The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit’s Coming At Pentecost
Dr. David Clifford is currently engaged in international Bible lecturing and teaching, and presently makes his home in Florida.
After a lengthy lapse, this study on Acts 2 resumes our brother’s extended series on the Holy Spirit.
No work or even study of the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit would be complete without a consideration of the events so vividly described in Acts 2, concerning His coming at Pentecost. This chapter has several values. It has an historical value, for it denotes the commencement of the age of grace, or the Church Age. It has a tremendous inspirational value: the import grips the soul and there is no doubt concerning its doctrinal value.
The Gospels end with Christ returning to the right hand of the Father to represent His own before God, and here we see the Spirit descending from the Father to represent the Son to His own before men in the world.
This coming will be seen to conclude the coming of the Triune God to the earth, all for the blessing of men. At first God the Father came for man’s creation, and then God the Son appeared for man’s redemption, and now the Holy Spirit of God comes, the Third Person of the Godhead, for man’s regeneration.
Magnificient Promises Fulfilled
This coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was the fulfillment of the promises made, first in the Old Testament by Ezekiel and Jeremiah but by Joel especially, then by the Father Himself as explained by the Son, and then the actual promise of our Lord. He is thus named “the Holy Spirit of Promise.” They are certainly “precious and magnificent promises” (2 Peter 1:4) when they include that of the coming of the gracious Spirit into the world, to the Church and to the believer.
When Peter in his Pentecostal sermon quoted Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16-32), he equated the coming of the Spirit with the commencement of the age of the Spirit which would eventually usher in the Messianic age. Pentecost was the partial fulfillment of the whole prophecy. “This is that,” he said, that as far as it goes it must be seen to be the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophet’s vision.
The Lord Jesus explained that the Father had promised Him that He would send the Spirit to the earth in a new way and thus the presence of His Son in this scene. “Wait for the promise of the Father,” He said, “which you have heard of me (Acts 1:4, KJV); “I am sending forth the Promise of my Father upon you” (Luke 24:49), and again “… the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name” (John 14:26).
But this coming was also and quite definitely the promise of the Son. As if to console His disciples at the time He spoke of His departure to the Father, He said: “If I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). “I will send to you … the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of me” (John 15:26).
The Time of His Coming
God’s timings are always perfect. How appropriate it was that the gift of the Spirit should initially be made at the commencement of the Church, when the majority of the believers were gathered together in the upper room at the start of a world-wide missionary effort that would need the almightiness of the Omnipotent and Omnipresent Spirit, and at the time when over 600,000 people from around the world were in the City of Jerusalem.
The Hebrew word for Pentecost literally means “fifty days” and refers to the number of days from the offering of the barley sheaf at the commencement of the Passover. So, on the fiftieth day was the feast of Pentecost. It was also called “the feast of weeks,” “the day of harvest” and “the day of the first fruits” (see Exodus 23:16). It was not only a holy day unto the Lord but it was a day of joy for His people, when the devout Israelite would show his gratitude for a good grain harvest. The English traditional church “Harvest Festival” or the American “Thanksgiving Day” are only faint comparisons to the day of Pentecost, but they suggest the idea. Here then, and at this time, arrived the first fruits (or “earnest” KJV) of eternal blessings for the Christian by the coming of the Spirit to indwell their hearts.
There is some significance in the way the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. There was no need for any announcement, or to broadcast the fact that the day of Pentecost had fully come, that the prophecy of Joel had been fulfilled. It was soon noised abroad that He, the Spirit, was in the house.
