The Pattern of Pentecost
January 30th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
THE PATTERN OF PENTECOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-30-77 8:15 a.m.
Once again we welcome you, the thousands and the thousands who are sharing this service on radio, WRR, the radio of the city of Dallas, and on the radio of our Bible Institute, KCBI. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Pattern of Pentecost or Repeating Pentecost. And I need not tell you, I am so lifted up, I am so encouraged; something has happened to me in the last few days. I have never been so exalted in my own soul and in the uplift of my heart as I have in the last about two weeks. I can’t quite explain it; I am so happy, I am so glad, I have such assurance of victory, I have such a feeling of revival, I am moved in my spirit to magnify the Lord for what He is doing and going to do for us. And no small part of it is what I see as I stand here in the pulpit this morning. This is one of the most inclement days that I have ever seen; it’s a rare thing that it is snowing when I get in the car to come to church. But we are here, a throng of us, a multitude of us. Somebody said there are only two people on the highway and on the streets this morning: somebody who might be driving through Dallas and the people of the First Baptist Church. When I came down here, I saw traffic everywhere; people in the First Baptist Church, on their way to the house of the Lord. This is a confirmation, it is a sign from heaven, that revival is already promised us; it is here and will increase as the days multiply.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to chapter 2. And it reads like this: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” [Acts 2:1]. And the title of the sermon tonight will be, With One Accord. “They were all with one accord in one place.” Praying does that for a people: it pulls them together, it binds them together. “They were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, the ruach, the pneuma of God, the breath of the Lord, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” [Acts 2:1-2].
Second: “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” [Acts 2:3]. And third: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other glōssa, languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance” [Acts 2:4]. And the great throng there were confounded, and dumbfounded, and amazed, and marveled [Acts 2:7], saying, “How is it that we hear every man,” verse 8, “in our own glōssa, our own language, wherein we were born?” [Acts 2:8].
There are some—and we’re going to look through the whole second chapter in the exposition this morning [Acts 2:1-47]—there are some marvels, and miracles, and signs, and phenomena of the introduction of a new dispensation that are never repeated. Then there are others that abide with us forever. So in the introduction of the new era of grace, the new dispensation of the Holy Spirit and of the calling out of the body of Christ, in the introduction of that new dispensation, there are some marvels, some wonders, some signs, that are never repeated; and some that abide with us to the end of the way.
Now, all dispensations, all introductions to new and wonderful eras are like that: there are some things that accompany its introduction that are never seen again. For example, there was a time in the beginning when God created matter [Hebrews 11:3]. God created the whole vast universe above us and around us; and after that it is never done again. There is no creation of matter since that time. There is no new matter, substance, being created. It was a phenomenon of that moment and that hour, and it has never been repeated since. But thereafter we see the results of it in the great universe around us [Hebrews 11:3].
Again, as an illustration, in the introduction of the new era, the new epoch, the new dispensation of the Mosaic law, the Mosaic covenant, it was accompanied by marvelous signs in Egypt [Exodus 7:14-12:30], wonderful signs in the wilderness [Acts 7:36], wonderful miracle at the Red Sea [Exodus 14:21-31]; but then thereafter it was never repeated. The Bible says, “And when they entered the Promised Land of Canaan, the manna ceased” [Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:12], the manna ceased, and it is never again. You will never see the great miracles in the land of Egypt [Exodus 7:14-12:30], you will never see the going through the Red Sea and the waters banked on either side [Exodus 14:21-31], you’ll never see the manna that fell for the morning gathering in the wilderness [Exodus 16:13-24], you’ll never see it again. Those were the signs and the confirmation of the new dispensation, the new era of the Mosaic covenant.
