The Day of Pentecost is an example of three particular things working together in telling the story of faith.
- Experiencing God
At the beginning of Acts 2, Luke describes a very attractive kind of community in which “they were all together in one place”. Earlier, Acts 1:14, we read that they were praying “with one accord”. Later on in Acts 2 we read about them meeting each other’s needs and sharing the new life together. Attractive community is what people look for in clubs and cafés, and it makes joining in relatively barrier-free, unlike an exclusive kind of community where the insider/outside demarcation is all too plain.
Experience of God
As the story unfolds, those present in the upper room have a very clear and visible experience of God. But the point is, the people in the crowd also caught this, as they heard God being praised in languages that they used, rather than the languages of Jerusalem. This was exciting, and they started asking “What does this mean” So the first disciples, in their experience of God, found themselves helping others in the crowd who were also experiencing God.
Words of explanation
Peter rose to the challenge of explaining to a crowd of considerable size. And he did so with reference to a Scripture passage that would have been known to many of them. He used words which included God’s words to say “this is that”, in other words, what the prophet Joel had prophesied was coming true, here and now. He teaches that this affirms God’s sovereignty over world events and from Psalm 16, explains God’s purposes, long planned, to show that the One recently crucified is in fact both Lord and Christ. The gift of thr Holy Spirit, he said, was for everyone who would turn to Christ in repentance, acknowledge their own independence and wrongdoing and receive what Jesus had done for them.
Disciples making disciples
With a huge mass baptism, some would say that this was the end of a busy and fruitful day of positive change for all those people. But it wasn’t an end, but a beginning — not of a new religion, not of an institution called “church” but of a movement of Spirit-empowered Jesus followers where one would encourage another in small gatherings in homes, all would hear teaching from those who had spent three years with Jesus in the Temple courts, the experience of God went on because all were carrying the presence of Jesus within them, and many others were attracted to being part of this exciting community.
The principles of attractive community, experience of God and words that explain, which over the next 300 hundred years saw an estimated half of the population of Roman Empire come to a knowledge of Jesus. This was without ordained leaders or buildings to meet in or any means of mass communication and despite cruel persecution from various emperors and others.
These principles, if carefully separated out from the assumptions and expectations and conditioning that most ‘churchified’ Christians carry around with them, will be the way an army of ordinary people show Jesus to a our world today which despite its apparent cynicism, is looking for the real thing and a clear, not mixed, message.