Dome fresco in the portico to the trapezium in the Dochiariou Monastery, Athos, sixteenth century

Acts 2:1–21

Coming of the Holy Spirit

2 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Crowd’s Response

5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”
13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

Peter’s Sermon

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
21 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.’

Genesis 1:2 describes the Holy Spirit as “breath”, and thereafter our understanding of life is inextricably linked to breath. This Breath moved in the body of a humble girl and from God and mankind we received Immanuel – God with us. Jesus is the fullness of God in human form and our example of human life lived in complete harmony with God’s design.  He came to us then and now through the Holy Spirit.

As Ken Kovacs wrote in his book Out of the Depths:

Now, whether the Holy Spirit arrived in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension, as we have here in Acts 2, or, whether she arrived on Easter when Jesus breathed his Resurrection Spirit into the disciples, as we read in John 20, is the beside the point. They both point to the fact that something happened, that the presence, power, and purpose of the Holy Spirit was given to disciples to equip and empower and direct them for Christ’s ongoing work in the world. The Spirit was unleashed upon the world, blowing as a gentle breeze to comfort fearful disciples, assuring them of Christ’s ongoing presence, or, raging as a forceful, violent tempest to challenge, disturb, and ultimately thrust disciples beyond the confines of an upper room, locked away by fear, sent out beyond Jerusalem to a world waiting to hear the gospel, sent out to introduce the world to the presence of the Risen Christ.


Who is the Holy Spirit to you?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.



Ken Kovacs
Ken Kovacs

Kenneth E. Kovacs is pastor of the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Catonsville, Maryland, and has served congregations in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. Ken studied at Rutgers College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his Ph.D. in practical theology from the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland. He is also an analyst-in-training at the C. G. Jung Institute-Zürich. Author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter & Conviction (New York: Peter Lang, 2011) and Out of the Depths: Sermons and Essays (Parson’s Porch, 2016), his current research areas include C. G. Jung and contemporary Christian experience. Ken has served on the board of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, is a current board member of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, and a book reviewer for The Presbyterian Outlook.

Ken’s weekly sermons at CPC can be found at



D I G  D E E P E R

 The Holy Spirit

In Christian theology, the Third Person of the Holy *Trinity, distinct from, but consubstantial, coequal, and coeternal with, the Father and the Son, and in the fullest sense God. It is held that the mode of the Spirit’s procession in the Godhead is by way of ‘spiration’ (not ‘generation’) and that this procession takes place as from a single principle.

Christian theologians point to a gradual unfolding of the doctrine in the OT, where the notion of the ‘Spirit’ (ruach) plays a large part as an instrument of Divine action, both in nature and in the human heart. The Spirit of God is already operative at the Creation, brooding on the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). In early times, the Hebrews saw evidence of the Spirit’s action in deeds of valour and prowess. The Divine Spirit inspired the artistic skill of Bezaleel (Exod. 36:1 f.), the successes of *Joshua (Deut. 34:9), and the strength of *Samson (Jgs. 14:6). In particular the Spirit was bestowed on those appointed to communicate Divine truth and esp. on the Prophets (Is. 61:1 f.). He is also the chief power making for moral purity and holiness (Ps. 51:11). Above all, the Spirit was to be the possession of the coming Davidic King (Is. 11:2) and of the Servant of the Lord (Is. 42:1); and in the future time of fulfilled hope there would be a large extension of the Spirit’s activities and power (Ezek. 36:26 f.; Joel 2:28–32). In the later OT writings the Spirit was increasingly seen as the bestower of intellectual capacities. It is the Spirit of understanding which fills the devout man (Ecclus. 39:6) and conveys to him wisdom and religious knowledge (Wisd. 7:7 and 9:17).

Although Jesus said little about the Spirit beyond promising that Christians on trial would be assisted by the Spirit (Mk. 13:11; cf. Mt. 10:20 and Lk. 12:12), the Resurrection faith of His disciples was strongly marked by the experience of the Spirit and they interpreted this as God’s gift at the dawn of the coming age. This central conviction is epitomized in the quotation of Joel 2:28–32 in the Acts 2 account of St *Peter’s speech on the day of *Pentecost following the dramatic outpouring of the Spirit on the disciples. The rest of Acts represents the early Christian mission as guided by the Spirit (e.g. 11:12, 15:28, and 16:6 f.). On occasion the Apostles convey the Spirit by the laying on of hands (8:15–17 and 19:6).

The Gospels variously present Jesus as empowered by the Spirit at His baptism (Mk. 1:10 and parallels), driven by the Spirit into the wilderness (Mk. 1:12 and parallels), and performing *exorcism by the Spirit (Matt. 12:28). Lk. sees this endowment as the fulfilment of prophecy (Is. 61:1) and like Matt. 1:18 and 20 claims the operation of the Spirit in the conception of Jesus (Lk. 1:35). All agree with Jn. 7:39 that the Spirit was not more generally available until after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The OT view of this intermittently active but impersonal power of God undergoes two developments in the NT. The Spirit is held to be given to all members at their *Baptism, and, understood in the light of Christ, by St *Paul and Jn. the concept is personalized and given ethical content. In the discourses of Jn. 14–16 the Spirit is ‘another Comforter’, distinct from Jesus, whom He succeeds, but performing similar works and making present what Jesus had said and done. Paul can call the Spirit ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ (Phil. 1:19; cf. Rom. 8:9 and Gal. 4:6), and can associate this so closely with Jesus that they are almost identified (Rom. 8:9–11; perhaps 2 Cor. 3:17). The whole of Christian life is ‘in Christ’, or ‘in the Spirit’, ‘being led by the Spirit’.

Possessing the Spirit unites believers with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17) and has moral implications (1 Cor. 3:16 and Gal. 5). The Spirit is active in Christian worship (Rom. 8:26 f.; cf. 1 Cor. 14), proclamation and instruction (1 Cor. 2), and in moral discernment (1 Cor. 7:40). The gift of the Spirit takes different forms (1 Cor. 12; cf. Rom. 12), implying different roles and responsibilities in the Church. Finally the ‘first-fruits of the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:23; or ‘earnest of the Spirit’, 2 Cor. 1:22 and 5:5), possessed by and possessing believers, will be the means by which God raises them (Rom. 8:11) as spiritual bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42–44).

The doctrine of the Spirit in a theologically elaborated form, though implicit in the NT, was not reached for some centuries. An important stage was reached in *Tertullian. The *Montanists (q.v.) showed the need to distinguish between true and false operations of the Holy Spirit; but despite the insistence of the Montanists on the Spirit’s activities, their strange conceptions of the operation of the Spirit do not seem to have left any permanent mark on the development of the doctrine. *Origen emphasized that the characteristic sphere of the Spirit’s operation was the Church, as contrasted with the whole of Creation which was that of the Word.

From AD 360 onwards the doctrine of the Spirit became a matter of acute controversy. A group of theologians known as the ‘*Macedonians’, while maintaining against the *Arians the full Divinity of the Son, denied that of the Spirit. The most considerable work which these discussions provoked was St *Basil’s De Spiritu Sancto. At the Council of *Constantinople of 381 Macedonianism was finally repudiated and the full doctrine of the Spirit received authoritative acceptance in the Church. In the W. this doctrine was elaborated by St *Augustine in his De Trinitate, notably by his conception of the Spirit as the Bond of Union in the Holy Trinity.

F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 788.


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Rick Wilcox

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