Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine."
John Calvin, one of the leading voices of the Protestant Reformation, is perceived by some to have been a cranky, impersonal, and dull pastor. While Calvin was likely cranky (due to chronic ailments and cultural critics), he was hardly impersonal or dull. We would be hard-pressed to find a pastor more committed to the personal pastoral care of those in his congregation and community. And in the words of the great Princeton professor B.B. Warfield, John Calvin was “the theologian of the Holy Spirit.” Where the Roman Catholic Church prized the institutional influence and power of the church, Calvin reclaimed the personal influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Consider Calvin’s description of Pentecost from his commentary on Acts: “If God could openly and visibly descend from Heaven, His majesty could scarce more manifestly appear than in this miracle.” For Calvin, Pentecost is the miraculous appearance of God’s majesty. While God’s majesty had appeared previously in earthly phenomena (like Israel’s guiding pillar of cloud and fire) and in the physical incarnation of the Son, those previous appearances were all temporary and localized. But at Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit came to all believers globally for all time, including us today.
Both of my sons celebrated birthdays during the past week, and as I write this, I am across the table from some of their gifts. While they brought smiles and activity for a day or two, they now lie unused and forgotten. In fact, the suggestions for Christmas gifts have already begun! How similar are we with the gift of the Holy Spirit? Has the majesty of the miraculous presence of the Holy Spirit grown dull in our hearts? Has our sense of need for the Holy Spirit’s influence and power been usurped by a sense of need for other things which seem more influential or powerful? Are we more interested in the tangible gifts of the Holy Spirit than in His mysterious, personal presence in us?
Ironically, it is the Holy Spirit alone who can revive our wonder, dependence, and gratitude! May we be a people praying for God to restore these things to us by His Spirit, and may we be a people eager to extend the gift of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ the Son to our world.
Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord to renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me; give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity; Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.
- “Holy Spirit,” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend