A Sermon for Whitsunday, 31May 2020 Anno Domini The Anglican Orthodox communion worldwide
Whitsunday is the seventh Sunday after Easter and coincides with the Jewish Day of Pentecost. Pentecost followed fifty days after Passover. As Christ is our Passover, we observe Whitsunday as our day of Pentecost. Pentecost was the day of the giving of another Teach – the Law – to Moses on Mt Sinai. So WhitSunday is for us the Day of the giving of another Teacher to us which is the Spirit of Love and Truth. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:24-29)
GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Our prayer of Collect today makes reference to the Holy Spirit as a Light and a Teacher. It is the same Light and Teacher which Christ was to us in His earthly ministry. It is the same because it is not in God’s nature to to present us with contradictory teachings. All that the Holy spirit reveals to us is simply that which Jesus Christ has also revealed so clearly in His Word. The ministry of Christ was limited to the physical grounds of Judea, Samaria, Galilee and the adjacent environs. However, Christ promised to send to us an encourager and a Comforter to be with us always and to open our eyes to the deep mysteries of God as revealed BY and IN His Word
Our Readings at St. Andrews today:
Old Testament Reading: Joel 2:28-31
Psalter: Psalm 104
Epistle Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Gospel Reading: St. John :19-26
I will address primarily the Epistle and Gospel texts in today’s sermon.
The floodgates of Gospel graces were opened on the Day of Pentecost fifty days following the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ made every provision for His people in His Birth, Life, Testimony, Suffering and Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension.
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” (John 20:21-22)
It is is well and good that the Coming of the Holy Ghost was concurrent with the beginning of the Gospel Age. The prophecies of Isaiah of the coming Messiah were clear that God would no longer be veiled from us as the Most Holy was in the Temple. He would ABIDE with His people at the fulfillment of the prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) “. . . . which being interpreted is, God with us. ” (Matt 1:23-24) Christ, being God in a body of flesh, was with us until the ascension. But the Holy Ghost, being the Third Person of the Godhead, has been with us ever since in His powerful presence. He brings Love, Hope, and Liberty. “The Spirit of God first imparts Love; He next inspires Hope, and then gives Liberty; and that is about the last thing we have in many of our churches.” D.L. Moody. Christ is ever with us by the presence of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost comes bearing heavenly gifts. Thomas Aquinas categorized these gifts from the study of Isaiah 11:2-3 thusly:
7. Fear of the Lord.
The Holy Ghost will not speak a new or different Gospel, but opens our hearts and minds to the Gospel already preached – and lived – by our Lord Jesus Christ. You will remember that Christ did not preach a Gospel message that varied from that of His Father. When Philip inquired of Jesus to be shown the Father, Jesus responded: 9 Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:9-10) Jesus did not bring an INDIVIDUAL message, but that message dictated by the One, Triune God which includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Now our Lord has sent to His people the Holy Spirit as a Comforter to open our eyes in the teaching of all that those teachings of the Father which Christ taught, and now which the Holy Ghost teaches. The Holy Ghost is the Compass and Light of God for our hearts. The Holy Ghost does not speak of Himself, but of all that Christ taught us. We have been promised a Presence of God to be always with us.
One of the names of our Lord is Immanuel which means “God with us.” (Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14) But in fulfillment of the promises and mighty works of God, our Lord must have returned to the Father when His works of salvation were completed. So He promised to send us another Comforter whose spiritual & physical jurisdiction would know no geographical limits. That Comforter is the Holy Ghost. And Christ is with us in His presence.
The Holy Ghost is a Spirit and is therefore unrestricted in either time or space. It is for this reason that Christ told his disciples: “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:25-26, see also 15:26-27) Herein we have a glimpse of the Personality of the Holy Ghost. He will not speak of himself, but will teach us all things and bring into remembrance those things we have read and studied from the Word (which is Christ written). The Spirit will remind us of nothing we will not find in the Holy Bible.
The Old Testament was filled with Law and Prophecies. These were given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit; however, the Holy Spirit was limited in its efficacy to the general believers until Christ had fulfilled all things.
You will recall the words of our Lord to the Woman at the well: “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We have many churches that are well informed of the Law and the Prophets, but wholly missing the Spirit of Love granted by the Holy ghost. Those two must be intertwined.
