The Pattern of Pentecost
January 30th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
THE PATTERN OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-30-77 10:50 a.m.
In our preaching through the Bible—and I think this is of the direction of heaven as we face what I think will be, what I think will be the most marvelous outpouring of the Spirit of God that we have ever known, our six weeks of Here is Life, and Tell Dallas, and Good News Metroplex; as we face our six weeks of Good News Dallas revival, I am preaching in the Bible at the greatest introductory revival of a new age and a new dispensation that humanity ever saw.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts we have come to chapter 2, the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit of God. And I read the text, Acts 2:1-4: “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” [Acts 2:1]. I am going to preach about that tonight, With One Accord; “They were all with one accord in one place.” That is what praying does for a people: it cements them and binds them together. And while they were there praying with one heart, in one accord [Acts 2:1], “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind,” the ruach, the pneuma, the breath of God. That’s the first great miracle and sign: “and it filled all of the house where they were sitting” [Acts 2:2].
Number two: “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire,” the lambent flame of the shekinah glory of God, and parting, “it sat upon each one of them” [Acts 2:3]. Number three: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, glōssa, with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance” [Acts 2:4].
Then follows the marvel and wonder and awe that fell upon the vast concourse of Jews who had gathered there for the Passover, for Pentecost, from the ends of the earth: “And they said one to another, How is this? Are not all of these men Galileans?” [Acts 2:6-7]. The cultured of Jerusalem said they looked to them like agrammatoi kai idiotai. They were not men of the schools, they were not men of the seminaries, they were not men of letters, they were not men of the universities, they were not men of education; they were rude, rough, crude fishermen from Galilee. “But how is it,” they say, “that we hear from these men in our own glōssoi, in our own tongue, in our own language the marvelous works of God?” [Acts 2:8-11]. This is the beginning of a new era, a new epoch, a new dispensation. This is the beginning of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, of the grace of God poured out upon His church [Ephesians 3:2-12].
Every new era, every new dispensation of God, is always introduced by wonders and signs and miracles. When God created matter [Hebrews 11:3], He did something of the most marvelous and miraculous nature; then it was never done again. The sign stopped, the miracle stopped; and just the substance continued. Since the day in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, there has never been one atom of matter created since. It was one time; then it was never again. The same thing happened when God introduced the dispensation, the era of the Mosaic legislation, the Mosaic law, and the Mosaic covenant [Deuteronomy 26:8]. It was attended by marvelous signs and wonders in Egypt [Exodus 7:14-12:30], at the Red Sea [Exodus 14:21-31], and in the wilderness wanderings [Acts 7:36]. Then the manna ceased [Joshua 5:12]. The manna ceased. For all of those years they gathered the wonder of the gift of God in the wilderness [Exodus 16:15-17]; then when they entered the Promised Land, the sign ceased [Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:12]. No more those wonders we see in Egypt [Exodus 7:14-12:30]; no more that marvelous crossing of the Red Sea with the waters banked on either side [Exodus 14:21-31]; no more the gathering of the manna in the morning, fresh from the hands of God [Exodus 16:13-24]; the signs ceased.
There’s only one other great dispensation that remains, and that is at the consummation of the age in the second coming of Christ. It also shall be attended by marvelous wonders and miracles and signs such as the world has never seen [Matthew 24:1-44; Luke 21:7-33]. Just one dispensation left. So it is with this dispensation in which we live; this era, this epoch, this age in which our lives are cast. It was introduced, this age of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost; and was attended, as always a new dispensation is attended, by wonders and signs and miracles: first, “the sound as of a rushing mighty wind”; second, the lambent flames of the shekinah glory of God moving upward, upward, always upward; and third, the Holy Spirit filling those apostles who spoke with glōssa, with languages [Acts 2:2-4], declaring to those visitors from the ends of the earth the marvelous proclamation of the new age of grace in Christ Jesus, and the calling out of the church of the Lord [Acts 2:1-47].
