Pentecost symbolizes a new beginning. It celebrates the unleashing of the Holy Spirit on the world and the empowering of the church to reach the world with the gospel. In celebrating Pentecost, the church expresses its gratitude for the faithfulness of Christ in fulfilling his promise to send "another counselor" (John 14:16), celebrates the work of the Spirit in renewing all of creation, professes its confidence and security in knowing the Spirit's power is available for its mission, and grows in awareness of the immensity of its calling to reach the world with the gospel.

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Worship Ideas for Pentecost

Pentecost is the Christian celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles just after Jesus' ascension. Ten days after the ascension of Christ and fifty days after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost was an established Jewish festival also known as the Feast of Weeks, which drew people from many nations back to Jerusalem (Lev. 23:15– 21; Deut. 16:16). Pentecost symbolizes a new beginning. It celebrates the unleashing of the Holy Spirit on the world and the empowering of the church to reach the world with the gospel.

When: the fiftieth day (seventh Sunday) after Easter
Liturgical Color: red
Associated objects/symbols: dove, fire

Ideas from Scripture for Pentecost

Holy Spirit

The Pentecost miracle is the regeneration of the human heart. Peter preached Christ to Jews who were wearing the heavy armor of a corrupt generation. The Spirit of God cut through the armor, got them in the heart, and saved them. The Pentecost miracle, the Holy Ghost miracle, the God-almighty miracle of Acts 2 is the regeneration of the human heart so that people confess their sins, receive God's grace, and join the church of Jesus Christ that is on its way across the ages.

The Church

Acts is titled "Acts of the Apostles," but the title fits only loosely, because what we have here is twenty-eight chapters of the acts of God—the mighty acts of God done through human deputies. Paul's missionary journeys are God's mission to the world. When Peter heals a crippled beggar, it's a divine healing. When the apostles go on trial, it's God in the dock.

The acts of the apostles are the acts of God, and that's true of the mightiest act of all. We read Acts 2, and what gets our attention is the wind and the fire and the speaking in tongues. These elemental forces have always attracted us human beings. But fire and wind and tongues aren't the main event at Pentecost. These things are only attention-getters. They signal that the Holy Spirit is stirring again. They tell us God is about to do something big—something like creation, or the Exodus, or resurrection of the dead.

Reflections for Pentecost

And what is this big thing that God does? What happens on Pentecost is that Peter preaches Jesus Christ to fellow Jews, and they are cut to the heart. Peter lets them have it about their complicity in the death of Jesus, and the miracle is that they don't kill the messenger. The miracle is that they are thunderstruck by their own guilt. "What must we do?" they ask—what must we do to be saved?

In a verse of unimaginable beauty, Peter says, "The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him" (Acts 2:39). The promise is for people who are far away, and Luke means this in a double sense. It's not just Jews from Rome, far away to the northwest. When we hear of people far away, Luke wants us to think also of those who are far away from God! He wants us to think of our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, our precious loved ones. He wants us to think of ourselves when we are far away.

Luke uses the word makran for "far away," and he's used words from that family before (Thomas G. Long). Who is far away in the gospel of Luke? In Luke 15 it's the prodigal son. He's on the way home, and while he was still makran—while he was still far away—his father saw him and had compassion on him. In Luke 18 it's the tax collector. That tax collector did a dirty job for the Romans, and he knew it. Jesus tells us that in the temple the tax collector stood far away and would not even look up to heaven. The prodigal and the tax collector are far away.

Who else? Peter himself had lost his nerve when Jesus was arrested. In chapter 22 of his gospel, Luke tells us that Peter followed Jesus at a distance. Peter followed his Lord from far away.

Prodigals, tax collectors, and even apostles: when God goes out to save, for whom is the promise? Of all people, Peter knows. And so on Pentecost Peter stands up to say, "The promise is for you, for your children, for all who are far away." Peter says the promise is even for people like himself.

