More sermon notes
Pentecost means 50 days, from Passover.
Lev. 23:16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then
present an offering of new grain to the LORD.
Same as Feast of Harvest
Exod. 23:16 "Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops
you sow in your field. "Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year,
when you gather in your crops from the field.
Same as Feast of Weeks
Exod 34:22 "Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the first fruits of the wheat
harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.
Num. 28:26 "On the day of first fruits, when you present to the LORD an
offering of new grain during the Feast of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do
no regular work.
Deut. 16:10 Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a
freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you.
One of three annual feasts.
Deut. 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God
at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks
and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed:
Pledge of full harvest to come. Trust in God for full harvest.
Offerings presented. Proportionate.
Done at time of 1st temple.
2Chr. 8:13 according to the daily requirement for offerings commanded by Moses
for Sabbaths, New Moons and the three annual feasts --the Feast of Unleavened Bread
, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles.
After exile, remember Law giving
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Peter explained it in terms of Joel, day of Lord.
Reading Calvin to prepare a sermon I came across this.
The violence of the wind had the effect of making them afraid. For we are never
rightly prepared to receive the grace of God unless the vain confidence of the
flesh has been mastered. For as by faith we have open access to Him, so it is that
humility and fear open the door for Him to come to us. He will have nothing to do
with proud and careless men who please themselves.
On Acts 1:2
Since no man is excluded from calling upon God the gate of salvation is set open to
all. There is nothing else to hinder us from entering, but our own unbelief.
On Acts 1:21.
This could be called Calvin's free offer of the Gospel!
The Observance of Pentecost in the Early Church
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University
The earliest references to the observance of Pentecost in the early
Church come down to us from the second half of the second century. The lack
of information for the previous period does not mean that Pentecost was not
observed. The incidental references to Pentecost in the New Testament that
we examined in chapter 6 as well as the earliest accounts of its observance
in Christian literature suggest that the feast had been widely observed
from apostolic times.
Season of Rejoicing. Pentecost was regarded in the early Church as
a fifty-day period of joy and triumph during which Christians were to
refrain from kneeling and fasting. As noted above, the earliest reference
to the celebration of such a period, as we have seen, is found in the
apocryphal Acts of Paul (about A. D. 180), where we read: "While Paul was
in prison, the brethren, since it was Pentecost, wept not neither did they
bow the knee, but they stood and prayed rejoicing. "28
From about the same time, a fragment of a lost book about Passover
by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (about A. D. 130-200), says: "Pentecost, in
which we do not bend our knees, because it has the same value as the Lord's
day. This custom started in apostolic times. "29 This passage is interesting
because it derives from apostolic times the practice of not kneeling during
By the end of the second century we find in the writings of
Tertullian (about A. D. 160-225) numerous admonitions to refrain from
kneeling and fasting during the season of Pentecost. In his treatise On
Fasting, Tertullian challenges the argument that all the feasts have been
abolished by posing these rhetorical questions: "Why do we observe the
Passover by an annual rotation in the first month? Why in the fifty ensuing
days do we spend our time in exultation?"30 The point of Tertullian's
argument is that the Old Testament feasts can hardly have been abolished if
Christians were still observing them. The passage shows that Pentecost was
viewed as an unbroken period of rejoicing.
Tertullian expresses the same view of Pentecost in his treatise On
Baptism: "Pentecost is a most joyous space for conferring baptisms. "31 What
makes Pentecost a most joyous season are the events commemorated during
this period. Tertullian mentions specifically four of them: (1) the
resurrection, which was repeatedly proven among the disciples; (2) the
ascension; (3) Christ's promise to return to gather His people; and (4) the
descent of the Holy Spirit. 32
Standing in Prayer as an Emblem of the Resurrection. The
celebration of the fifty days as a joyful period in which it was forbidden
to fast or to kneel is well attested by such writers as Epiphanius, Basil
the Great, Hippolytus, and Jerome. 33 The custom also is mentioned in the
apocryphal Testament of the Lord: "At Pentecost let no one fast or kneel.
