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Sometimes, God shows up in the unassuming and unexpected. A baby who will save the world is born in a back barn; a lowly servant girl brings a message of healing for a warrior; a king is anointed while smelling of sheep and grime. God has proven again and again that He is more concerned with the heart of the matter than the fanfare around it.

But sometimes, God does bring fanfare and flash. Sometimes, God makes His presence KNOWN.

And in the case of Pentecost, the birthday of the church and gift of the holy spirit, there was a hootenanny going on! That particular gift arrived with fire and flair.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, [the apostles] were all with one accord in one place…and there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” Acts 2:1, 5 KJV

The Revised English Version commentary notes that Pentecost was the Greek term for the Jewish “feast of weeks.” It comes 50 days after Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (pente = 50) and traditionally ends the wheat harvest.

The Jews celebrated (and often still celebrate) a lot of feasts throughout the year, with different meanings and practices around them. But this particular feast was one of three that required all Jewish males to come to Jerusalem, which means they were often traveling with their families as well.

However, the Feast of Weeks did not take a week to celebrate. It was often called the “day” of firstfruits because it was a one-day festival, meaning that all of the Jewish males that had traveled in to Jerusalem would be in the temple on the same day. They were to arrive with a tribute and honor.

“You are to keep the Feast of Weeks to Yahweh your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you are to give according as Yahweh your God blesses you, and you are to rejoice before Yahweh your God, you and your son and your daughter, and your male servant and your female servant and the Levite who is inside your gates, and the foreigner and the fatherless and the widow who are in the midst of you, in the place that Yahweh your God will choose to cause his name to dwell there.” Deuteronomy 16:10-11 REV

So, at the time of the morning sacrifice, on a day of rejoicing and giving of firstfruits, came the first of a new opportunity to receive holy spirit. Up until this point, there were specific rules and protocols for how one communicated with God. His spirit could be put upon people, and it could be taken off.

But then, FIRE came from heaven.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house [temple] where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” Acts 2:2-3 KJV

That would have been a sight to behold in itself – what appears to be fire comes down, separates, and sits on top of each apostle. Clearly, this Day of Firstfruits is a little more special. But then, the twelve apostles open their mouths and begin to speak – not in their native tongue.

“And they were all filled – diffused throughout their souls – with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages, as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression (in each tongue in appropriate words)…and when this sound was heard, the multitude came together and they were astonished and bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own (particular) dialect.” Acts 2:4, 6 AMP

This is what Christian Family Fellowship calls “speaking in tongues,” one of NINE manifestations of the holy spirit.

Wow! After Pentecost, the holy spirit was available not just “upon” people, but it could now be IN them. As the apostle Peter explains to the astonished crowd:

“God has raised this Jesus; we all are witnesses of this. Then, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised holy spirit, he has poured out this that you see and hear.” Acts 2:32-33 REV

That holy spirit was promised by Jesus to his disciples during their last supper together before his death, and again promised right before his ascension.

“…but wait for the Promise of the Father, which, he said, you have heard from me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the holy spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 NKJV

There is so much to know and learn about the holy spirit, and the power that comes with it, and the opportunities that we now have to be a part of God’s family.

But we will end this account with one of the most exciting changes Pentecost brought: that holy spirit, once given, can now never be taken away. With the gift of holy spirit comes the gift of sonship or daughtership into God’s family.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For the spirit which you have now received is not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption – the spirit producing sonship – in the bliss of which we cry, Abba! [that is] Father!” Romans 8:14-15 AMP

Happy birthday to God’s church, and welcome to His family!

Want to learn more about Pentecost and the gift of holy spirit? Check out the teachings “Acts 1 &2” by John Shroyer and “1 Corinthians 12 – Pneumatikos” by Wayne Clapp in the audio Living in God’s Power series.