Pentecost and New Covenant Baptism
All Saints * Dr. Gregg Strawbridge * May 11, 2008
The Calendrical Preparation for Pentecost is seen in the calendar of Israel . . . In Exodus 34:22, we learn that this feast was 50 days after Passover [“Pente” — 50] (“first fruits” in Num. 28:26). Israel's feasts were celebration remembrances of the redemptive events in Israel's history. Passover recalled the redemption from Egypt. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated the wilderness. And Pentecost celebrated God's giving of the Torah (Law) at Sinai (Exodus 19:1ff). In the New Testament, Pentecost is of monumental significance (Acts 1:8-9) because after it, the Church changed the world. Pentecost bursts the wineskin of the Feast of Weeks.
The Restorative Purpose of Pentecost was to baptize an unclean Israel. Israel became wickedly idolatrous (see Ezekiel) and so God brought the judgment of the Exile. During the Exile the prophets called for heart cleansing and promised a “new covenant” when Israel would be washed clean in a renewal baptism of the Spirit. The prophet Isaiah predicts this pouring out of the Spirit, as did Ezekiel, Joel and Jeremiah and the whole line of new covenant promises (Is. 32:15, 44:3, 59:19, Ez. 37:25, Jer. 31-32, Joel 2:6ff, Zech. 12:9ff). Pentecost was essentially the promise of the new covenant. In the NT this promise is represented in the sign and seal of baptism. This may seem striking, but it is Scripturally undebatable. See Matt. 3:11, Mk. 1:8, Lk. 3:16, Jn. 1:33, Acts 1:5, 2:38, 10:47 & 11:16. Baptism is the sacrament of Pentecost.
The Resulting Power of Pentecost directed the newly formed remnant of Israel in Jerusalem to do what Israel was meant to do - fulfill the promise of Abraham and save the world. By means of those Spirit-baptized Israelites at the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2), the Spirit took a new Israel through the Red Sea into the Land of Promise. The outpouring of the Pentecostal Spirit’s presence was then revisited in the apostolic history as the gospel moved across racial and international boundaries. The Stone was thrown into the waters of Jerusalem and the waves rolled over the Samaritans, Cornelius (the Gentile), and the Acts 19 disciples of John who all received the Spirit with Pentecostal signs. Pentecost fulfills the Abrahamic promise by empowering the Church to reach all nations in order “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14). This is the Restoration purpose of father Abraham’s promise. “The purpose of the covenant was that, through this means, the creator would address and save his entire world. The call of Abraham was designed to undo the sin of Adam” (N. T. Wright).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more