Victoria Park Christian Centre
Suite 1, 342 Albany Highway, Victoria Park 6100, Western Australia
Do you get excited when your birthday comes? Maybe it all depends on how old you are whether or not you look forward to getting older. Whatever your age, it is good to celebrate with your family and receive gifts. This Sunday we celebrated Pentecost which is often referred to as the birthday of the Church as it launched the large-scale spreading of the Gospel after Jesus’ ascension to the right hand side of the Father. It’s called Pentecost from the Greek word pentēkostē which means fiftieth as it occurs 50 days after Easter. It’s the Christian celebration of the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles (Acts 2:3-4).
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to them as a Counsellor and a Spirit of Truth (John 16:7,13). Christians are supposed to live in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to help them follow Jesus and obey the great commission given us in Matthew 28:18-20. After Peter received the Holy Spirit, he spoke to the crowd and 3000 people believed in Jesus and were added to the Church.
The birth of the Church came with the infilling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This was the initial outpouring and a one-off occasion. Believers today as part of the church, which is Jesus’ body with Him as the head (Colossians 1:18), mainly receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands after baptism. When the believers in Samaria became believers and were baptised they did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John placed their hands on them (Acts 8:4-17). The same thing happened with the believers at Ephesus. They did not receive the Holy Spirit even though they had been baptised until hands were laid on them (Acts 19:5-6). The early church calls belief, baptism, the laying on of hands for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and teaching about the resurrection and the day of judgment as first principles for immature Christians (Hebrews 6:1-2).
Scripture calls us to believe and be baptised. This water baptism is what John the Baptist was preaching. It is a baptism of repentance and symbolises the washing away of our sins (Mark 1:4). Water baptism calls us out of the world and delivers us from it. We identify with Jesus so that we can share in His resurrection. The laying on of hands represents Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:16) and has two parts: identification and impartation.
The new believer identifies with the rest of the body (the church) and is joined to them. The old independent life dies as the new life is corporate in nature. It’s membership. It’s a God-given realisation to the believer that to stop fellowshipping with other children of God is drastically wrong (Hebrews 10:25). It’s a lightbulb realisation that they will die outside of the body just like bodily parts die outside of the human body. Then it’s walking as members one with another and subjecting ourselves to the authority of Jesus Christ and His leaders. It’s when the children of God lose their rebellious spirit.
As well as membership into the body, with the laying on of hands comes the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This enables the new believer to receive what the Head (Jesus) wants to impart to the member. It opens up two-way communication between Jesus and the member – with the member being subject to the authority of the Head. It causes spiritual growth and strength and prevents what was happening to the Colossians (Colossians 2:19). Like the Samarians and the Ephesians, our foundation will not be complete if the laying on of hands is missing. I recommend to any believer who feels that this vital part of their Christian foundation was neglected to put it right. Contact the elders of your church and receive the laying on of hands for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The strength and vitality of each member comes from the body under the headship of Jesus Christ.
On your birthday you receive gifts from loved ones. Similarly, your birth into the body of Christ brings gifts from Jesus’ Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4,7). This wonderful gift will strengthen you and help you to build up the body. Every believer receives a gift without exception after the infilling of the Holy Spirit which will manifest itself when the believer is working to help others in the body of believers. It is mainly a corporate gift and must be used for that end. Then and only then will it be obvious to the receiver and the rest of the Christian community.
Happy Birthday Church! Enjoy your gifts and use them wisely.