Hello, and welcome to Lechem Panim.
Background of Pentecost— Today, as we begin taking a look at Acts chapter 2, we will be talking about the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost. Now when we as Christians think of Pentecost, we immediately think of the day the Holy Spirit was given to God’s people. But Pentecost was already a major Jewish feast that had been celebrated all the way back to the time of Moses when God was first giving the Law to His people. And the reason it’s called “Pentecost” (a word that derives from the Greek for “the fiftieth day”) is because it falls on the fiftieth day after the Feast of the Passover, when the Jews celebrate God delivering His people from death in Egypt. And remember how they were delivered; God had told them to spread lamb’s blood on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their houses. And after that the Lord went through the land to strike down the Egyptians, but he saw the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and passed over those doorways, and would not permit the destroyer to enter their houses and strike down their firstborn. And so only the first-born of Egypt fell; because the blood of a lamb covered God’s people and became the means through which they were delivered from death. Death had passed over; hence the Passover. Now in the opening of the book of Acts what had happened at the prior Feast of Passover was that Jesus had been crucified. In fact He (the Lamb of God) died at the exact hour the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. And in doing this Christ satisfied the requirement of the Law of God; which is fascinating because after the exile the feast of Pentecost became a time when Jews celebrated the giving of the Mosaic law; the very law that Jesus had satisfied by the shedding of His blood on the cross in order that you and I might be delivered from death on a much larger scale; an eternal scale.
Feast of Unleavened Bread-- Now the day after Passover you have the beginning of another feast called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And that feast lasts eight days. During that feast, an offering of the firstfruits of the grain harvest was made and the priest would take a sheaf of grain and wave it before the Lord. Now Leviticus 23:15 commands that that offering to be made on the day after the sabbath. And so [the day the first fruits were offered would always be on a Sunday. Now that provides an apt picture of the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection because remember that Jesus was raised from the dead (the scripture says) on the first day of the week and therefore “became the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Pentecost— Now Pentecost would happen fifty days later and would also fall on a Sunday. And what would happen during this feast was the priest (instead of waving a sheaf of grain) would present two loaves of bread. Now the reason this is significant for our study of Pentecost today is because it was a visual symbol for how the Church (after the baptism of the Holy Spirit) would be united into one body by the Holy Spirit; the body of Christ (who is the Bread of Life).
3 Manifestations-- Now here in Acts 2 this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is signaled by three different manifestations. And the first of these is wind. While the disciples were gathered together, it says…
Acts 2:1-2 (ESV)-- 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
1. Wind/Breath-- Now [Spirit in both the Greek (pneuma) and the Hebrew (ruach) describes wind or “breath.” Here, the idea of “wind” captures the impact of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). Just as man did not exist until the life-giving breath of Almighty God (Gen. 2:7), so the Church did not come alive until God breathed forth the Holy Spirit.] And just as in Ezekiel’s encounter with the wind (the breath) of God bringing dead bones to life (Eze 37:5–14), you and I are lifeless until God breathes His Spirit into us and brings us from death to life.
2. Fire— Now the second manifestation we see here is fire. It says in…
Acts 2:3 (ESV)-- 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
God’s Presence-- Now in scripture [Fire serves as a symbol of the presence of God (Ex. 3:2-5; 13:21; 19:18; 40:38; Isa. 4:5; Ezek. 1:4) and a representation of the Holy Spirit.] God had appeared to Moses in a flaming bush in Exodus 3:2-5; after the Israelites left Egypt it says the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light in Exodus 13:21; Exodus 19:18 says Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And there are countless other examples (God’s appearing as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch to Abram (Gen 15:17), Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40), the visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel, etc.). And so fire was symbolic of the presence of God. Now fire does two things. First, it gives light, which is both physical but also spiritual in the mind of the Jew; it is associated with wisdom and understanding. But fire can also be destructive; and so it is often associated with the judgment of God. Sodom and Gomorrah experienced that judgment in a physical sense, but there is also a spiritual judgment by fire as well. John the Baptist had said in…
Matthew 3:11-12 (ESV)-- 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Purifying Fire-- Now the righteous don’t need to fear the fire, because instead of destroying them, it purifies them; and so the Holy Spirit is the One who remakes us in the image of and helps us to live like Christ; in purity. And fire can also spread in a powerful way; something which we have seen (especially recently) here on the West Coast. Fire is POWERFUL; and so it is a great symbol by which to characterize the spread of the Early Church, as the apostles spoke with purity and power and multitudes came to faith in Christ.