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. Acts 2:1-11
Whatever they expected could not be explained, but they knew now that whatsoever Christ had said, bore deep and abiding truth in it for them.
If someone had asked, “For what purpose do you wait here this day?” they would not have reason to give except that the Lord has told us to await this day. When they had gathered for the Last Supper with Jesus, there was a calm serenity that pervaded the room, but today, there was even a touch of disorderly confusion. There were men there from all over the known world. They had come to know of Christ and were, too, His disciples. But they all spoke in different languages that caused the gathering to appear almost chaotic as each chatted to his fellow countryman in a language which most others could not understand. So there was a continual buzz of confusion. Yet, they waited. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
It should be noted that, in spite of many varying personalities, all were gathered in One Accord. Their minds were at One with Christ, and therefore with each other. Though they were confused by a lack of understanding of each other’s language, yet they agreed in truth. The Holy Spirit of God will not abide division. When the Church does not await and listen for the Voice of the Holy Spirit, He will not come. He waits without.
Suddenly, as they waited, there came a strange and peculiar sound from Heaven. It sounded very much like a mighty Wind – and it was! It was the Wind of God in the form of the Holy Ghost. The coming of the Holy Ghost was not in any sense partial or piecemeal – it filled the entire Upper Room. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. It should also be noted that when God is working, men are at rest. These men were seated awaiting the Bread and Manna of Heaven just as the 5,000 seated on the mountain slope overlooking the Galilean Sea when Christ miraculously fed them an abundance from a pittance of provision.
There may have even been some dismay and fearful expectation as the Holy Ghost descended. When Christ walks by our side on our Road to Emmaus, we often do not recognize Him. We may even be fearful of His presence as was the disciples that stormy night on the Sea when they saw Christ walking on the waters.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. These cloven tongues were not actual fire but appeared like fire over their heads. It was an intense and beautiful moment. Their hearts could no longer sit in silence, and they overflowed with the love of God and His truth. The experience was profound and defied description.
What was the result of this sudden outburst of the Holy Ghost?
Herein lies the miracle of tongues as expressed on the Day of Pentecost: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Not only did all speak in other tongues, but, miraculously, they could ALL understand each other. At first, these men were confused at a lack of understanding. Now, they are confused at the miraculous GIFT of understanding. It was the reverse of confusion and misunderstanding that occurred at the Tower of Babel. These men were not `babbling’ (derivative term from the name Babel) but were speaking in a language that ALL understood in his own tongue. This was an Apostolic gift that was given for the benefit of the early church and the broad propagation of the Gospel over the known world. Would we not immediately recognize such an experience to be a miracle in our own times? Any lost sinner can stand up and utter ridiculous babblings among the congregation, but how can you say `AMEN’ to that which has no meaning? God is not the Author of confusion: For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Cor 14:33)
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. Now this is evidence of the miraculous power of God, is it not? If someone stands speaking in a babbling tongue that no one understands, where is the proof of the miraculous power of God? Paul tells us: O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. (1 Tim 6:20-21) and later, he says: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness (2 Tim 2:15-16)
Friends, despite the yeoman efforts some false professor make to deceive us on tongues, nothing could be clearer in God’s Word than this admonition against confusion.
Please observe how wonderfully was this legitimate employment of the miracle of tongues received by the believers: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness (2 Tim 2:15-16)
I once read from the memoirs of the martyred John Stam who was beheaded by the Chinese Communist for his faith and preaching of Christ: A minister of some renown was invited to speak at the Chinese church. He was on his first visit to China and knew not a single word of Chinese language. When he arose, he began speaking in so-called tongues. It did not seem like any language at all to most of the listeners, but only confused their understanding. Suddenly, an old Chinese elder of the church arose and stormed out of the church. One of Stam’s co-workers chased out after the faithful old elder to determine his angst. The old Chinaman responded, “That man was cursing God in the Chinese language.” Such babblings are truly influenced by a spirit, but certainly not the Holy Spirit.
Let me encourage every one of us here today to adhere to the known and revealed truth of God as attested by the Holy Ghost. He will not add to God’s Word, or detract therefrom, but will open up to our hearts and souls the mysteries revealed in the Word of all that Jesus taught us. “And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Acts ii. 2-4. (and what is the confusion of babbling if not adding to the plain and clearly stated Word of God)?