10 Ways to Preach the Pentecost Sermon

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The significance of Pentecost cannot be overstated. It is the most important event in the history of the church because, well, it started the history of the church. It marked the coming of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church, the empowerment of the apostles, the inception of their mission, and the expansion of the worldwide mission of God. The experience in the upper room, and the actions of preaching, teaching, baptizing, numerical growth, and service to their community, is the first time we see the church being the church. With that in mind, let’s look at ten distinct approaches to preaching Pentecost from Acts 2 together.

1. The Feast of Weeks

The Pentecost event described in Acts 2 happened during a Jewish festival called Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks. Shavuot is one of the important holidays in Judaism, along with Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. It is celebrated 50 days after Passover and commemorates the time when God gave the Torah, the sacred text of the Jewish people, to Moses on Mount Sinai, which symbolizes the covenant between God and the people of Israel. In Acts 2, something remarkable happened as the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples, marking the beginning of a new covenant and the establishment of the age of the church.

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While the Feast of Weeks is a celebration of the giving of the Law, at Pentecost the focus shifts from strict adherence to the Law to a personal relationship with God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Shavuot was also known as the Feast of First Fruits and signified the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel. In Acts 2, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the conversion of 3,000 people can be seen as symbolic “first fruits” of the spiritual harvest that would continue as the message of the Gospel is proclaimed to people from all corners of the world.

2. A Dangerous Prayer:

Jesus had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 17). He told the disciples to wait for the Spirit’s coming (Luke 24). They huddled in a hideaway place waiting for it (Acts 1:8). Perhaps, most notably, when the Holy Spirit came, they did not have to guess what had happened. The entire experience was an explosion of sound and fury, signifying everything! There were rushing winds, powerful sounds, virtual fire, and public declarations. Pentecost was anything but subtle. It was disruptive. And the church members, who had been hidden away, casting lots for leaders and dutifully waiting, were thrust into the mission field.

The Holy Spirit, we learn, is not quiet or shy. He is not polite. He manifests His presence with unmissable signs and wonders. Ask your people, “Do you believe this? Can you join me and pray that the Holy Spirit might make His presence known to you and me in obvious, observable, and objective ways?”

Perhaps one way to begin this sermon is to ask the congregation to join you in the world’s most dangerous, disruptive prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit.”

3. Olly, Olly, Oxen Free:

“Olly olly oxen free” is a catchphrase used in children’s games such as hide and seek or capture the flag. It comes from the phrase: all ye, all ye outs in free. It signals a truce; it is the end of the game. All people can come home; they are safe. This is what happened at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to speak languages they did not know. The gathered crowd of listeners from around the world heard these languages and recognized them as their mother tongues. The hearts and minds of speakers and hearers were connected. The people of the world, divided and scattered since the days of Babel, could return home free. The “game” was over. Their previous punishment was over. Pentecost represents the unifying power of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel.

4. Everything, Everywhere, and Everyone, All at Once:

There are a few mentions of the actions of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. He is not a surprise. But before Pentecost, people were given the power of the Holy Spirit for specific tasks or occasions. When the Lord wanted a job done, He chose a person and equipped them with the power of the Holy Spirit to do that one thing. It was “one and done”: Bezalel became the Tabernacle’s chief architect because he had the Spirit (Exodus 31:1-5). The Spirit came upon leaders to help in administration (Numbers 11:16-17). The Spirit came on warriors facing daunting tasks (Judges 6:34; 1 Samuel 16:13). The Spirit even came on men called to announce God’s word (Isaiah 61:1; Ezekiel 2:1-4).

Unfortunately, many believers today have an Old Testament view of the Holy Spirit. I can call on Him for a particular task or assignment. But after that, I’m on my own. We don’t keep in step with the Holy Spirit of God, day by day, as Paul said (Galatians 5:16). However, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to all. He would be poured out, and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit would remain. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit was not just for one or only a few. It was for all disciples. At Pentecost, every believer received the Holy Spirit.

“Pentecost is God’s way of saying, ‘I don’t just want a weekend visit; I want to move in and stay for good!'” – Unknown

5. A Call to Action

Peter preaches the perfect sermon. He starts in the Old Testament and immediately draws a line to the Cross and the events of Jesus’ last days. He couldn’t wait to get to tell the Gospel message. And when he did, the crowd went wild! They demanded to know how to respond to this amazing event (Pentecost), the blunder of the officials crucifying the Lord, and the news of the Resurrection.

The anxious crowd interrupted Peter’s sermon with the question every preacher longs to hear: “What must I do to be saved?” Peter’s answer is bold yet pastoral, giving the audience a clear path to receive salvation. There is even a great joke to help your congregation remember Peter’s answer to their question and memorize an essential piece of Scripture. Go here for the joke, but please come back.

