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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

Pentecost and God, the Holy Spirit

Updated: May 28, 2023

By Deacon Mary Delancey

Pentecost, from the Greek word for 50th day, marks the 50th day after Easter. It is one of the oldest celebrations in the Church calendar; there is evidence that it was celebrated in the 2nd century. Pentecost is often referred to as the Church’s Birthday, the beginning of the Church’s mission to the world through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Apostles and all believers.

The Holy Spirit did not come into being at Pentecost but as one of three persons of the Trinity, was present with the Father and the Son from before the beginning of time. We can see the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. In Genesis we hear that “in the beginning” the Spirit hovered over the waters that God made out of nothing (Genesis 1:1-2), bringing life and setting things in order. The Holy Spirit was present in leaders like Moses and David, The Holy Spirit empowered and strengthened people to do God’s will and speak God’s Word of warning, encouragement and hope.

What happened at Pentecost was very different, however. From the day of Pentecost onward all believers, not just a few, are empowered and strengthened to carry out our mission as Christ followers in the world. In the Old Testament, that empowering and strengthening was given to a handful of people. In the New Testament, it has been given to all, to the whole body that is called the Church. We can see in the Old Testament why those few were given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, what they were meant to do with that power. Now there is no longer a few, but many who are empowered and strengthened to carry out God’s work in the world.

As the late theologian, John Stott wrote, “Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from His fruit, and no effective witness without His power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead.” This Sunday we celebrate the Holy Spirit within each of us as individuals, and within all of us together as the Body of Christ.

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