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Article written for New Creation Christian Community, Jesus Army’s community organisation.
I’ve never viewed Pentecost as a mistake.
The first time I read the remarkable account in Acts 2 of how the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’ disciples with miraculous power so that they could speak other languages; how Peter’s passionate sermon resulted in 3,000 receiving Jesus; how all the disciples then had everything in common so that nobody had to be poor – I knew that this was good. In fact, it was awesome. Luke’s point isn’t that this is a tragic event that shouldn’t be repeated, he’s describing the best church ever!
I realised that a lot of miracles are better than a few miracles, that a lot of saved people are better than a few saved people, and that no economic inequality is better than existing economic inequality. I realised that if I were to claim that we don’t “need to” make our churches look like Jerusalem, I would in fact be arguing that our churches don’t need to be as good as they should.
It would be like saying that a fire extinguisher doesn’t need to extinguish fire, or that a surgeon doesn’t need to save the lives of the patients he or she is caring for. (more…)
This is an excerpt from the first draft of my upcoming book on radical charismatic church history.
In the beginning of the 20th century, China was suffering from the Boxer uprising, where Mandarin nationalists revolted against European colonial influences, demanding that everything foreign, especially Christianity, should be thrown out. The Boxers were crushed by colonial forces but that didn’t put an end to the social unrest, and China continued to suffer from looting, violence and xenophobia. And yet, Pentecostalism spread rapidly throughout China, much thanks to the Holy Spirit and a guy called Mok Lai Chi (1868-1926) in Hong Kong.
Mok went to the slums of Wan Chai, preaching the Gospel and healing the sick. In 1908 he started a paper called Wuxunjie Zhenlibao, Pentecostal Truths, which was spread not just in Hong kong but across the mainland. Mok explained in the paper: “Hong Kong Pentecostal Mission is a Jesus church founded by the Chinese themselves, not a branch of any foreign churches planted in my nation.”
The Mission supported Bible classes and girl schools, as well as church planting. Mok Lai Chi both cared for people’s salvation and the social problems they experience here and now; protesting against the British colonial government in 1921 for allowing the rents in the city to be too high. (more…)
Happy Pentecost! I don’t know how it is in your country, but here in Sweden Pentecost is hardly celebrated at all – we’re must more eager to celebrate National Cinnamon Bun Day or Waffle Day (yeah, we have those). But Pentecost is worth celebrating – it’s the amazing power-boosting of the church when it receives the power and love it needs to perform its divinely commanded mission to save the world.
The book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit baptized all of the early Jesus followers – men and women alike – and gave them the miraculous gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues and preaching an epic sermon that leads to 3000 people accepting Jesus as their Saviour and receiving eternal life. It’s dramatic, it’s fantastic and it’s very supernatural.
Pentecost is repeatable – we can also experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit and be equipped with His miraculous gifts to spread the word about eternal life in Jesus. Pentecostals have always emphasized this: they often talk about preaching the “Full Gospel” – both salvation and Spiritual baptism – and the early Pentecostals said that they had restored the “Apostolic Faith”.
Had they, though? (more…)
To be baptized with water is awesome, but to be baptized with fire is even awesomer. John the Baptist, who really knew baptism, said: “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Lk 3:16)
Who could this be? Spoiler alert: It’s Jesus. Before He levitated up to Heaven, He told His disciples:
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses (Acts 1:4-5, 8)
And this happened ten days later:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)
Yesterday, on Pentecost day, I had the honour to preach in my dear house church Mosaik. We’re always outside in the park during the summer, and this Sunday we had som English speaking visitors – so for the first time in a year I preached in English. And since a friend of mine recorded it all, it’s now available for you guys!
I started with talking about the Pentecostal language miracle, when one is able to speak existing languages that one hasn’t studies, and gave some testimonies about when this has happened in modern times. This was also what my last blog post was about. Then, I talked about how Peter, in his Pentecostal sermon in Acts chapter 2, really emphasises miracles when he talks about Jesus. He presents the Messiah by saying “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Then he goes on with “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (vv. 32-33). Thus, Peter proves that Jesus is the Messiah by pointing at His miraculous ministry, His resurrection and the miracles His Spirit does.
The people “were cut to the heart” (v. 37) when they heard this and asked Peter what they should do, and he answered “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (v. 38). 3000 people did so, and suddenly the apostolic league of disciples had become a mega church – but not in the modern sense, since they lacked a church building. They were a charismatic, evangelistic house church movement that spread rapidly, as Luke famously portrays:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Happy Pentecost! This weekend, millions of Christians all across the globe are celebrating the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the apostolic church. Pentecost has always been very important for me, I started this blog on Pentecost day 2012, writing about the meaning of Pentecost. This is because the apostolic Pentecost as it is described in Acts 2 combines everything I like: charismatic fire, economic communism, universal evangelism and overall simplicity, fellowship and joy.