As the Book of the Acts continues, that third sign was seen when the gospel was preached to the Gentiles in the household of the Roman centurion Cornelius at Caesarea [Acts 10:1-48]. And Simon Peter, looking at it, and describing it to his brethren in Jerusalem, said, in Acts 11:17, “The same gift, the like gift, we saw fall upon the Gentiles in Caesarea”; that is, they spake with glōssa and magnified the Lord in languages [Acts 2:1-4]. That same marvelous sign was seen once again in the Book of Acts in Ephesus; they also spoke with glōssa in that great capital city of the Roman province of Asia. And they magnified the Lord with languages, glōssa [Acts 19:6]. Then once more, in the church at Corinth, they magnified the Lord with glōssa, with languages [1 Corinthians 14:26-28]. But when the unusual sign and phenomenon occurred in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote by inspiration, “And glōssa shall cease” [1 Corinthians 13:8]. And the sign has never been seen or heard again. As in the great creation of the world, the Lord flung this matter into space, this substance, what we see in the universe, God created it [Genesis 1:1-25], then there’s never been an atom added to it since. It ceased [Hebrews 4:3]. As when God introduced the great dispensation of the law of Moses, with many signs and wonders [Deuteronomy 26:8]; then the manna ceased [Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:12]. So it is with the introduction of the great glorious dispensation of the Holy Spirit of God: it was accompanied by marvelous signs and wonders [Acts 2:1-4]; then “the sign ceased,” as the Holy Scriptures say. And it is ceased forever. Tongues, glōssa, 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Tongues, glōssa, shall cease”; and they have never been given again.
You see after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, “Tongues shall cease” [1 Corinthians 13:8], then he wrote the marvelous incomparable letter to the Romans; that is a treatise, a doctrinal treatise of the Christian faith. And the glōssa, the tongues, are never referred to, they’re never mentioned; they have ceased. Then after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians he wrote 2 Corinthians. The tongues, the glōssa, the sign, is never referred to, it’s never mentioned; they have ceased. After Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he also wrote Galatians, the letter to the churches of Galatia. The tongues, the glōssa, the sign, is never referred to, it is never mentioned; it has ceased. After Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, in which he said, “Tongues shall cease” [1 Corinthians 13:8], he wrote the letter to the Ephesians; this is an encyclical, it is written to all the churches of all time. He never refers to tongues, he never refers to the sign of glōssa; he said, “It has ceased.” After Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, the last time the sign appeared, he wrote the letter to the Philippians, the church at Philippi. He never refers to the tongue, he never refers to the sign; he said, “It is ceased.” After Paul wrote that letter to the Corinthian church in which he said, “Tongues, the sign of glōssa, shall cease,” he wrote the letter to the church at Colossians. He never referred to the sign; he never referred to the tongues; he never referred to the glōssa. He said, “It has ceased.” After Paul wrote that 1 Corinthian letter in which he said, “Tongues shall cease” [1 Corinthians 13:8], he wrote the letter to 1 and 2 Timothy—between that are 1 and 2 Thessalonians, in which the sign is never mentioned, but he wrote that before First Corinthians—never mentioned even there. But after he wrote 1 Corinthians, then he wrote the pastoral epistles to 1 and 2 Timothy and to Titus. These are the letters that describe the organization and the administration of the church, the pastoral epistles. The sign is never referred to, it’s never mentioned; it has ceased. Then he wrote the letter to Philemon in Colosse; it is never referred to, the sign is ceased.
