Saturday, December 17, 2011

International Impact of Pentecost

It’s amazing to consider the international reach that occurred on the day of Pentecost. 

The Scriptures state, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.” (Act 2:1-5)

God planned this perfectly.  Pentecost was a Jewish feast that brought Jews from around the world into Jerusalem.  And when the Spirit of God was poured out on the disciples of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, the people in the crowd declared their nationalities and places of origin. They included people from the far eastern border of the Roman Empire (Parthians, Medes and Elamites), westward through Mesopotamia and Judea, and the regions of Asia Minor, as well as Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia. They also included people from the southern regions of the empire--Egypt and, west of it, the parts of Libya near Cyrene, the capital of the Empire, Rome, the island of Crete, and the Arabs.  Here are the modern day names of these places:
  • Parthia was a region of modern-day northeastern Iran. 
  • Media was a region of modern-day northwestern Iran.
  • Elam was a region of modern-day southwest Iran.
  • Judea included the nation of Israel.
  • Mesopotamia was generally all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, including modern-day Syria, almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey.
  • Asia Minor corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of modern-day Turkey.
  • Cappadocia corresponds to the center of what is now Turkey.
  • Pontus was located in modern-day northeastern Turkey.
  • Asia is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean.
  • Phrygia was the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey.
  • Pamphylia was modern day Antalya province, Turkey
  • Egypt was much the same as modern day Egypt.
  • The parts of Libya near Cyrene were located in North Africa.
  • Rome was, of course, in modern day Italy.
  • Crete was one of the islands of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Arabs were the people living in Western Asia and North Africa.  These include the modern day nations of Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Mauritania, Qatar, and Bahrain. 
As you can see, there was a vast multinational group represented in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out.  They heard the disciples speaking in other tongues.  “And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?’” (Act 2:6-8)

The people were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished!  And they said, “We hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” (Act 2:11)

The people from these nations were both Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism.   They heard the mighty deeds of God declared in their own languages that day.  It was God’s plan that they should all see His Spirit poured out and hear the gospel preached, because it is a universal message for all nations.

After they heard Peter preach the gospel, they were convicted deeply by the Holy Spirit.  “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (Act 2:37)

Still Only One Way to be Saved Today
The answer that Peter gave to their question is the same for us today.  Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." (Act 2:38-39) When they asked what they must do to be saved, Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.   

About three thousand people were added to the church that day.  And presumably most of them later went back to their home countries with the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ for their people.  No matter what nation or race you are from, this is still the only way to be saved.

Still Only One Way to be Empowered as a Witness
Just as the gospel message hasn't changed, neither has God's way for disciples of Christ to be His witnesses.  We still need to be empowered and that can only happen by being baptized in the Holy Spirit. There is no place in Scripture where Jesus revoked His command to wait until you first receive the power of the Holy Spirit before being His witness.

Scholars say that Pentecostal and charismatic churches are the fastest growing form of Christianity today.  According to a report from Voice of America, regarding a new global study funded by the John Templeton Foundation, researchers state that Pentecostals and charismatics make up one quarter of the world's Christians, and the majority of them are in the developing world.  These congregations are thriving, because they believe God is powerful and is doing miracles in the present.  They are ministering to the sick and the poor, and meeting the needs of these people in their communities.

Putting it All Together
Before the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they were afraid and hiding out in a locked room.  But when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were clothed with supernatural power to be bold witnesses of the resurrected Christ. The gospel is for all nations, and perhaps as many as 25 nations received the gospel on that first day.  The international impact of Pentecost was vast and can still be seen today. In many countries the church has been in existence since that day.

Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is still essential in order to be a truly effective witness for Christ. Churches that teach and practice this are among the fastest multiplying churches in the world.

Ultimately there will one day be worshipers from every nation, tribe, and language before the throne of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. As the apostle John wrote in the Revelation he received, "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' " (Rev 7:9-10).  Have you been empowered to be a witness for the Lamb?

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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