The picture presented in the description of the first Pentecost in The Acts of the Apostles (2;1-11) is quite frightening, wind, fire and strange utterances. It is a basic principle of Bible study to try to identify the links between other passages in the Bible and the one I am reading. It seems that we are intended in this account to see a sort of mirror image of the Creation of the world, of the events described in the Book of Genesis, where through the elemental forces of the universe, God brought the world into being. And if we read a bit further in Genesis we will find there an account of how once upon a time all the world spoke a single language, and how men began to usurp God’s position and so God scattered them to the four corners of the world where they all learned different languages.
Thus St. Luke, the author of Acts, wants us to understand that the wheel has turned full circle, that now, because of the ministry of the Lord Jesus and his triumph over death, which is the mark of a fallen world, Creation is now being renewed, at the first Pentecost, bringing a fresh start for the whole world, and once again mankind is being reunited by the common language of the Gospel. The truth that Luke wants us to grasp is that the Gospel is now good news for all the peoples of the world, the Gospel is the means whereby the whole of Creation can come back into unity with God the Father, and the way in which this is going to be brought to reality is by the working of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has been much neglected over the centuries, and we are much indebted to those in recent times who have almost forced the church to rediscover the Spirit. The account in Acts of the first Pentecost shows the apostles going through an earthshaking experience, but it doesn’t have to be like that.
The fourth Gospel gives us an alternative picture of the gift of the Spirit, where in the twentieth chapter the risen Lord comes to his friends with words of peace, and commissions them to a ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness in the power of the Spirit. So don’t think that if you haven’t had some sort of experience like the one in Acts you haven’t got the Spirit: if you have made a mature commitment to the Christian life, then the Spirit is already at work within you. If, indeed, as Paul teaches in the First Letter to the Corinthians, if you can from your heart say that Jesus is Lord, that is the Spirit working in you. The problem for many Christians is not that they haven’t got the Spirit, but that they don’t allow Him to do his full work of re-creation in them, to make them more like Jesus. When we see how much of the world still appears to be in the grip of darkness, that is a warning to us that we must all give the Spirit full reign in us to enable us to carry on Jesus’ work so that the new creation ushered in at the first Pentecost may become a reality.
Fr. Edward Bryant