The Spirit of Mission, Acts 2, Pentecost Sunday, June 5th 2022

The Spirit of Mission, Acts 2, Pentecost Sunday, June 5th 2022

Pentecost Sunday. The Spirit of Mission. June 5th 2022.

Acts 2:1-21. Also John 14: 8-17.

Creator God, who formed humanity from dust, on this Pentecost Sunday, breathe in me again. Revive and sanctify me by the power of your Spirit. Set my heart on fire with the good news of your gospel. Amen.

Mrs Agnes Ozman. Have you heard of her? The story of the c20th Pentecostal movement, begins with her, at Parham Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901. A report, written a few years later, described how students laid aside commentaries, and turned to only studying the bible and praying night and day to God.  After three months of this passion, the Holy Spirit came among them in power. Mrs Ozman spoke in an unknown tongue. The Report continues: ‘’This made all the Bible School hungry, and three nights afterward, 12 students received the Holy Ghost and prophesised.’’

Four years later, a black 35 year old preacher – William Seymour – heard about the gift of tongues from a friend. In December 1905, he was allowed to enroll at Revd Charles Parham’s  Bible School, although he had to sit outside the door, because Parham practiced strict segregation. 

Seymour heard Parham’s teaching but he did not experience anything like what had happened to Mrs Ozman and others.

January 1906., Seymour travelled to Los Angeles, preached in a black holiness mission. At the home of Mr and Mrs Edward Lee, he and others met in prayer. They prayed through February and March.

On 9th April Seymour preached on Acts 2:4  which says- All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Edward Lee then burst into tongues, and soon the rest of the small group were praying and speaking in tongues, and filled with joy. The first woman to speak in tongues was Jennie Evans Moore. It was written about Jennie ‘’She does not know how to play the piano but under inspiration of the moment, she plays and sings in her lovely voice, six professed foreign languages with interpretation for each: French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Hindustani.’’ (see Mission, pp208-9). 

In the 116 years since those days, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity has expanded numerically and spread around the world, until, now, it roughly counts for about a quarter of the Christian community.

This is just one story out of many, that links the experiences of the church in history, with the story of Acts 2, which we now focus on. The days before those experiences in Topeka and Los Angeles, remind us of  the first apostles, who joined together with the other believers, constantly in prayer, in the 10 days between Jesus Ascension and Pentecost. Hunger for the Lord. Souls then that were set on fire.


We are at end of Spring. I enjoyed spring this year. New life surges everywhere, trees that have been bare for months, we have one outside our kitchen window, and it seemed, almost suddenly it was covered in green, shoots burst from the  ground, vibrant colours are seen.

So it is with Pentecost. You might have expected that Jesus ascension and so his departure, might have triggered a wave of uncertainty, confusion, and hesitancy. But this is not the case. We see people with souls on fire, a church on fire, and many drawn to the fire of Christ’s love.

What happened?

The first four verses tell us about the coming of the promised Holy Spirit and we are told concisely of the place, the time, the noise, the sight, the experience and the result.

The apostles are altogether in Jerusalem.

The Feast of Pentecost was usually in May / June, and it was a harvest festival celebrating the completion of the barley harvest, and the ingathering of the first fruits.  By Jesus day, it was also celebrated as the anniversary of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, seven weeks after the Exodus.  

The noise – described like a violent wind and the sound fills the whole house – it was not a private experience. What is then seen – and has been shown in many paintings in history – was something like tongues of fire, one tongue resting on each believer.

We are told they were all filled with the HolY Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, later described with a different word, corresponding to ‘native languages.’

 ‘’A multi-sensory experience is here described with considerable restraint : there is wind and fire, there is hearing, seeing and speaking; but above all there is the pouring out, the coming down, the filling of the Spirit.’ (Howard Peskett, Mission, p.210)

Remarkable things then happen. This ‘Pentecostal noise’ is heard by a large number of people who gather. We are told they are God fearing Jews from all over the Mediterranen and Western Asia. If we find the events of Pentecost hard to understand, we are in the same company as many in the crowd – some were amazed and astonished, amazed perplexed. They recognize the dialects or native languages, yet the ones speaking are Gailieans and they hear the apostles are speaking about the wonders of God.

