Pentecost - Gifts of the Spirit

May God grant you great joy as the new life of Spring comes forward to remind us of the new life God gives to us through the Spirit!

Sometimes we lose sight of how tied we are to the Old Testament and the festivals the saints of old celebrated throughout their lives.  Easter took place during the Jewish festival of Passover.  Fifty days beyond Passover was the feast of Pentecost.  It was during this Jewish festival that Jesus, having ascended ten days prior, poured forth the Holy Spirit, Who was then manifested through the speaking of many languages and the conversion of thousands to Jesus as Savior.  

We see in our text today that Paul has great plans for his ministry which includes the celebration of Pentecost within the Christian Church.
I will come to you after I pass through Macedonia—for I will be traveling through Macedonia— 6 and perhaps I will remain with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I go. 7 I don’t want to see you now just in passing, since I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me—yet many oppose me. 1 Corinthians 16:5-9

Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christians with the anticipation of joining them in the near future. His hope is to spend real time with them. He doesn't want to see them just in passing. The time he spent in Corinth enabled him to establish long term relationships and friendships with the members of the church there. He values the relationships he has. He is yearning to spend time with them. At the same time, he understands he has a calling on his life and a job to do. God's purpose for his life has moved him from city to city for decades now. Paul of all people understands the transitory life of a servant of God.

The life of the servants of God is not so different today.  Over my thirty plus years of service I have served in ten different congregations.  The time spent in each one enabled me to establish deep meaningful relationships with both members of the congregations and individuals in each community where I have served.  While time and distance have made it difficult to maintain those relationships, the heart felt love for those known in the past still remains.

Paul says he is going to remain in Ephesus until Pentecost and the reason for this is the “open door” of ministry which is available to him.  What exactly does this mean?  It means that his labors are bearing fruit.  It takes time to become established in a new community, especially in that 1st century world.  The message of Jesus and the Gospel of forgiveness and life was a radical new teaching compared to the religious philosophies of the ancient world.  However, Paul is quick to note that with great opportunity comes great resistance.  The last think Satan wants is for the Gospel to succeed in one of his stronghold areas.  We see this throughout Paul’s ministry.  As the Gospel takes hold and the Church is born in a new place, there are those who vehemently resist the message of Jesus.  This is no different than what many pastors and faithful Christians face in our world today.  There have been times when doing the right thing means standing against those who were bent on evil.  Christians are easy targets because we do not fight back with the same belligerence as the unbelievers.  

What we see in this short portion of 1 Corinthians is the dynamic of times of great joy and times of great hardship in the life of a servant of Christ.  What is important to understand is that the joy Paul has experienced, and the joy of future opportunities makes all the struggles worth it.  

Paul is going to face the challenges in Ephesus and remain there until Pentecost and celebrate with the Christians there this great festival.  Their celebration would not be so very different than ours today.  The Christian holidays are not something new. They are given to us by the Early Church, beginning with the Apostles.  From the Jewish celebration of Passover comes the remembrance of Good Friday and the celebration of Easter.  Along with this is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper which is what the Apostles took from the Passover meal and delivered to the Church.  Immediately on the heels of Good Friday comes the celebration of Easter!  The Resurrection of Jesus and His victory over sin and death is the heartbeat of the Christian faith.  We acknowledge the Jewish Festival of Pentecost but not as the Jews do today.  From that Jewish holiday we are given the coming of the Holy Spirit as a gift to God’s people.  These Christian holidays are tied directly to the Jewish festivals of old.  Christmas is different.  We have no direct correlation to a Jewish holiday or any tie to the calendar.  The Early Church simply set a date to remember and celebrate when God chose to become a man to be our Savior.  We remember these great acts of God because all of them were accomplished for our salvation.

It is ironic that the world around us recognizes the great Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter but seeks to do so without Jesus.  These worldly celebrations should be viewed as the “open door” God is giving to us.  We who know the truth of Jesus are the only ones who can give real meaning to the unbelieving world of the true joy which is possible through faith in Jesus.  

What we need to remember is that Christmas and Easter can mean nothing to the world, and they would mean nothing to us without Pentecost!  The coming of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for our salvation and the salvation of the world.  The only reason you believe in Jesus is because the Spirit has worked the miracle of faith in your heart.  And it is only through the work of the Spirit that Jesus can be made known to the world today.

We are blessed to stand on this side of history and understand the full purpose of all God did throughout the Old Testament.  Everything had a meaning and a purpose.  They all find their fulfillment in Jesus and the love of God revealed in Him.

Pentecost is a few weeks away, on May 19th.  Mark it well and give thanks to God for His great Gift.

Pastor Russ

No Comments




no categories