Pentecost Was NOT the Birthday of the Church: "Why Jesus Said 'Wait'"

Pentecost came after John 20:21-23.

Monday, December 05, 2011
Luke 24:49; John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8

The “normal” church should look like it did in the Book of Acts.  Why else would the Holy Spirit give us this book?  It actually begins with these words: 

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.”  (Acts 1:1-3)

Luke refers to a “first book” – meaning that Acts is a continuation of that book – namely, the Gospel of Luke.  Acts is the continuation of what Jesus BEGAN to DO and TEACH. 
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."  (22)  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  (23)  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."   John 20:21-23

The little word “as” is the key here.  Jesus breathes on them and tells them “receive the Holy Spirit” – it is an imperative – a command in the Greek to receive it now!  Not 40 days later at Pentecost as some have interpreted not wishing to admit that Pentecost was SOMETHING ELSE!   I will say more about this later.   Now, He tells them “in the same manner, according to how the Father sent me, I am sending you in the same way.”  Jesus came as an apostle of the Kingdom of God to declare, pray for, and demonstrate the Kingdom of God!  He is telling his disciples that they are to go in the same way – and He breathes on them the Holy Spirit.  And they got the Holy Spirit.  He made them into a living body at that point.  We can safely argue that THIS was in fact the birthday of the Church.  Pentecost was something else, something MORE!

Now, stay with me for a moment.  This is vital.   The distinction of John 20:21-22 from Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8 is clear cut – they are both Holy Spirit “receiving events” – but they are different! 
In Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones in chapter 37, there is a wonderful prophecy that points to the restoration of the Covenant people of God at the end of the Age.  Although this promise is to Israel primarily,  it also speaks to the formation of the “one new man” Paul writes about in Ephesians 2:15.  Just as there was “…no breath in them” in Ezekiel 37:8 – that is, there was no corporate life – they were individuals, but not a functional living thing.   In verse 10 of this chapter we read “….the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceeding great army.”

Today, all of us who follow Jesus have the indwelling Spirit.  That occurs at salvation.  But, there is something missing.  There is a lack of corporate power.  In order have the corporate power, we first need the experience of John 20:21-22, AND the “upon baptism” – the clothing with power of Acts 1:8 and Luke 24:49 (they speak of the same event.)

Pentecost (Acts 2) marked the time when the power (dunamis) of the Holy Spirit came corporately on the church.  The story reveals that the “cloven tongues of fire” manifested over each one of them!  But, listen, the Holy Spirit had already come in John 20:22-23!  What fell at Pentecost was not the Life Giving Spirit that takes dry bones and gives them life – it was the power of the Holy Spirit to do the things Jesus did!  The Father wants to send us with the same power and anointing that He gave to His only begotten Son, Jesus!

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."  Luke 24:49
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8 

Here’s the point of all of this.  Again, understanding this distinction is one of the most important things you can know as a believer.  Before Pentecost the disciples already had the Holy Spirit.  John 20:21-22 occurs 40 days before Acts 2.   If you are not convinced of this, check our website under “resources” and go to the “Christ’s Paralyzed Church X-Rayed” article by Dr. T. J. McCrossan.  McCrossan goes into the details of the Greek Grammar to prove this.

Again, the point is that all of us as followers of Jesus – as Christians – have been breathed upon.  But what we seek, and lack is the FULNESS OF POWER.  Now, the real question is – “why did Jesus have the disciples tarry or wait for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”  I believe the Church has forgotten this great teaching and today, does not know how to “tarry in Jerusalem” until we are endued with power from on high.  We want all of it, we want it now, we want it cheap, we want it on our own time and we don’t want to wait.  But Jesus said, “wait.”

Here is something that you might not have noticed before in your study of Scripture.  Why did Jesus say “wait?”  Why breathe the Spirit upon them in John 20 and then tell them a few days later that they had to “wait for the power.”
I believe it is ALL about forgiveness, relationship, and the formation of a functionally loving, forgiving body of believers.  We can’t leap frog over this step.  John 20 comes before Acts 1.  It came to me this morning as I was praying and asking God for clarity on this:
Remember the story?  Jesus has His disciples waiting in the Upper Room for 10 days.  That’s a long time.  That’s a ten day prayer meeting – but I am certain there was more than prayer going on.  Sure, they worshipped, prayed, sang hymns, and shared meals together.  But if we would just press in a bit and use our inspired imagination, we might get a feel for what went on in that little room (you can visit it today when you go to Jerusalem.)   I wonder if some of the disciples - the 120 gathered there jumped on Peter a bit.  In a moment of weakness, some might have reminded him of his promise that he would never deny Jesus – and then went ahead and denied that he even knew him!  (Matthew 26: 69-75)  Or maybe they might have turned on James and John who decided to send their mom to Jesus to ask a special favor?  (Matthew 20:20-21) 

Is it possible that there were by now many unresolved relational issues?  Could it be that there were some deep interpersonal hindrances and lots of touchiness about things they had experienced in the past 3 years – THINGS THAT HAD TO BE DEALT WITH before the Lord would send the power?
Here’s where the connection between the John 20 Holy Spirit encounter and the Luke 24 promise gets interesting and honestly, makes a lot of sense.   Some say that the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is on gift or another – be it tongues, or miracles, or faith.  I believe that it is love – a love that can only be attained through forgiveness.   Context is always an important key to interpretation.  Jesus breathes the Spirit upon the disciples and then, in the very next verse says, “if you can forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them: if you retain the sins, they are retained.” (John 20:23)   Here’s the point – the person who truly has the Spirit has the power to forgive.

John Sanford once said:  “A lot of people I who manifest tongues or some other gift, but it doesn’t seem like the Holy Spirit has much of them because they remain unwilling to forgive!”

I believe the power to forgive was displayed in that upper room.  Over and over in the first chapters of Acts we read that the disciples were in “one place” or “one mind” and in “one accord.”  This cannot happen outside an atmosphere of “love, acceptance, and forgiveness!”  It was into this furnace of forgiveness, love, and relational healing that the Holy Spirit was poured out with great power on Pentecost.
This is why Jesus said “wait.”  Wait for it.  Waiting for the Holy Spirit, waiting for the Fire of love is not a boring thing…waiting is pregnant with expectation – because it knows that the “Promise of the Father” will come.

More to come on the “promise of the  Father.”  Stay tuned.


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