COVER STORY – PENTECOST
Pentecostalism has gained popularity in recent years. While it uses the name of one of the church festivals, Pentecostalism is not biblical. It is an idea that searches for proof of God’s power outside the means of grace. Adherents pray for gifts of speaking in tongues or divine healing based on the strength of their faith in God. While true Lutheranism is focused on the principle of Scripture alone, Pentecostalism looks for God outside of the Bible. It’s a completely misguided idea that appeals perfectly to our selfish sinful nature.
Let us instead consider Pentecost as it is revealed in Acts 2.
Many people had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22). The twelve apostles (Matthias had replaced Judas Iscariot) were gathered together as they heard the sound of a rushing wind. They had tongues of fire rest upon them and were “filled with the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 2:4) Who enabled them to speak in foreign languages. Clearly the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles and other early New Testament Christians in a special way as they spoke in tongues, healed others (Acts 3), and even raised the dead (Acts 20:8-10).
The Spirit equipped them for the task at hand. Gathered at Pentecost were the same apostles who had deserted the Son of God as He was led to the cross. Yet now, less than two months later, they boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus, no longer afraid to speak on their Savior’s behalf. These men, some of them former fishermen, found their sea legs in their new role as fishers of men. The Holy Spirit filled them with much-needed courage.
Then Peter, who had denied even knowing Jesus, preached in front of the people gathered “from every nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:5) This crowd was not immediately friendly; some accused the apostles of being drunk at 9:00 A.M. Peter spoke of the miraculous signs that day, but miracles were not the focus of his sermon. Instead, the Spirit-breathed words spoken by Peter were a wonderful presentation of Law and Gospel based on the Old Testament Scriptures. The Law convicted those gathered of their sins: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) As soon as those gathered revealed their sorrow for their sins, Peter moved on to the Gospel: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
The results are staggering. About three thousand were added to the church in one day. These people were not converted with signs and miracles, but with the preaching of the Law and Gospel.
Often we, like Pentecostals, long for visible evidence that our work as fishers of men pays off.
We thirst for special blessings from God to affirm our faith and we crave gratitude from those with whom we share the Word. In times when God’s Word is met with indifference or animosity, it is especially important for us to remember the role of the Holy Spirit, Who was poured on us in Baptism. Just as He worked through the words of those early Christians, so also He works through the words of Christians today.
May each of us be filled with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and practice the true Pentecostalism that was recorded for us in Scripture: the fearless preaching of the Law and Gospel and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to convert sinners.
Ross Kok is a teacher at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran School in Okabena, Minnesota.