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HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM (3): THE GREAT COMMISSION AND PENTECOST


The Day of Pentecost

Pentecost after the Resurrection of Jesus was a pivotal day in the relationship of men to the Deity. The ascended Christ poured out His Spirit upon all flesh, and nothing is as it was before.

Prior to that day, Jesus had said to His chosen apostles:

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it nether sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day, you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not My own; they belong to the Father who sent me. – John 14:15-24

Jesus had much more to say “that dark betrayal night” about the Counselor who would come to them. Note the basic parts of this promise of the coming of the Spirit of Truth.

First, the Spirit was no stranger to the apostles. Jesus said He was, even then, “with you and will be in you.” There would be a change in their relationship to the Holy Spirit. Prior to this time, the Spirit had been with the apostles in two ways. He was with them in the person of Jesus. He was also with them as they went out on the “Limited Commission” to preach the gospel of the kingdom and to perform miracles in the name of Jesus. In the new relationship, the Holy Spirit would be in them, not just with them.

Second, the Spirit was a stranger to the world who could not (or would not) accept Him. If they would accept the Son of God, they would receive the Spirit of God – but if they refused to obey the Son, they would not know the Spirit.

Third, when the Spirit came, both Jesus and the Father were coming as well. Jesus said He would not leave them as orphans. How could they be orphans when the Holy Spirit would be in them? Add to that the fact that both Jesus and His Father would also make their home with the one who loves Him and obeys His teaching, and you see an entirely new relationship of the faithful to the Deity. There was nothing like this before Pentecost.

This is the promise in view in Acts 1 when Jesus reminded them of what John had said about Jesus being the one who would baptize in the Holy Spirit.

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. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:4-5

Through the prophets, God promised an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 as the “text” for his sermon on Pentecost. He said, “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…” (Acts 2:15-16a). Note: The KJV here has “all flesh.” God’s promise of the Spirit was as extensive as His promise of salvation in Isaiah 40:3-5, quoted in Luke 3:4-6. This is by the same author who wrote Acts of the Apostles. Luke introduced the work of John as the voice crying in the wilderness making the paths smooth for the one who would show God’s glory (Isaiah) or salvation (Luke) to “all flesh.” Peter introduced his sermon on Pentecost by speaking of the outpouring of the Spirit on “all flesh.”

Jesus spoke of God’s promise of the Spirit and reminded the apostles that they had heard Him speak of this as well. He had spoken of it extensively at the Last Supper, a portion of which is above.

The Great Commission

In the Great Commission, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:18-20 as He said disciples were to be baptized “in [NIV – literally, into, as in the KJV] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Does that remind you of what Jesus told His chosen ones would happen when He went away and the Spirit came to live in them along with the Father and the Son?

Mark’s account of the Great Commission [if Mark really wrote the traditional ending, JS] speaks of belief, baptism, and salvation – but does not speak of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:15-16). He does mention signs that followed those who believe, signs Scripture usually attributes to the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul, however, linked faith and baptism to the reception of the Spirit in Galatians 3:26-27 & 4:6. When we become sons of God by faith because of baptism into Christ, God sends us His Spirit.

Luke’s account of the Great Commission speaks of preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins, but does not mention baptism. He does emphasize that they are to begin their work in Jerusalem, where they are to wait until they are clothed with power from on high as He sends what the Father has promised (Luke 24:44-49).

Luke’s second account of the Great Commission (Acts 1:8) speaks of preaching to the uttermost part of the earth, beginning at Jerusalem. This would begin after they received power when the Holy Spirit came on them.

Bringing It Together

On Pentecost, the Spirit came. Peter preached. People cried out, “What must we do?” Notice how Peter’s response brought all of these elements together:

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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call. – Acts 2:38-39

Look at all the elements Peter drew together in this familiar reply:

  1. Repentance
  2. Baptism
  3. Forgiveness of sins
  4. Gift of the Holy Spirit
  5. The promise that is for all whom the Lord calls

All of this is there – but all many of us have learned from this passage is that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. We barely talk about repentance. Many of us deny that the Spirit is a gift to us from God. Few, if any, make any connection between the promise Jesus gave to His disciples about the sending of the new Comforter with what Peter says here. This is in spite Jesus’ reminder that He had spoken with them about the sending of the Spirit. God promised the Spirit through the prophets. Jesus talked with them about it before He died. After the resurrection, just before He ascended, He reminded them of these things and told them to wait for baptism in the Spirit within a few days.

Then Peter tied all of these together in two verses that the Church of Christ claims for its own more than any others – but many of us still do not get it!

Fortunately, I believe the tide has changed. Things are much better now than they were forty years ago – but we still have quite a ways to go before we really have a coherent understanding of the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church today.

ADDENDUM (May 9, 2010.) As an example of how things are changing, see Jay Guin’s current series on the Holy Spirit. The link is to the 1st article, posted on May 5 – 1 day prior to this post, but after this post was written and scheduled. Jay is one of the most popular bloggers in the Churches of Christ and an elder in the University Church of Christ. He does not have this series indexed yet, but is posting relatively quickly. At the end of each post you find a link to the next post on his blog. Follow these, and you will find the later posts of the series. To date (5/9/10), he has posted 3 articles in this series: 2 on the history of the Holy Spirit in the Restoration Movement, and one that begins his actual study by looking at how the Holy Spirit appears in the Pentateuch. Look at the comments on his posts to see how some are still holding the very traditional views that come, primarily, from the second and third generations after Campbell.

NEXT: (4) Cornelius & THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

PREVIOUS: (2) With the Holy Spirit and With Fire

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