To Glorify Christ

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Pentecost Sunday 2024

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The Holy Spirit has been active in the world since the creation of the world. He appears in the second verse of the Bible, for example, hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). In every era, God is always God. The Son of God is always the visible image of the invisible Father, and the Spirit is always the one who empowers and equips. Nevertheless, we do see a difference between the Old Testament and the New in this regard. The Spirit has always been the one ministering forgiveness, and cleansing, and power. This has always been his work. But in the Old Testament, His operations were much more surgical and precise. In the New Testament era, His operations are much more torrential. Water is always water, and while it would rain in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, the dam has burst.

The Text

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4).

Summary of the Text

Pentecost is a Christian holiday, but it was also an Israelite holiday also, called by the same name. The word means fifty, and it occurs fifty days after the sabbath of Passover week (Lev. 23:16). It is also called the Feast of Weeks. In the English-speaking world, it has also been called Whitsun. It was a harvest festival, and so God waited to pour out the Spirit until it was time to harvest the first great crop of Christian converts.

The Christians were already of “one accord” and waiting for power and authority, just as Jesus had instructed (Acts 2:1; Luke 24:49). There was a powerful sound, like a mighty rushing wind, but the sound was inside the house where they were (v. 2). Cloven tongues of fire appeared above each of them, and sat upon them (v. 3). These fire tongues (glossa) are described with the same word that is used in the next verse for the different languages. They were all filled with the Spirit, and began to speak in other languages (glossa here, and dialektos in v. 6). This is not so much a reversal of Babel, because they are still speaking numerous languages (Gen. 11:7), but it certainly is a reversal of the curse of Babel.

The Spirit in Our Midst

Theologians make a distinction between the ontological Trinity, the triune God as He is in Himself, and fully known only to Himself, on the one hand, and then the economical Trinity, God as He manifests Himself to us in this world. This of course is not a claim that there are two Trinities, but rather is a distinction between the Trinity as God knows Himself, and the Trinity as He reveals Himself to us.

We know that Almighty God is one (Dt. 6:4). Christians are monotheists. Within the Godhead, there are three eternal Persons, all equal in power and deity. The Father is revealed to us as the source and origin. He is the Father. The Son is begotten by the Father, and is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16). The Holy Spirit is called both the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28) and Spirit of Christ (Phil. 1:19), and so we confess that He proceeds from both the Father and the Son. All together are the one true God.

All of this is of great practical importance. We pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus His Son, and we do so in the power of the Holy Spirit. All of our prayers function within the triune goodness of God. “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). For through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit. If I may use a homely illustration, the Father is the city we are driving to, the Son is the road we are driving on, and the Spirit is the car we are riding in. And all of it is happening within the one God, in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

But none of this is a pedestrian matter of getting us from “here” to “there.” The tongues are all from different places, true enough, but they are also all on fire. The thing that moves us is a Spirit of glory.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me . . . . He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

John 15:26; John 16:14 (KJV)

Making Much of Jesus

My father liked to tell a story that illustrated how the Spirit works to glorify Jesus Christ. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). My parents were friends with Corrie ten Boom, and one time they brought her to Annapolis to speak. My father had given one of Corrie’s books (A Prisoner and Yet) to a Jewish neighbor, who then got really excited when she found out that Corrie was coming. She asked if it could be arranged for Corrie to speak at her synagogue. That was worked out, and my father took her there and sat listening to her talk. One of his thoughts was that “if she says ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ one more time, we are not going to make it out of here.” And his point in telling the story was that when people are filled with the Spirit, they cannot help making much of Christ.

So we are not to come to the Spirit as though He were the destination. That is not what He wants. That is not His work. His work is to glorify the Son. We do not come to the Son as though He were the destination. That is not what He came to be. He said that He is the way (the road), the truth and the life (John 14:6). His work is to bring us to the Father. We honor the Spirit best by working with what He came to do. And so lift up the name of Christ, and our triune God will sort out everything else.

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