Pentecost and Utopia

Pentecost is, in part, the story of the already-but-not-yet of resurrection life; for without the Holy Spirit, there is no resurrection. He is the one who raised Jesus from the dead. He is the one metamorphosing us into Christ-likeness. He is the one growing the fruit of Godly character in us. He is helping us strip off the flesh of the old creation so that we might put on the new creation now. He is the “guarantee” or “down payment” of the life to come. The Holy Spirit was a creator at the start of the Bible, continues to create us throughout the Bible, and turns Christians into a new creation in-part now, and in-full at the end of the Bible.

Therefore, glimpses of resurrection life are expected to be found in Christians right now. The Holy Spirit has empowered us for evangelism and miracles and he is helping us to look and act like Jesus as we do his good works. The seeds of resurrection have already been sown in us and if we yield ourselves to the Spirit, we will grow the fruit the world so desperately needs to see.

With this in mind, it’s not much of a shock that as soon as the Holy Spirit is poured out on the early Christians at Pentecost, they are seen doing incredible things, both supernaturally and socially. The Book of Acts tells us that they sold their possessions to take care of one another, ate with one another, committed themselves to spiritual disciplines, did signs and wonders, and saw people receive the gospel every day. In the second century, the philosopher Aristides made a report to the king that gives us even more of a glimpse into the life of the early Christians. They were people of faithfulness, thankfulness, righteousness and praise. They rescued orphans, took care of widows, housed strangers, paid for the burials of the poor, provided for those in the faith who were imprisoned and tried to free them, and they gave food to the poor and needy (even if it meant they’d have to fast in order to feed them). All of these things are a glimpse of the utopia of the coming new creation. As Bible scholar Sigurd Grindheim says,

Luke’s description [in Acts] of a community that lived together in perfect harmony and shared everything would sound familiar to his audience. They had heard of similar societies before, when Greek and Roman philosophers were waxing poetic about their dreams of utopia. In such a society, no one would suffer need, humans would live in genuine fellowship with one another, they would freely share all their possessions, and peace and harmony would rule…. Luke’s point is as clear as it is provocative. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the community of Jesus’s disciples, utopia is no longer a dream. It is reality.”

Sigurd Grindheim (Living in the Kingdom of God: A Biblical Theology for the Life of the Church, p. 89)

*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 2:37-47 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.

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