Acts 2: From Pentecost to Baptism

I suspect most Christians know what happens in Acts 2. We might not know what happens in Acts 13, or Luke 7, but we know Acts 2.  It’s commonly known as the birth of the church. However, even those familiar with Acts 2 emphasise different portions of the long chapter. While Pentecostals focus on the first 13 verses the Church of Christ focuses on v38.

Interestingly, I don’t know anyone that focuses on the actual day itself: Pentecost. Or if anyone knows what Pentecost actually meant. We’ve turned Pentecost into a Christian festival and forgotten the original roots.

I’m indebted to my friend Bobby Valentine for his excellent blog post on the feast of Pentecost and it’s relevance to the events of Acts 2. I encourage you to check it out!

In the Old Testament Pentecost is called the Festival of Weeks. (See Deuteronomy 16 and Deuteronomy 26) It celebrates several events:

  1. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
  2. Their harvest in their new land.
  3. Renewal of covenant – The festival was held in the 3rd month and the 10 Commandments (Covenant) were given in the 3rd month. (Ex. 19:3-5)

Unlike other visits to the Temple that may have related to personal atonement or worship, the Festival of Weeks involved the whole household. The household would travel together to participate in this celebration at the Temple. In this sense it was a celebration that incorporated equality and inclusiveness before God.

And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.(Deuteronomy 16:11)

When the apostle Peter begins his sermon he quotes Joel 2:28-32. This passage also portrays an image of the future kingdom of God that promotes equality and inclusiveness.

In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.  (Acts 2:17-18)

Understanding the nature of the Pentecost celebration helps us see that the quotation from Joel isn’t an accident. God chose Pentecost as the day to pour out his Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples because the event fulfills Pentecost.

Acts 2:1-4. When the day of Pentecost came. Pastel & pen. 26 May 2012.

 

Is this how you picture the kingdom of God? A place where everyone has a role in serving Him? Notice how inclusive this description in Acts 2 is. I wonder how prepared we are for this. Do we let our sons and daughters know that we see the Spirit of God in them? Do we encourage our young and old men? Do we equip God’s servants for their work?

What if Pentecost came and no one noticed?

What if we took our talented teens and young adults and praised them for their gifts and abilities and helped them focus on school and social activities? What would it look like if we as a church made a point of equipping our youth for ministry for allowing the Spirit to prophesy through them?

What if Pentecost came and our young and old men were focused on their careers. What if we celebrated each of their promotions and professional accomplishments, but overlooked steps of spiritual growth in their lives? What would it look like to honor the visions and dreams the Spirit gives them?

What if Pentecost came and God’s servants were so task-oriented that the spiritual nature of our tasks was forgotten? What would it look like to equip and train each other to see God’s Spirit working through us in the menial tasks? What would it look like to prepare each person to fulfill the Spirit’s mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus?

Because that’s what comes next. The Holy Spirit is poured upon the disciples and they immediately call the city of Jerusalem to repentance while proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. The Holy Spirit equips us all for mission. There’s great equality in this task. It’s not a special commission for the minister or elders, or other people. It’s for all of us.

Bobby includes this great line in his article, “[Jews] came far and wide, confessing with their sons and daughters, the old and the young, the slaves and the free – standing before the Lord as equal human beings – that God had been faithful. He has always been faithful. That he will always be faithful. That we standing in his Presence is proof of his covenant.

This is the mission the Holy Spirit equips us to undertake. We proclaim God’s past, present and future faithfulness to His Creation. We stand in His Presence inviting people to enter into a covenant with God.

Which brings us to v38. Baptism represents a sealing of a deal. An acceptance of God’s covenant. In that short moment immersed in the water each person is equal as a child of God. Regardless of age, sex, race, height, weight, history or future, at that moment they testify to God’s faithfulness. Immersed in the water. Immersed in Christ. We experience deliverance, blessing, and a new covenant.

On that Pentecost day these historical themes from God’s relationship with Israel all converged with the baptism of 3,000, the forgiveness of sins, and the giving of the Holy Spirit. And with each baptism since then the church proclaims salvation for all, the faithfulness of God, and the hopeful joy of covenant with our Creator.

Pentecost: Not a chronological accident, but a vision of God’s kingodm that the church has often overlooked.

 

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