Pentecost Sunday (also called Whit Sunday, Whitsun, or Whit) is a liturgical day celebrated or commemorated in many churches in both the Western and Eastern traditions regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church. Pentecost is considered the birth of the church and was recorded in the New Testament in Acts 2.
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came upon the likely 120 people in the upper room who were gathered together on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:15; 2:1), a Jewish holy day that takes place 50 days after Passover (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9). This means the gathering was nine days after the Ascension of Jesus. The noise attracted the attention of the city's people at about nine in the morning. Peter preached a message of salvation in the resurrected Jesus to people visiting from 15 people groups. The people heard the disciples and understood them in their own languages. Acts 2:41 records that 3,000 people were baptized that day.
In the modern liturgical calendar, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter. On the Western church calendar, the date falls between May 10 and June 13. The Scripture readings in the Liturgical calendar for this time include Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13, or Galatians 5:16-25; John 20:19-23 or John 15:26-27; and John 16:12-15.
The emphasis on Pentecost Sunday is a focus on the Holy Spirit and His role in the lives of people today. In addition, this is often a time of emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
Also associated with Pentecost is a celebration of the spiritual gifts given to believers in Christ by the Holy Spirit's power. The Bible discusses several spiritual gifts in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. Every believer has at least one gift. The lists in Scripture are not likely exhaustive and many suggest that each believer is also uniquely gifted for a place of Christian service. While many believers debate the ongoing use, place, or role of certain spiritual gifts (such as speaking in tongues/other languages, interpreting tongues/languages, healing, miracles), Christians agree the Holy Spirit's gifts are given for the building up of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:12-13).
Pentecost Sunday is a great reminder to the church that Jesus did not leave us alone but rather ascended to the Father and sent the Spirit to dwell within believers. The Holy Spirit offers us power for living, protection from evil, strength to fight temptation, and counsel for times of need. Further, the Holy Spirit's coming at Pentecost marked the beginning of the expansion of Christianity, beginning at Jerusalem and spreading to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20).
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