The Purpose of Pentecost

By Pastor Emmanuel Akatukunda

Today is a special Sunday in the Christian calendar. It is Pentecost Sunday. It marks fifty days after Easter Sunday. Originally the Feast of Pentecost was one of the Jewish feasts which was celebrated fifty days after the Passover.  They celebrated the Pentecost to commemorate when God renewed the covenant with His people Israel. It was also a time of thanksgiving for the harvested crops. Christians celebrate the Pentecost to commemorate when God’s promise of the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus Christ who were waiting upon Him in the upper room in Jerusalem. It marks the time of a great harvest, when God is bringing people from all corners of the world into His kingdom. Let us turn to Acts 2:1-4

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

The Promise of Pentecost

The disciples (followers of Jesus) were in the same place because they were waiting for the promise of their Master, Jesus Christ. Before He went to heaven, He had told them not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the gift the Father had promised. Acts 1:4-5 tells us that

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So, from the time Jesus Christ was taken up to heaven, the disciples were gathered together in the upper room praying and waiting. This was critical for their ministry. It was to be a turning point in their lives and ministry.  Many times, we do not like the time of waiting. But waiting on the Lord can be a time of preparation. It is a time to actively engage in prayer, study and meditate on God’s Word. It is time of getting ourselves ready for what God wants to do in and through us. The Holy Spirit was the gift they were expecting from the Father. He would change their lives and ministries forever. The Holy Spirit is the Father’s greatest and best gift to us. In Luke 11:13, Jesus asks his disciples: If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  The disciples needed the Holy Spirit before they could embark on their assignment. We too need Him. We need His power, we need His guidance, we need Him if we are to be effective in ministry. 

The Purpose of Pentecost

Jesus told the disciples to wait for the promise, which was the Holy Spirit. He also told them about the purpose of the promise. Like all of us, disciples were shaped by the culture of their time. They interpreted the words of Jesus and the events of their time through a certain theological and cultural grid. In the same way we tend to interpret events in light of our culture and worldviews. For instance, people ask questions like: “Is this pandemic a sign of God’s judgement against the world?” Or, “Is this a sign of the end times; is it a preparation for people to get the “mark of the beast – the 666?” “Is so and so the anti-Christ?” All these questions reflect our cultural and theological worldviews. It reflects on what we believe about God—who He is and how he deals with us, and about the world around us—how the events around us relate to the purpose of God.

So, when Jesus told the disciples about the promise of the Father, “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). So, the disciples associated the giving of the Holy Spirit to specific events of the end times. The disciples reasoned that since Jesus had died and rose again, then this would be the time He should become a political King over Israel. They were thinking like typical Jews of their time. Of course, they were wrong about the purpose of the Father’s gift.  Yes, the coming of the Holy Spirit would change the course of world History but not in ways the disciples thought. In Acts 1:7-8 we read that

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will 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.”

The purpose of the Pentecost is very clear: The Holy Spirit enables us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in the world. That is the one purpose. The Holy Spirit empowers us for witness. Indeed, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, those who used to be timid, and unreliable, stood up and boldly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus. God has not called us to speculate about seasons and times. I feel that some of the current conversations going on in some Christian circles (about the anti-Christ, the mark of the beast and all that) is one of Satan’s tools to distract us from our main goal of being witnesses of Jesus Christ. Let us stick to our part of witnessing to God’s love and salvation. God will take care of the other details. Let us read Acts 2:1-4 again:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

One of the first signs of Pentecost was speaking in tongues—which were actually different human languages. These disciples who had probably never gone beyond Galilee, were enabled to speak the languages of all the people who had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Pentecost.  Acts 2:5-12 says,

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

The purpose of the Pentecost is very clear: The Holy Spirit enables us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in the world.

Language can be a tool that divides us. We see that in the story of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). We cannot communicate if we do not understand one another’s language. I have been in spaces where people switch to another language in order to shut out others out of their conversations. I have seen people abuse and persecute others because they speak a language different from theirs.

Language is something that brings people together. We are able to communicate if we share in a common language. You are able to listen to this sermon because you understand the language in which I am communicating. Language is a powerful tool for witness. By enabling the disciples to speak other languages, Jesus was effectively telling them that, “Now, you are equipped to be my witnesses to the whole world. You are now ready to speak my life-giving words to the hurting world.”

The Power of Pentecost

When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and preached. His message was simple. He told his audience that this is the fulfillment of what was promised many years ago through the prophets. Ultimately, the promise is about Jesus Christ. Acts 2:36 says,“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

People were asked to make a decision to follow Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38-39 says,

38 Peter replied, “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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

It goes on to say – Acts 2:40-41

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

When we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit, God will draw people to Himself. This is the power of the Pentecost.  Pentecost is time to call on the name of the Lord. This is a time of a great harvest. God is still bringing unto Himself people from different corners of the world. Whoever calls on the name of Jesus shall be saved. This promise of salvation is still available to anyone who calls on the name of Jesus. Maybe you are listening to this message but you have never surrendered your life to Jesus. I would like to encourage you to pause right now—and tell Jesus that you need Him to be your savior.

When we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit, God will draw people to Himself. This is the power of the Pentecost.

We live in the season of the Pentecost. The promise of the Holy Spirit is still available to whoever calls on the name of Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit is still available to us. God wants to give us the power, courage, and the boldness for the effective witness of the gospel. I pray that you will experience the power of the Holy Spirit and live up to the purpose of Pentecost—as witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. 

We live in the season of the Pentecost. The promise of the Holy Spirit is still available to whoever calls on the name of Jesus.