Pentecost may be called without any qualification the greatest of our Christian festivals. On the day the Holy Spirit was poured out Christ began to send forth in great abundance the precious fruits of his redemptive work—and that for the entire church till the very end of time. That day was the first of the new and better dispensation, the beginning of the period called in Scripture the last days.
The message of Pentecost is so many-sided that one is at loss to know what phase or facet of its significance to stress in a brief article.
Let us in these few lines on the subject state what, among all the teachings of Scripture on the meaning of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, should receive first consideration.
Pentecost may be called the compass of the Holy Spirit pointing in four principal directions. First, it points back to the Cross as the only source of the rich spiritual blessings of the new day. Second, it points forward to three great realities: the Word, the Church, and the World.
First, Pentecost points to the Church. There was already a church in the Old Testament, the gathering of true believers. Yet Christ spoke of the Church as a future reality: “On this rock I will build my church.” The Church as the body of Christ and as an independent organization did not come into existence until the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the New Testament Church.
Second, Pentecost points to the World. The day of the Spirit’s coming was the birthday of Christian missions. Christ said to his apostles just before his ascension: “But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile was removed and the message of the gospel began to be preached to all nations.
Third, Pentecost points to the Word. This is primary. Only through the Word could the Church be formed and only through that Word can the world be evangelized.
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
The Holy Spirit sustains a very special relation to the Word of God. He is not only its Author; he also uses it as his insbument for the performance of his work. He not only produced it; he alone can make it a liviug Word in the hearts and lives of men.
The Bible underlines the fact that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Jesus said to his disciples on the eve of his passion : “And I will pray the Father. and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.” Of that same Spirit Christ says in this same chapter: “and he shall teach you all things.” Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 2 as the great revealer of truth. “But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God…But we received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God: that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God.”
Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter; but the only way in which he comforts is by applying to our hearts the truths made known to us in the Word. There is no comfort apart from that Word.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of liberty. But as Jesus states so emphatically: the truth alone can make us free. The liberating power of the Holy Spirit is exercised through the Word.
The Scripture presents the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of unity. He unifies the hearts of all those who have a common faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. That unity is based on a common faith, a common acceptance of the Word of truth as the authoritative Word of God.
‘The Holy Spirit is also presented as the Spirit of love—and of all the qualities inherent in Christian love: joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). Love is the key-word in this verse. But that love for the brethren and for men in general is rooted and grounded in love for the truth of God which alone can open our eyes to the remnants of the image of God in sinners and to that restored image in our fellow Christians.
The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of prayer and supplication. But he impels us to prayer through his Word and through that same Word teaches us how to pray.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of missions. But it is only through the Word that he awakens within us a true love for the cause of missions. That Word enables us to see all nations as having been given to and belonging to Christ, since the Father had said to him: “Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Moreover, that Word alone reveals to us the lost condition of mankind and it alone gives us the message of salvation which the world needs.
Let us draw a few practical conclusions from the thoughts we have gleaned from Scripture with respect to the intimate relation between the Spirit and the Word of truth.
First, it must be plain that there can never be a genuine spiritual revival in the church unless God’s people in great numbers return to the earnest reading and study of the Bible as the indefectible Word of God. The Spirit alone can revive the Church but he is pleased to use the Word for that purpose.
The Spirit is grieved by the prevailing lack of interest in the Word of God among Christian people. Every reformation of the church and every spiritual awakening in the church has been preceded or accompanied by a great hunger for the Word of God. Well may we pray:
Eternal Spirit, God of truth,
Our contrite hearts inspire;
Kindle a flame of heavenly love
And feed the pure desire.
In many of our churches only a very small fraction of the membership attends some meeting whose principal purpose is the study of the Word of God. Possible explanations of that sad situation are no justifications. Spiritual life is bound to be at low ebb when Bible reading and Bible study are neglected. Let us pray for a mighty revival of interest in the Word of God. We need it in our churches of Reformed persuasion not less than in other denominations, perhaps more than in some of them.
Denial or questioning of the divine character and infallibility of the Scripture is a very serious obstacle to an ardent and believing searching of the Scripture. We know of no greater spiritual depressant than the evil suspicion that the Bible cannot be trusted implicitly in all its utterances and statements. The tendency on the part of some to put a question mark behind certain elements in Scripture is undermining the faith of some among us and is bound to do harm to the spiritual life of the Church.
We grieve the Spirit of missions if we in our mission work fail to teach and to proclaim the whole counsel of God merely for the sake of cooperating with those whose view on Biblical doctrine differs from ours.
We grieve the Spirit of truth if we seek to promote external unity among the churches at the expense of the truth.
May our observance of Pentecost lead not only to a deeper insight in the teaching of Scripture on the person and work of the Holy Spirit but also to a stronger and more jubilant faith in the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth.