Pentecost Was Sunday?
By Jeff Cook
May 30, 2012
Last night, some friends of ours stopped by our house—one with a new ring on her left hand. The ring is evidence of their future. The ring represents life change. They are beginning to live now in preparation for their union. The ring represents desire, a desire for their complete amalgamation. The ring is a gift showing the deepest kind of love—a love which gives all of itself away to a beloved.
The word in modern Greek for such an engagement ring is arrabon. Three times, the writers of the New Testament use that word, and every time it refers to God’s Spirit in us. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence … It is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as arrabon, guaranteeing what is to come."
In the New Testament, hope isn’t believing what we know isn’t so. Hope isn’t that someday I will go somewhere else. Hope is that someday I will be transformed. Like putting on an engagement ring, faith in Jesus means receiving a gift that awakens one to an all-consuming future.
None of the early Christian writings imply that we are unable to have an experience of the divine or heaven itself. Quite the opposite. The first Christians knew God was real because they saw Him transforming their lives and the lives of those around them. As one of them said, we are the ones who “taste the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God, and the powers of the coming age” (Hebrews 6:4-5).
The early Christians experienced not only Jesus' resurrection but a new and surprising power—the power they had seen in Jesus’ miracles—was now at work within them, making them alive in ways they had never before felt.
The Spirit, then, is a bridge, a bridge between the present and the future, between the already and the not yet. Paul, in fact, uses the image of creation found in Genesis and says over his listeners, “He who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion.” Central to how the first followers of Jesus spoke of being rescued from a dead life is the conviction that no one has arrived, no one is yet perfect; those pursuing a life reborn are always in transit.It’s worth pausing and reminding ourselves who the Spirit is and how the Spirit works in our lives. Stanley Grenz writes, “Threeness is the way the one God actually is.” Augustine observed that God is love, and love requires a lover (the Father), a beloved (the Son), and the love between them (the Spirit). Or we may see God as a Creator fashioning the Earth to be filled with His presence. Each personality within the Trinity takes on a different task in making a new creation: the role of a supplier (the Father), architect (the Son), and builder (the Spirit).
The Spirit, then, is the fiery, reconstructive personality of God at work in the world. The Creeds call the Spirit “the Giver of life.”
We recently celebrated Pentecost, which marks the gift of God’s Spirit. Unlike Christmas and Easter, many of us didn't even realize May 27 was noteworthy. We were getting ready for a graduation or a wedding, perhaps getting our summer plans in order—and rightly so. The world all around is beginning to burst forth with the colors of new life. And this is God’s sign to us. Just as the birth of Christ is observed at that time of year when the Earth is darkest, and just as Easter is marked during the days when the amount of light surpasses the night and new life begins rising from the ground, so too Pentecost is celebrated now—in that time of year when the Earth begins producing its fruit.
We should allow this season to speak to us. We may be confused about our future. We may wrestle with whether we should stay in a job or relationship that just hasn’t been working. We may have an unhealthy addiction we simply have not chosen to crush and bury. We may not have experienced God in a worthwhile way in years. Now is the time to set all other tasks aside and focus here. To remind ourselves we were once dead, but we are now alive in Christ.
God’s priorities in your life are clear: God desires to make you a new creation. And God is doing this good work through His Spirit that lives in you.
On Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit—God’s relentless, reconstructing power loose in the world all around us, but especially in the tissues of our heart. Paul writes, “[God the Father] saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4). The Holy Spirit is that token placed in our hearts, the evidence for us to know the reality coming in God’s future. God’s Spirit is the power, the personality, within us remaking our insides, moving them back in line with the rule of Christ’s vision, and making our hearts and minds ready for a future union—the uniting of heaven and Earth—the life of the age to come.
May you have power to welcome this God in your prayers and thoughts, in your plans and in your dreams—to surrender when you ought to surrender and to thrive when you ought to thrive.
Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of the recently released Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing In. You can find Jeff’s work at www.everythingnew.org.