There is one other that remains; there is one other tremendous new dispensation and that is when God brings the consummation of the world at the second coming of Christ. At the second coming of Christ, there will be signs and wonders, such as the world has never seen [Matthew 24:1-44; and Luke 21:7-33]. That’s the next great epoch and era in the calendar of God. So it is with this: second chapter of the Book of Acts, we have come to the beginning of a new era, a new dispensation, a new age of grace and of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-4]. And as always, such as in the beginning when God created matter [Hebrews 11:3], such as when God introduced the dispensation of the law under the hand of Moses [Exodus 3:20], and such as at the consummation of the age and the second coming of Christ [Matthew 24:1-44; Luke 21:7-33], so this dispensation was accompanied by, it was introduced by marvelous signs and miracles and phenomena [Acts 2:1-4].
Three of them, the wonders, are named here in the first verses. There was “a sound as of a great mighty wind,” the breath of God. Second: there was the lambent shekinah flaming glory of the Lord that came down; a miracle beyond anything that I could think of; the presence of God in brilliance, in marvelous flaming fire. And the third: the gift of glōssa [Acts 2:2-4]: “Are not all these that speak Galileans? Unlettered, uneducated men?” [Acts 2:7]. The Sanhedrin looked upon them and called them agrammatoi kai idiotai, unlettered and untrained men. And yet these unlettered men, untrained men, that is they were not of the schools, they were not of the seminaries, they looked like rude, uncouth Galilean fishermen to the elite of the synagogues and of the rabbinical schools of Jerusalem, “Are not all of these men Galileans? How hear we then every man in his own glōssa, in his own language, the marvelous wonders of God?” [Acts 2:7-11]. Those were the three great marvelous signs at Pentecost.
Then, as the great Christian movement began to expand under the spirit and leadership of the Holy Ghost, sometimes one of those signs was repeated; most of the times it was not. As the great message of Christ began to go out from its initial introduction at Jerusalem [Acts 1:8, 2:1-8:4], the gospel was preached under the power of the Spirit to the half-Jew in Samaria, in chapter 8; and it was not accompanied by any of these three signs [Acts 8:5-25]. Then the gospel was preached to a proselyte of the temple—that is, a full-fledged Jewish proselyte—in Gaza, to an Ethiopian eunuch; and it was not accompanied by any sign [Acts 8:26-39]. Then in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, as the message spreads out and out, the gospel is preached to the Gentiles who are proselytes of the gate; that is, they’re still Gentiles, though they have accepted the Mosaic law. And upon that group at Caesarea in Philippi [Acts 10:1-43], one of the signs accompanied: the gift of glōssa, the speaking in languages [Acts 10:44-47]. Simon Peter said, in Acts 11:17, “The like gift as came upon us in Jerusalem came upon us in Caesarea in the household of Cornelius,” the like gift, the same gift, that is, they had the gift of speaking in glōssa, in languages. Then the gospel spreads further, and it is delivered in [Antioch] to pagan, idolatrous, heathen Greeks; that is, they were not proselytes of the temple, they were not proselytes of the gate, they were idolatrous, heathen Greeks [Acts 11:20], and upon them the Spirit of the Lord fell. It was not accompanied by any sign [Acts 11:21]. And once again, in Corinth, there was a sign: they spoke in glōssa in the city of Corinth [1 Corinthians 14:26-28]; and then the sign ceased forever. For in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 and verse 8, the inspired apostle Paul wrote, “The glōssa, the sign, the language shall cease” [1 Corinthians 13:8]. Thereafter it never appears.
