What is the meaning and significance of the holiday of Pentecost?

From Patheos, an article by New Testament scholar and pastor Mark D. Roberts.


For Christians, Pentecost is a holiday on which we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. Before the events of the first Pentecost, which came a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection, there were followers of Jesus, but no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Thus, from an historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started. This is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it. Thus Pentecost is the church’s birthday.

I’m guessing most of you know the story of what happens. Peter preaches on who Jesus was, and the meaning of his bodily resurrection – and a whole lot of people believe him and become Christians.

Here are the topics that Roberts mentions in the article:

  1. The Presence and Power of the Spirit
  2. The Central Role of the Church in God’s Work in the World
  3. The Multilingual Nature and Mission of the Church
  4. The Inclusive Ministry of the Church

I wanted to excerpt the part of the article where Dr. Roberts explains a part that I think is important.


3. The Multilingual Nature and Mission of the Church

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered believers in Jesus to praise God in many languages that they had not learned in the ordinary manner (Acts 2:5-13). Symbolically, this miracle reinforces the multilingual, multicultural, multiracial mission of the church. We are to be a community in which all people are drawn together by God’s love in Christ. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Personal Implications: Although there are some glorious exceptions, it seems that the church has not, in general, lived out its multilingual mission. We are often divided according to language, race, and ethnicity. Pentecost challenges all of us to examine our own attitudes in the regard, to reject and repent of any prejudice that lurks within us, and to open our hearts to all people, even and especially those who do not share our language and culture. Yes, I know this is not easy. But it is central to our calling. And it is something that the Spirit of God will help us to do if we are available.

So this is a good thing to remember. Anyone who is willing to believe in Christ and re-prioritize their lives based on his identity and teachings can be a Christian.The Holy Spirit is available to anyone who is willing to respond to God’s drawing them towards himself – anyone who asks God to forgive their sins and re-orient their lives to that it is Christ-directed.

You really can’t look at a person and tell what they are going to be able to contribute to the mission of Christ. They might have a different skin color. They could come from far-away countries. And have different cultural backgrounds. They could be single and childless, or they could be married with children. They could be lonely or popular. They could be ugly or beautiful. They could be emotional and artistic, or scientific and technical. They could come from a happy family or have no family. They could be rich or they could be poor. They might not fit the mold of what we expect for what counts as a good Christian.

I’m not turning a blind eye to sin here, because sin that is celebrated and unrepented IS a reason to reject someone’s claim to be a Christian. I am trying to point out that we should not be rejecting or discounting sincere, effective Christians for non-moral considerations. This is not a country club. It’s all hands on deck.

2 thoughts on “What is the meaning and significance of the holiday of Pentecost?”

  1. This is a significant holiday and is very symbolic.

    In review of the 3 great feasts in which the Jewish males were to present themselves to the Lord (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles – Deut 16:16)). I am suggesting this as a ‘type” or “symbolic”:

    Passover – leave Egypt ( ie the world).
    Pentecost – Giving of the law
    Tabernacles – God dwelling in the Christ in the saint.

    Pentecost as mentioned in Acts also has other meaning ( I will mention a few):

    – Reversal of the confusion of languages (Tower of Babel)
    – Giving of the law that leads to life ( The Holy Spirit is ” the Law of Life” – Romans 8:2) and the” enablement” to overcome sin and follow Christ (see John 14:6)
    – Gods Holy Spirit taking control of a body part (see James in regards to the tongue- when the Holy Spirit descended on Christ – it was in the form of a dove).
    – Transition from the written Torah on stones to the Torah written on the mind & heart ( ie new covenant Heb 10:16).

    There are quite a bit more but these are “heavy hitters” imo.

    This feast is absolutely needed in the body of Christ to prepare the saints for the Day of Atonement ( removal of sin and “sealing” ) and more importantly the Day of Tabernacles as promised in John 14:23


  2. This is an excellent article, WK. Thanks for posting it and giving us your thoughts on it.

    And thanks, Mike for your comment. The additional implications to Pentecost that you mention are helpful to bear in mind.


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