Outpouring of Spirit and Word – Pentecost

Text: Acts 2:1-21

Let us pray:

Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.[1]

Today we gather to sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving to our God on high. We ascribe all glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, who has ascended the right hand of the Father but has not left us without consolation. On this day, Pentecost, we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s Apostles and the spread of His Gospel – the Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins by grace through faith – to all the world. When the Holy Spirit caused the Apostles to speak in those many different languages, He showed that the salvation that is in Christ is for the whole world. As St. Peter said, “It shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[2]

Our text today is the reading from Acts. From it, we confess that the day of Pentecost is the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise to pour out His Holy Spirit on His faithful people and marks the spread of the Gospel to all nations.

I.

The events of the day took place in the Holy City, Jerusalem. Ten days ago, the Church celebrated the ascension of our Lord to the right hand of the Father. Forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus resumed the glory which was His before the foundation of the universe, which He will continue to hold even when He returns in glory. You may remember these words from His mouth just before He returned to the Father, “Behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”[3] St. Luke also wrote in Acts 1, that Jesus, “ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.”[4] Jesus’ last words before departing to the Father included the command to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes.

We’ve heard about the Holy Spirit a few times this Easter season. Of the seven Sundays of Easter, at least four speak about the Holy Spirit. Four of our Gospel lessons fall during Jesus’ final teaching in the Upper Room. He taught about how the Holy Spirit would convict the world through the Law and comfort believers with the Gospel. Jesus called the Holy Spirit, “the Helper.” In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came, He would, “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said.”[5] As He taught them in the Upper Room, Jesus promised the Disciples the Holy Spirit. He promised Him again before His Ascension. Even John the Baptist spoke about the Holy Spirit when He said Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but He didn’t say when.

Heeding our Lord’s instructions, the Disciples remained in Jerusalem after His Ascension. They were continually in the Temple, worshipping Jesus and praying. On Pentecost, they were all together in one place. Then, St. Luke wrote,

Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.[6]

As the Disciples were all together, trusting in our Lord’s promise, the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled as a sound like a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire came from heaven. These tongues rested upon the Apostles, and they were caused to speak out clearly the Gospel of Christ in languages they had not previously known. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Cappadocians, and more, all heard the Gospel of Christ in their own languages. Pentecost, which means fifty days, originally was a harvest festival that fell fifty days after Passover. Here, fifty days after our Lord’s Passover, it became a festival of the Lord’s harvest as the Spirit was poured out and the Gospel spread to the nations.

II.

These are the events of Pentecost. The Apostles remained in Jerusalem, trusting our Lord’s promise and awaiting the Holy Spirit. As they were gathered together, there was a great sound from heaven and tongues as of fire rested on them. As it was a loud sound, many who were in Jerusalem also came together, perplexed at what it meant. They found the Apostles declaring the Good News of Jesus Christ, and each heard it in his own first language. St. Luke writes, “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.‘”[7] That’s when St. Peter, standing with the other eleven Apostles, addressed the crowd and explained what this all meant. St. Peter gives the meaning of the day we celebrate today.

First, he said, “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days…God declares…I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.”[8] St. Peter said that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not only promised by Jesus and John the Baptist, but it had also been prophesied through the prophet Joel, some eight-hundred years earlier. God never goes back on His Word nor fails to keep His promises, even when the timeline doesn’t make sense to us. All these things were happening, St. Peter said, as fulfillment of God’s promises. The outpouring of the Spirit also demonstrated the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. His atonement for the sins of the world has been what it’s all been about all along.

Second, St. Peter quoted from Joel, “In the last days…I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…and I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below…before the day of the Lord comes.”[9] By this, St. Peter showed, not only is God fulfilling His promise of the Spirit on Pentecost, but these things show that we are in the Last Days. It seems that every year there are more and more predictions of the End Times. But, the most Biblical way to speak on this topic, is to hold with the inspired words of Peter that the Last Days began with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. Now, all the work of our salvation has been completed by Christ on the cross. All that remains is the spread of the Gospel of Jesus to the world – which is the third thing St. Peter taught in His Pentecost sermon.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise and it marks the spread of the Gospel to the whole world so that, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” God spoke through Joel that in the Last Days, His Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. On the Day of Pentecost, that happened visibly upon the Apostles. The Holy Spirit was poured out on believers throughout the book of Acts as the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to them. The Holy Spirit is poured out on us through Baptism and through the preaching of the Word. Through these things the Holy Spirit dwells in us and causes us to confess with heart and mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, who has redeemed us not with gold or silver, but with His precious suffering and death in our place.

As the Holy Spirit caused the Apostles to tell out the greatness of the Lord, leading them to speak boldly about the Gospel of Christ to all the world, so also the Holy Spirit causes us to speak forth the Good News in our lives. Today we give thanks to God Almighty for the fulfillment of His promises and for the Holy Spirit which we received in our Baptism. And, we pray that God would continue what He started on Pentecost – the spread of the Gospel to all nations, that all might be led to repentance and faith, so that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.


[1] Collect for the Eve of Pentecost

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Acts 2:21.

[3] Lk. 24:49.

[4] Acts 1:4.

[5] Jn. 14:26.

[6] Acts 2:2-4.

[7] Acts 2:12-13.

[8] Acts 2:16-17.

[9] Acts 2:17, 19-20.

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