Dr. Gerhard Bode, in “The Gift of the Holy Spirit” (May 2008), had the right idea when he wrote, “The Holy Spirit active in the apostles on Pentecost is the same Spirit who works in believers today.” But he really did not say how, when, or why this is true. How can you write an article on “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” without mentioning the gifts of the Holy Spirit? I believe the greatest need we, as Lutherans, have today is to know how the Holy Spirit works in us and to experience His presence and power in our lives.
The promise of Pentecost was that the disciples would receive power (Luke 24:49, “and behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” And Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses …”). This is still the same promise for today.
If you can see that our own personal Pentecost happens at our baptism (“baptized in water and the Spirit”); you can see it is there that we received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and with that Spirit, we receive spiritual power (“dynamite” in the Greek), the same as they [did], power to believe (John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”) and power to live the Christian life, even to be witnesses for Jesus.
The purpose of Pentecost, the purpose of sending the Spirit, Jesus says, was that the Spirit might lead God’s people into all truth (John 16:12–13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth”) and at the same time convict the world (John 16:7–8, “I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”). The work of the Holy Spirit goes way beyond conversion, to sanctification of life and living. Oh, Holy Spirit of God, show me the way, give me both the will and the way to do all that God calls me to do!
And the power of Pentecost, the power to accomplish God’s purpose, is found in what Scripture calls the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. Here is where each Christian receives, from the Holy Spirit, the tools of his trade. Here he finds the ways and means of truly being Christian. Here he is able to yield the members of his body to works of righteousness. Without the Spirit’s presence and power, the sermon is bland, lite, and decaffeinated, and the “works” of the Christian are but self-righteous and work-righteous.
The path of Pentecost is described at length in Romans 8: “We walk according to the Spirit” (v. 4), “we live by the Spirit” (v. 13), we are “led by the Spirit” (v. 14).
The proof of Pentecost is the proof and confidence that one is truly a child of God (Rom. 8:16; 1 John 4).
The problem of Pentecost is evidenced by the Witness article, by the preaching and teaching of our pastors who seem to be deathly afraid of being labeled charismatic or Pentecostal, and by the lack of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (all gifts of the Holy Spirit) regarding the place of the Holy Spirit in our life as Christians. (One pastor said, “The Holy Spirit is at work even if I never mention that fact in my preaching.”) When and where have you ever heard, in your worship, a prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit?
The prayer of Pentecost is wonderfully described in the hymns of Pentecost, one of which, a part of the Witness article, spoke more volumes of truth than all the rest of the article. The hymns of Pentecost are all prayers. Wonderful prayers. Needed prayers. Oh, Holy Spirit, lead me, show me, help me, guide me, strengthen me, preserve me. Whatever hymnal your congregation uses, let the section designated “Pentecost” become your prayer book. Not just for one day, but for every day, all the year through!
Rev. Les Beale, Emeritus
Community Lutheran Church
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