Then the marvelous author of the Book of Hebrews wrote one of the finest dissertations upon the Christian faith that God could ever Himself have penned; and the sign is never referred to, it’s never mentioned. It has ceased. Then after Hebrews, James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, wrote his marvelous letter, the Book of James. It’s never referred to, it’s never mentioned; the glōssa has ceased. Then after James, Simon Peter wrote his two tremendous letters to all the churches of the Greco-Roman world, and to all time, 1 and 2 Peter. But the sign is never referred to, the tongues are never mentioned, the glōssa are never mentioned; it has ceased. Then after Peter, the sainted apostle John wrote 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, three letters by John. The glōssa, the speaking in tongues, they’re never mentioned; they have ceased. Then Jude wrote his epistle. He never refers to the sign; it has ceased. And finally the Book of the Apocalypse, the Book of the Revelation, was written; and there is no hint, there is not even an approach to any sign or wonder like the glōssa. Why? It has ceased [1 Corinthians 13:8]. And for two thousand years we have had Christian history; and at no time in this two thousand years has that sign ever reappeared. It is ceased. The great leaders of the Christian faith are known to us intimately; and not one of them has ever engaged in any such practice as attempting to speak in an unknown tongue. The sign has ceased.
Chrysostom, John the Golden Mouth, Greek chrysostom, “the golden mouth,” John the Golden Mouth, the incomparable preacher of the imperial court of Constantinople, who began to flourish in 350 AD: he never—he knew nothing about it. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, Augustine, the great theologian of the church, Savonarola, John Huss, John Wycliffe, John Wesley, Charles Grandison Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Haddon Spurgeon; there has never been any great Christian leader, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, there’s never been a great Christian leader who ever attempted to speak in an unknown tongue. The sign has ceased, as the apostle Paul said.
All over this world recordings have been made of so-called unknown tongues. They have been taken to the greatest linguistic institutions in the world; no time, no time has a language ever been identified. The sign ceased as God intended [1 Corinthians 13:8]. When He created the world, He flung it into existence [Genesis 1:1-25], and since that time there’s no other creation of matter. As God began the dispensation of the law, He attended it with marvelous signs [Deuteronomy 26:8]; and they’re never repeated, the manna ceased [Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:12]. When God introduced this dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the age of grace, He attended it, as He always does, with signs and wonders: the rushing of a mighty wind in sound, the cloven tongues like as of fire, the speaking in glōssa, in languages [Acts 2:1-4]. Then the signs ceased, and forever.
But what is it that remains of Pentecost? What remains of Pentecost is for us to share in all of its glory and wonder. For when I open the Bible and read here in the Book of Acts and in all the remainder of these blessed pages, I see the marvel and the glory and the amazement of the presence of God, the things that continue when Pentecost is repeated and when it is patterned after, and when we feel its driving, moving presence and glorious revival upwardness. Dwight L. Moody said, “I believe that Pentecost was but a specimen day. I think the church has made a woeful mistake in believing that Pentecost was a miracle not to be repeated. I believe that now, if we looked upon Pentecost as a specimen day, and began to pray, we would have the Pentecostal fire here again today.” I believe every syllable of that. Pentecost was given to us as a specimen. It was given to us as a pattern, as a paradigm. And it can be repeated again, and again, and again, and again! And I read that in the Book of God. Pentecost was the introduction; it was the opening of the door, it was the lifting up of the curtain. And there are four marvelous phenomena, four glorious miracles that attended Pentecost that are to be repeated again, and again, and again, and today, and to the ends of the earth.
What are those four?
- Number one: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” [Acts 2:4].
- And I turn the page, “And he was filled with the Holy Ghost” [Acts 4:8].
- And I turn the page, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” [Acts 7:55].
- And I turn the page, “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 4:31].
- And I turn the page, “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 6:3].
- “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 6:5, 7:55, 8:17, 9:17, 11:15, 13:52].
- And I come to the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, and they are filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 28:8], and there’s no formal conclusion; for there’s to be a twenty-ninth chapter, and a fiftieth chapter, and a thousandth chapter.
- And finally I come to the Book of Ephesians, in 5:18, where the apostle Paul writes by inspiration, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 5:18].
This is the Pentecostal gift [Acts 2:1-4], that is repeated again, and again, and again, and again, and can be repeated anywhere in this earth. And everywhere in the world, somewhere, there is an outpouring of the Spirit of God today, yesterday, tomorrow, and till Jesus comes again. Somewhere in the earth there is always this fullness of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.
I prepared this from much, much reading and much experience. Listen to it: when the church at Jerusalem was lost in Ebionitic Judaizing legalism, the churches at Ephesus and at Antioch were abounding in spiritual glory.
- When waning piety in Antioch turned the church into an empty shell, the Spirit of God was waxing strong in Milan.
- While the churches of Alexandria and Carthage and North Africa were sinking into formalism, the churches of Gaul—that’s modern France—the churches of Gaul were battling the vices of imperial oppression, and winning converts from the dark depths of barbarianism.
- While the church at Rome was falling into empty pretense, all Ireland was turning to the holiness and beauty of the Savior.
- While Mohammed was destroying with the sword the churches of Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor, the scholars of Iona were studying the Bible, and their preachers were evangelizing all of Scotland.
- While the papal court of Avignon was disgracing the name of Christ in luxury and in vice, pious men were writing books, preaching sermons, and practicing godly virtues in the cities of Germany.
- When Italian fields were covered over with worthless, rotten stubble, Bohemia was ripening white unto the harvest; John Huss and our great Baptist Balthazar Hubmaier.
- When the night of religious superstition and despotism was getting darker in continental Europe, the morning star of the Reformation was rising in England.
- While the Unitarian defection was emptying the churches of New England, the pioneer preacher was pressing beyond the Alleghenies, across the frontiers of the wilderness and of the prairie, establishing the churches. One pioneer preacher I grew up under as a boy in far northwest Texas, the pioneer preacher was pressing beyond the Alleghenies, across the frontiers of the wilderness and of the prairies, establishing the churches and the Christian institutions that bless us and our children today.
- While the voices of a thousand sterile decadent church leaders decry mass evangelism, Billy Graham is preaching to the greatest throngs in human history.
- While the feted breath of liberalism is destroying the witness of the mainline denominations in America, there is revival of unusual proportion in Indonesia, in South Korea, and in the continent of Africa.
- And while the denial of the Word of God and the loss of the spirit of soulwinning are bringing death to the downtown city churches of the world, the First Baptist Church in Dallas is experiencing revival, reaching out for more souls for Christ, and baptizing more converts than in all its long history.
How do you like that? Man, that’s great! That’s marvelous! That’s glorious! That’s Pentecost! And it is intended for all of God’s people through the ages. The dead decadent church is a disgrace to the name of Christ and dishonors the name of our Lord. There ought to be power, there ought to be life, there ought to be quickening presence, there ought to be revival among our people; God intends it. That’s the mandate,
“plērousthe,” imperative mode, Ephesians 5:18, “Be ye filled with the Spirit.” And after that first outpouring, turn the page, turn the page, turn the page, “And they were all filled with the Spirit” [Acts 13:52].
The second marvelous phenomenon that accompanied the introduction of this new age: “And Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said…” [Acts 2:14]. Why this is the man that a few days before cowered before a little maid when she said, “You are one of His disciples. You talk like Him.” And Simon Peter said, “You think I talk like Him?” referring to the Lord, “Then listen to this,” and he swore and cussed a blue streak, denied that he ever knew Him, denied that he ever saw Him, cringing before the question of a little menial servant [Matthew 26:69-74]. This is that same Simon Peter who is standing up here at Pentecost, and bold and courageous like a roaring lion: he is accusing and accosting the very men who cried for the blood of Jesus and who nailed Him to a cross [Acts 2:22-23]. The second great miracle of Pentecost and the continuing one is the boldness it gives in the faith.
In my first little country church, when I was a teenager, I said to one of my men, I said, “You know I just can’t go up to somebody and talk to them about the Lord. Somehow I’m just so timid and reticent and afraid, I just can’t do it.”
He said to me, he said, he said, “Young pastor, you know what’s the matter with you?”
