Pentecost… The Day the Christian Church Was Born

Pentecost… The Day the Christian Church Was Born May 24, 2023

Pentecost: A day of wind and fire (Photo courtesy of Pixaby / Hans)

How did the Holy Spirit help Christ’s disciples?

And why is Pentecost important today?

At times, Christians forget that Christ’s apostles were Jews whose lives were deeply rooted in Jewish history and traditions. And also at times, some of those traditions intersected and impacted the traditions that began to develop in the newly formed Christian church. So it was with the Jews’ Feast of Shavuot and the Christians’ day of Pentecost.

Christ’s apostles had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, which took place 50 days after the first day of Passover. It also had been 50 days since Christ’s resurrection, thus the name Pentecost, which comes from the Greek word “pentekoste” meaning “fiftieth.”

Christ had already ascended into heaven, and now, his apostles came together to celebrate the wheat harvest. (Rabbinic tradition teaches that God revealed the Torah to Moses on this day, as well.)

As the apostles gathered, something extraordinary happened. Acts 2:2-4 tells us that suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It was the first day of Pentecost and the beginning of the Christian church.

John Gill, an 18th century English pastor, noted the significance of Pentecost this way: “Through this baptism of the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) and fire, the apostles became more knowing, and had a greater understanding of the mysteries of the Gospel, and were more qualified to preach it to people of all nations and languages.” Read Gill’s commentaries on Acts 2 here.

Pentecost & Shavuot

Pentecost and Shavuot fall on different dates every spring. In 2023, Christians will celebrate the day of Pentecost on Sunday, May 28, while Jews will begin Shavuot on the evening of Thursday, May 25 and conclude it on the evening of Saturday, May 27.

I will leave the description of Shavuot to others and focus my attention on Pentecost. Click here to read What Is Pentecost and Where Did It Come From? on And read Eliyahu Yaakov’s beautifully written Patheos article, Shavuot and the Romance-Love Dynamic here.

The First Day of Pentecost

The first Pentecost took place 2,000 years ago, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. But there’s more to the story.

Acts 2:5-41 tells us what happened when the apostles began to speak in tongues: Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished….

And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ (Acts 2:1-13)

Everyone was bewildered…amazed…astonished…perplexed…. Yet, Peter was able to pull himself together and speak to the confused crowd. He told them that the apostles had not consumed too much wine, as some people thought. Rather, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

He also told them about God’s promise “to pour out my Spirit on all people in the book of Joel. He spoke of Jesus and urged everyone to 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.” (Acts 2:38). Some 3,000 people heeded his call.

It was a joyful beginning for the new Christian church. Since its beginning on the first day of Pentecost, Christianity has grown to more than two billion members worldwide, guided the lives of countless Christians for 20 centuries, and thus, shaped much of the modern world.

Fulfillment of Prophecies

Pentecost fulfilled promises made in the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament book of Joel prophesied Pentecost by saying: …I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days (Joel 2:28-29).

In the New Testament, Christ promised in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit would help Christians: 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.

The Christian Church is Born

Pentecost was the moment in history after Christ had ascended. And he had promised during the gospel narratives, during his earthly ministry, that he would leave, but that he would send the comforter, he would send the holy spirit,” the website said. “And it was at that moment in Pentecost where the spirit came, and he empowered the early believers, specifically the apostles that were left….

“And Pentecost becomes this marker in history to really what many people would say, ‘And that’s the moment that church is born.’ That is when thousands come into the faith. And it goes from this little sect of believers who followed a Jewish rabbi from Nazareth who died and rose again, and suddenly the church breaks forth into the culture.

“Suddenly it is that unstoppable force that no one can really deny any longer….Now it is the living reality of the moment that the spirit of God seemingly burst forth,” according to

A Fellowship of Believers

The Bible tells us that the new Christians devoted themselves to absorbing the apostles’ teachings, breaking bread and praying. All the believers were together and had everything in common, Acts 2:44 said. They sold their possessions and gave to people in need. They continued to meet in the temple courts, broke bread in their homes, and praised God.

It must have been an amazing time for the Christian church and Christ’s followers, and it continues to be a significant time for the 21st century church.

“Pentecost, though originally a Hebrew religious festival, is a watershed moment in God’s plans of salvation,” according to Kurt Selles, director of ReFrame Ministries, which is the online ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. “For all who confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the following are three hugely significant and timeless truths of Pentecost.

“Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit reminds and assures us that Jesus keeps his promises….Pentecost also marks the birthday of the church….Finally, Pentecost reminds us of the church’s primary purpose: to share the love of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

“Significantly, Acts’ open-ended conclusion clearly indicates the church’s mission to proclaim the gospel is to continue until Jesus comes again,” he said.

Pentecost: Then and Now

That first Pentecost 2,000 years ago was filled with power and drama. As the apostles gathered in a house to celebrate Shavuot, Jerusalem’s streets filled with Jews from near and far.

Inside the house, the scene was even more dramatic. Suddenly, rushing winds and tongues of fire descended on the disciples, and the men were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in other languages – that is, in tongues — and were able to share Christ’s teachings with everyone in the crowd without a language barrier.

Our observance of Pentecost in 2023 is tame by comparison. The excitement of those long-ago events is gone, as 21st century Christians face a long stretch of ordinary months from now until Advent. Nothing much seems to be happening for the moment. Only when we reach Advent and Christmas followed by Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday and Easter does our anticipation rise.

What Would Christ Say?

Yet, there’s a problem that should concern each and every Christian. That is, church attendance in the United States has been declining for the past 20-30 years, according to the Pew Research Center and the American Family Survey. It’s also losing  members in Canada and western Europe. The reasons are complicated, but Christians aren’t blameless.

My recent posts, How Can Christian Churches Reach Millennials, Why Do Americans Pray, and Selling Christ: Can ‘He Gets Us’ Get Results, address some of those reasons. For the “millennials” post, click here. Read the post on “prayer” here, and see “Selling Christ” here.

As we celebrate Pentecost this year, Christians need to ask themselves several questions some thought: Are we really representing Christ and our faith to the best of our abilities? What would Christ say about our behavior? and What can we do to improve?

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