Some are curious – what does it mean? Others – mock – they have had too much wine.

How was Pentecost interpreted?

Peter responds immediately to the questions and comments of the crowd. Peter’s sermon – reliably summarized by Luke – is characterized by friendly appeal, direct speaking, and pointing to three signigicant  OT passages.

Peter begins, perhaps with a smile, that the apostles cannot be so drunk at so early a time – 0900! No, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the preaching this inspires, are a sign that the ‘last days’ or the ‘great day of the Lord’ prophesied by Joel, has come – THE Spirit has been poured out, the signs in heaven and earth are happening and will happen, and this blessing is for all people.

Peter’s preaching announces that the last days – of which the prophet Joel had spoken, had begun to be fulfilled with Jesus.  Around the time of his death there had been unusual signs – darkness, earthquakes – and now another sign, with the outpouring of the Spirit (with wind and fire).  This all points to Jesus, for Peter.

In his following sermon Peter will point people to 5 aspects of Jesus life:

first his well known works and wonders, which marked him out as a man sent from God;

second, his cruel death by crucifixion;

third, God raised Jesus up – and Peter and others were witnesses of the resurrected Jesus. Peter adds Psalm 16 to his argument, that Psalm 16 was a prophecy of the Messiah to be raised.

Fourthly, Peter refers to the ascension and exaltation of Jesus – Jesus did not just go into the sky Peter says, like Elijah, but he is exalted to the right hand of God, the executive hand, of God.

Fifthly, Peter comes to current events – the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, which is where everything started. Jesus has been exalted and he has received from the Father the promised Spirit and he has poured it out –The language he uses, is like that of a heavy tropical rainstorm – the Spirit has flooded their very beings. 

Peter concludes that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah. It is astonishing claim.  For the term LORD, was a word traditional reserved for God.

What was the Result?

The effect of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s preaching is recorded in two phases.

First is the immediate effect. V37-41 consciences are stabbed awake; repentance, baptism, receiving the Spirt, (apparently without signs on this occasion), and about 3000 people are added to the group of disciples, who had began with 120 a few hours before. The original 120 are being witnesses in the power of the Spirit.

Secondly, the longer term effects are described in v42-47. The whole chapter points to what happens when the Spirit comes and fills and has his proper place.  We see how the Spirit filling affects the apostles, how empowers the witness, and how it shapes and forms the first church community. All one unit. We do not separate the filling, from the witnessing, or from what church life evolves under and in this filling. Souls on fire. A Church on Fire.

 There is private and public worship, including teaching, fellowship, prayers and sharing food; signs and wonders done by the apostles; great generosity in the sharing of possessions as any had need; much joy in God and favour with the people; and significant numbers of people being added to the fellowship daily. 

Result: 1 – The Spirit of Mission.

Further reflections…

Christians can interpret Jesus words in Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’’ – you will be my witnesses – as a command, an obligation, a duty.

But the construction in Greek uses a FUTURE tense, and should be interpreted as a promise, a prediction of what will be the case.  We do not find in Acts, many exhortations to obedience to the Lord’s final command, compared to what is heard in many churches today. Rather what Luke is teaching us, through his second volume, is that mission is an overflow of joy and energy, given by the Holy Spirit: what Jesus predicts actually comes to pass, when his followers are filled with his Holy Presence.

Result 2 – Spirit Filled Church.

The Pentecost story comes at the centre point of Luke’s large two volume work in the NT. He has shown the Spirit at work in the life of Jesus in his gospel; and in Acts he shows the continuation of that work in the life of Jesus in his church, with 56 references to the Holy Spirit across the 28 chapters.  Luke shares what a Spirit filled Church can look like…

Many aspects of the Christian life are described in Acts in association with the Spirit:

It is He who transforms lives and empowers mission.

Luke uses his terminology in a fluid way – he refers to being ‘filled with the Spirit’ but also he uses the terms ‘pour out’, ‘come down’, ‘come on’. 

