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Jun10MonThe power of Pentecost. June 10, 2019 by Commissioner Susan McMillan
In the forward to When the Holy Ghost is Come, written by then-Colonel Samuel Brengle in 1909, Bramwell Booth writes: “The only purpose of God having a practical bearing on our lives is his purpose to save men from sin and its awful consequences, and make them conform to his will in this world as in the next. The work of the Holy Spirit is to help us to achieve that purpose.”
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On Pentecost Sunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter, we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples—a monumental event for the cause of Christ.
The sacrificial act of Christ dying on the cross for our sin and rising from the tomb three days later is the turning point in human history. Without the cross, there would be no atonement. Without the Resurrection, there would be no hope. But without Pentecost, there would be no church.
The disciples were gathered together because Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem, but mostly they were there because they were terrified and confused. They had followed the Master for three years; they had listened to his teaching and seen his miracles. They believed he was the Messiah, the one who would liberate Israel and bring an end to Roman occupation.
Even though he taught them that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31), it was a shock when it all started to come to pass. It left them fearful, confused and doubting. They were in no condition to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Then Pentecost happened. They heard a great wind, saw what seemed to be tongues of fire resting on each of them and began speaking in other languages that were understood by people from many nations.
Peter, who had been guilt-ridden since his denial of Jesus on the night of the Crucifixion, and who was known for barging into things and getting it wrong, stood up and preached the first sermon of the brand-new church. He did so with such power and conviction that 3,000 people joined them that day.
From Jerusalem, they went out into the world, travelling from place to place and preaching and teaching. Every day, there were victories as souls were born into the kingdom of God.
When the Holy Ghost is come, there is boldness. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31; emphasis mine).
When the Holy Ghost is come, there is opportunity. Not long after Pentecost, the Jewish religious leaders began to persecute the church in Jerusalem, forcing the people to scatter. It was probably the best thing that could have happened, because “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). The very act of driving them out of Jerusalem resulted in the gospel message being spread throughout the known world.
When the Holy Ghost is come, there is power. Jesus had told them they would “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” (Acts 1:8). “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33).
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his Resurrection from the dead are the basis of the gospel message and the reason for the church to exist in the first place. But Pentecost celebrates the power given to the church in order to carry out the mission of Jesus in the world.
My prayer is that God will continue to rain down his Holy Spirit upon his church, so that we might all be his witnesses, in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Commissioner Susan McMillan is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Follow her at facebook.com/susanmcmillantc and twitter.com/salvationarmytc.
Illustration: © biblebox/iStock.com