Looking Ahead to Pentecost: Study Guide

Here is the study guide for the lesson I plan to teach on July 21, 2019 at The Sanctuary UPC. Keep in mind that the manuscript from which this lesson is drawn is much more detailed, covering important related texts we cannot discuss during the limitations of a Sunday school class. This material will be included in the published book, which should be released sometime this fall.

Looking Ahead to Pentecost

July 21, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] Early in the ministry of John the Baptist, John pointed ahead to an unprecedented work of the Holy Spirit, introducing his own ministry and explaining its transitory nature: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Luke agrees (Luke 3:16).

[2] Baptize. Here is a word we have not heard before. No one in the era before the coming of the Messiah had been baptized with the Spirit. They had been filled and the Spirit had moved upon them and rested upon them and led them. But to be baptized with the Spirit is something above and beyond those experiences. It is to be immersed, plunged, or dipped. To follow this analogy, a person who is immersed in the Spirit is certainly filled with the Spirit, but a person who is filled with the Spirit — as were some before Pentecost — is not necessarily immersed in the Spirit. A person upon whom the Spirit moves or rests or who is led by the Spirit has a remarkable experience, but it is something other than and short of being baptized with the Spirit.

[3] This is that to which Jesus referred when He said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). As John explained, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).

[4] Before the glorification of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was not experienced in the way He would be. There is no verb for “given” in John 7:39, which is why translations including the word place it in italics. Literally, the phrase translates “for the Holy Spirit was not yet.” Of course, the Spirit existed; we read of the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 and throughout the Old Testament and into the New. The point of Jesus’ words here is that there was a future day when those who believed on Jesus would enjoy an unprecedented experience with the Holy Spirit. That experience would best be described as baptism with the Spirit.

[5] There are several places in the gospels where it is said that Jesus was glorified. But, if we keep reading in John, it is apparent that the glorification in view here is that which occurred in conjunction with His crucifixion and resurrection. (See John 12:16, 23; 13:31-32.) This was Peter’s understanding (Acts 3:13).

[6] From the earliest days of the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was described as a gift. There was never any suggestion that the Spirit could be deserved or earned. The word “gift” was used of the Spirit before Pentecost. Using an analogy from human experience, Jesus said, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Of if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13).

[7] Three ideas are included in Jesus’ words that are worked out upon the pouring out of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost: (1) The Spirit is something for which we can ask; (2) The Spirit will be given by the Father, an interesting insight, since at Pentecost it was Jesus who poured out the Spirit (Acts 2:33); (3) The Spirit is a gift that is freely given.

[8] When Jesus used this analogy, the giving of the Spirit as would ultimately happen was not yet. (See John 7:37-39.) But words like these pointed pre-Pentecost believers in a direction of anticipation and expectation that the promise of the Spirit would not be a continuation of life dependent on the works of the law. Instead, it would be a life of faith that resulted in receiving the Spirit. (See Galatians 3:2.)

[9] One of the most significant texts of Scripture referring to the work of the Spirit in the lives of people preserves a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a “ruler of the Jews” who was impressed by the “signs” Jesus did. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, asked no questions, but Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The word translated “again” (anōthen) can also mean “from above,” preparing the reader for another double entendre in John 3:8: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The word translated “wind” (pneuma) can also mean “spirit.” The sound as of a rushing mighty wind on the Day of Pentecost is noteworthy here (Acts 2:2). It may be that the “wind” and “fire” of Pentecost were meant to signal the inauguration of the New Covenant in contrast with the wind and fire of Sinai. (See Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 5:5, 22; Hebrews 12:18.)

[10]      Nicodemus was puzzled by Jesus’ statement that it is necessary to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. He asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). To explain what it means to be born again, Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ ” (John 3:5-7).