The Mode of His Coming
He came as a mighty rushing wind. This is the symbol which speaks of His Sovereignty, and His authority as God was soon to be manifest throughout the ministry of the apostles. The rushing wind was said to be mighty. Not now did God send another Person of the Godhead in weakness and poverty, but this time in power and authority, for He, through the disciples of Jesus, was soon to turn the world upside down. And note that the Spirit came suddenly and it was a rushing wind which was used to describe the way He came. They were apparently given notice at that moment that the Holy Spirit would move fast and sweep all before Him, and this came to pass before long when we see how quickly He acted when the revival He brought was being threatened by the falsehoods perpetuated by Ananias and his wife (Acts 5:1-6). Those to whom He came were people demonstrating their faithfulness to Christ and who were in the right attitude to receive Him. They were in one accord; their unity was unquestioned. They were in one place; their fellowship was unbroken. They were in one spiritual attitude, that of waiting for the Promise to be fulfilled; their obedience was unwavering, and they were one group for their number consisted of men and women, of relations and young people; their harmony was undeniable.
The Holy Spirit at His coming became audible. They heard Him arrive on the scene. The violent rushing wind, used as a metaphor here, reveals that they must have heard, not only the sound of Heaven but the sound within the upper room as He arrived in power.
The Holy Spirit at Pentecost became visible. They saw Him (the invisible Spirit of God) as He became visible through taking the form of tongues of flame resting upon them. He once took the form of a dove to make manifest the fact that He, the promised Messiah, was about to commence His ministry with the anointing of the Spirit and power.
The Holy Spirit at the same time became tangible. At once the disciples became filled with the Spirit. They felt His power within as He indwelt and possessed them fully, and soon there was to be a manifestation of what they felt. Audible, visible and tangible! Just what the Son of God, the living Word of God became a few years previously, according to John in his epistle (1 John 1:3): “…we have heard, we have seen with our eyes…and our hands have handled…the Eternal Life.”
The Effects of His Coming
There were some immediate and outstanding results of this great intervention by God the Spirit at Pentecost: First, they began to speak. He loosed their tongues, as He always does when His fullness is known (see Ephesians 5:18-20). They began doing supernatural things, this being a sign to the Jews present of the Spirit’s presence; they spoke in languages they did not know, (but the bearers knew them) and they were telling of the wonderful works of God. It is declared that the miracle happened because “the Spirit gave them utterance.” Here we see the actual reversal of Babel, when God brought confusion, because of their independence of Him. Here the Spirit brings understanding. One of the first results of His coming, and one which lingered long with them as they enjoyed His fullness, is seen in the boldness that was given to them. The doors were unbolted at once and the Apostle Peter took his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and boldly asserted to the Jews present: “You nailed this man to a cross.”
The first import of Pentecost must be seen in the fact that here was another seal from God (the other was the resurrection of Christ), of the Messiahship of our Lord. It was a vindication of Christ to the Jews and a fulfillment of His promise. The formation of the Church was at once manifest, for at that precise moment all those who believed were baptized into one body in the Lord, as the Saviour declared before his ascension that they would be (Acts 1:5). “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” The mystical body of Christ was formed that day spontaneously and without human organization.
The Spirit’s coming also meant to the disciples that their Master was now with the Father and glorified. He had said, “I will send Him (the Spirit) from the Father unto you.” When the Spirit came this must have meant to them that Christ was exalted to God’s right hand to be Lord. The final import of His coming is seen in their immediate initiation into their ministry, in exactly the same way that the coming of the Spirit upon Christ at His baptism by John was meant to be His manifestation to His brief but mighty ministry.
The introduction of the Spirit’s relationship to Jews who believed in and received Christ was accomplished at Pentecost, as we have seen, but the question must be asked: “What about the Samaritan believers and Gentile believers who were not present at Pentecost?” Peter himself tells us that the manifestation of the Spirit in the house of Cornelius was a reminder to him of Pentecost: “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning… I remembered the word of the Lord … You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit … God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us” (Acts 11:15-17). As with these Gentiles, so also with the Samaritans (Acts 8) where, for them, there was a special demonstration of the Spirit. It was the same for another group in this transitional period: the disciples of John were not at Pentecost, but they also, when their attention was turned to Christ, and upon faith in Him were baptized in His name, enjoyed a similar experience to Pentecost (Acts 19:1-7) .