The Day of Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Acts 2:1-4

The 120 that were in the upper room all received what Jesus promised, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, Acts 1:8. The word used for “power” in this verse is where we get the English word for dynamite. In essence Jesus said they would receive supernatural explosive miracle working power from the Holy Spirit that would empower them to be His witnesses in the earth!

Not only did all of them begin to speak in tongues when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit but we see the immediate effect this baptism had on Peter. Just days before this event Peter denied Jesus three times. Fearing for His life he went into hiding and then back to fishing. As soon as Peter is baptized in the Holy Spirit, along with the others in the upper room, he steps into the street during the Pentecost celebration when the city is full of people and boldly preaches a very powerful and convicting Gospel message. As a result, 3,000 men were born again not counting the women and children!

Jesus was crucified and buried not two months prior to this. Peter, now filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing he could follow the same fate as Jesus, preached a powerful convicting word and began to do the supernatural works of Jesus in signs, miracles and healings!  Powerful!

For this blog post I would like to take a brief look at the word baptism.

Typically when we hear the word baptism we think of “water baptism”. Although the word baptism includes being baptized in water, this is not the exclusive meaning. Baptism means to be fully immersed in, to overwhelm and to be fully covered in. When one is baptized in water they are immersed in or completely covered (overwhelmed) in water. Jesus asked James and John if they were able to be baptized with the same baptism He was going to endure, Mark 10:38. Jesus wasn’t talking about water baptism but about His death. When Jesus told His disciples that John baptized in water but they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit He was making a clear distinction that one, baptism is not strictly water baptism and two, that there is another type of baptism for His people. To be baptized with the Holy Spirit is to be completely immersed in and overwhelmed with the person and power of the Holy Spirit! The very same Holy Spirit that Jesus was baptized in at the time of His water baptism.

With this understanding, let’s take a fresh look at what we call the Great Commission in Matthew 28, Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 Notice Jesus said to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. We typically think of this baptism as water baptism, but, that is not what Jesus said. Usually when the Bible refers to water baptism it is worded something like this; The baptism of John, a baptism of repentance, baptized in water (or a reference to water), baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus or the like. In the Great Commission there is no reference like this. I am not saying that we shouldn’t be water baptized. Jesus was water baptism and I believe it is a Biblical sacrament for all God’s people. However, I do believe Jesus was speaking about a baptism in much broader sense than water baptism alone.

Jesus said to make disciples and fully immerse them in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. This is much more than a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin in water. Looking back at Acts 1:8, Jesus said that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of being His witnesses or in other words for the work of the ministry. In verse 4, Jesus commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. He did not want them to go out and do any ministry activity until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. According to Jesus, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is mandatory for all those in any ministry capacity.

The Church?

Early in my walk with the Lord as a member of a congregation, I’d always wondered about the lack of authentic life in our gatherings— the difference between what I saw in the Word of God and what I saw in many church services, conferences, meetings and the everyday lives of Christians— even my own life. I saw many good people working jobs, striving to serve God, providing for their families and generally doing what they thought was expected of them, but they seemed a little disconnected and powerless. Yet I always attributed that lack to the fundamental weakness of the parishioners— converts covered by Jesus’ blood, culled from a spiritually dull and apathetic society. It must be our lack of faith and obedience, I thought. In turn, I sympathized with pastors and others in Christian leadership who struggled to do their best with those who came wandering through the door. All that changed when I began to observe life from the other side of the altar. Stepping into ministry— first as a youth pastor and later as a lead pastor— revealed the inner workings of the church; a view beyond the curtain. Sadly, what I saw was underwhelming. I discovered a lack of power, direction, and apathy among some of the leadership. In trying to understand the source, however, I found that the congregation blamed their leaders and the leaders blamed their congregations. Neither side took full responsibility, and neither side seemed satisfied. I found many leaders who had given up and were just trying to maintain. A few still earnestly sought God, but others were recoiling from once having reached out to the sea of humanity with idealistic fervor, only to be tossed back to shore with a revised mindset deemed more practical and reality-based. Many —too many— were stressed out, over-burdened, weighed down and over worked. The majority, but certainly not all, had succumbed to a business mentality rather than embracing a kingdom mindset. They operated their local churches with a focus on increasing attendance, monetary flow and programs, while neglecting the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Tragically, I also found committed leaders drowning in a sea of impossible expectations and entrenched apathy.

Many good people across the country had simply given up and quit the ministry. When the Lord spoke to me about starting a church, I told Him that if this was what being a pastor was all about, I did not want it. He replied: I didn’t ask you to. That was all He needed to say;

I knew there was a better way. My heart yearned to see the church free, alive, and productive. As I sought God on behalf of the people who were being broken by the very organization that should have been helping them, I realized that this could not be what Jesus died for. We needed to change. We had to move forward. We had to move out of this manmade, business mindset and into what began in the Book of Acts. We had to advance to become what Jesus called us to be. In my search, I began to question everything. Is this what church is all about? Is this what God intended His children to be and to accomplish ? Why are we so weak and powerless? How has the church become a business? With all the outreaches, events and even the sheer number of churches in America, why does our culture look more like Hell than Heaven? The Bible tells us that Jesus is returning for a beautiful, victorious bride, not one hiding in defeat, battered and bruised. When I read the promises and provisions the Lord has given to us now in this life, I realize that so many of us live like beggars. Most of us are just existing, waiting for Jesus to return and straighten the whole mess out. Is this the abundant life Jesus came to give us? Have we missed something?

I knew the problem was with us and not the Lord.

Joe Nicola

Excerpt from my book “Ekklesia: The Government of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth”