Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Gift of Pentecost

Christians around the world refer to Jesus by some common titles: Lord, Messiah, Lamb, King, Son of David (خداوند ، مسیح ، برہ،  بادشاہ ، ابن داود ) etc.

What most of us don't realize is that these are Jewish titles. Jews of the Old Testament, and during the time of Jesus used these titles for Almighty God and the Messiah. 

So how come the religious jargon of Judaism came to dominant the liturgies of the world's largest religion? The answer is Pentecost, which Christians around the world are celebrating today. Ironically, Pentecost itself is Jewish in origin (the feast of the harvest-Exodus 23:16 and also the day in which the LORD gave the Torah to Moses) and was later 'hijacked' by the Church. In fact, according to Christian belief, the Day of Pentecost is the birthday of  the Church. 

What happened on one Pentecost day  2000 years ago changed the world forever. In fact, that Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 has been repeated in church history over and over again, and it is still being repeated. 

This was the day when religion was democratized. No longer can one people call Abraham their father. No longer can children of one people only be called the children of the covenant. No longer is God to be worshiped in Hebrew (alone). No longer the Word of God is proclaimed only by the prophets of old. 

Abraham's children are those who follow Christ (his true descendant-Galatians 3:29), and His disciples (the true Israel-John 1:47). Children of Christian believers are part of God's covenant, privileged to grow up in an environment of faith (1 Corinthians 7:14). Teachers and preachers have now replaced prophets, speaking God's word (the Bible), to God's people. And they do so in a way that everyone understand it in their own language (Acts 2:6).

Bible translation and the efforts of missionaries to promote literacy across the world is a direct result of Pentecost. Even in Pakistan, the Pakistan Bible Society (and other independent organizations and individuals) are translating scriptures for indigenous ethnicities. The work may not be as prompt and as professional as we would like it to be. But the work is still being done, and we thank God for that. 

I have witnessed this democratization of religion firsthand. I have attended 'Sunday school' in a Baptist church, was baptized in the Church of Pakistan (of which I am a member), and attended a Pentecostal church from 2013-2015. I have seen how God is working in the local Christian community in these churches.

The Church of Pakistan is itself a great example of what I am talking about here. This denomination (the second largest in Pakistan after the Roman Catholic Church) was created after the Union of the Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, and Scottish Presbyterian congregations in this country. The neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka also have such united churches. 

Every Friday, I volunteer to run an apologetics class in a Charismatic church, and we have Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Pentecostals leading and attending this small group.

This is the gift of Pentecost. These are the 'signs and wonders' which we would strive for, instead of ecstatic experiences. I do not oppose such experiences, but remember that the ultimate aim is the democratization of faith (Revelation 7:9). If your spiritual 'gifts' cause division in the body of Christ, then they have their origin in men and not God.

May God empower us all with His Spirit.

Happy Pentecost!