Isaiah 55:101NIV New International Version Translations
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
This lesson is about Pentecost Sunday. Before we begin, let’s look at exactly what this special Holy celebration is all about. From a calendar perspective, Pentecost is the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus ten days after Jesus’s Ascension. It is held 49 days after Easter, on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost occurred while the Apostles and other followers of Jesus were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.
In Judaism the Festival of Weeks (Hebrew: שבועות Shavuot) is a harvest festival that is celebrated seven weeks and one day after the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Deuteronomy 16:9 or seven weeks and one day after the Sabbath referred to in Leviticus 23:16. The Festival of Weeks is also called the feast of Harvest in Exodus 23:16 and the day of first fruits in Numbers 28:26. In Exodus 34:22 it is called the “firstfruits of the wheat harvest.” The date for the “Feast of Weeks” originally came the day after seven full weeks following the first harvest of grain. In Jewish tradition the fiftieth day was known as the Festival of Weeks.2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecost The actual mention of fifty days comes from Leviticus 23:16. There is also significance in the fact that the law was given from Sinai on the fiftieth day after the deliverance from Egypt. Traditionally, Acts 2:1-21 would be used to describe Pentecost. However, for our study, we will look at several other Scripture verses to gather a better understanding of the great gift, the Holy Spirit, given humanity.
The rain and the snow are God’s ministers (Psalm 148:8), and go forth from Him, just as His Word does. Think of this as a command from God, each inspired Word of God having an appointed job to do, and like rain, they do not return as rain. God’s Word does not return to Him. It says here that in our world, those who have been appointed, use the Word until they are done with it. Let’s look at the analogy of rain once again. As the rain and snow comes down from heaven, it does not return. Its purpose is to water the earth. The writer in Isaiah is, apparently, not aware, as Solomon was in Ecclesiastes, that the water which falls from heaven in the shape of rain again in the shape of vapor (see Ecclesiastes 1:7).
7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.
Here the natural world illustrates God’s wild claim. The heart of the imagry here is life. We are talking about moisture — rain and snow that come down in the form of water. The earth is not the life-giver in this illustration. It is the rain and snow, moisture from above, that causes the earth to bloom, giving life to the sower’s seeds so the sower can have bread to eat. When our earth does not receive this moisture, life itself shrivels-up. What is green turns brown. Seeds do not sprout and grow. Ask any farmer, and they will tell you the importance of rain and snow to life.
The Word (now deliberately capitalized as a description of Christian proclamation) of God accomplishes what God wants — repentance, faith, and salvation. Our own Christian proclamation participates in this work of God. We don’t add to this work or validate it or even accomplish it. This is God’s work done by the way of the proclamation of God’s Word. This is a perfect description of our Holy Spirit. It gives life to God’s Word on Earth, empowering each of us to become sowers of the Word.
The Holy Spirit is often represented as dwelling in the hearts of Christians. This does not mean that there is a personal or physical indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We should conclude that the Holy Spirit influences, directs, and guides Christians, producing meekness, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, etc. (see Galatians 5:22-23). The expression, to dwell in one, describes the intimacy of this connection, and means that those things which are the fruits of the Spirit are produced in our hearts and demonstrated by our behavior.
The word “Spirit” is used in a great variety of places in the Scriptures. It most commonly in the New Testament referring to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. But the expression “the Spirit of Christ” is not in common use. The word “spirit,” lower case, is often used to describe the temper, disposition. One way to look at this might be to say that a person who does not have the temperament or disposition of Christ is not His. This type of connection seems to require us to compare this expression to the expressions “the Spirit of God,” and “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus” Romans 8:11. In this sense it denotes the Spirit which Christ would send to produce in us the views and feelings which He came to establish, and which will assimilate us (bring us) to Christ. If we take our definition from how Paul spoke of Christ, then he regarded “the Spirit” as equally the Spirit of God and of Christ, as proceeding from both. Paul believed that there is a union of nature between the Father and the Son.
The Apostle Paul is then using Spirit as the Spirit which Christ imparts, or sends to us, an ability to accomplish his work (John 14:26), not much different than the comments on rain from Isaiah. Rain was sent for us to do our work, to grow, to harvest and to feed.
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
How, then can we use this Scripture as a guide for our lives? Why is this verse in Romans important to study and remember? Is this a test for our lives that can be easily applied? If a person is influenced by the meek, pure, and holy spirit of the Lord Jesus, if a person is conformed to His image, if a person’s life resembles that of the Christ, they are no stranger to God. No test could be more easily applied, and no test is more decisive. Nothing else matters. We are called to have the temperament of Christ, to demonstrate His spirit toward others. The Apostle Paul is saying clearly, that when God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is present, Christ is present in you.
Items for Discussion
- Why should understanding Pentecost still be important to Christians today?
- Hints for discussion: Presence of Jesus with Us; Gospel for All Peoples; Power for Our Testimony
- Is there anything in the Gospel’s message that you think is really hard for people to understand?
- How do you personally explain those difficult parts?
- Why do you think that Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, came during baptisms? Was there any significance?
- Baptism is often compared to re-birth; How would the Holy Spirit fit into these beliefs?
- Pentecost is considered the Birthday of the Christian Church. Why might that be the case?
- The Holy Spirit is all about empowerment. Who is empowered and with what new powers?
- What makes it hard to explain the concept of the Holy Spirit to a non-believer; to a believer?
- How do we learn the temperament of Christ?
- The meaning of Pentecost is God’s equipping His church with the power of His Spirit so that He will be glorified among the nations. How should a Christian Church do this?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations