Last week was Easter Sunday. But life moves on, whether we want it to or not. In actuality, the lilies and the empty tomb is a fading memory; especially with countless school project deadlines looming on the horizon. But never fear; Pentecost is fast approaching.
Question; What is the “point” of Pentecost?” Is the gift of the Spirit given to provide each Christian with assurance that they are saved? Certainly that is a fine answer…but it could be more? Is there a deeper theological agenda that God has in store with our lives?
It initially comes to light in the Old Testament when we note that salvation is always seen as taking place in families, tribes, or what might be termed “community.” My Inductive Bible Study class just finished doing an interpretative assignment on the Book of Ruth. One truth that arose is that the actual redemption that Naomi and Ruth experienced is by the people of Bethlehem as they followed the “torah” of God. Salvation came through the Law as fulfilled by God’s people.
But is there a change in God’s plan with the life and death of Jesus? Is it now about individuals being saved? Sorry, that kind of thinking arises not from God changing His mind but from our modern American climate which elevates the rights of an individual above the group.
Jesus’ perspective can best be encapsulated with His prayer in John 17. Listen:
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. (17:1)
My first thought arises with His initial statement which give us the theme of the Father-Son relationship; mutual edification. In Trinitarian conversations, it’s not about “me” but about “we”. After that initial statement, we see that the rest of the prayer is broken into three sections;
- 17:1-5 Jesus prayer for mutual glory;
- 17:6-19 Jesus prays for His disciples;
- 17: 20-26 Jesus prays for all future believers.
The item of note is the similar theme which unites the second and third sections; Jesus’ prayer for one-ness:
17:11 - I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-- the name you gave me-- so that they may be one as we are one.
17:20-23 - My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Three quick points. First, this theme of one-ness comes on the heels on three chapters (John 14-16) of discussion by Jesus on why it is “good that I leave you.” For if I go away, the Father will send you another Comforter (i.e., Holy Spirit). Thus, one-ness is not based upon human effort, but it’s a Spiritual unification of the Body. Second, unity is the final prayer of Jesus for believers. Not that you be “saved” for that is simply a means to the end. The final prayer is one-ness.
Third, this changes everything with how we will now think about evangelism. For Jesus’ prayer states clearly, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Friends, it is the Holy Spirit who makes us one and it is the same Holy Spirit who will draw outsiders in. It is the Spirit-filled body of Christ that is the key to redeeming the lost. It’s not the memorizing of the “four spiritual laws.” Nor is it a perfectly formed apologetic argument. No, its solely (or maybe “soul-ly”) up to us submitting to the Spirit of Christ and allow Him to form us into His image.
Now that’s Pentecost. I can not wait.