Once upon a time, a young married man named Thompson went on a business trip to another town to represent his company at a crucial regional management meeting. The meeting ended pretty much in time and Thompson decided to stay over at his cousin’s house and to leave next day. He met his cousin and his lovely family preparing for a programme in their Church known as “Holy Ghost Encounter”, and his cousin asked him to join them since he would be alone in the house and he agreed; though he hesitated.
At the Church, the Man of God who was ministering assured the congregation that the Holy Spirit will come down on everyone present and would also provide various gifts including wealth, life partners, job opportunities, breakthroughs and other exciting goodies. At the appointed time, the Man of God announced the release of the Power of the Holy Spirit. Expectantly there were tumults as many began to speak in tongues. Thompson was not so conversant with that kind of experience, so he took an interest in observing what was going on. He was looking in one direction when one lady under the supposed impartation of the Holy Spirit grabbed him from the back while announcing that the Holy Spirit had revealed to her that he would be her husband.
At first, Thompson thought that it was a joke or may be a mistake, but he noticed that the lady in question was serious as she held him so tight without any plan of leaving him; he was even losing his breath. Next, some male assistants in the Church came and took hold of him and the lady. Thompson was embarrassed as he was taken by force to altar by the men. The lady was later asked what the Spirit said and she announced “the Holy Spirit had revealed that this man (that is Thompson) will marry me”.
Thompson fought his way out of the hands of those men with the aid of his cousin who emerged from the rear fuming with anger. He (Thompson’s cousin) took the microphone from the Man of God and announced to all that his cousin is happily married with three kids and the Holy Spirit could not make the mistake of giving him another wife. When he said this the lady went mute instantly. It was later as they were leaving that Thompson remembered that the lady was one of the Ushers in the church and he had noticed she was looking at him when they entered.
Thompson’s experience is just one out of many. There are still many people in our day and age who make claims about one thing or the other by making reference to the Holy Spirit. Some people quote the Holy Spirit at the least provocation. Some of the claims are so incredible that one wonders if it actually came from the Holy Spirit. To this end, St. John advised that we must test Spirits and know which is coming from God. (1 John 4:1). Of course there are many spirits operating everywhere but there is THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. The word “Pentecost” means fiftieth. Among the Jews, it designates the fiftieth day after Passover. In the Mosaic times, it was related to the Feast of Weeks (Deut.16:9-10). Here it was celebrated as a religious holiday that takes place at the beginning of the wheat harvest. It was a thanksgiving to the Lord God for his providence. At the same time, it commemorates the giving of the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28). From this brief description, we understand that the feast of Pentecost was an annual festival among the Jews, like we have various festivals around us like the new yam festival and others. In the apostolic understanding, it refers to the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the others who were present at the Upper Room on that very day the Holy Spirit came down as a fulfilment of the promise of Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit has actually been in operation though not manifestly known as we do now. In the book of Genesis (1:2) we are told that at the first moment of creation “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. This by implication was the first Pentecost which we can actually call “Cosmic Pentecost”. To describe it further, it means that at the inception of creation the life-giving Spirit filled the universe bringing about order and the unfolding of God’s design. That is why we normally would recall Psalm 104:30 in our prayers when we say: “When you send forth your Spirit and they are created and you renew the face of the earth”. Furthermore in Genesis (2:7) we see another Pentecost this time an “Anthropological Pentecost” when God breathed on the man he had fashioned from the ground and he became a living being. That breath was actually a communication of God’s Spirit into the being He created in His own image and likeness. Note that among the other creatures it was only the man that God breathed upon. That breath was not just the normal breathing process we share with animals; it is God’s Spirit. The word of God said that when God breathed the man became a living being. Hence that breath brings forth life, and that is what the Spirit does.
From many sources in the Old Testament, we discover the power and activity of God’s Spirit. For instance, God allowed His Spirit to rest on the seventy elders who were appointed to assist Moses (Number 11:16-17; 25). After his anointing as King, Saul received the Spirit of God and prophesied (1 Sam. 10:10); and when he lost his connection with God, the Spirit of God left him (1 Sam. 16:14). David was a man filled with God’s Spirit, and when he sinned, he begged God not to take the Holy Spirit away from him (Psalm 51:11). Ezekiel could recount how the Spirit of God took hold of him and brought him to a valley of bones (Ezk.37:1-2). At the inception of the New Testament, we also come across the activity of the Holy Spirit during the visit of angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The angel said to her in Luke (1:35) “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”.