For these are days of rest and joy. Let those who bear burdens of labour
refresh themselves a little in the days of Pentecost. "34 The Apostolic
Constitutions go so far as declaring guilty of sin those who fast during
the days of Pentecost, because on those days Christians ought to rejoice
and not to mourn. 35
The reason for not fasting or kneeling during the days of Pentecost
is clearly given by Augustine: "The period of fifty days we celebrate after
the Lord's resurrection, represents not toil, but rest and gladness. For
this reason we do not fast in them; and in praying we stand upright, which
is an emblem of resurrection." 36 By standing in prayer during Pentecost,
Christians were honouring not only the resurrection of Christ but also the
future resurrection of the believers. In his treatise On the Holy Spirit
Basil explains more precisely the eschatological meaning of standing: "All
Pentecost is a reminder of the resurrection expected in the age to come. .
. . On this point the rules of the church have educated us to prefer the
upright attitude of prayer, for by their plain reminder they, as it were,
make our mind to dwell no longer in the present but in the future. Moreover
every time we fall upon our knees and rise from off them we show by the
very deed that by our sin we fell down to earth, and by the loving kindness
of our Creator were called back to heaven." 37
Mood rather than Mode of Observance. The foregoing references
describe more the mood of the Pentecost celebration than the manner of its
observance. Early Christian writers often tell us that during the fifty
days of Pentecost Christians did not mourn, fast, or kneel; but they do
not tell us what distinctive religious services were conducted either
privately at home or publicly at church.
During the first three centuries, apparently only a few distinctive
religious ceremonies were associated with Pentecost. One was the
administration of baptism. Tertullian explains that Passover was the ideal
time for baptism because at that festival "the Lord's passion, in which we
are baptised, was completed." 38 After Passover, Tertullian says, "Pentecost
is a most joyous space for conferring baptisms." 39 Presumably the reason
is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost could remind the
baptismal candidates of the baptism of the Spirit that was to accompany
their baptism by water.
It should be noted that the administration of baptism in early
Christianity was usually an annual event, because it took at least a year
to prepare for baptism candidates coming from a pagan background. While
believing Jews could be baptised immediately, as at Pentecost, because they
already had a Biblical faith and practice, pagan converts could be baptised
only after months or even years of instruction into the Christian faith.
Special Scripture Readings for Pentecost. A valuable source of
information on the observance of Pentecost in the early Church are the
lectionaries, that is, manuals containing specific Scripture readings
assigned to the feasts in the year. Though the lectionaries for the feasts
are not extant before the ninth century, they do reflect liturgical
traditions that go back to early Christianity. Some of them are quite
revealing for an understanding of the meaning of Pentecost in the early
The earliest lectionaries are in the Syriac language, a branch of
Aramaic that was extensively used in early Christianity. From the second
century onward, Syriac was used in translations of the Bible and in the
production of Christian literature. The early Syriac Lectionary lists
thirteen Biblical passages to be read on the final day of Pentecost. Each
passage is accompanied by a brief annotation, which explains the reason for
the usage of the passage.
"Job 32:6 to 33:6 (The Spirit gives wisdom);
Daniel 1:1-21 (Ten days put to the test);
Joel 2:21-31 (cf. Acts 2);
Judges 13:2-25 (Birth of Samson, the Nazarite, drinking no
1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Unction of David);
Jeremiah 31:27-37 (New Covenant);
Isaiah 48:12 to 49:13 (The Lord assembles Israel, new Covenant);
Genesis 11:1-9 (Tower of Babel, 'antitype' of Pentecost story in
Exodus 19:1 to 20:17 (Gathering around Mount Sinai and the
giving of the Ten Commandments);
Psalm 47 (Responsively v. 8 'God reigns over the nations');
Acts 2:1-21 (Pentecost-story).
