Pentecost Changed Everything
A pastor friend texted and asked my thoughts on how the original disciples had been changed by what they experienced in the second chapter of Acts. In other words, what were they like before and after that momentous event of being filled with the Holy Spirit?
My immediate thought went to Peter, the most impulsive and outspoken of the original twelve. He was always the first to share his opinion and was the first to get out of the boat and attempt to walk on the water with Jesus. We see the limits of his human strength, though, when he denied knowing the Lord three times on the night of Jesus’ arrest. The biblical account reveals the depth of Peter’s intensity and emotion:
MATTHEW 26:74-75 (TPT)
Peter denied it, and using profanity he said, “I don’t know the man!” At that very moment the sound of a crowing rooster pierced the night. Then Peter remembered the prophecy of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows you will have denied me three times.” With a shattered heart, Peter went out of the courtyard, sobbing with bitter tears.
Luke’s account adds an important detail of what happened at the exact moment of Peter’s third denial:
LUKE 22:61-62 (TPT)
At that moment, the Lord, who was being led through the courtyard by his captors, turned around and gazed at Peter. All at once Peter remembered the words Jesus had prophesied over him… Peter burst into tears, ran off from the crowd, and wept bitterly.
Most of us know the story well how Jesus so beautifully restored Peter and reaffirmed his calling to feed the Lord’s sheep (John 21:15-19). Then, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up as the group’s spokesman and with boldness proclaimed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Three thousand souls received that word and were ushered into God’s family that day. We all know the difference in Peter’s life is that he had received power after the Holy Spirit had come upon him (Acts 1:8).
But There’s Far More to Pentecost
As important as Peter’s transformation experience was, there is far more that changed in the overall picture of the “Pre-Pentecost” and “Post-Pentecost” disciples. The power of the Holy Spirit did not come on the Day of Pentecost just so an individual preacher could preach with power! There is a much bigger picture, and it involves every believer.
Before Pentecost, the disciples really struggled with unity. The disciples were often self-willed and self-promoting. On three different occasions, Jesus had to correct the disciples because they were arguing about which of them was the greatest, and one of these happened at the Last Supper. Immediately after the resurrection, John even went to great measures to point out that he was faster than Peter, and outran Peter in getting to the tomb (John 20:3-8).
Prior to Pentecost, the disciples had a fleshly type of energy, and it was often misguided. Peter had cut a man’s ear off in the Garden of Gethsemane. James and John wanted to call fire down on a village that was not welcoming to them. They tried to run off little children that wanted to see Jesus, and John demanded that someone else not use Jesus’ Name in ministering to hurting people because that individual was not a part of their group. All of these types of expressions were carnally based, and Jesus corrected them all.
After Pentecost, a radical transformation took place. Yes, Peter did preach under the anointing, but the empowerment of the Spirit also brought a unity and a focus of purpose they had not known before. Instead of competing, the disciples were now cooperating. Instead of conflict, they were now collaborating.
ACTS 2:46-47 (NLT)
They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
A corporate blessing flowed from Pentecost. “They were all filled…” What happens next is really remarkable. Peter and John had had their moments of competition, but now we see a new dynamic taking place. Instead of Peter and John elbowing each other and seeing who can get to the tomb first, we see them walking side-by-side, together in partnership en route to prayer.
ACTS 3:1 (NKJV)
Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer…
Such a simple statement, and yet when you consider their history, it is remarkable.
They were going together to pray together. You know about the miracle of healing that took place then with the man who had been lame from birth. After that, Peter preached to the people and testified to the Jewish council, and then he and John together returned to their own company. They were now operating as team members. How the believers then prayed reveals the unity that been had birthed in them through their newly found empowerment of the Spirit.
ACTS 4:24, 29-31 (NKVJ)
They raised their voice to God with one accord and said… grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
It appears that the “preaching with boldness” was the tip of the iceberg in the earliest days of the church. The preaching is what people often noticed, but the bulk of the power of the early believers was found in their unity of purpose and the richness of their fellowship.
Is it possible that “power” was not so much the goal, but was actually a by-product of the Holy Spirit’s working in the early church? If that is true, then power was simply a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. The power of God facilitated the changing of peoples’ lives. That’s why 3,000 people got saved on the day of Pentecost! Maybe it’s really important that we be love-hungry and unity-hungry—not power-hungry.
When we look at what Jesus said and prayed before His death, burial, and resurrection, we recognize what Jesus’ goals and priorities were for His church. Consider these two passages:
JOHN 13:35 (NKJV)
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
JOHN 17:21, 23 (TPT)
I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognize that you sent me… that they will experience perfect unity, and the world will be convinced that you have sent me…
Based on those two Scriptures, the way the world will (1) know, (2) recognize, and (3) be convinced of God’s work in our lives and His love toward them is through our love and our unity! That is exactly what we see happening in the lives of the earliest believers following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost!
As a preacher, it is tempting for me to simply focus on how much “power” I feel when I’m in the pulpit, and it is wonderful to sense divine empowerment when preaching. But Pentecost was designed to produce so much more than that! The man God used mightily during the Azusa Street outpouring in the early twentieth century, William J. Seymour, said, “The Pentecostal power, when you sum it all up, is just more of God’s love. If it does not bring more love, it is simply a counterfeit.”
After Pentecost in the book of Acts, we see
- The fearful become bold
- The lost get saved
- Competitors become collaborators
- The divided become united
- The individualists become a team
- Those who had cowered in trepidation pour into the streets and become world changers
I pray that we will clearly embrace the biblical principles and values that constitute the very purpose of our existence. I believe that we can see all that the Holy Spirit produced through Pentecost in the first century, develop in us as well.