It all started when the wonderful Holy Spirit descended with fire and the international gift of tongues:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? (Acts 2:1-8, NIV)
In my experience, this is quite a common miracle. When the early Pentecostals met at the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles to enjoy the restoration of spiritual baptism, many claimed that people actually started to speak real languages. In the October issue 1906 of The Apostolic Faith, the official publication of the Azusa Street church, the following article is included:
Sister Hutchins has been preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. She has received the baptism with the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Uganda language, the language of the people to whom she is sent. A brother who has been in that country understands and has interpreted the language she speaks. Her husband is with her and her niece, who also has been given the African language.
The Pentecostal Hutterite Don Murphy writes in his pamphlet The Church and the Narrow Path, to which I agree completely:
The Book of Acts chapter 2 records the birth of the Church of Jesus Christ and it describes what that Church was like. In the first part of Acts 2, we see the Church born in the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus said (Acts 1:8). Then in the last part of Acts 2, we see the lifestyle of the early church, they were together daily, sharing their lives together, giving up private possessions as Jesus commanded (Luke 14:33), having all material possessions in common.
Using Acts 2 as a guide, we see that there are four types of churches today.
- Churches that bear little resemblance to the description of the Church in Acts 2 since they do not expect to have the power of the Holy Spirit in them as was in the early church and they do not follow the holy lifestyle of the early church as shown in the last part of Acts 2.
- Churches that meet the description of the early church in the first part of Acts 2. They do proclaim the power of the Holy Spirit with demonstrated signs and wonders. The Pentecostal churches fit this description. They like to say that they are ‘Full Gospel’ churches but they actually are only ‘Half Gospel’ churches since they do not fit the description of the last part of Acts 2.
- Churches that meet the description of the early church in the last part of Acts 2, meeting together daily and having all material goods in common. This is a very rare church indeed! However, they tend to not expect the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives as did the early church.
- Churches that meet the description of the entire chapter of Acts 2, a true ‘Full Gospel’ church. They not only proclaim the power of the Holy Spirit with demonstrated signs, wonders and holy living but also meet together daily and share all material goods in common as did the early church. Where does this church exist today?
When we use Acts chapter 2 as a guide we find that the way to the Kingdom of God is narrow indeed!
“Struggle to enter the Kingdom through the narrow door. The road to hell is wide with plenty of room and most go that way. But the door is small and the path is hard and narrow that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13-14, Luke 13:23-24).
Is it really possible to share everything, like the apostles did on Pentecost (Acts 2:44-45), today? Many Christians in the Western world seem to think that the community of goods is an unrealistic utopia, and thus, they don’t even try to live like the apostles. But the Jesus Army in the UK proves that it indeed is possible to live a New Testament life. Many of their church members live in the New Creation Christian Community, where they share everything, just like in the book of Acts. They write:
Practising a radical ‘New Creation’ lifestyle in the Jesus Fellowship
You don’t have to live in Christian community to belong to the Jesus Fellowship! But many of us do! Around 700 of us share our possessions and pool our income and wealth (if we have any!) to live like the early Christians. They had “all things in common”[Acts 2:44] and “no-one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own”.[Acts 4:32]
That was the result of the power of the Holy Spirit coming on the church at Pentecost. And our community life, too, is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence. We have power to love! Power to serve! Power to share!
We’re able to break the mould. To escape from the rut. The question we ask is “How does God want us to live?” Of course it’s to love. Of course it’s to share. Of course it’s to show that through new life in Jesus He brings into being a new way of living!
Jesus had little to call His own.[Matt 8:20] He shared a pooled fund with His disciples.[Mark 10:28] He warned of the love of money.[Mark 10:21,22] Small wonder then that Peter led the new converts at the day of Pentecost into Christian community.
Pentecost is a forgotten holiday, when even Pentecostals celebrate Valentine’s day more than they celebrate Pentecost, it is obvious that we have a problem. We have to celebrate Pentecost – not by starting some strange tradition of dressing trees with small tongues of fire and eating dove-formed chocolate – but by intensively praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, as it is described in Acts chapter 2, is repeatable, and that is fantastic news for the sleeping church in the Western world.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2 there was indeed an explosion of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit – tongues, healing, prophecy etc. – but also of the sanctifying fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace etc. These fruits are not only nice feelings, they lead to a radical lifestyle. On Pentecost, the first Christians had everything in common; they put economic equalization into practice, while they were performing signs and wonders. The charismatic gifts were combined with poverty reduction.
Charismatic Poverty Reduction
In 2010, a 20 year-old woman named Teresa Jebiwot participated in a revival meeting in Kisumu, southern Kenya. She was born without a cornea, which made her totally blind, not knowing if it was day or night unless someone told her. On the revival meeting however, she got completely healed when the prophet David Owour prayed for her, and she started to see perfectly. This was verified by an eye specialist, Dr. Agnes Maiyo, at the Iten District Hospial. More information about the healing can be found here.
I find this very beautiful; it is not easy to be blind in such a poor country as Kenya, but the wonderworking power of God did what no aid organisation can do. Teresa’s healing is a contemporary parallel to Bartimaeus’ healing in Mark 10:46-52. He was a blind beggar, and when Jesus healed him, three things happened: Firstly, people realized that God exist. Secondly, Bartimaeus could see God’s beautiful creation. Thirdly, he never had to beg again. Jesus used a miracle to set him free from poverty. Signs and wonders was combined with social justice. (more…)