After Paul wrote the letter to Corinth, after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he wrote the Book of Romans, which is a theological treatise of the Christian faith; and the glōssa, the languages, the tongues, are never mentioned. After he wrote that letter to 1 Corinth, he wrote 2 Corinthians; and the glōssa is never referred to. They have ceased. After that first letter to the church at Corinth, he wrote the letter to the churches of Galatia; the gift is never mentioned, never referred to. It has ceased. After Paul wrote that letter to Corinth, which had that sign of glōssa, he wrote the letter to the Ephesians, which is an encyclical letter, that is, it is a circular letter to all the churches; and the sign is never referred to, it is never mentioned. It has ceased. After Paul wrote that letter to 1 Corinthians, he wrote the letter to the Philippians; it is never mentioned, it is never referred to. The sign has ceased. After he wrote that letter to Corinth, he wrote his letter to the Colossians, the church at Colosse; it is never referred to, it is never mentioned. The sign has ceased. After he wrote that letter to Corinth, he wrote the letter to, not to 1 and 2 Thessalonians, because that was before, and it was never mentioned; then he wrote the pastoral letters. The letter to Timothy, 1 and 2 Timothy, in which he guides the development and program of the church, the sign is never referred to, it is never mentioned. The sign has ceased. Then he wrote the letter to Titus; it is never mentioned. Then he wrote the letter to Philemon; it is never mentioned. Then the author of Hebrews wrote a tremendous treatise on the Christian faith; it is never mentioned, never referred to. The sign has ceased. Then there came the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, James, the Lord’s brother; the sign is never referred to, it’s never mentioned. It has ceased. Then Simon Peter wrote his two tremendous letters for the churches of the Christian world, 1 and 2 Peter. It is never mentioned, it is never referred to; the sign has ceased. Then John, the sainted apostle John, wrote his three letters, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John; it is never referred to, the sign has ceased. Jude wrote his letter; it is never referred to. The sign has ceased. Then the great apocalyptic vision was given to the sainted apostle John [Revelation 1:1]. And the glōssa, the speaking in tongues, is never mentioned, it’s never referred to; it has ceased [1 Corinthians 13:8].
It is very evident that there are great signs that accompany the introduction of any new great era; then after the introduction, the sign ceases. And from that day until this, there has never been a recurrence of that confirming sign. We’ve had almost two thousand years of Christian history, and there has been no man of stature, no great Christian who has ever spoken in an unknown tongue, never; for the sign ceased [1 Corinthians 13:8]. Chrysostom, who lived, in his great incomparable preaching, Chrysostom, “the golden mouth,” John Chrysostom—chrysostom is the Greek for “golden mouth”—the incomparable preacher, he flourished beginning about 350 AD: no such thing; Ambrose, no such thing. These men never spoke in a tongue; the sign had ceased. Augustine, Savonarola, John Huss, John Wycliffe, John Wesley, Charles G. Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Haddon Spurgeon; the sign has ceased. No great Christian man, no mighty leader of God has ever spoken in an unknown tongue since the sign ceased. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:8, “The sign will cease.”
All over this world there have been made recordings of those who propose that they repeat the sign of speaking in languages. There has never yet been a language identified in the history of the world. It has ceased [1 Corinthians 13:8].
Therefore, when we read of these marvelous miracles at Pentecost, and we pray God that the power of it and the presence of it may be repeated, what do we pray for? What we pray for are these great, marvelous enduements and endowments that remain: that we see again in our lives and experience in our hearts the marvel of the presence of God in the Spirit outpoured. Now what are those marvels? What are those wonders? What are those phenomena that abide with us forever?
- Number one: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:4].
- And when I turn the page, I read that very expression again, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 7:55].
- And then I turn the page in the Book of Acts, and I read the expression again, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 8:17].
- And then I turn the page in the Book of Acts and I read it again, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 9:17].
- And I turn it, and they are filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 11:15].
- And the experience is repeated, Pentecost is repeated again and again and again, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 13:52].
That’s why Dwight L. Moody wrote, quote:
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.
The filling of the Spirit; He is with us and forever. And He comes upon His people, prepared, again, and again, and again, and again, and there’s no limit to it. There is no conclusion to the Book of Acts. The Holy Spirit is writing a twenty-ninth chapter, and a thirtieth chapter; and it goes on until the consummation of the age. Everywhere in this world, without hiatus, everywhere in this world there is somewhere that the Holy Spirit of God in fullness is poured out upon His people.
Listen to something the pastor has prepared:
- 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—we know that today as 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 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 religion 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 and rotten stubble, Bohemia, where John Huss was the preacher and leader, Bohemia was ripening white unto the harvest.
