“We Proclaim His Power!”
Feast of Pentecost
May 31, 2020
Acts 2: 1-7, 12-21
Psalm 104: 3-4; 24-31
1 Corinthians12: 3-13
John 7: 37-39
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
Christians have different ideas of what Pentecost is or who the Holy Spirit is. Some think that the Holy Spirit is equivalent to gifts – supernatural or miraculous gifts and Pentecost is a supernatural phenomenon in the heavens. The Holy Spirit is all these, but first and foremost, the Holy Spirit is God. God is love. The Holy Spirit’s fruit is joy, love, peace, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control.
St. Luke, the writer of Acts, said that there were Jews from every nation present in Jerusalem. They represented the whole world. Jesus said that the temple age will end when the gospel is preached to the whole world. Jews from every nation in the world heard the gospel preached to them. It transitioned from the old system of the temple, which failed to manifest the glory of God, to the Church today. This is why Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is about being filled by the Holy Spirit of God and it is more than just speaking in tongues, having spiritual gifts, miracles and spectacular phenomena. I believe in the speaking of tongues and I operate in them as I am being led by the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is more than the gifts.
Who is the Holy Spirit? The Orthodox theologians have a system of understanding God by defining who or what He is not. It is called apophatic theology. It is understanding something by understanding its opposite. What is the opposite of the Holy Spirit? It is the unholy spirit – Satan. Satan is the accuser; the Diabolos – the divider; the Abbadon (Hebrew) and the Appolyon (Greek) – which both means the destroyer. The Holy Spirit is the Advocate. He is One who stand by our side; gives life; defends us; renews us; edifies us; and unifies us. The Holy Spirit is for us and His whole purpose is to build us up.
1Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 shares to us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for us to use them to build up others. We use the gifts for edification. The gift of speaking in tongues is to edify people. St. Paul instructs that if we don’t have something to say that is edifying, we better not talk or in blatant terms, we are to shut up.
There are people who don’t know God. Use their language. Use in means that they will understand in order for us to reach out to them. Use the language gap to connect to them, to reach out to them, so that we can proclaim the love of God to them – to build them up and to be an advocate to them. This is the purpose of learning to speak another language. Learn the language of the people who don’t understand and who don’t know God, and make them understand that God is on their side, that the Holy Spirit is their Advocate. They don’t have to go through life alone. There is one whom they can depend on and who would help them, who would be on their side, and who would not accuse them, tear them down, destroy or condemn them. Learn and speak their language so that walking in the Spirit, we can be their advocate.
Sometimes, we use the Holy Spirit’s gifts or the Word of God to condemn and accuse people. The Word of the Lord is the sword of the Spirit, but sometimes, we use this sword to kill instead of to give life. This is not so! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are there so that we can speak the love of God in any language. We can bridge the gap and reach people’s hearts. Walk in the Spirit and speak of the love of God in any language straight from the heart.
Jesus said that whoever believes in Him will receive the Holy Spirit and he will be a river of living water flowing from his heart. This is love straight from the heart spoken in the language that people could understand, especially those who do not know God. Proclaim the gospel of life and peace not to condemn, but to reach out and not alienate.
Jesus’ disciples misunderstood why they were given the Spirit. James and John wanted to destroy the Samaritans. One time, they were on their way to Jerusalem and Jesus was leading them, and the Samaritans would not welcome them in their city. James and John, using the Old Testament, told Jesus, “Lord, they are hostile to us. Do you want us to do what Elijah did to call fire down from heaven and consume the enemies of God? These Samaritans are enemies of God. Let us consume them with fire from heaven.” Jesus replied, “You do not know what spirit you are of.” The Spirit of God does not destroy or kill; He builds up and gives life.
St. Paul had the same thinking so he put Christians to death. His basis for doing this was the Word of God. He was so intelligent with the Word of God that he would use them to accuse and to condemn. We can accuse anyone using the Bible, but this is not the purpose of the Word of God. The Word of God is a ministry of life, not of death. Don’t use God’s Word to accuse or condemn, but to build up and to give life.
Salvation is not an afterlife reward for eternity. In Acts 2:40, St. Peter said, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” This perverse generation condemned and killed Jesus by using the Word of God. They accused Him of breaking the law of God which He did not. “If you walk according to the spirit of this perverse generation who destroys, who kills, who accuses and who bears false witness, then, you are being not saved.” Salvation is being saved from these and operating in the spirit that is from God.
Desire this Spirit! It is not just a supernatural and miraculous ability. Receive the Holy Spirit Himself, not just His gifts. It is okay to desire the gifts, but desire more the Giver of these gifts. Don’t misunderstand Him. There was this character in Acts chapter 8, Simon Magus, a magician, who misunderstood the Holy Spirit. He wanted to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked him. When the seventy elders returned after Jesus sent them, they saw miracles. Demons were subject to them. Jesus told them not to rejoice just because of this ability. They are to rejoice because their names are recorded in heaven. They are to rejoice because they are walking according to the spirit of the kingdom of Heaven. This is the treasure that brings real joy great joy – being like God and bearing the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts are to produce the fruit of the Spirit and manifest His nature. It is not the spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound judgment.
Pentecost is not about signs and wonders but the greater sign and wonder of the Spirit being present in the apostles and the disciples who seven weeks ago were hiding in fear. Now that the Spirit was in them, they were emboldened and they spoke and preached the gospel even to a point of risking their lives. They had the spirit of power, love, not of fear. The scared disciples on Easter evening became different and this was what was most amazing about Pentecost even though they didn’t instantly understand.
In Acts 10, Peter had a vision of a big ship on which there were unclean animals according to the Jewish tradition. In the vision, he heard God speaking to kill and to eat. Peter said, “No, I am a Jew. I have never eaten unclean things before and I will never will.” God had to rebuke him and said, “What God has declared clean, do not consider unclean anymore.” God was speaking to Peter about Gentiles being fellow heirs and who are entitled to receive the Holy Spirit and the gospel preached to them. Peter was hesitant to go to the house of a Gentile because they were not supposed to do so. Peter could have learned from Jesus. Jesus was willing to go to a centurion’s house, a Gentile. The centurion, who had great faith told Jesus, “You do not have to go to my house. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.”
We thought that Christians were wrong in following a false Messiah. The Old Testament said it that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because first, He was a criminal sentenced to death; second, it said the cursed was somebody who hangs on the tree. Jesus was hung on the tree as a sentence for His crime that He supposedly committed. St. Paul said, “You fools, you don’t understand God and the Word of God,” until he encountered Jesus Himself in the Damascus road.
In Acts, Saul/Paul realized that he was blind because Jesus showed him and he had to be led by others. He fasted for three days and a brother, a Christian, came to him and called him “Brother Saul.” Maybe, there was something planted in his heart when he saw Stephen dying and saying, “Lord, do not take the sins against my persecutors.” In Paul’s mind, he would have thought, “Why would this man forgive the people who are killing them? Why would this Christian call me “brother” whose brothers I killed?” When Ananias prayed for him, scales fell off from Paul’s eyes. The blind expert of the letter of the law now started to see, “Now, receive the Spirit of God.” Paul understands now that there was the mystery before and is now revealed. The mystery was that the Gentiles, not the Jews, are fellow partakers of Christ and His inheritance.
In Acts 2:39, Peter, speaking to the Gentiles said, “The promise is for you, and for your children and all who are far off.” He started walking in the Spirit. In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6, he said, “Don’t be deceived by the devil. Stand, put on the armor of God, so that we can be able to withstand the tricks, the deceits, and the schemes of the devil.” His scheme is to fool us that our enemy are people - flesh and blood. If we think that our neighbor, our brother are our enemy, St. Paul, in essence, is saying that we are being fooled by the devil. This is not the truth! What we really are fighting are spirits, principalities, and powers in heavenly places. If we hate our brother and see him as an enemy, then, we are being fooled by the real enemy and we are walking in his unholy spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our advocate who stands by our side, who defends us, who gives us life, and who reconciles and unifies. If we have nothing to say according to these, then, we better shut up. In Ephesians 4:29, St. Paul said, “Speak no unwholesome word, but only that which edifies and gives grace to the hearer.”
Speak to be understood by the Gentiles. At this time, the current situation is a language that people do not understand. They don’t understand why things are happening, and it hurts them. Speak to them in a language that would reach them and they would understand, so that we could be an advocate for them and be on their side, building them up and strengthening them.
This is what Pentecost is all about. This is what being filled by the Spirit. This is the Spirit that we are of, so thirst for Him and let Him flow like a river of living water from your innermost being, and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.