1 Corinthians 12:1-27 (The working of the Spirit);
John 14:15-27 (Promise of the Paraclete)."40
The comments given in brackets for the choice of the periscopes
reveal that Pentecost was seen as a feast that commemorated the new
Covenant, the giving of the Law, the outpouring of Holy Spirit, and the
bestowal of spiritual gifts. Presumably, these were some of the themes that
were expounded during the religious service. The choice of the Old
Testament readings suggests that Christians viewed the old covenant
established at Sinai through the giving of the Law as a type of the new
covenant fulfilled on the day of Pentecost through the giving of the Holy
The Greek lectionary mentions the following Scripture readings from
the Old Testament:
"Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29 (The seventy elders on whom the
Spirit is laid);
Joel 2:23-32 (cf. Acts 2);
Ezekiel 36:24-28 (Gathering of Israel, a new Spirit is put in it)."41
Of these Scripture readings, the most interesting is the one from
Numbers 11:16-29, where we are told that a part of the Spirit of Moses was
laid on the seventy elders. In a sense, this is one of the best types of
Pentecost story in the Old Testament. The seventy elders played also a
significant role in preparing the Israelites for God's revelation at Mount
Sinai (Ex 19: 7) and for leading them into the covenant commitment (Ex
24:9). Apparently, some Christians saw in that story a foreshadowing of the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
Goudoever lists several other early Christian lectionaries which
mention the reading of Exodus 19 for the liturgy of Pentecost. On the basis
of these he concludes: "One of the most striking agreements between the
Church and the Synagogue lessons is the reading of the Revelation to Moses
on Mount Sinai. The story is considered by the Church fathers as the Old
Testament 'type' of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Christian
Pentecost Day." 42
Augustine offers a suggestive comparison between the giving of the
Law at Sinai and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:
"In former times Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai and he proclaimed
the commandments of the Lord before the people. There God came down to the
mountain, here the Holy Spirit came to be visible in tongues of fire. There
thunder and voices, here fishermen sparkling with various flaming tongues.
This is what the divine passage said, 'when the days of Pentecost were
Later Developments. Beginning from the fourth century, the liturgy
of Pentecost became very elaborate. The same was true for all the religious
feasts. The freedom and financial support that Roman emperors gave to the
Church influenced church leaders to develop more elaborate rituals, often
in imitation of pompous pagan rituals. The observance of Pentecost began
with an all-night vigil during which several masses would be read, the
baptismal fountain would be blessed, the baptismal candidates would be
confirmed, and numerous prayers and songs would be offered. 44
During the Middle Ages, various customs developed as part of the
celebration of Pentecost. The dove as symbol of the Holy Spirit was widely
used to re-enact in a dramatic way the descent of the Holy Spirit on
Pentecost. When the priest arrived at the altar, he sang in a loud and
solemn voice: "Come, Holy Ghost" (Viene Sancte Spiritus). Then,
immediately, a blowing sound was produced in the church. According to
Francis Weiser, "This noise was produced in some countries, like France, by
the blowing of trumpets; in others by choirboys, who hissed, hummed,
pressed windbags, and rattled the benches. All eyes turned toward the
ceiling of the church where from an opening called 'Holy Ghost Hole' there
appeared a disc the size of a cart wheel, which slowly descended in
horizontal position, swinging in ever-widening circles. Upon a blue
background, broken by bundles of golden rays, it bore on its underside the
figure of a white dove.
"Meanwhile, the choir sang the sequence. At its conclusion the dove
came to rest, hanging suspended in the middle of the church. There followed
a 'rain' of flowers indicating the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and of water
symbolising baptism. In some towns of central Europe people even went so
far as to drop pieces of burning wick or straw from the Holy Ghost Hole, to
represent the flaming tongues of Pentecost. This practice, however, was
eventually stopped because it tended to put people on fire externally,
instead of internally as the Holy Spirit had done at Jerusalem. In the
thirteenth century in many cathedrals of France real white pigeons were
released during the singing of the sequence and flew around the church
while roses were dropped from the Holy Ghost Hole." 45
Like Easter, Pentecost in time came to include pagan superstitious
practices associated with ancient Spring festivals. "In many places,"
Weiser writes, "all through Pentecost night could be heard the noise of
shooting (Pfingstschiessen) and cracking of whips (Pfingstschnalzen). In
pre-Christian times this observance was held to frighten harmful powers
away from home and harvest; in Christian times it assumed the character of
a salute to the great feast. The modern version of the ancient Spring
festival (maypole and May Queen) is connected with Pentecost in many
sections of Europe. The queen is called 'Pentecost Bride' (Pfingstbraut).
