The Holy Spirit Brings Unity in the Church
“The Holy Spirit Brings Unity in the Church”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Feast of the Pentecost
May 15, 2016
Readings: Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 104:24-30
God shows us today that we aren’t desperate people because He loves us and provides us with everything we need. In spite of this, we continue to walk in poverty of these gifts, either because we don’t understand God’s gifts to us, we’re fearful of the manifestations of these gifts and the responsibility that goes with them, or we just don’t care.
Pentecost comes fifty days after the resurrection. In Jewish festivals, Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks because it starts seven full weeks, or exactly 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits, a manifestation of the abundance that God provides His people as seen in the harvest. This is a pattern of life. It doesn’t mean, though that we’ll have an abundance of the things we want because they may not be what we really need to live godly and peaceful lives.
God fulfills in Pentecost His prophecy in Joel 2:28: “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Vision will propel us to do greater things and realize our desires. From Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God grants us the desires of our hearts in this way because we have learned to put Him first; to delight in Him. Not all desires are from God. The desire for money, for example, can bring anxiety and even death. We see this in the world today. The principles in the Scriptures are so contrary to what the world considers as important for life.
God will pour out His Spirit on all mankind, without any distinction as to race or faith. God loves Muslims, Hindus and all non-Christians like He loves us. The gifts He gives us are not meant to build up ourselves but to build up the Church. We forget ourselves and put others first. This isn’t what we see today. People have become so self-centered and selfish, they don’t care who they hurt, harm or inconvenience for as long as they get what they want. There is a pervading lack of concern for others. This isn’t Christianity. To follow Christ is to love others and put their needs before ours, because we know that if we do this, God will take care of our own needs and give us so much more.
Acts 2 is the story of Pentecost. In the Old Testament, God gave the Holy Spirit only to a select few, the prophets, so He could speak to the people through them. When Christ ascended, He gave His Spirit to all. All mankind, even non-Christians, will be saved. He died for all. While He doesn’t force people to believe in Him and His truth, eventually, in God’s time, all will believe.
In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, they came together in one place. They were brought together by a common desire – to know God. In Ezekiel, we read that the Holy Spirit was given to show the love of God to all mankind. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended on the 120 disciples who had gathered in one place because they were in unity. They had a common desire. Today we want different things, and mostly, we want power for ourselves. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives causes us to yield ourselves to God. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples that it wasn’t Him but the Holy Spirit working in Him. We want to see the Church coming back to power, but we are so divided. We have to be ONE; in unity. The 120 in Acts 2 were of different nationalities, speaking different languages, but they all heard the same voice. The unity of the Holy Spirit brought the same message to all of them. The Holy Spirit brings unity, not division.
Many years ago, when we were still holding our services in Manila Garden, there was one Sunday where I spoke in tongues. I was told after the service that I actually spoke in Mandarin, and the message was for several Chinese who were seated at the back. God speaks to us in a language we can understand in order for us to get His message.
1Corinthians 4:7 “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” God’s gifts are for the common good. He reveals things to us because He wants us to do something about these revelations. We can’t just ignore them because we don’t want to be bothered by the responsibility. We are a family and we should care for one another, do things for one another. This isn’t what we see in the world today; we do our own thing. There’s so much pain in the world today because we attack one another. This is contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit. We shouldn’t be quick to judge others as being un-Christian because we don’t really know what’s happening to them. We shouldn’t judge even the non-Christians.
1Corinthians 4:12-14, 20 “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body….for the body is not one member but many….but now there are many members but one body.” We are individual members of one body. Just as the eyes, the hands, the feet and the other body parts can’t amount to much unless they all work together, we too can’t do much if we don’t work together in unity as the Body of Christ. In this unity, there’s only ONE body. We shouldn’t think that we have sole knowledge and possession of the truth.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring us love and concern for one another. God doesn’t look at people like we do, especially those who are different from us like the non-Christians. God also gives them abilities to do great things. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father is the image of God – One who restores, builds and not destroys. We should be the same, not self-centered, accepting as right only what we deem as right. Recently, President Obama issued a decree to the effect that a person has a right to go by what or how he/she feels. Effectively, this decree says that a man born as a man but who feels like a woman should be respected if he chooses to be a woman. What we were at birth is what God created us to be. We have compassion for those who are confused but we don’t condone their choices.
We don’t have the hunger to do the work of God of being concerned for others. The faith that we have is for the service of others. The spiritual gifts of healing, prophecy, effecting of miracles, and the others are all from the same Spirit who distributes to each one individually just as He wills. Could it be that Roman Catholics are the hands, INC the legs and Presbyterians the feet? If we see this, we won’t be quick to criticize them just because they don’t believe like we do. Do the Jews and Muslims have a function? Yes, because they worship the same God and we all came from the same Father. He loves all of us and we should learn to love them, too. The Holy Spirit is the covering of the Church; the very life of the Church.
Each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit; each one is given a gift for the common good. If we think we don’t have a gift, we’re ignorant of the truth. We’ve all been given a function, a purpose, just as every part of our body has a function. We are the image of Christ; we must be demonstrating the greatness of God. Why did Jesus say that “greater things you shall do”? Because (1) there are many of us who can do the work, and (2) we have the Holy Spirit to empower us to do His work.
In the Gospel, Jesus told Philip that “he who has seen Me has seen the Father….I am in the Father and the Father is in Me”. Jesus represents the Father. There’s unity between the Father and the Son. Our responsibility today is to show the Father to the world. How does the world see the Church today? Sadly, many in the world don’t see God in the Church. Pope Francis has reached out to all sectors of society, embracing all, including gay people. As a result, he’s getting opposition from many inside the Church. Jesus was man when He performed all the miracles of healing, raising the dead and others. Today, we too have the power to perform the same miracles because the Holy Spirit is in us to empower us.
Ezekiel 36:22-28 “It is not for your sake that I am about to act, but for My holy name which you have profaned among the nations….then the nations will know that I am the Lord….I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes….”
God has done this. His work is complete. I challenge us today. God has sealed the work of Christ in us with the Holy Spirit. With this seal, the work of Christ in us can’t be taken away. He saved and healed the whole world. Jesus wants us to look at the works He has done because they reveal the Father in Him. May we manifest this power so that we can be part of what God is doing in the Church.