I said, “No. What’s the matter with me?” Now polished, cultured, educated people will always observe the amenities of life, they’ll always be nice; they won’t talk to you straight. They palaver, they pour on syrup, they all nice and gracious and bow, you know, and scrape, and on and on and on you know. They all like that; I’m that way. We all like that. But an uneducated, uncultured, unlettered rural man out there will tell you frankly and openly what he thinks. So I said to this rural man in my little church, I said to him, “You know I just don’t have the nerve just to go up and talk to a man about the Lord. I’m just afraid, I’m just timid.”
So he says to me, “You know what’s the matter with you?”
I said, “No. What’s the matter with me?”
He said, “The trouble with you is you ain’t got no religion.”
I was his pastor. I stood in the pulpit of that little church on Sunday and opened the Bible and preached to him. The nerve of that fellow, telling me, the pastor of the church, I ain’t got no religion. He made an impression. I remember it.
Why, certainly if I don’t have any religion, I don’t have anything to share with a man, I don’t have anything to say to a man. And no wonder I fear and tremble and am hesitant and timid: I don’t have any good news to tell! If a man were starving to death and I had bread and knew where it was, would I be timid and say, “Brother, brother, I have found bread to eat! Come, come, come to the banquet.” If I met a man who was thirsting to death, and I had water to drink, would I be timid to say, “Look brother, water of life, water to drink.”? Would I be timid? I ain’t got no religion; that’s what the matter with me.
The sweetest thing I could ever share, the noblest gift I could ever bestow, the grandest news this side of heaven itself is the good news: Jesus. Man, what He can do for you, what He has done for us. That’s the gift of the Spirit of God. Without Him we’re timid, and shy, and reticent, and reluctant. But with Him, we’re bold in the faith, always [2 Timothy 1:7].
You don’t have to be obnoxious to do that. I have learned since that man told me that, I have learned it’ll be a rare man that I’m ever with, anywhere in the world that, give me a few sentences, and I’m not saying something good about Jesus. And God has blessed it in a thousand times.
Sometimes a man come down here and walk that aisle, shake my hand, and say to me, “You didn’t know it, you’ve forgotten it, but you talked to me while we were under a shower over there at the Y. And I have found the Lord.” Or as one man said, “We were there lifting weights together, exercising in the Y, and you talked to me about Jesus. And I was so embarrassed because all those men around there listening to you. And you not only did that, you finally grabbed me by the hand and pulled me down, and prayed for my soul there before all those men.”
He said, “You know what bothered me about it was, that I was a great big fellow,” and he was twice as big as I, great big fellow, “and yet there I was embarrassed just to kneel in prayer.” He said, “I couldn’t get away from it. And I want to tell you I have found the Lord. I have given Him my soul.” That’s what happens to you when you’re filled with the Spirit: it overflows. It’s the good news. It’s the best thing God ever did for us and for our people.
The third one and I’m going to have to quit, the third one is the marvelous power of conviction and conversion that followed the witness of the preacher [Acts 2:24-26]. That’s of God. We can’t convict anybody, and we can’t convert anybody; but when Simon Peter delivered that message from the Lord filled with the Spirit, they were convicted in their hearts and cried out, saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? What shall we do? We’re lost and we have the blood of Jesus on our souls. What shall we do?” And listening to the word of salvation, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, “they gladly received his word, and were baptized; and that moment God added to His church three thousand souls” [Acts 2:37-41].
John Wesley was a little precise Oxford don; came to America to convert the American Indian, went back to London miserable and discouraged, and wrote in his journal: “I went to Georgia to convert the American Indian. But who will convert this heart of mine?” A Moravian got hold of John Wesley, the young Oxford don. He was marvelously filled with the Spirit at Aldersgate. And then he wrote in his journal, “I called, and they didn’t come. I call, and they come.”