Affirmations of Faith for Pentecost

Belgic Confession, Article 11

We believe and confess also
that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally
from the Father and the Son—
neither made,
nor created,
nor begotten,
but only proceeding
from the two of them.
In regard to order,
the Spirit is the third person of the Trinity—
of one and the same essence,
and majesty,
and glory,
with the Father and the Son,
being true and eternal God,
as the Holy Scriptures teach us.

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 49, 51, 53

How does Christ's ascension to heaven benefit us?
First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge. By the Spirit's power we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God's right hand.

How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts from heaven upon us his members. Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.

What do you believe concerning "the Holy Spirit"?
First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God. Second, that the Spirit is given also to me, so that, through true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits, comforts me, and will remain with me forever.

Canons of Dort, Parts III–IV, Articles 11–12

The Holy Spirit's Work in Conversion
Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in the elect, or works true conversion in them, God not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, God also penetrates into the inmost being, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. God infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant. God activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.

Regeneration a Supernatural Work
And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God's work is done, it remains in human power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not less than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God, but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, people t­hemselves, by that grace which they have received, are also rightly said to believe and to repent.

Our Song of Hope, stanzas 6–14

The Holy Spirit speaks through the Scriptures.
The Spirit has inspired Hebrew and Greek words,
setting God's truth in human language,
placing God's teaching in ancient cultures,
proclaiming the Gospel in the history of the world.
The Spirit speaks truly what the nations must know,
translating God's word into modern languages,
impressing it on human hearts and cultures.

The Holy Spirit speaks through the Church,
measuring its words by the canonical Scriptures.
The Spirit has spoken in the ancient creeds,
and in the confessions of the Reformation.
The world is called to bear witness to Christ
in faithfulness to the Scriptures,
in harmony with the church of the ages,
and in unity with all Christ's people.

God's Spirit speaks in the world
according to God's ultimate word in Christ.
In every time and place, in ancient cities and distant lands,
in technology and business, in art and education,
God has not been left without a witness.
The Word has entered where we have failed to go.

In each year and in every place
we expect the coming of Christ's Spirit.
As we listen to the world's concerns,
hear the cry of the oppressed,
and learn of new discoveries,
God will give us knowledge,
teach us to respond with maturity,
and give us courage to act with integrity.

As citizens we acknowledge the Spirit's work in human government
for the welfare of the people,
for justice among the poor,
for mercy towards the prisoner,
against inhuman oppression of humanity.
We must obey God above all rulers,
waiting upon the Spirit,
filled with the patience of Christ.

We pray for the fruits of the Spirit of Christ
who works for peace on earth,
commands us to love our enemies,
and calls for patience among the nations.
We give thanks for God's work among governments,
seeking to resolve disputes by means other than war,
placing human kindness above national pride,
replacing the curse of war with international self-control.

We hear the Spirit's call to love one another
opposing discrimination of race or sex,
inviting us to accept one another,
and to share at every level
in work and play,
in church and state,
in marriage and family,
and so fulfill the love of Christ.

Our World Belongs to God, stanzas 28–30

At Pentecost, promises old and new are fulfilled.
The ascended Jesus becomes the baptizer,
drenching his followers with his Spirit,
creating a new community where Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit make their home.
Revived and filled with the breath of God,
women and men,
young and old,
dream dreams
and see visions.

The Spirit renews our hearts
and moves us to faith,
leads us into truth,
and helps us to pray,
stands by us in our need,
and makes our obedience fresh and vibrant.
God the Spirit lavishes gifts on the church
in astonishing variety—
prophecy, encouragement, healing,
teaching, service, tongues, discernment—
equipping each member
to build up the body of Christ
and to serve our neighbors.

The Spirit gathers people
from every tongue, tribe, and nation
into the unity of the body of Christ.
Anointed and sent by the Spirit,
the church is thrust into the world,
ambassadors of God's peace,
announcing forgiveness and reconciliation,
proclaiming the good news of grace.
Going before them and with them,
the Spirit convinces the world of sin
and pleads the cause of Christ.
Men and women, impelled by the Spirit,
go next door and far away
into science and art,
media and marketplace—
every area of life,
pointing to the reign of God
with what they do and say.


Introductions from The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013], 693.