Pentecost: Past Event or Present Reality?


What a day in the life of the church! And what a difference it made to those who were there! In fact if you took the dynamic of the Holy Spirit out of the book of Acts you wouldn’t have a story to tell.

The big question is, is it simply a past event or should it be a present reality? The question has caused all sorts of discussions and disagreements in the church. Church history though reveals that it experienced the Spirit in a  powerful and dramatic way for at least the first 8 centuries – so such experiences certainly didn’t die out with the Apostles. So much for cessationism.

Then time and again throughout church history to this day there have been breakouts of the Spirit’s dynamic activity. The history of revival is largly a history of Spirit movements. They’ve not always or rarely have been tidy, but then neither was what was going on at the church in Corinth.

The problem is that when it’s no longer, or never has been our experience, instead of questioning our lack of experience we want to justify oursleves, our lack of it, so we go to the Scriptures and seek to make them fit.

To tight a theology

I grew up in a cessationist backgroud, I know the arguments, and Church and the Christian life were predictable. Then in my late teens I came into an experience of the dynamic of the Holy Spirit while I was still trying to get my head round it! The experience changed my life and witness.

I studied and developed my theology, and thought I understood, but over the years as I have gone back to the scriptures I have found that my neat and tidy package was neater than the Bibles! My conclusion? The desire to have such a neat and tidy package may have more to do with our western mindset, and little to do with God.

A straightforward reading of the scriptures gives the game away. It uses overlapping words/terminologies for the various experiences of the Spirit, and maybe, just maybe this all part of God’s design. After all, if we could define the experience and nail it down, then we could package it and God would become predictable.

But God will not allow himself to be boxed in or used by man or woman … God is still a mystery. God will not allow himself to be reduced to a formula.

Symbols & Expressions

The very symbols and expressions should tell us that: wind, fire, oil, fell upon, baptised (immersed), filled, drink, etc. …. God in his Word has used a whole range of earthly symbols and descriptive terms to show us something of the variegated work of the Spirit.

So, past event or present reality? God never intended that the experience of the Spirit should come ‘to pass,’ but to be the continuing and variegated experience of the people of God through every generation, in every land.

The promise is for you and your childrens children, and to all who are afar off. (Acts 2:39)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.