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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Birth of the Church

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering (First Fruits); there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath ... (Leviticus 23:15-16) 
Shavuot (Weeks) is a Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. It was one of the three pilgrimage festivals -- Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Booths) -- which required Jewish males to gather in Jerusalem for national worship. 

Shavuot (known as Pentecost in the B'rit Chadashah, or New Testament) is counted fifty days from the Feast of First Fruits -- the day Yeshua HaMashiach rose from the dead. As the Feast of Weeks celebrates the writing of the Law upon stone tablets, Pentecost celebrates the writing of the Law upon people's hearts: 

"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their G-d, and they will be my people." (Jeremiah 31:33) 

After His resurrection, Yeshua told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit):

And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) 

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, Which, He said, you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. (Acts 1:4-5) 

This was, as Kephas declared, to fulfill the prophecy of Joel: 

 Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 

‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ G-d says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS ... ’ (Acts 2:14-17) 

Pentecost fulfilled the promise of our Lord to not forsake us: 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26) 

And so it was ... 

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. 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? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs -- we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of G-d.” (Acts 2:1-11) 

To my Dispensational brethren who believe that the prophecy of Joel is yet to be fulfilled at some future date, may I kindly stand with our brother Kephas (Peter) in affirming the prophetic fulfillment of Pentecost. And to my Pentecostal brothers who associate tongues with salvation, may I allude to Rabbi Sha'ul's letter to the assembly at Corinth: 

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same G-d who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

Not all Christians possess all of these gifts. Yes, some have the gift of tongues -- others the gift of healing. You may be an arm -- someone else a leg -- but we are all members of the same body each performing a unique function. Note, also, that on the day of Pentecost the disciples were not speaking gibberish, or some unknown tongue. They spoke in the languages of the various distinct groups who had come from regions afar to worship at the Temple as they were so commanded in the Torah. To build doctrine on a particular gift is to risk idolatry. We do well to heed Sha'ul's admonition: 

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease ... (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And G-d has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. [1] 

[Note that tongues is at the bottom of the Apostle's list.]

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31) 

While the gifts of the Spirit are sensational, we must not error in confusing them with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23); of which love is the greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:34-40)

That is a lesson to remember not just on Pentecost, but always in our Christian walk. Indeed, the Holy Spirit presses me more everyday -- not to speak in tongues -- but to love like Christ.

Notes:

1. tongues ( γλωσσῶν, glōssōn; γλώσσαις, glōssais -- from which glossary is derived).

Ability to speak languages which they had not learned. This gift was one of the primary causes of the growth of Christianity. For by it the preachers of the gospel were able, immediately on their coming into any country, to declare the wonderful things of G-d, without waiting till, in the ordinary course, they learned the language of the country. The persons who were endowed with this faculty, had not the knowledge of all languages communicated to them, but of such only as they had occasion for. This appears from 1 Corinthians 14:18, where the apostle told the Corinthians that he spake more foreign tongues than they all did. (Joseph Benson,  Benson CommentaryPublished By T. Carlton & J. Porter, 200 Mulberry Street. New York, 1857).

(Yeshua) These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues ... (Mark 16:17)

... they shall speak with new tongues: or languages, not such as were new made, and had never been heard and known before; but foreign languages, such as they had never learned, or were able to speak, or understood before; and this not only did the apostles on the day of Pentecost, but even common believers at other times ... (John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, 1746-8).

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