The Gift of Tongues-- Now there was a third manifestation in addition to the wind and the fire. And no, it was not earth. Earth, wind, and fire, that’s something else. But rather the third manifestation was an empowerment of the disciples to speak other known languages. It says in…
Acts 2:4 (ESV)-- 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Cultural Shock-- Now language is a funny thing. If you don’t have it, it can be a problem. Because nothing can be more frustrating than being unable to communicate what you are trying to communicate or to understand somebody who is not speaking your language. A few years ago my wife and I and the kids took a trip to Ukraine to visit her mom and her sister. And we flew into Detroit and then went from Detroit to Amsterdam (where there were some English speakers). But then we flew from Amsterdam to Ukraine. And boy did everything change. A lot of people were talking, but I could understand very little of what was being said; OR WRITTEN! Suddenly I found myself depending on my wife in a whole new way because without her nothing would have made sense. She became my interpreter, explaining to me what I was seeing and what I was hearing. And during our visit with her mom and sister, she would interpret between us. But even though I couldn’t understand a lot of what was being said, sometimes the emotions were what spoke louder than anything. A smile is the same in every language; tears are the same in every language; laughter doesn't need a translator. And there was plenty of all three, let me tell you. But that tells us something.
Dr. Bill Ury: Our Sameness-- Some time ago I was listening to one of my Uncle Dr. Bill Ury’s radio broadcasts. And on this episode of his show The Hour of Holiness he was talking about evangelism and the role that each and every one of us has to play in the evangelism process. He talked a lot about the fear we often face; the intimidation we feel whenever we feel God nudging us in the direction of witnessing. And though he has been in ministry and Christian education for many many years and has seen countless Christians and ministers, he admitted that there were precious few who seemed to evangelize as if it was purely natural; where they we absolutely 100% in their element and absolutely confident. So often times we are so worried about what people are going to think; and wonder how we are going to present the Gospel in such a way that is relevant to their lives (and to where they can see it. But my uncle then said something that was so simple and yet so insightful. He said that when we approach evangelism, one of the things we have to understand about the people we are sharing the Gospel with is that they are exactly the same as us. He said they are the same; all people are the same as us. Now seeing a person wearing a kimono and dancing to Japanese music with white face paint; or in my case seeing the different styles of dress and different way of life of the people of Ukraine, it is easy to see the differences. But his point was that once you get past the paint; past the clothes; past the cultural differences; when you get right down to the most intimate needs of people, we are absolutely and totally the same. We have the same basic needs. The language of our souls is exactly the same. And when we know the language of the soul, then the door is opened for real change to happen through our ministry and through our witness.
The Language of The Spirit-- And that is why one author I read said… [The most important language for communicating the gospel is not the language of culture or of common experience. The true language of the soul is the language of the Spirit.]
The Holy Spirit is Key-- And that is why all ministry (if it is to be effective) must be entrenched in the saturating, abiding presence of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. Because if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter if we can speak people’s cultural language or not; our words (by themselves) will have no power to produce in them lasting change. The Holy Spirit is the One who must speak to their hearts. He is the link between our message and their hearts. And that is why you and I need to make sure that we are attuned to Him and His voice, which is always speaking into our lives. We just need to listen; to follow; to keep in step with Him. If we can do that, we will be effective witnesses for the Gospel. Let’s tune ourselves to Him today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.