Jews and Gentiles Together: Living in Unity
In Acts 2, we get our first glimpse of Shavuot in the New Testament, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). There were Jewish people from almost every region in the Diaspora (Greek for “dispersion”). They became part of the first spiritual harvest on Pentecost because of their obedience to the command to celebrate this holiday in Jerusalem! These Jewish believers seemed to decide as a group that they did not want to return home immediately after the festival, but chose instead to spend time with one another. Luke describes their joy and fellowship in Acts chapter 2:
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44–47)
This first “band of brothers” (and sisters) were all Messianic Jews—there were no known Gentile believers at this point. The Lord taught these early Jewish believers how to live in unity and work through their differences to prepare them for the Gentile harvest that would come a short time later.
We find unity when the Holy Spirit directs our attention and focus on Jesus. The Spirit of God seals us, baptizes us, and connects us to the Messiah and to one another in a way that is supernatural, miraculous, and without parallel in this world of division and conflict. It is clear from the text that the impact of Shavuot was a season of incredible unity by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Paul describes this unity in greater depth: But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:13–16)
The Lord makes us His by the power of the Holy Spirit. This same power enables us to work together in unity. So much more can be done together than apart as we proclaim the good news of Yeshua to a broken and needy world.
Preaching with Power
The Holy Spirit eternally exists in perfect fellowship with the Father and the Son. We see His presence from the very beginning, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Yet, His ministry in the New Covenant is further revealed. His role in the world today is well described by Yeshua in the Gospel of John:
But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:7–11)
The Greek term “parakletos,” which is translated as “Helper,” literally means “one who is called alongside” to help, strengthen, and partner with each child of God in their life and ministry. The Holy Spirit regenerates us, then He indwells us, fills us, and empowers us to preach. We see this power of the Holy Spirit unleashed in the early sermons of the book of Acts, especially through Peter’s preaching,
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:37–39)
The Holy Spirit also convicts those who hear the preaching to repent of their sin and be saved. It is God’s job, through His Holy Spirit, to convince others that Yeshua is the Messiah and, by believing in Him, we receive the gift of everlasting life.
The Global Harvest
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The festival of Shavuot/Pentecost reminds us of God’s plan to bring the good news of salvation through the Messiah to the world. When God told Abram that He would bless the world through his descendants, it was clear that God chose the Jewish people not for the sake of the Jewish people alone but to be a blessing to the entire world.
He said to Abram, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
His blessing through the Jewish people is the gospel—the good news of Messiah Jesus, who died and rose for our sins. Perhaps this is why many view Pentecost as the birth of the church—the mysterious new-covenant community made up of Jews and Gentiles. In his letter to Ephesus, Paul calls this union the mystery that was revealed to him: “…that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
This mystery Paul is describing is the joining together of Jews and Gentiles in God’s family, set apart through the sacrifice of the Messiah Jesus and united together by His Holy Spirit.
During Shavuot, two loaves of bread are baked and presented as an offering. The two cakes made with leaven remind us that Jews and Gentiles, sinners redeemed by God’s grace through faith in Yeshua, are made acceptable to God. It is now our joy to work in the Lord’s harvest field until He returns!
Through the miracle of Pentecost, Jews and Gentiles are unified, sharing a common Lord, life, and calling to reach the world for Jesus by the power of His Spirit. Together, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have a common mission—to spread the good news of Jesus the Messiah to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles! (Romans 1:16).