Prefiguring the event of today in the Gospel of Matthew (3:11) John the Baptist did say that Jesus Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This was confirmed by our Lord himself with the promise of the Holy Spirit when in John (14:26) he told the apostles that the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send would teach them everything. Finally, in Acts (1:3-8) Jesus Christ enjoined the apostles to remain in Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which will make them witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and in the whole world.
Understanding the Holy Spirit will be very helpful for us at this point. Firstly we look at what the Holy Spirit is not.
- The Holy Spirit is not a bird (dove) but could come in that form (Luke 3:22; John 1:32).
- The Holy Spirit is not the wind but can come down in that manner (Gen.1:2; Acts 2:2).
- The Holy Spirit is not fire but can come in that form (Acts 2:3).
- The Holy Spirit is not an angel.
- The Holy Spirit is not a thing as to be referred to as “it” as some people do.
- The Holy Spirit is not a force but can come with a mighty force (Acts 2:2).
On the other hand, we could say the following of The Holy Spirit:
- The Holy Spirit is God.
- The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.
- The Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son.
The personality of the Holy Spirit came to be known through the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had not been known and identified as a person. That was why our Lord Jesus Christ would say in John (14:16-17) that the world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. The Holy Spirit can be identified from the functions he performs. He is known as the Helper, the Counsellor, the Advocate, the Mentor, the Director, the Teacher, the Guide and the Leader.
In Act (1:4) our Lord Jesus Christ told the apostle to stay in Jerusalem until they are clothed with the power from on high, namely the Holy Spirit. On that first day of the week which eventually was the feast of the Pentecost the apostles and some other disciples were gathered together in ONE ACCORD (remember that Jesus prayed that they be one; Jn.17:11) in the Upper room PRAYING (they were not playing or sleeping). As they were praying suddenly a loud sound like that of a powerful wind filled the house, and suddenly something like tongues of fire came down upon them, and they received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterances.
We have to note that at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that day of Pentecost the recipients were not just babbling aimlessly. They spoke distinct languages that people heard and understood. Every man heard them speak in his language (Acts 2:6). This event calls to mind what happened in Genesis (11:1-9) where some people found a plain in Shinar and desired to build a tower that would reach to the heavens, and God came down and confused their language. On the Pentecost day those gathered in the Upper room spoke in different languages, and they could understand each other, but on the plain of Shinar those who gathered in their name (not in God’s name as they wanted to make a name for themselves) spoke one language, but there was no understanding.
The Pentecost experience has not ended. By Pentecost, we mean the ever recurrent renewal we need in our lives. By Pentecost, we mean that inner transformation and change that will enable us to become what God wants us to be. By Pentecost, we mean active spiritual encounter that unites us in one accord like those who gathered in the Upper room. By Pentecost, we understand the outpouring of the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and piety, fear of God (not of man), fortitude and counsel. He breeds and brings peace, love, joy, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, gentleness and patience. We need Pentecost in every aspect of our lives. We need Pentecost in our lives, in our families, in our communities, in our nation and the world as a whole. We need to climb to the Upper room of our hearts from there get connected to the wave length of God’s Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the propeller of our Christian life, and without Him, we cannot give God truly and right worship (John 4:24). Furthermore, He helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). With the Holy Spirit, we are free from senseless fear of anything at all. We notice the difference between the Apostles who were afraid of the Jews and the Apostles of whom the Jews were afraid of as they went fearlessly to preach in the open places after receiving the Holy Spirit in full and confirmed manifestation. It was the powerful touch of the Holy Spirit that Peter could heal a cripple, through the influence of the Holy Spirit Paul could undertake long and dangerous journeys without any flicker of fear. On this St. Paul would say in Romans (8:15): “you did not receive the Spirit of slaves to make you fear but the Spirit of sonship”. Hence through the Holy Spirit, you are sanctified and confirmed. May the Holy Spirit of God continue to bless and increase us with His effervescent presence as we celebrate the Pentecost.
Happy Pentecost Sunday and remain blessed.