How do we know about Pentecost?

A bible reflection for Pentecost on the spiritual gift of generosity and the power of legacy

Celebrating Pentecost

Churches across the world will be celebrating the festival of Pentecost on 4 June. The account of Pentecost in Acts 2 reminds us of how beautiful the church is - a group of people gathered in one place, praying with one purpose and waiting for the promise-keeping God to draw near.

Despite being a bunch of misfits, these are the people God called. They were ‘clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49) and sent to live out and preach the gospel.

How is it that we have the account of Pentecost?

The answer to this question may seem obvious: it’s in the book of Acts.

The writer of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts wanted his readers to have an orderly account of what had happened (Luke 1:3 - see below), so that they might have a firm foundation for what they believed. The events we read of here actually happened; the writer would have spent time researching them, visiting the places mentioned and speaking to eyewitnesses to compile an account that his readers could have confidence in.

But this kind of careful investigation takes time and money. Who funded it? Who made it possible?

The first few verses of Luke and Acts may supply the answer:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye witnesses and servants of the word. 

With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.'

Acts 1:1-4 (NIV)

The generosity of Theophilus?

Both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are addressed to an individual named Theophilus.

Scholars disagree (they normally do; perhaps it comes with the territory?) about exactly who this Theophilus was, but one possibility is that Theophilus was a wealthy benefactor who funded Luke’s ministry and work of careful investigation that led to the two books we have in our Bible.

If that is the case, then Theophilus's act of generosity has had a profound impact on the church and the world, and the very passage you read above is part of his legacy.

As we celebrate Pentecost, it’s only right that we look at the different spiritual gifts that God has given his people. Generosity is perhaps a lesser known, but nonetheless important, gift:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

Taking generosity for granted

It is easy to take for granted what others have given. Yet we are blessed by the legacy of those who have walked the path of faith before us.

Next time you’re in church, look around and ask yourself: who made this possible? Who paid for your pew? Who has soaked the walls of your church in prayer and praise and waited on God?

This Pentecost, give thanks to God, who is generous beyond measure and moves his people to be generous too.

Church pews

Giving generously and leaving a legacy

As a charity, BRF has been enormously blessed over many years by the generosity of our supporters - people who God has blessed and moved to bless others too. We praise God for his provision.

This Pentecost, as we look back on the year past and forward to the year ahead, why not plan a meeting with the Lord to consider and pray about your giving and legacy, and wait for his Spirit to guide you.

Could you pray about whether you could support our work either by giving now or by leaving a legacy in your will?

Discover how you can make a difference

See where we need help today

Water ripple

Making a lasting difference

From small beginnings in 1920s south London, our work has expanded outwards across the world - from Brixton to Brisbane.

For almost a century we have been able to do amazing things thanks to the generosity of those that have supported us during their lifetime and through gifts in wills.

Three theological footnotes

A piece like this may benefit from some theological housekeeping. If you have questions, the best thing to do is to talk with people in your church. Send them the link to this page and discuss your questions. Nevertheless, here are three closing notes that may tidy a few things up and avoid confusion:

Our identity comes from being ‘loved by God’

There are several different perspectives on who Theophilus was. The truth is that no one knows and it doesn’t really matter. God knows who he was. We don’t need to know.

It is, however, of profound significance that the name Theophilus literally means ‘loved by God’. Our identity doesn’t come from our assets, our giving, our position or our power (or our lack of any of these). Rather, it comes from being in Christ, being ‘loved by God’.

Generous Spirit-filled giving has nothing to do with guilt or obligation; our identity in Christ shapes how we give. ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Our praise belongs to God alone

In thinking about money and generosity, it is worth remembering that everything we have comes from God. God’s people give only what has been given to them; the praise and glory belong to God alone. (Romans 11:36).

Define generosity biblically

Is a large donation a generous donation? Is a small donation less generous?

Not necessarily: see Mark 12:41-44.

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Theophilus literally means ‘loved by God’. Our identity doesn’t come from our assets, our giving, our position or our power (or our lack of any of these). Rather, it comes from being in Christ, being ‘loved by God’.