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Devotional by Ray Stedman for May 2-The Birthday of the Church

Topic:The Birthday of the Church

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Acts 2:1

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Here is the story of the birth of the body of Jesus Christ, the church. Notice the day on which this occurred — the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is a Greek word that means fifty. The day was called that because it was fifty days after the Passover feast. Pentecost was a Jewish feast which is given to us in the Old Testament under the title, the Feast of Weeks. It is called also the Feast of the Wave Loaves because it consisted of two loaves of bread that were baked of grain from the new harvest. Pentecost came at the end of the wheat harvest in Palestine, and they were to take this new wheat, the first fruits of the harvest, and bake of it two loaves.

All of this shows how the New Testament has its roots in the Old. These two loaves were symbols of the two bodies from which the church was to be formed: the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus said he came first to the lost sheep of the house of the Israel, the Jews. But he said, I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen, (John 10:16). He was referring to the Gentiles. Here, on the day of Pentecost, God took the Jews and the Gentiles and brought them together and baptized them into one.

These loaves of the Old Testament were to be baked with leaven. Leaven is yeast, and is a symbol of sin. The wave loaves is the only sacrifice in all the Old Testament that ever had leaven included in it. This is God’s wonderful way of telling us that the church is not made up of perfect people. It is made up of saints, but they are sinful saints. They yet have sin in them. It is not made up of those who have reached perfection, but of those who are in the process of becoming what God wants them to be, who have a divine authority and life at work within them changing them. Thus the loaves are baked with leaven.

In that beautiful symbolism lies the heart of the church. On the day of Pentecost, right in line with this Old Testament prediction, the Holy Spirit came. He took one hundred and twenty people who were gathered into one place, and made one out of them. Here were one hundred and twenty isolated individuals who had been living their lives quite separately, held together only by a mutual interest in Jesus Christ. But now they are baptized by the Spirit into one body. The baptism of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with any outward demonstration. It is not necessarily associated with tongues, or fire, or wind. These were the incidentals. The essential was the making of a body, one body. This was the birthday of the church.

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Father, thank you for your word which clarifies, which opens our eyes to make us see things the way they are. Help me to understand your church, and my part in it as a member of your body.

Life Application
Do we continue to acknowledge the weakness and sin of our independent efforts to build Christ’s Body, His Church? Are we steadfastly relying upon His Word and the power of His Presence for wisdom and strength?

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