God commands that, in the late spring of every year, a special day be observed (Leviticus 23:15-21). It is commonly called Pentecost, from the Greek pentekoste. The Jews refer to it in various ways. One is as Shavuot, meaning "Weeks," because the date of its observance is determined by counting a specific number from an earlier religious observance.
Another name given it is Hag Hakatzir, the Festival of the Harvest, for it marks the harvesting of the wheat, the last grain harvest of the spring harvest season. And, in that context, it is also called Yom HaBikkurim, the Day of the Firstfruits. There is much significance to this festival, which is vitally important for Christians.
When celebrating this festival we know as Pentecost, the descendants of the ancient Israelites are reminded of one of the greatest events in their history—the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. In his book To Be a Jew, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin writes: "Shavuot commemorates the awesome event experienced by the children of Israel seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt when they camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula. This event was the Revelation, when God's will was revealed to Israel. It marked the declaration of the Ten Commandments ... While the exact manner of this communication between God and man is not known and was always subject to various opinions by the great thinkers and Sages of Israel, it was an event of awesome proportions and a unique spiritual experience that indelibly stamped the Israelites with their unique character, their faith, and their destiny."
The events leading up to this time—the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery, the death of Egypt's firstborn, the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of manna from heaven and the giving of the law—were miracles that had a tremendous impact on the history both of Israel and much of the world. As Christians, we sometimes forget that another great miracle has taken place in all our lives. It is one of the greatest miracles of all time, the coming of God's Holy Spirit.
Celebrating another great miracle
The Feast of Pentecost is a celebration of that event, a reminder to each of us that God works in us through His Spirit. For humans to be changed and led by God's Spirit is one of the greatest miracles of all.
When we study the Day of Pentecost in the Bible, we find the beginnings of this great miracle. In Acts 1:8, we read Christ's instructions to His disciples: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (New American Standard Bible).
This promise from Christ was dramatically fulfilled within a few days of His statement. This occurred on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. Peter concluded his sermon on that day with these words: "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself" (verses 38, 39, NASB).
After the physical manifestations that are described in the first verses of Acts 2, we find the Holy Spirit descending on a large group of people. Their lives were changed dramatically. They were led by God's Holy Spirit from that time forward.
The book of Acts is replete with the stories of these people's lives and the impact they had on the society of that day. The change was so evident that they were accused of having "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). Such was the dramatic, dynamic power of the Holy Spirit.
Being led by the Holy Spirit
When we make reference to someone who is led by the Holy Spirit, as these people were, we must make sure we understand what is being said. This is discussed in detail by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1-28, where he shows how the Holy Spirit works in the life of a Christian. In verse 14, Paul states: "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." Here we see that a Christian is defined as one who is led by the Spirit of God.
We find this same thought in verse 9. Here Paul dogmatically states that if you don't have the Spirit dwelling in you then you do "not belong" to God (NASB).
The implication is that it is through God's Spirit and "Christ in us" (Colossians 1:27) that we actually accomplish what we do as Christians, rather than through our own efforts. The glory and credit must go to God.
However, it isn't enough to simply be led by God's Spirit. We must allow God, through His Spirit, to rule over our lives. The Holy Spirit must be allowed to become the energizing force in our lives to produce the qualities of true Christianity. We must ask ourselves if we are truly being led by God's Spirit and if we are allowing it to serve as the guiding force in our lives.
Understanding the Holy Spirit
To grasp how God's Spirit works in our lives, we must understand what God's Spirit is. The Holy Spirit is not an individual person, along with God the Father and Jesus Christ, forming a "Holy Trinity." There simply is not biblical evidence for the Holy Spirit to be thought of as a separate person, apart from the Father and the Son. (See the article "Just What Is the Holy Spirit?") In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is described as the power of God at work in our lives. This divine power of God emanates from the Father, allowing us to be "led by the Spirit of God" (Romans 8:14).
What does God's Holy Spirit do for us as Christians? This question affects the very core of our religious beliefs, because without the power of God's Spirit in our lives we would have no relationship with the Father. It is because this Spirit is dwelling within us that we are the children of God (Romans 8:14-17).
It is important that we understand what it means to be "led by the Spirit." God's Spirit doesn't drive, drag or push us around; it leads us. It will not prevent us from sinning, nor will it force us to do what is right. It leads us, and we must be willing to follow.
God's Spirit at work
Exactly how does God's Spirit lead us? Let's consider a few ways.
The Holy Spirit keeps us in contact with God's mind. God's Spirit works with our mind. The apostle John describes it this way: "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit [which] He has given us" (1 John 3:24). Through the Holy Spirit, which is given to us, we can be influenced by God for the good. This is in contrast to the situation in the world around us and our own human nature.
The Holy Spirit provides a deeper understanding of God's Word and His will for humanity. As 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 tells us: "But as it is written, 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (emphasis added throughout).
Without that Spirit, a person cannot understand God's divinely expressed Word and will, "for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (verse 14).
God's help in overcoming
The Holy Spirit makes overcoming possible. There is nothing too difficult for us with the power of God working in our lives. Romans 8:26 tells us that God's Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. Paul, the writer of the letter to the Romans, speaking for all of us said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
Jesus Christ promises Christians, "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27). The Christian life is to be one of overcoming. We must not believe that God wants us to remain just as we are whenever we are called. Instead, we must "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). Christianity is a lifetime of overcoming and growing.
The Holy Spirit convicts our conscience and helps us see sin as it really is. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, which would be given to His followers after His death, Jesus Christ said it would "convict the world of sin . . ." (John 16:8). God's Spirit within us, working with our conscience, helps us to recognize and avoid sin. The guilt that we feel is real, prompted by recognition of sins.
Hebrews 9:14 tells us that Jesus Christ's sacrifice "cleanse[s] your conscience from dead works to serve the living God," meaning that we have forgiveness from God, and, through repentance, we no longer need feel guilt for our sins. Christ's sacrifice washes away the sin in our lives, but we must still come to understand sin and how it affects us. Repentance must precede the forgiveness that God promises to each one of us, and repentance means change and effort to avoid sin.
Fruit of God's Spirit
The Holy Spirit produces godly fruit in our lives. Just as an apple tree produces apples, God's Spirit produces a particular type of fruit in the life of a Christian. Galatians 5:22, 23 lists the fruit that should be evident in the lives of those who are led by God's Spirit-love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each aspect of this fruit is worthy of a detailed study in itself, coupled with a self-analysis to see to what degree it is are manifest in your life.
The Holy Spirit comforts and encourages us. Jesus Christ promised to send His followers "another comforter" (John 14:16, KJV). True comfort and reassurance come from the Spirit of God dwelling in us. We need not be unduly worried about the future or what may happen to us. God's Spirit gives us the assurance that whatever happens will be for the good "to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
This provides an outlook on life that is quite rare in our world today. It is certainly possible for a Christian to become discouraged, but it is through the Holy Spirit that we can begin to look upon life differently. As noted above, peace is one aspect of the fruit of God's Spirit in the life of a Christian.
Annual reminder of miracles
The gift of God's Holy Spirit should make us exceedingly thankful. Just as we must recognize the great power of God to perform miracles in the days of the ancient Israelites, so we must not forget the power of God to work miracles in our lives.
The Feast of Pentecost is an annual reminder that God is still a miracle-working God. Whenever an individual is granted God's Holy Spirit, he becomes a walking miracle. One of the greatest miracles of all time is going on in our very midst. That miracle is for a human being to be led by God's Holy Spirit! GN