One of the wonderful things about the Bible is that sometimes it is rather like a ‘pass the parcel’ game at a children’s party! It has many layers, and every time you unwrap a layer you find a new surprise and blessing. It may even make you whoop with joy and thanksgiving like the children do when they find what treat is in the next layer.
I had an experience akin to this recently when I started reading through Acts and got to the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Now I know that Pentecost was celebrated last month, and some of you may have already unwrapped this layer of treats, but for me it was a great insight or revelation, so enjoy it with me.
In a nutshell, what I saw afresh in this event, was that God showed Himself to be strongly into ‘togetherness, unity and community’, at the same time being strongly into the ‘identity of us as unique individuals‘, and strongly into the ‘diversity of us all within His family’. Pentecost is sometimes described as the birth of the church, so it seems extra significant that these three things are clear at the birth. It sets up a founding principle that we can delight in with much thanksgiving.
In Acts chapter one the background is set. Jesus has ascended and told them to wait for the promise of the Father. We read in verse 14 that “They all joined together constantly in prayer” NIV or “ These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer” NASB. Three thoughts: the interlinear indicates that the words “with one mind” are right in there, it was real togetherness not superficial smiles. Secondly “continually devoting” shows the togetherness wasn’t a flash in the pan, they were devoted to prayer together. And thirdly it wasn’t just the apostles, there were many unnamed people there (120 all told in verse15), there was family (Jesus mother and brothers) and there were the women who followed Jesus. (I believe that its important that this is mentioned given the culture of the day.)
On the day of Pentecost (Chapter 2 verse1) the time was right in God’s plan, “they were all together in one place”, their togetherness had lasted. God does love it when His children are together in unity – Psalm 133 – and blessing comes as it did that day. Let’s be thrilled and thankful at being part of God’s family and expect His blessing there. (P.S. it only needs 2 or 3 – you don’t have to wait for 120 other people! Matthew 18:20.)
Our Individual Identity.
Building on that third observation, I was really blessed to read that when the Holy Spirit came the wind filled ”all the house” – no escape – it hit the ‘soon to be great preacher’ Peter, and it hit the smallest, least confident, most doubting, ‘feeling most disqualified’ believer there. I think the Holy Spirit may have been laughing with joy as He said I have got you all and I am going to bless you all – NO EXCEPTIONS. And just so that they all knew that, and could see that, and not even risk any inferior/superior self doubt or put down, it explicitly says tongues of fire were “distributing themselves and they rested (or sat) on each one of them” NASB. There were no wallflowers at this Holy Spirit ballroom party. Greatest to the smallest, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (verse 4). We hear a lot about Identity and Identity politics today. Well! At the “birth” of His church Jesus, I believe, loved that they were together and also made absolutely sure that each individual experienced the Holy Spirit in an individual, personal, loved, ‘you are important’, special way. Also they and others could visibly see that no one misses out here. It’s still true today in God’s heart I believe, so let’s rejoice and be thankful that the Lord Jesus hasn’t changed in the way He sees you and me.
All together in unity? Yes. All significant separate individuals in The Lords eyes? Yes. All the same? No. Not only were there to be no lone rangers and no wallflowers, but also no clones. Read verses 5 to 12 of Acts 2. Luke goes to great trouble to tell us of all the different nations and languages that gathered to listen as The Holy Spirit gave His people “tongues speaking the mighty deeds of God”. Fifteen people groups are mentioned in verses 9 – 11 and those people are amazed themselves at the diversity of languages they are hearing (verse 8). Clearly One Holy Spirit was giving individual people, who were together, different languages.
This is so thrilling. You are part of God’s family and He wants you to know these three things. You belong to His community, you are significant and important as an individual in your own right as far as the Lord is concerned, (whatever anyone else may say) and He wants you to know that we each have a special part to play that is different. Diversity! Hoorah! What would have happened to the Cretans on the day of Pentecost if the person given the Cretan tongue by the Holy Spirit had been told to “shut up and do it like me” by the person who had been given the tongue for the Medes? Or if the person with Cretan language had put themselves down and said “I am not worthy”, “I can’t do it”, or “there are only 5 Cretans here and there are 100 Medes let me be like him and speak the tongue for Medes?” The result could be that the devout Cretans would not have heard of ‘the mighty deeds of God’ in their own language, about which the Lord wanted them to know, and be drawn in.
So I hope that the wonderful way the Lord orchestrated the birth of His church at Pentecost will thrill our hearts, and renew our faith about all three aspects. That is His attitude towards us as significant individuals in the togetherness of His body and His marvelous and unique plans for you and me to express His life in such a variety of ways for His glory and the blessing of many people. And as we have frequently remarked, gratitude and thanksgiving is one of the best ways to embed these truths in our hearts and minds, adjust our lenses about God, His people, ourselves and our calling, and release faith to live out what we are seeing afresh.