There can hardly be a greater way to give thanks for our life together than the celebration of Pentecost. Through the Holy Spirit, the new creation of the church came into being. The church is the spiritual Body of Christ, sharing in his relationship with the Father, and in his mission from the Father to the world. The church is the new creation where the communion of the Father, Son and Spirit is to be experienced and lived out.

On Pentecost we celebrate the giving of the Spirit; we celebrate that and more. The Holy Spirit, of course, was not “new”. What was new was this creation of a “new humanity”, as Paul calls it, in Christ, by the Spirit. So, while the work of the Spirit in the lives of individual believers is essential and fundamental to our Christian walk, on Pentecost we celebrate the work of the Spirit in the communion of the church – in our lives together in Christ.

Yet the church is made up of frail, mistake-prone human beings. It is often difficult, sometimes even stressful, to be part of a church. It can certainly seem very “ordinary”, week in, week out. This is an old argument, an ancient response to the reality of doing church. So some want to reject the visible church, and say “It’s just me and Jesus”. Sounds good, but it rejects or ignores the whole story of the New Testament, and the point of Pentecost. It misunderstands the nature of Christ and the work of the Spirit in the world.

Yes, often the lofty description of the New Testament doesn’t always match our experience “down here”, here and now. (“The church is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church” says Paul in Ephesians 2, The Message.) Pentecost deals with this directly. Church is not about our wish-dream, but about God’s reality at work in the world. It is the place where we learn to love each other, with all our faults and shortcomings and differences.

Pentecost is a “week of weeks”, or seven weeks from the resurrection of Jesus (Easter Sunday). The early church took this very seriously. Pentecost is tied directly in to the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Without the resurrected Jesus, we have no spiritual organism of the church. The “new creation” of the resurrection is played out in the “new creation” of the church.

The resurrected Jesus cooked fish, ate with his disciples, taught them personally, and offered them “peace”. (He didn’t reappear to Pontius Pilate, or the Emperor for that matter, tap him on the shoulder, and announce: “I’m back!”).  He gave his life in humble service and self-sacrificing obedience to the Father. He took the worst that human beings could do to him, and loved us anyway. He united himself with humanity; he took humanity into himself. And through his resurrection and ascension he transformed life forever.

Atonement is not just about forgiveness – it is about fellowship. Our fellowship with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. As Karl Barth has written, the Holy Spirit is always in fellowship. It is through the Spirit that we can have fellowship with the Triune God. So it is not just about one’s personal possession of the Spirit (or the Spirit’s possession of us), it is about the fellowship of the Spirit into which we are drawn together. Salvation is relational; salvation is communion.

On Pentecost, we celebrate the new creation of the church. We rejoice in the pouring out of the Spirit, and the fellowship we are now privileged to share and participate in. We give thanks that through the Spirit, we have fellowship with the Father through the Son, and with one another. And we participate in the Father’s mission to the Son, to share that good news with all humanity.

May God richly bless and encourage you this Pentecost weekend.


John McLean

Mission and National Director

Grace Communion International, Australia


From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

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