Because, fourth, it was corporate, that is to say, it was the birthday of the Church. Colloquially and inaccurately we may speak of our "birthdays" in the plural, yet in point of fact we have merely one birthday, all the others being anniversaries of the one. So, too, the Church, the body of Christ was born on the day of Pentecost. It started small with 120; then there were 500; then 3,000; then the number increased and 5,000 is mentioned, and later on "Thou seest…how many thousands…there are which believe" (Acts 21.20). So it has gone on and on developing as the ages have rolled by until one day it will come unto a "perfect (full grown) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ", and then it will be translated to be presented to Christ "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph 4.13; 5.27).

When Adam sinned all the human race, being then in his loins, sinned (Rom 5.12), and when each was born naturally each came into the consequences of that one act by the head of the race. So, too, when a person is born again spiritually, he or she comes into the consequences of the one act, that of baptism in the Spirit, of the head of the new race. Just as all citizens, to whom it applied, when they were born came into the privileges and responsibilities of Magna Carta, though it was enacted centuries ago, so it is in the spiritual realm. Something done by the Lord Jesus, the baptiser, two millennia ago is made good to the believer immediately he is born again. It is not necessary that we should have the experience of it. The phrase "The Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt" is used of Israel long after the event, but was true of them, not because they had individually had the experience, but because they belonged to a stock of which that was true. The principle is seen in the case of Abraham who paid tithes to Melchizedek, and Levi being in the loins of Abraham, though not born till long afterwards, is regarded as having paid tithes also. Thus his very position put his priesthood into a place of inferiority to that of Melchizedek (Heb 7.9-10). If this principle were apprehended there would be less quest after a supposed elated spiritual condition, involving a despising of believers who have, allegedly, not attained unto such heights. It would have both a sobering as well as a stabilising effect.

To be continued.

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