6. Tool Shower

When my older son got married, the ladies had a bridal shower. Men were not invited. But Jed’s new father-in-law and I held a different kind of event. For men only. It was called a “Tool Shower.” Jed registered for gifts at Home Depot and Lowe’s — things he needed to set up his workbench in the garage. (The party was held in my garage with a few folding chairs, a television, and a cooler full of beer and soft drinks. Easy!)

Pentecost was a tool shower. At the end of each Gospel, the Lord had given four different commissions to do the mission and ministry work, witnessing and teaching. But how could this get done? Every apostle needed new tools, gifts, fruit, and fresh strength to meet future challenges. Ecclesiology teaches that there are two states of the church: The Church Militant and The Church Triumphant. Given the Great Commissions given at the end of each of the Gospels, we would have only the Church Militant and the Church Impotent without the power of the Holy Spirit.

7. Use Your Words

Highlight that the Holy Spirit was not only present in Pentecost’s speaking/listening miracle. The Holy Spirit was present in Peter and the crowd, as Peter preached and the crowd responded.

There are two points to emphasize here. First, this should encourage preachers because words are the only tool we have to communicate the Gospel of Jesus. Words are our stock in trade, and it appears to be enough! Every preacher can supplement their use of words, but ultimately, people are brought to faith through someone telling the story of the Gospel.

Secondly, the hearer can be encouraged. The person sitting in the pew may want the proverbial “sign from God,” and they will often leave church with a feeling of disappointment. However, the episode in Acts 2 shows us that the entire miracle of Pentecost, aside from the wind and fire from God, was driven by humans speaking words.

Let this end the cliché often heard today: “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.” We all understand the point of this aphorism. But Peter’s experience at Pentecost says something very different. Words matter. Remember that Martin Luther said that the ears were the organ of faith and that we come to faith by hearing the Word of God.

8. Peter, Is That You?

Peter’s sermon on that day of Pentecost bears witness to the transformative power of the Gospel message. This is the same man who, two months earlier, denied Jesus before a housemaid who refused to associate himself with the Master. After the Resurrection, the same man said, “Meh…let’s go fishing.” Once a fearful disciple, the Holy Spirit transformed the former Bethsaida fisherman into a bold preacher of God’s truth. In other words, a Pentecost sermon can look at what the power of the Holy Spirit can do with a single human life.

The Holy Spirit is not reserved for a select few but is a promise for all who call upon the name of Jesus. The Apostle Paul is the poster child of how the Holy Spirit transforms the fundamental nature of a follower of Christ. His story begins with Paul the Terrorist and ends with Paul the Missionary, Martyr, and Lover of Jesus.

9. The Third Person

Most people of faith understand the idea of God as the Father. We can relate to the image of a father because we all have one, or we are a father. And we understand the human ministry and work of Jesus as the Son of God. We know his life story from the Gospels. But most people do not understand the person of the Holy Spirit. He is the mysterious “Third Person.”

There is plenty to say about the Holy Spirit from the events of Pentecost. But you can also look at what Jesus had to say about the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit:

  1. Gives us the power to witness (Acts 1:8).
  2. Guides us into all truth (John 16:13).
  3. Convicts us of sin (John 16:8).
  4. Reveals God’s Word to us (John 14:26).
  5. Brings the church together as a unified body (Acts 4:32).

10. Racial Harmony and Hope

We have touched upon Pentecost as reversing the curse of Babel. It was a minor point in an earlier suggestion. But why not make the Babel/Jerusalem connection obvious and help people see that the ONLY way racism, segregation, pride, and ethnic superiority can be healed is through the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit?

Explore the connection between the events at Pentecost and the Tower of Babel story in Genesis. Explain how the confusion of languages at Babel resulted from human pride and disobedience, while Pentecost represents the unifying power of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel. Discuss how God’s grace at Pentecost overcomes the divisions caused by sin, restoring humanity’s ability to communicate and understand one another. Encourage the congregation to see Pentecost as a symbol of hope and reconciliation in a world divided by language and culture and to actively participate in God’s mission to bring unity through the Gospel.

Saint Augustine put it this way: “At Pentecost, the Spirit made men of different languages into one people, and by this glorious work, He foreshadowed the calling of the Gentiles, who would believe in God through hearing the Gospel preached in various languages.” – St. Augustine of Hippo.

Conclusion

Someone once said that Pentecost was like the Holy Spirit’s mic-drop moment in history. After the birth, life, ministry, teaching, leadership, and mission of Jesus Christ; and after his death, resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit—really, what more can be said? What more must be done?

The exciting truth is that the mic is now passed to you. Whether you are a preacher or a participant on Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit is available to you. The Holy Spirit equips you to fulfill your calling and witness to the world.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash.

Published on

May 18, 2023

Author

David Roseberry

David Roseberry leads the nonprofit ministry, LeaderWorks. He was the founding rector of Christ Church, Plano, Texas, and is the author of many books. He lives in Plano with his wife, Fran.

View more from David Roseberry

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