In 1821 the Holy Spirit of God filled that lawyer, Charles Grandison Finney, and set him aflame. People by the hundreds of thousands came. They were converted. In the city of Rochester, New York—at that time had fifty thousand population—there were one hundred thousand souls saved in the revival meeting of Charles Finney. In 1871 the same experience fell upon Dwight L. Moody. And Dwight L. Moody said, “I preach the same sermons, I use the same texts, I make the same invitations; but now they come.” What’s the difference? It lies in the filling, the outpouring, of the Holy Spirit of God: Pentecost repeated.
The fourth and the last—these sermons are being published; let me finish it briefly—what’s the fourth great miracle that is repeated in Pentecost? Number one was the fullness of the Spirit that God intends for us to have [Ephesians 5:18]; number two is the boldness in our witnessing [Acts 2:14, 22-23]; number three is the power of conviction and conversion when the message is delivered [Acts 2:24-41]; and the last, “And they. . .did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church every day those who were being saved” [Acts 2:46-47]; the glad, infinite, heavenly indescribable upness that comes into a man’s heart and life when he gives his soul to Jesus. It always follows.
Here I wish we had two or three or four hours, and I’d just pick you out, come up here, come up here, stand right here where I am, and tell the people who listen on radio and television and this throng here today how it’s been since you gave your heart to Jesus. Just say how it’s been. Like that fellow that was converted, wonderfully converted, and he was a laboring man, went back to his job next morning, and some of those fellows making fun of him, “So you’ve found the Lord, so you’ve been converted. Don’t you know that in that Bible in which you’re supposed to believe there are more than ten thousand mistakes?” Oh, they say all kinds of things! And this fellow replied, “I don’t know about that. I don’t know about that. All I know is that since I gave my heart to Jesus, I’ve been so happy I can’t sleep.” Isn’t that a wonderful way to be? “I’ve been so happy, I’ve been so glad that I can’t even sleep.” That tribal chieftain that I spoke about last Sunday said, “Joy is killing me.” That’s Pentecost. And if religion for us is dull and dry and humdrum, that’s because we’ve lost the spirit. But when we’re filled with the Spirit, “I was glad when they said unto me it’s time to go to church.” “I was glad when they said unto me let’s pray to the Lord.” “I was happy when they said to me let’s stand and sing the songs of Zion.” Ah, Lord, what a difference, what a difference Pentecost made, and what a difference the repeated Pentecost continues to make.
On radio and on television, you can call 742-3111; there’ll be a minister answer the phone. And whatever we can do to help, we try. Maybe if you’d call and say, “This moment I have found the Lord. I’ve opened my soul and my heart to Jesus, and I take Him as my Savior,” oh, how’d we pray with gladness with you!
Then somebody here in God’s house, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you; “God has spoken to me, and I’m answering with my life; and here I come. I’m taking the Lord Jesus as my Savior [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8]. I’m putting my life in the fellowship of this dear church.” Or, “I want to be baptized like it says in the Book [Matthew 28:19]. I’m coming, pastor, I’m on the way.” Make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now. Make it now. Come now, angels attend you and God welcome you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
THE PATTERN OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-30-77I. Every new dispensation is accompanied by signs
A. Some of the marvels, manifestations are never repeated
1. Creation of matter (Genesis 1:1-31)
2. Era of Mosaic legislation (Exodus 16:35, Joshua 5:12)
3. Consummation of the age (Matthew 24:1-44, Luke 21:7-33)
B. The confirming signs of the new era of peace
1. Wind, lambent flames, languages in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4)
2. Languages in Caesarea, Ephesus, Corinth (Acts 11:17, 18:4-11)
a. After Corinth languages ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8)
3. None in Samaria, Gaza, Antioch (Acts 8, 11)
4. In all following Christian history sign of tongues has ceasedII. Four marvelous phenomena that are to be repeated
A. Filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31, 7:55, 8:17, 9:17, 10:44-45, 19:6, Ephesians 5:18)
B. Boldness in witnessing (Acts 2:14, Matthew 26:69-72, Acts 2:22-23)
C. Conviction and conversion (Acts 2:37-41)