Pentecost, we know, is the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the believers in Jerusalem. We celebrate it on the seventh Sunday after Easter each year. 50 days after Good Friday. But – Pentecost originally was a Jewish celebration commemorating the giving of the law on Mt Sinai. Pentecost originally celebrated 50 days from the Passover. Remember, Passover and Good Friday are the same day.
As we read the New Testament, we find example after example of the contrast between our New Covenant of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ, and the Old Covenant between God and man based on the law given through Moses.
Paul lays out for us in 2 Corinthians the stark contrast between the Pentecost of the new covenant and the Pentecost (Festival of weeks or “Shavuot”) of the old covenant. Both huge moments in the history of our religion, both huge moments in human history for that matter. But the difference between the two, and what it means for us, is jaw dropping.
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. We are ministers, all of us, of the new covenant. This is nothing we claim by our own doing, other than we accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that comes with that gift. We are ministers not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. What is Paul talking about here? It is plain that Paul is differentiating between the Pentecost at which the Holy Spirit came upon the believers on Mt Zion, and the Pentecost at which the Law was given at Mt Sinai.
And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord ‘s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.'” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.””
Exodus 32:25-29 ESV. Wrap your heads around that one for a minute. The ordination of the Levite priests of the Old Testament. Ordained in the blood of their own sons, brothers, friends and neighbors. Who is on the Lords side? Us versus them!! Go and kill all those who are, by default, NOT on the Lords side. Yes, the letter kills…
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4 ESV. The Holy Spirit came upon all the believers, all gathered in one place, about 120 of them. As opposed to coming only to Moses on top of Mt Sinai, with the wind and the fire and no one else allowed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights, which led to his people thinking him perished and seeking other gods…and 3000 dead. Upon receiving the spirit, the believers gather in the streets with people who came celebrate the Shavuot. And Peter preaches the first Christian sermon, filled with the Holy Spirit. What was the result?
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:37-41 ESV. Three thousand souls received eternal salvation. The Spirit gives life. Instead of priests ordained by the blood of our own sons and neighbors, we are a kingdom of priests ordained by the Spirit. I think I kinda like the New Covenant. Again, the letter kills, 3000 lives taken by the Levite priests who were on the side of God. The spirit gives life, 3000 people added to the Book of Life on the same calendar day, indeed at the festival celebrating the giving of the law. The challenge for us is this – what kind of Christians are we? Are we filled with the Holy Spirit – “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:26-27 NLT. Are we the advocate, the representative of the Father as revealed in His son? Or are we Levites at Mt Sinai? We know our bibles are the sword of the spirit. Is our spirit that of the Holy Spirit, walking with people, advocating for them, leading them to the cross? Or are we using our sword to accuse, to chop down all the sinners, and point out all the ways they are not right with God? Are we using our bible knowledge to bring people to Christ by the spirit of advocacy, or away from Him by the spirit of accusation? The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 3:1-6 ESV