[11]      As the gospels look ahead to the work of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and beyond, they also warn of the persecutions that will follow. Even then, however, the Spirit will come to the aid of those who believe. Jesus said, “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). (See also Matthew 10:17-20; Luke 12:11-12.) Once again, we can see this as a case of Spirit-empowered speech, as seen so often in the Old Testament and into early days of the New Testament. Although this is not a case of speaking in languages one has never learned, it is nevertheless another example of the potentially close relationship between the Spirit and the words spoken by believers in crisis. The Book of Acts records events like these of which Jesus warned. (See Acts 23:1-10.)

[12]      Jesus promised another practical work of the Spirit that would benefit believers after His resurrection and before the New Testament Scriptures were completed: “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:25-26). Not only would the Spirit enable believers to speak without preparation in moments of crisis; He would also enable them to remember key teachings of Jesus at just the right time. (See John 2:22; 12:16; Acts 11:16.)

[13]      In addition to identifying the Spirit as another Helper, Jesus referred to Him as “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him” (John 14:17). To receive the Spirit of truth, one must believe in Jesus (John 14:11-12). Even before Pentecost, the Spirit of truth was dwelling with those who believed in Jesus, but their future experience with the Spirit would surpass that; the Spirit would be in them (John 14:17).

[14]      An additional indication that the experience Jesus’ followers would have with the Spirit in the future would surpass that which they had before Pentecost is seen in John 15:26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” Four points are seen here underscoring the future work of the Spirit: (1) Although the Spirit was already with the disciples, He was yet to come in an unprecedented way; (2) The Spirit would be sent by Jesus, anticipating Acts 2:33; (3) The Spirit proceeds from the Father, as foretold by Joel and quoted by Peter on Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18); (4) The Spirit’s future work would include testifying of Jesus, as Jesus foretold in Acts 1:8.

[15]      Jesus’ disciples were sad about His approaching departure, but it was to their advantage that He go away, for, He said, “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:6-7). This again anticipates Jesus as the One who will pour out the Spirit (Acts 2:33) and describes major aspects of the Spirit’s future work, as further explained in John 16:9-11.

[16]      Jesus had many more things to say to His disciples, but they were not yet able to understand them (John 16:12). For this reason, He spoke to them “in figurative language” (John 16:25). They would be able to understand these further truths in the future: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). An example of the Spirit’s work in this regard can be seen in Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost, with Peter’s keen insight into Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit. Shortly after Pentecost, Peter also spoke authoritatively about eschatological events, some of the “things to come” the Spirit would reveal (Acts 3:18-24).

[17]      The work of the Spirit in testifying of Jesus (John 15:26) is further described in John 16:14-15: “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” At least one of the ways this would occur is that those who would be baptized with the Holy Spirit would witness of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:4-8).

[18]      After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples, showed them His hands and His side, breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). These words indicate they had not yet received the Spirit in the sense that both John the Baptist and Jesus had previously promised. They had not yet been baptized with the Spirit.

[19]      Some think the disciples received the unprecedented experience of Spirit baptism at this point, when Jesus breathed on them. That this is not the case is demonstrated not only by their subsequent experience on the Day of Pentecost, but also by the grammar of John 20:22. The verb translated “receive” (lambanō) is in the aorist tense, active voice, imperative mood. Time is lost in the imperative mood, and action has not yet begun in the aorist imperative. Jesus’ words could be translated, “Start receiving the Holy Spirit.” This is certainly a look ahead to the Day of Pentecost, but it may also look even farther to texts like the phrase in Ephesians 5:18, commonly translated “be filled with the Spirit,” but which could be rendered “keep being filled with the Spirit,” due to the present passive imperative form of the verb “fill” (plēroō).


  1. For the first time, we hear the word baptize in relation to the Spirit. This is an experience above and beyond anything that happened prior to Pentecost.
  2. The Spirit is a gift that cannot be earned, worked for, or deserved.
  3. The new birth consists of both water and Spirit baptism.
  4. The Spirit is identified as a Helper, from a Greek word that is translated “Comforter” in the KJV.[archive]