Other relics of the Indo-European Spring festival are the games, dances,
and races held at Pentecost. This tradition used to be most popular
everywhere in the Middle Ages, and still is in central Europe. In England,
Pentecost Sunday was a day of horse races, plays, and feasting (Whitsun
Ale). In Germany, too, people would hold banquets (Pfingstgelage) and
drink 'Pentecost beer.'" 46
The production and sale of a stronger "Pentecost beer," known in
England as "Whitsun Ale," was an important part of the Pentecost
celebration which involved local churches. In his book The Christian Year,
Edward Horn writes: "This was one of the 'parish ales' which were parochial
festivals featured by ale which was stronger than usual, and which was sold
by the church warden who used the proceeds for the repairs of the church or
for distribution to the poor. These ales were of social importance in
England in the middle Ages and were usually held in the churchyard or a
nearby barn. Colleges and universities used to brew their own ales and
raise money by holding their own ales. Such celebrating was not restricted
to England and the (Lutheran) Saxon General Articles in 1557 inveighed
against the excesses of the 'Pfingsttänze, Pfingstschiessens,
Pfingstbiers.' But, while the English reformers tried to suppress these
social activities, Luther could see no harm in them, and most Lutheran
orders ignored them." 47
Colonial America was not without its Pentecost's frolics. The most
important celebration in colonial New York was on Capitol Hill in Albany,
which was known as Pinkster Hill, from the German word for Pentecost,
"Pfingsten." It was a slave frolic. "The Negroes kept up the fun for a
week, dancing, eating gingerbread and drinking in honour of their legendary
'Old King Charley.' They used cast-off finery to bedeck themselves and
consumed so much liquor that the bacchanalia had finally to be suppressed.
On Long Island the festival was observed by whites as well as blacks; in
parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland, usually by Negroes only." 48
The degeneration of the Feast of Pentecost from a celebration of
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into an occasion to seek for the
infilling of alcoholic spirits and the pleasure of games, dances, and races
is a sad commentary on the perversion of a Biblical feast. Our challenge
today is to reject the secularisation of God's Holy Days by rediscovering
their meaning and relevance for our Christian life. ##
Conclusion. The observance of Pentecost in the early church was
characterised by a mood of rejoicing during the fifty days following
Passover. What made Pentecost a most joyous season were the events
commemorated during that period, namely, the resurrection, the ascension,
the promise of Christ's Return, the inauguration of Christ's intercessory
ministry, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the Christian
To express their joy and gladness, Christians refrained from
kneeling, fasting, and mourning during the fifty days of Pentecost. By
standing for prayer and singing, Christians were honouring the resurrection
of Christ as well as the future resurrection of all believers.
Like the Jews, Christians had few distinctive ceremonies associated
with Pentecost. One of them was the administration of baptism to those
candidates who for months or years had been instructed into the Christian
faith. Being the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,
Pentecost could remind the baptismal candidates of the baptism of the
Spirit that was to accompany their water baptism.
The Scripture readings for the last day of Pentecost were mostly
Old Testament passages dealing with the new covenant and the giving of the
Law at Sinai. This suggests that Christians viewed the covenant that God
established with the Israelites through the giving of the Law at Sinai as
foreshadowing the new covenant that God established with the spiritual
Israel through the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
Gradually Pentecost, like Easter, degenerated into an occasion to
seek for pleasure rather than the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
Drinking, dancing, playing, and feasting became the popular way to
celebrate the feast. To a large extent, this trend has continued to our
times. God's Holy Days have largely become an occasion to seek for personal
pleasure and profit, rather than for the peace and power of God's Spirit.
Labels: pentecost, sermon