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, since the apostolic Pentecost as it is described in Acts 2 combines everything I like: charismatic fire, economic redistribution, universal evangelism as well as simplicity, worship 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 Spirit 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.
Continue reading The International Miracle of Pentecost
by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog as the second part of a series on Spirit empowering.
If the immediate expression of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was prophetic empowerment, the longer-range impact was a new community of believers who walked together in their lives and shared one another’s needs.
Much of Acts 2:41-47 follows the following structure:
A 2:41 Successful evangelism (3000 converts)
B 2:42 Sharing meals, praying together
C 2:44-45 Sharing possessions
B’ 2:46-47a Shared meals, worship
A’ 2:47b Successful evangelism
Whereas the conversions in 2:41 responded to Peter’s preaching, the conversions in 2:47 apparently responded to the life of the new community. Peter’s preaching explained divine signs at Pentecost; but the sacrificial love that Christians showed one another was no less divine, no less supernatural. Continue reading What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions
by Alex Mayfield, originally posted on Engaged Pentecostalism.
The rise of populist and nationalist movements around the world is a fact of our time. A quick survey finds the tide rising the world over: the recent Brazilian presidential victory ofdictatorship-loving Bolsonaro, the many far-right groups gaining ground in European elections, the rise of violent Hindutva in India, and the increasingly abrasive Chinese nationalism fostered under Xi Jinping illustrate that nationalists movements have turned ethnic, cultural, and national identity towards increasingly troubling ends.
Here in the United States, Trumpian politics have risen to power by questioning the legitimacy of a black leaders and stoking fears over Hispanic migrants, and ethnno-nationalist ideas have gained renewed traction among conservative voters. While support of Donald Trump cannot be equated with an embrace of racism, it is no accident that radical white nationalist groups have been growing and becoming increasingly vocal in their support of the president; these groups are ideologically wrong, but they are not stupid.
These trends should be concerning for anyone who is a student of history: rampant nationalism tends to breed war. While undermining the international order is one thing, the rise of Trumpian politics has had a more concrete casualty: the public witness of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. Continue reading From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit
by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog.
Pentecost (Acts 2:1) was a significant festival in the Jewish calendar, offering the first fruits of grain to the Lord (Lev. 23:16). Its significance in this narrative, however, may be especially that it was one of the major pilgrimage festivals, when Jewish people who lived all over the world came back to visit Jerusalem. This sets the stage for the experience of the Spirit that will drive the church in Acts across all cultural barriers.
The narrative opens with God’s people in unity (Acts 2:1). They have been praying together (1:14), and prayer often precedes the coming of the Spirit in Luke-Acts (Luke 3:21-22; 11:13; Acts 4:31; 8:15).
Suddenly, they experience signs of the Spirit. The first two signs touch key senses, hearing and sight. They evoke biblical theophanies, perhaps also as foretastes of the future age. First, they hear a wind, perhaps prefiguring the promised wind of God’s Spirit that would bring new life to God’s people in Ezekiel 37:9-14. Second, they witness the appearance of fire, which was often associated with future judgment (cf. Luke 3:9, 16-17).
The third sign, however—speaking in tongues—is the most important of the three. This is clear because it occurs again at two other outpourings of the Spirit in Acts, although no one present on those occasions recognizes the languages spoken (Acts 10:46; 19:6). On this first occasion, though, their experience is also important because some people do recognize the languages and it therefore forms the bridge to Peter’s sermon. The crowds hear this sound (2:6) and ask what this phenomenon means (2:12). Peter goes on to explain that this tongues-speaking means that the promised time of the Spirit has dawned (2:16-18). Continue reading The Point of Speaking in Tongues in Acts 2
by Lora Angeline Timenia, originally published at Engaged Pentecostalism.
The Acts community gives us a wonderful picture of women being actively part of the community of the Lord in the last days. In Biblical times, the idea of female speakers was acceptable due to God’s use of prophetesses like Sarah, Deborah, Miriam, and Huldah. Luke, the evangelist who wrote the two-volume corpus, Luke-Acts, even began his Gospel with a series of prophecies uttered by the most unlikely women: the barren, the widowed, and the pregnant-before-marriage. Amid societal taboos, God displayed a unique reversal of norms, when he spoke through the barren Elizabeth, the widowed Anna, and the virgin, Mary. Clearly, the Bible demonstrates that God uses women as agents of his revelation.
Unfortunately today, some churches, who stand by a traditional male hierarchy view, do not permit women to speak as pastor-teachers or preachers. In my opinion, these groups miss out on the fullness of what God wants do in their assemblies. Deborah was a judge in the Old Testament, who prophesied, taught, counseled, and even led the community to victory (Judges 4). What can they say about Deborah’s role? What can they say about the role of Philipp’s prophesying daughters in Acts? Could it be that people who do not permit women to speak in the assembly do not recognize the eschatological reversal that God initiated when Jesus triumphed over sin and death? Continue reading Let Women Speak in the Assembly: Towards the Inclusion of Women in Verbal Ministries
by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog.
Here are my first impressions of Paul: Apostle of Christ. First of all, I am very grateful that such films are being made. That gratitude overwhelms reservations on any other points. As you might guess (because I am a biblical scholar), movies about biblical themes are my favorite, and among the few kinds of movies I must see.
The various scenes of Rome are splendidly done; they make ancient Rome look like ancient Rome. For modern viewers far removed from the world of the New Testament, this provides an invaluable benefit. The film also dramatically captures the horror of people being murdered for their faith (or because the powerful in society deem them expendable). I appreciated the numerous echoes of Paul’s letters (and a crack about the Corinthians), although sometimes when Paul tells Luke to write something down it comes from Paul’s earlier letters, not from Acts. Continue reading Biblical Accuracy and Nonviolence in Paul: Apostle of Christ – Movie Review
Charismatics like myself love to talk about revival. Revival is usually defined as an “awakening” of the church, when it goes back to it’s original state. If the church doesn’t look like the book of Acts – where a lot of miracles happened, thousands were saved and Christians were living a holy, passionate life – it’s basically sleeping and needs to be revived.
Some years ago, a woman from Switzerland contacted me via this blog and said that she wanted to visit Sweden “and the revival there”. We were honored and welcomed her, but we gently said that it would be wrong to say that it’s a revival in Sweden. Even when a lot of people do get healed here and many are saved when we prophesy for them, revival is the wrong word, at least yet. Revival is something more, revival is social transformation. Continue reading Revival as Social Transformation