Celebrating Pentecost: Focusing On Love

Celebrating Pentecost: Focusing On Love May 27, 2024

This image symbolizes acknowledging Pentecost, focusing on love. This is seen as the picture contains one dove in flight and the other at rest. The dove in scripture represents God's Spirit and peace, both were present on the Day of Pentecost.

This image symbolizes acknowledging Pentecost, focusing on love. This picture contains one dove in flight and the other at rest. The dove in scripture represents God’s Spirit and peace, both were present on the Day of Pentecost. Photo taken by Awmleer on October 4, 2017. Photo downloaded from Unsplash.com.

Focusing on love should be the goal of everyone who chooses to celebrate Pentecost. This is because demonstrating love proves someone has a genuine relationship with the Lord (1 John 4:8). 

However, attending Pentecost Sunday worship services over the years leads me to believe something else is taking precedence.

What is Pentecost?

Its Significance 

Before revealing what I believe has unintentionally taken precedence over love during Pentecost, I must explain its significance.

The Day of Pentecost refers to the Feast, which occurs fifty days after Passover. The Feast of Weeks is a celebration God institutes after establishing his covenant with Israel. 

During Passover, the Israelites used unleavened bread to commemorate not having time to roast bread before their divine exodus from Egypt. However, during the Feast of Weeks, the Israelites wave two loaves of leaven bread. 

This symbolizes the first fruits of God’s spiritual harvest and the spiritual transformation he takes the Israelites through (Philippians 1:6). Modern-day believers undergo the same change as they allow God to mature them until Jesus Christ returns.

The Israelites celebrated the Feast of Weeks by

  • Hosting a Holy Convocation where no regular work takes place.
  • Offering a new grain.
  • Presenting four offerings:
  1. A burnt offering containing two bulls, a ram, and seven one-year-old lambs. 
  2. A grain offering of fine flower mixed with oil.
  3. Offering one male goat without blemish or defect.
  4. Drink offering

Reading The Book of Ruth 

Another way Jews celebrate Pentecost is by reading the Book of Ruth. Historians suggest Ruth is read for three reasons. 

One reason is the agricultural calendar. The story unfolds during the end of the Wheat Harvest and the beginning of the Fruit Harvest. The appearance of actions such as gleaning and reaping provide information about Israel’s agricultural methods.

Along with agricultural methods, some scholars believe reciting Ruth during this time honors the lineage of King David. This is because Ruth is his great-grandmother and he was born and died on Shavuot (Pentecost).

Reciting her story during this Holy period also acknowledges Ruth’s willingness to commit to Naomi and Israelite customs. She leaves Moab, embraces and subjects herself to the potential dangers of being a foreigner in Israel.

Jewish scholars say Ruth’s focusing on love symbolizes the Israelites’ willingness to obey God’s laws in the Torah.

Establishing the New Testament Church

The indwelling of the Promised Holy Spirit

The Israelites had to wait for Moses to receive the Torah from the Lord. Similarly, the disciples and many others wait in the Upper Room during Pentecost to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit during this celebration fulfills the Old Testament Prophecy in Joel:2:28-32. Acts 1:8 reaffirms this when Jesus Instructs the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.

When the Spirit comes, attendees begin speaking other languages listeners can comprehend. What a beautiful picture of unity culminating with the birth of the New Testament Church.

Controversy Over Spiritual Gifts

One early church known for its various spiritual gifts is the Church of Corinth. While glad God was blessing the church with these gifts, Paul had to chastise the Corinthians. 

The reason was that they were prioritizing speaking in tongues and using it to determine a person’s spiritual maturity. This was problematic as it made believers who did not have this gift appear inadequate.

I notice a similar issue in many congregations embracing what happened at Pentecost. They heavily emphasize the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking tongues. 

The emphasis stems from the belief that God still fills believers with his Spirit like in Acts 2:1-4. Some Christians also suggest people are not truly saved unless they speak in tongues.

Paul’s Charge: Focusing on Love

Loving Correction

Paul corrects the misuse of spiritual gifts by telling congregants to use their gifts to edify the church (1 Corinthians 14:5). According to 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31,  there are a variety of gifts but everyone does not have the same ability. However, verse six says every gift helps believers complete the Lord’s work.

After issuing a loving correction, Paul addresses the controversy over tongues by focusing on love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says without love spiritual gifts are pointless. 

What Love Means

If you’re like me, you’re probably curious about how Paul defines love. Scholars say love in 1 Corinthians 13 comes from the Greek term agape. Agape is the highest form of love that is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. Love in this fashion embodies God’s character and Christ’s atoning sacrifice at Calvary (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

Paul uses 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to explain his understanding of love. According to the New Living Translation,  love is

  • Patient.
  • Kind
  • Not boastful, jealous, proud, or rude.
  • Not demanding its way.
  • Keeping no record of being wronged.
  • Not rejoicing about injustices.
  • Rejoicing when the truth wins.
  • Not quitting or losing faith.
  • Always hopeful and endures all circumstances.
  • Everlasting.

Focusing on Love in Tangible Ways

The explanation above would be incomplete without mentioning tangible ways to focus on love. You can focus on love by

  • Serving and praying for your enemies (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:19-21).
  • Performing a random act of kindness for a stranger.
  • Forgiving those who have hurt or wronged you (Matthew 6:14).
  • Helping someone in need (Matthew 25:34-40).
  • Practicing hospitality toward family, friends, coworkers, and strangers (1 Peter 4:9).
  • Sharing the Gospel with and praying for unsaved people you know (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Peter 3:9).

Demonstrating love in this fashion proves you understand God’s heart and will increase your compassion for others. “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14, English Standard Verison).

Did you enjoy reading this article? Do you have any questions or observations that may enhance this work? Feel free to leave a comment. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

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