A wheel of fire

Spirit Empowered Mission: The Advent of the Spirit, Part 1

Why take several sermons to focus on the Pentecost event? What runs through your mind as you prepare to preach such a crucial even in redemptive history? Why is there such a visceral nature to the Spirit’s advent? We asked Art Azurdia…

Listen to sermon (Acts 2:1-13):

This is part one of a three-part series. Why break up this whole Pentecost experience into three sermons?

The big thing is that one sermon would not have sufficed to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. There is so much confusion about what Pentecost is, particularly about the gift of tongues or this tongues experience that we see, and I felt like we needed to allocate enough time to carefully explain these things. Then we wanted to focus on Peter’s meaning of it and take time to ask what kind of bearing this has on our lives, getting into the issue of relevance. I just don’t think it was possible to do all of that in one sermon. Had there not been the kind of confusion we presently see surrounding Pentecost and Pentecostalism, there may not have been a need. Perhaps in a different setting I could have preached all of this in one sermon. Given the present context, however, it was appropriate to take a little more time.
A wheel of fire
This is obviously a huge turning point in the redemptive story. How do you prepare to preach such a momentous event? How do you filter what goes in and what goes out?

First and foremost, I think we have to show people that Pentecost is every bit as significant as the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the second coming. My guess is that the vast majority of Evangelicals, including me, have not regarded it that way. So as I prepared, I had an eye towards building a case for people that showed how Acts 2 is as momentous as anything we find on the pages of the Bible. Secondly, it was necessary to go back to the Old Testament and show how the Old Testament spoke specifically of this very day. This is something that God was anticipating, and hinting at as early as the Exodus generation, wherein Moses wishes that all of God’s people were filled with the Spirit and able to prophesy. We also see pivotal passages in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36 and 37, and Joel 2 (which, of course, Peter quotes) and we find that this event is a huge promise that God makes repeatedly, signifying a huge change in the His people Israel.

There certainly is a visceral nature to this text, as you mention in your sermon. Why the theatrics?

It’s similar to what we see in Revelation 4, when we are given a vision of God’s throne room. It’s a way of talking about an occurrence that is supernatural and spectacular beyond our abilities to comprehend. We’re talking about something superhuman, beyond ordinary experience. The tongues that we see, not just the tongues of fire or the sound of the wind, but the event of these people speaking in languages that they had never learned, is a huge supernatural event. And it serves to mark out the importance of the event in redemptive and biblical history. This is similar to some of the spectacular events surrounding the incarnation, like the angelic visitors declaring the birth of Christ to the shepherds, and the virgin birth of Mary. Then there are supernatural events surrounding the resurrection; in the book of Matthew we see people being resurrected from their graves. It’s just a way of signifying an event of unbelievable, supernatural proportion.

About Art Azurdia

Dr. Azurdia is the Doctor of Ministry Program Director and the Associate Professor of Pastoral and Church Ministry at Western Seminary. He is also Director of The Spurgeon Fellowship and Pastor at Trinity Church in Portland, Oregon.