Story of the Bible, Act 9: Pentecost

Pentecost marks the birthday of the Church!

Pentecost marks the birthday of the Church! A handful of bewildered but hopeful disciples became a world-changing force that brought the life-changing message of salvation to millions. With all our sins and failures, the Church has been the greatest force for good the world has ever seen.

The experience of Pentecost as told in Acts 2.1–13 contains the seeds of everything that was to follow. And its common theme is that what happened, happened to everyone. The wind that was the sign of the presence of God 'filled the whole house' (verse 2); it was not like the 'soft whisper' that only Elijah could hear (1 Kings 19.12). The fire 'touched each person there' (verse 3). All of them 'began to speak in other languages' (verse 4). God's Spirit is poured out on the Church as a whole, not just on a few people who are specially favoured. 

The immediate result of their experience is that everyone who hears them is able to understand them (verse 6). There's a powerful echo here of Genesis 11 and the story of the Tower of Babel, where the people decide to build a tower that 'reaches the sky'. 'Soon they will be able to do anything they want!' God says (verse 6) and he decides to 'mix up their language' so they won't be able to understand each other. At Pentecost, that ancient limitation is undone: it's a symbolic moment that says that God's Church has been set free to do anything in the power of his Spirit. It will bind the world together in the service of Christ.  

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