The Transgressive Spirit: Part 3, The Transgressive Pentecost

The universal, transgressive vision of Joel 2--where the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh--becomes the rallying cry of the church in Acts 2. Peter describes the church in his Pentecost sermon as the place where the vision of Joel 2 will become a reality.

But the book of Acts describes this as a work in progress, with the Spirit nudging the church forward by falling, as in Numbers 11, in unauthorized locations.

In Acts 10 the Jewish followers of Jesus are still inhibited by their moral, religious, and ethnic prejudices against Gentiles. The universal vision of Joel 2 has stalled. So the Spirit takes decisive action, bringing visions to both Peter and Cornelius, orchestrating a meeting between them.

While preaching to Cornelius, a second, unexpected, transgressive Pentecost occurs:
Acts 10.44-48a
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 
Once again, the Spirit falls in an unauthorized location. As Peter says, "Surely no one can stand in the way." Because without the Spirit falling in this unauthorized location people most surely would have stood in the way.

In fact, they did stand in the way.

The second, transgressive Pentecost created a crisis of authority for the early church. It comes to a head in Acts 15, with the convening of the First Apostolic Counsel. People within the Jerusalem church--circumcised, Torah-observant, Messianic Jews--objected to what happened at the second Pentecost, how the Spirit eradicated the boundary between Jew and Gentile, just as the vision of Joel 2 said would happen. By falling in an unauthorized zone and eradicating the boundary between Jew and Gentile, the Holy Spirit created a huge crisis of authority for the church. A crisis that effectively split the church, if Paul's testimony in the book of Galatians is to be believed.

By claiming Joel 2 as the mission statement for the kingdom of God, and by witnessing the Spirit fall in an unauthorized location, Peter and the church crossed a boundary previously unimaginable.

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