By Nick Batzig
When I was a child, I longed for Christmas Day more than anything else. This was, no doubt, partially on account of the expectation of opening the gifts my parents had so neatly wrapped and placed under the tree. But it was also because of the eager anticipation that it would snow on Christmas, spreading a white covering over everything outside our living room window. If that were not enough, our family would then spend the entire day together singing, reading, praying, and eating.
The combination of presents in our home, snow-covered fields outside, and the warmth of fellowship with loved ones made for a particularly wonderful—and now extremely nostalgic—experience. It was as if all the other days of the year built up to Christmas Day and existed to make it extraordinary.
In the same way, there was a special day in redemptive history on which God gave a combination of blessings to His people—the outpouring of the gift of the Spirit, the proclaiming of the gospel to the nations, and the new creation of a worshiping and fellowshipping community of believers. This was the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and there was nothing like it in redemptive history.
Anyone reading the New Testament must draw the conclusion that these were no ordinary times. The powerful events accompanying the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—as had been promised by Jesus—was part of His once-for-all saving work. In a very real sense, Pentecost belongs as much to the accomplishment of redemption as does the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
The coming of the Spirit on Pentecost signaled several important things about the saving work of Jesus Christ. The details of the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts are meant to draw the believer’s mind back to the Exodus, when God led His people out of Egypt by means of the cloudy pillar by day and fiery pillar by night.
At Pentecost, the Spirit came down on the people of God and appeared as tongues of fire. We might envision hundreds of tiny pillars of fire coming down and resting on each of the disciples. This was, of course, signaling that God had come down—by virtue of the redemption He had accomplished in Christ—in the person of the Spirit to lead the true Israel through the wilderness of this world. At Pentecost, the Spirit was coming down on the living stones of the new Temple that God had raised up with Christ.
The gift of tongues also carries our minds back to the early chapter of Scripture where God came down in judgment and scattered the people of earth, confusing their languages (Gen. 11:1-9). Now, having fulfilled all things in Christ, the Lord came down in mercy to unite those who heard the “wonderful works of God” in Christ, each in their own language (Acts 2:4-12).
The uniting work of the Spirit of God through the preaching of the gospel to the nations, in turn, brought about the knitting together of a new community of believers. Those who believed the gospel were all together and had everything in common. These new converts sat at the feet of those who had been taught by Jesus (Acts 2:40-47).
While there was something unique—a once-for-all-ness—about Pentecost, there is nothing unique about the ongoing work of Christ in giving His Spirit to His people for our redemption and sanctification, in sending His ministers to proclaim the gospel to the nations, or in His continuing to create a worshiping community of believers. This is the everydayness of the work of redemption.
Written By Nick Batzig