The Day the Christian Church Was Born

508302228_ae37586ce9_mChristians observe the birth of Jesus at Christmas; his resurrection on Easter (which is also the Jewish Passover) and this year, Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016. In doing so they will celebrate again the birth of the Christian church.

The New Testament reports on the original day of Christian Pentecost in Acts 2, written for the church by physician and historian, St. Luke.

To set it up, Our Lord’s crucifixion at the time of the Jewish Passover left his followers distraught. They did not yet understand that he had died as the Lamb of God, sacrificed to atone for sinners. The brutal death appeared not only tragic, but also unjust and pointless and it vaporized their hope for themselves and their nation.

Then on the third day after that horror Jesus was resurrected. But at the outset his followers seemed incapable of believing that he had actually come back to life.

So, for 40 days after his resurrection the Lord appeared repeatedly among his followers, restoring their confidence by giving evidences of his living presence. On one occasion he appeared to more than 500 followers at one time. By these appearances his followers came slowly to believe and their joy and worship grew.

Then, when the doubts and uncertainties held by this small circle of believers had been replaced with joyful certainty, Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. The apostles witnessed this ascension.

After the ascension there were then ten additional days during which Jesus’ convinced and renewed followers were often together in an upper room in Jerusalem or at a gathering place in the outer court of the temple. The major activity of those gatherings was prayer.

Thus 40 plus 10 added up to 50 days. The long celebrated Pentecost of the Jews came 50 days after Passover. Now, the Christian revision was to be celebrated.

Then, on this first Pentecost after Jesus’ sacrificial death, when Jerusalem was filled as usual with visitors from many places in the world, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the gathering of disciples.

This was accompanied by heaven-sent signs – “the sound like the blowing of a violent wind” and tongues of fire (that) “separated and rested on each of them”.

Winds on occasion symbolize the Spirit of God (John 3:8). This demonstration of divine power seized the attention of the gathered throng and signaled God’s purpose: The news of the Gospel would travel across the world (like the blowing wind) by the power of his Spirit.

Fire, like wind, symbolized the divine presence. Recall that God spoke to Moses out of a bush that burned but was not consumed. On that inimitable Pentecost the wind could be heard and felt and the fire seen.

Then came the third miraculous demonstration of God’s power: the apostles and other worshipers began to speak prophetically and those from other nations heard them proclaim in their own languages. This gift of languages perplexed and amazed the worshipers.

Then Peter stepped forward and began to address the crowds. He reviewed the history of Jesus and proclaimed him to be the Messiah. He explained the miraculous events as fulfilling the predictions of the prophet, Joel. Passionately, he called the listeners to repentance.

We can call his address the first Christian sermon. In fact, we can say this miraculous Pentecostal occasion symbolizes the birth of the Christian church.

There can only be one original Christian Pentecost. But God’s power as seen on that day can be tapped into by prayer because the out-poured Spirit is the universal Spirit of Christ promised to live in us and to help us do the work of the church for all time. Wherever the church wholeheartedly seeks the Spirit’s power the church is preserved and renewed.

The mission of the Spirit given to us at Pentecost is unchanging. It is to awaken us to sin, call us to repentance and the fulness of new life in Christ, and to help us serve through the church in her mission to preach the Gospel to every Creature and serve as his gracious hands to a hurting world.

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Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble (via flickr.com)
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One thought on “The Day the Christian Church Was Born

  1. After the spiritual preparation of Lent ,culminating in Passiontide and Holy week , came the most joyous occasion in the Christian church year – Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday. Eastertide continued , because ,of course , Easter is 50 days.
    I am pleased to notice a trend on social media this year .People are commenting on Easter ,under the hash – tag ’’# Easter is 50 days’’.

    People always seem to remember how long Lent is .It’s a pity to stint on rejoicing that Christ is risen. Easter is 50 days .Let us rejoice Christ’s Resurrection for full 50 days. Better , let us keep the joy of Easter in our heart’s all year.

    After 40 days we celebrated Ascension Day .This in memory of Christ’s Ascension from Mount Olivet, to Hs place in Heaven. Angels assured the witnesses at Mount Olivet : Christ will return the same way He departed.

    Jesus’s followers had good reason to go to Jerusalem in good heart , filled with hope and trust, to wait, as Christ bid them. Something great was about to happen.

    Something very great indeed happened .After 50 days ,a further 10 days after Ascension, we celebrate Pentecost ,the final culminating day of Eastertide ,when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit to that upstairs room in Jerusalem ,where Jesus had directed His followers to wait.

    The sound of a rushing wind came to the ears of the assembled and tongues of fire came upon the heads of each waiting follower of Christ , right there in Jerusalem , that day in the upper chamber. Following which , the gift of tongues came to each of Christ’s followers.

    From Simon Peter’s low point , his denial after Christ’s arrest, ‘Cephas’ now came into his own, showing himself a great leader for Christ.He gave a powerful sermon to the assembly.

    Each of the 4 elements has deep significance for Christians .Earth may remind us of the down to earth stable in Bethlehem when God came down to earh ,became bodily human.Water reminds us of the river Jordan in which John baptized our Saviour , marking the start of Christ’s mission. Water has the quality of Spirit . As Christ came up from the water, the Spirit descended from the Air in the form of a dove. At Pentecost, Fire alit on the assembled heads. The Spirit came in purifying tongues of flame, down upon each member, birthing the church.

    For surely this upper room was the first church assembly, and Peter’s address, the first church sermon. In this sermon , Peter drew attention to the Old Testament Messianic prophecies.
    In church, to this day ,we focus on the word of God ,both in the Old Testament reading and in the Gospel reading and sometimes also in a third reading ,from the New Testament Pauline letters.
    The Pentecost assembly was the first Christian ecclesia or congregation .

    A church is her people, her pastorate and flock ,her assembly or congregation, not the bricks and mortar .So the first church met at Pentecost , and it’s right to remember there was only one original Pentecost.

    There can only be one Pentecost , though we celebrate it each year. The waves from that day’s events continue to ripple to this day.Christ was ascended,no longer bodily on earth.

    Though bodily not on earth , Christ’s power was manifest at Pentecost,both in Spirit and effect , He is visible to this day, in the ripples from that great event. His power and glory , the power of His love and the glory of His love ,are present in His church .Christ is alive and present on earth here and now, He in the hearts of we who believe in Him He is manifest in the acts of love we do in His name.We are His hands and feet on earth now ,by His power and grace.

    In Christ , through The Holy Ghost ,we are filled with His grace, entirely blessed. Christ empowers us to freedom from Sin and Death .In faith, we need answer His call to penitence, in full humility.Thereby we are assured true freedom and new full life in Him , our Redeemer Christ Jesus.

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