- 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 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 Christian history.
- While the feted breath of liberalism is destroying the witness of the main line 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 of its long history.
How do you like that? That’s the Lord’s truth! I just wrote it down as I have seen it and read it and experienced it. First in history, then in the life of our own people, and watching it in the life of our denomination: somewhere there is always revival. There is an outpouring of the Spirit of God, there is a fullness of the presence of the Lord, always somewhere. Lord, may it be here. May it be here.
What are these marvelous phenomenon, phenomena that remain, that abide with us? Two: boldness in the witness; “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said” [Acts 2:14], this is the man who cowered before a little maid who accused him of knowing the Lord, this is the man who cursed and swore, “I never saw Him; I do not know Him” [Matthew 26:69-74]; standing up bold as a lion, lifting up his voice [Acts 2:22-23]; addressing the very men and the very people who cried for the blood of Christ, “Crucify Him” [Luke 23:13, 21-24], and who nailed Him to a tree [Luke 23:26-33]—bold in the faith [Acts 2:14]. That’s a gift of the Holy Spirit of God. Isn’t that a remarkable thing?
Let me tell you kids something. There was a big football bully seated next to a little fellow who carried his Bible with him. And the big football bully turned to that little shrimp and said, “You sissy. You pantywaist. Always carrying around a Bible.” The little fellow picked it up, offered it to the bully and said, “Let’s see you carry it a while.” Courage is never physical. Real courage is always moral and spiritual, always.
I am so many times impressed by just little things I see. When I was in Baylor, a bunch of fellows in the dormitory, laughing and carrying on, we were in a suite, a bedroom, and one of the boys, having finished his devotion, over there with his bed next to the wall, having finished his devotion, knelt down and prayed before all of that group. Isn’t it strange I should so remember that? And when I was a young preacher just beginning, just seventeen years old, when I was beginning, I said to one of the men in my little country church, I said, “You know somehow I just can’t bring myself to go up to a man and talk to him about Jesus. I’m just so timid, I’m so shy, I’m so reluctant, I just can’t do it.”
Now, you will find that unlettered people will tell you what they think. Someone who is cultured and educated will cover over what he says with all kinds of amenities and niceties; he’ll be too cultured to say the truth to you. But these people like I’m talking about with this man, you know, they’re very frank and very blunt and very open. So when I was talking to him and I said to him, “I just can’t do that. I have an awful time doing that,” he said to me, he said, “You know what’s the matter with you?” I said, “No, what’s the matter with me?” He said, “What’s the matter with you is you ain’t got any religion.” I was his pastor, even though I was a kid. I was his pastor. I preached to him. I prepared my sermons and stood there in the pulpit of that little country church. And he tells me what’s the matter with me; “I ain’t got no religion.” That also stayed in my memory, as you can see. And I thank God for that unlettered layman, who was moved of God to tell his young preacher the Lord’s truth. What was the matter with me was I needed a case and a good one of just plain, downright religion. That’s the second thing that comes—I’ve got to quit—boldness in the faith, just like a lion, anywhere, everywhere, talking to a man or a family about the Lord, about Jesus. These are the miracles that remain.
Well, we sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], moved of the Spirit of God to answer God’s call for your heart and your life, coming into the fellowship of the church, coming to be baptized [Matthew 28:19], I wish I just had hours to expound this. This is the way that it is. “They that gladly received his word were baptized; and there was added unto the church that day three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41]—these to whom God has spoken. Hath the Lord said something to you? Would you answer, would you reply with your life? “Here I am, preacher, look.” Walking down that stairway from the balcony, coming down this aisle on this lower floor, “This day I give my heart to Jesus. I take Him as my Savior. I want to be baptized” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or, “I want to come into the fellowship of the church.” Or, “I just want to give my life in a new way to the Lord.” As the Spirit of the Savior shall press the appeal, answer with your life. Come now. Do it now. Make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, make the decision in your heart. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.