A careful study of healings and deliverances recorded in Acts, shows that they took place with or without prayer, with or without the laying on of hands, and with or without reference to the name of Jesus.

One striking feature of Acts is the way the Spirit speaks – to Stephen, Acts 6:10; to Phillip, 8:29; to Peter, 10:19, to church leaders gathered in worship (13:2); to Paul and Timothy and Silas (16:6); to the disciples in Tyre (21:4); to Agabus at Caesarea (21:11).

Through all the stories of Acts, there is a sense of an immediacy of contact with the risen Jesus through the dynamic experience of the Holy Spirit. Luke began his second volume: ‘’in my former book, I wrote all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven…’’ suggesting in his second volume, Jesus continues to do and teach through the Holy Spirit.

Gordon Fee notes how the church has often lost this sense of the Spirit’s presence and guidance: the Spirit has been marginalized in the seminary; and domesticated in the church.

 Fee exhorts us to recapture the NT perspective of the Christian life,

 as essentially the life of the Spirit, dynamically experienced and eschatologically oriented – but fully integrated into the life of the church.’’ Fee, Empowering Presence, p899-903.

Result 3 – Forgiveness.

Peter urges hearers to repent so that their sins may be forgiven. God as exalted Jesus to his right hand, ‘that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins’. Peter repeats this message when he preaches to Cornelius. Jesus also had preached for the need for repentance and the offer of forgiveness.  Paul’s own self-understanding of his calling : ‘to open the Gentile’s eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins. Acts 26.

Forgiveness of sins, the cleansing of a guilty conscience has huge transformative power in people’s lives. It brings a new liberty, a new joy, to their hearts; it empowers them to forgive where they themselves have been wronged.

We are at the heart of the good news. In a world where diabolical things happen and are done to people, the power of forgiveness to change people’s lives is well attested. So also, unfortunately exists the power to cripple lives when bitterness is cherished and there is a refusal to forgive.

In 1994, hundreds of thousands of people were killed in ethnic violence in Rwanda. A Bible Society interview with a pastor, had him share that out of the 67 members of his family, only 3 survived.  In the same Bible Society report, the reporter visited a church, where 5000 terrified people fled there for sanctuary, were brutally murdered. ‘If there is no forgiveness, there is no second chance,’ said one of the reconciliation workers interviewed. ‘Human beings need a second chance’ they said.

Corrie ten Boom, who we know was held at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, and who later would meet and forgive one of the camp guards said:

‘’Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. He who cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.’’ (Corrie Ten Boom)


 It is a passage to return to for personal inspiration and its picture of church life.

Like Spring, colours, life, we see souls on fire with the love of Christ and love for who he is and what he has done.

A church on fire.

But that fire – the Spirit’s filling leads to witnessing; it shapes the community, and people experience forgiveness.

Up to this Day, many in the worldwide church have been praying within a prayer movement called Thy Kingdom Come. A prayer initiative for 10 days – praying for non believers, but also for the church and individuals to be empowered afresh by his Spirit to be effective witnesses for Christ.

 The church has a fundamental need to live continually in the experience and power of the Spirit; an initial Pentecostal endowment is not enough; neither is a second or subsequent blessing – we need to ‘live in the Spirit’ or to use Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 – be filled and go on being filled with the Spirit.

Acts 2 is compelling, a vision of the church living in love and generosity, spreading the good news to all who will hear it, in their own languages and growing upwards in relationship to God, inwards, in forms of deep community and Christ shaped lives, outwards in service of others and growing in numbers.

The ancient hymn I finish with – Veni Creator.

Come Holy Spirit ever one

With God the Father and the Son:

Come swiftly, Fount of grace , and pour

Into our hearts your boundless store.

With all our strength, with heart and tongue,

By word and deed your praise be sung:

And love light up our mortal frame

Till others catch the living flame.

O Father that we ask be done

Through Jesus Christ your only Son

Who with the Spirit, reigns above

Three persons in one God of Love.