Pentecost 2017

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”


Then Peter stood up to preach.


37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.


We are in the age of the Spirit.

Pentecost saw the coming of the Holy Spirit on people, although the spirit was part of the whole story of God from the beginning and not a latecomer. 

The focus of the Old Testament was on the Father, although the Son as Logos (the word) was there and so too the Spirit.

The focus of the gospels is the Son, personified as Jesus, and the other two of the Trinity were in the background. 

With the events of Pentecost came the focus on the Spirit. We in the church age are in the age of the Spirit.

Of course, all three of the Trinity are present right through the Bible and now.

We pray to the father, through the son, in the Spirit.

All three are God, God is three in one.

In some ways, the Holy Spirit is the hardest to define. Just look on Google to find appropriate pictures for the Holy Spirit and other than the picture of a dove, it is really lacking.

The spirit is not an “IT”, he/she is a person the same as the father and the son.

I have used the male pronoun for ease, but let me point out that the Hebrew word for the Spirit ‘ruach’ is actually feminine.  And the Greek word for Spirit pneuma is neutral. [1]

We attempt to define the Holy Spirit, whichever gender we choose to identify with, in 2 ways: in terms of relationship or by function because that is how we define ourselves

We define ourselves by relationship:

Think of your surname:  Collinson – son of Collin, McDonald – son of Donald, McKay – son of Kay; Molloy – descendant of a proud chief.

In Christianity, we are described by relationship: children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ.

Think of how we describe ourselves: husband, father, son/daughter of, child of… Those are ways of defining ourselves by relationship

Family trees are an obvious way of defining ourselves by relationship to others.

The other way we define ourselves is through function: Again, some of our surnames determine what our occupations were: Smith or Black – black smith; Cook -  chef; Slater – roofer; Alexander – defender of men;  George – farmer;

In the Western world, we confirm to that with the second question we ask new people:  What do you do?  What is your job?

We also define the Holy Spirit by those same categories of relationship and function:

By relationship.  he is God Acts 5:3 Acts 5:4; he is the Lord 2 Thessalonians 3:5 ; he is the Power of the Highest Luke 1:35, he is the Spirit of the Lord God Isaiah 61:1; he is the Spirit of the Lord Isaiah 11:2 ; Acts 5:9 ; he is the Spirit of God Genesis 1:2 ; 1 Corinthians 2:11 ; Job 33:4; he is the Spirit of the Father Matthew 10:20; he is the Spirit of Christ Romans 8:9 1 Peter 1:11; he is the Spirit of the Son Galatians 4:6

By function: He is the Breath of the Almighty Job 33:4; Comforter John 14:16 John 14:26 ; 15:26 Spirit of life Romans 8:2 ; Revelation 11:11; Spirit of grace Zechariah 12:10 ; Hebrews 10:29 ; Spirit of prophecy Revelation 19:10; Spirit of adoption Romans 8:15 ; Spirit of wisdom Isaiah 11:2 ; Ephesians 1:17 ; Spirit of counsel Isaiah 11:2 ; Spirit of might Isaiah 11:2 ; Spirit of understanding Isaiah 11:2 ; Spirit of knowledge Isaiah 11:2 ; Spirit of the fear of the Lord Isaiah 11:2 ; Spirit of truth John 14:17 ; 15:26 ; Spirit of holiness Romans 1:4 ; Spirit of revelation Ephesians 1:17 ; Spirit of judgment Isaiah 4:4 ; 28:6; Spirit of burning Isaiah 4:4 ; Spirit of glory 1 Peter 4:14[2]

This list from RA Torrey is in your newsletter for future study. I have also included Blackaby’s one as well.

With this wide-ranging description of the Holy Spirit, what does this mean for us?

Which one from that extensive list gels with your soul? Which of those descriptions of the Holy Spirit fits with your experience of the Holy Spirit?

The titles of the Holy Spirit are virtual promises to us.

These titles were given from people’s experiences of encounters with the Spirit.  The titles are experiential as we have tried to explain what had happened to us in those encounters with the Spirit.

It is like the blind men describing the elephant from their own perspectives.

We have tried to contain the essence of God by our labels but God is too big for that, so we explain facets of God, just like faces of a diamond or a disco ball.  Each shaft of light illuminating God but each facet shining a different direction or purpose.

In all of these descriptions within the relationship and function parameters, there are two over riding claims that are universally true.

The Spirit transforms God’s people. And the Spirit empowers God’s people for various tasks.

Just look back to the events of Pentecost to see this. The crowd who heard Peter preach were transformed. Peter himself was transformed from a scaredy-cat into a powerful preacher of the word.

Both of these transformations were through the Holy Spirit.

Throughout the Bible, God’s Spirit empowers God’s people to live righteously and minister to others. Scripture often portrays this empowerment in dramatic ways, such as prophecy or miracles.

Other times, the Spirit simply empowers God’s people to live their daily lives in a new way, with a new identity that honors God.[3]

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

I do not want this to be an academic exercise in the Holy Spirit.  It is like trying to explain love.  If you don’t know it, you won’t get it. If you haven’t experienced it, it will seem pie in the sky.

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh

The actor Denzel Washington said in describing when first feeling the Holy Spirit.

"And I had this tremendous physical and spiritual experience. It did frighten me," Washington revealed. "I was slobbering, crying, sweating. My cheeks blew up. I was purging." The experience frightened the actor so much, he admitted to calling his mother. "It was too intense. It almost drove me away," Washington said. "I called my mother, and she said I was being filled with the Holy Spirit. '"[4]

John Wesley wrote that his heart was strangely warmed when he first met the Holy Spirit.


But I am not talking about the initial meeting with the Holy Spirit. That event can be dramatic like Pentecost or Denzel Washington or it can be more subtle like John Wesley.

I am talking about the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Hearing the ongoing voice of God who transforms us and empowers us, daily.

If you profess Christ as your Lord and saviour, the Holy Spirit resides within you. 

How do we encounter the Holy Spirit in our lives, and I want to make it real and relevant for today and in this place and at this time?

So we are going to do a “God at Work” style event here.  Tell us in a short sentence or two how you encounter the Holy Spirit…








[1] Jesus uses the “He,” a masculine pronoun, because He refers to the Spirit with the masculine noun παράκλητος (paraklētos, “counselor,” “advocate”). Elsewhere, the Bible typically uses feminine and neuter pronouns for the Spirit—the Hebrew word for “Spirit,” רוּחַ (ruach), is feminine, and the Greek equivalent, πνεῦμα (pneuma), is neuter. - Lexham Bible Dictionary

[2] Torrey, R.A. "Entry for 'Titles and names of the holy spirit'". The New Topical Text Book 1897

[3] Keener, C. (2016). Holy Spirit. In The Lexham Bible Dictionary.