Profiting Fully from Pentecost and "Gentecost"

February 24, 2011

Luke provides us with lengthy accounts of two premier evangelistic events (Acts 2 and 10). He gives additional information about them in both Acts 11 and 15.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter first exercised the keys of the kingdom of heaven that Christ gave him (Matt. 16:18-19). On that occasion, the church began in Jerusalem with a multitude of devout Jews repenting toward God (Acts 2:38-41) and believing in Jesus Christ (11:17).

In Caesarea, Peter again exercised those keys of the kingdom. Many Gentiles repented toward God (11:18) and believed in Jesus Christ on that occasion (15:7; cf. 11:17; 15:11). In keeping with Peter’s explicitly linking these two key evangelistic events (11:15-17; cf. 15:8-9; 11), I have coined the term “Gentecost” as a fitting and convenient way to refer to the latter event (shortened from “Gentile Pentecost”; cf. comments on Acts 11:13-16 by J. B. Polhill, Acts, in NAC, 267).

Although many have directed considerable attention to Pentecost, it seems that they have given Gentecost far less attention by comparison.[1] Without a thorough treatment of both accounts, however, we do not profit fully from either.

We begin a thorough treatment of the accounts by determining the overall length of the information given about each event. Acts 2 provides 41 verses overall about Pentecost and 28 verses concerning Peter’s message and verbal ministry (2:14-41). Adding the four verses referring to that event in two subsequent passages (11:15, 17; 15:8-9) we learn that there are 45 total verses about Pentecost in three passages in Acts.

Acts 10 provides 48 verses overall about Gentecost and 12 verses concerning Peter’s message and verbal ministry (10:34-43; 47-48). Subsequent references in three passages provide at least 22 more verses about that event (11:1-18; Peter at the Jerusalem Council [15:7-9; possibly 15:11 as well]; James at the Jerusalem Council [15:14; cf. 15:15-17 and 15:18]). Luke thus provides at least 70 total verses about Gentecost in four passages in Acts.

At the very least, this comparison suggests that we should give equal attention to both the Pentecost and the Gentecost accounts. Because the latter accounts are of considerably greater combined length than the former, our concluding in fact that they warrant greater attention is reasonable.

In addition, because the vast majority of our evangelism today is Gentile evangelism, we would do well to give the Gentecost accounts both much more analysis that is thorough and widespread focused attention in our teaching and preaching. (Future articles will present many more reasons for giving these accounts special attention.) Only then will we put ourselves in a position to profit fully from Pentecost and Gentecost.


[1] In spite of my having heard several thousand messages in the more than twenty years that I have been a believer, I have not heard someone preach or teach a Sunday school class even once on Gentecost. Of course, people have preached and taught on that passage over those years, but somehow it has worked out that I have never heard any preaching or teaching that has focused on this premier account of Gentile evangelism.

Rajesh

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