Christian MölkFriend of Strangers Leave a Comment

If in the Old Testament God’s people were given laws and rules that would teach them to love the stranger as a fellow human being, in the New Testament God’s people are given the Spirit of God who transforms the stranger by his power into a brother and sister in Christ.

Since man fails to fulfill the “righteous requirements of the law” himself[i] to “love your neighbor as yourself”,[ii] God fills us with his Spirit so that he can do it through us instead.

It is impossible to love the stranger as a fellow human being just because it is legislated to do so; one needs a transformed heart to love your fellow human being as oneself. The Law of Moses was good,[iii] but because it was written on tablets of stone, the people of God failed to fulfill the Law. But Jeremiah prophesied that in the new covenant the Lord would instead write the law in the “hearts” of God’s people:

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.””

(Je 31:31-34)

Ezekiel also prophesied in a similar way:

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

(Eze 36:26-27)

What God’s people failed to fulfill in the old covenant based on the Law of Moses, the Holy Spirit fulfills for the people of God in the new covenant based on faith in Jesus. Israel failed to love the stranger in the way the Law required because their mission was based on the Law of Moses, while the mission of the church is based on the work of the Spirit. Now, when God’s law is written by the Spirit of God in our hearts, the people of God can fulfill the will of the Lord by the power of the Spirit.[iv]

God’s giving of his Holy Spirit to the whole church, each and every one, is thus a prerequisite for all peoples, both Jews and Gentiles, natives and foreigners, to be united into a new people in faith in Jesus. Without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to please God, but with the Holy Spirit nothing is impossible. The giving of the Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles is therefore a sign that the new covenant has begun. The more filled with the Holy Spirit we become, the more of a beloved sibling we see in the stranger.

This fulfillment of the Spirit came to the disciples on the day of Pentecost and led to the disciples speaking foreign languages and receiving the power of the Spirit to become Jesus’ witnesses all over the world:

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians-we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?””

(Ac 2:1-12)

In biblical times, Pentecost was one of the three great pilgrimages when all Jewish men went up to Jerusalem. Pentecost was called the “Feast of Weeks” because the feast took place 7 weeks (50 days) after Passover. The English word for the feast, “Pentecost”, comes from the Greek word “pentekoste” which means “50”.

Pentecost was also called the “Harvest Festival”, because on Pentecost the first harvest was celebrated.[v] From a Christian perspective, this is interesting because on the day of Pentecost, “about three thousand[vi] people were saved, thus becoming “the first harvest”. According to Paul, we have received the Spirit as the “firstfruits” and just as the first harvest was a foretaste for the farmer of what is to come, so the Spirit is a foretaste of what we will fully receive in due course.[vii]

Pentecost, according to Jewish tradition, was also called “the Birthday of the Law” and was celebrated to commemorate Moses receiving the Law from God on Mount Sinai.[viii] There are many parables and parallels between the people of God receiving the Law at Sinai on Old Testament Pentecost, and the people of God receiving the Spirit in Jerusalem on New Testament Pentecost. According to Isaiah, God’s teaching is to start from Jerusalem and the Lord himself is to teach us his ways.[ix] The Lord teaches through his Word, but also through the Spirit.

When Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, all of Mount Sinai was “wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire”.[x] On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes “like a mighty rushing wind” and with “tongues as of fire”. Incidentally, it is no coincidence that the Spirit came in the context of a “storm” since “spirit” in both Hebrew (ruach)[xi] and Greek (pneuma) is the same word as “wind”.

At Sinai, the Law was written with God’s finger on tablets of stone,[xii] while on the day of Pentecost, the Law was written in the heart by the Spirit coming to each one. [xiii]

At Sinai, the people were not allowed to come too close to God,[xiv] but on the day of Pentecost, the Lord comes close to man. At Sinai, the Law was given to the people as a whole and was communicated to the people through priests. On Pentecost, the Spirit was given to all and opened up the possibility for each and every person to have their own personal relationship with the Lord and the Word of God without a “priest” or “mediator” standing in between. The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of all that Jesus has said.[xv]

And finally, at Sinai “about three thousand men” died,[xvi] on the day of Pentecost “about three thousand souls” were saved. [xvii]

But what does Pentecost and the giving of the Spirit have to do with strangers, as this book is about? To understand this, we need to compare the Day of Pentecost with the story of the Tower of Babel that I wrote about in chapter 3. Just as at the beginning of creation God scattered man by giving them new languages at the Tower of Babel, so at the beginning of the new creation God sends out the disciples by giving them new languages on the Day of Pentecost.

But if the confusion of languages at Babel led to the division of people into different peoples, the miracle of language on Pentecost leads to its opposite, namely the uniting of different peoples into a new community. It is remarkable how strong the fellowship of the Spirit can be felt with people from other countries when we pray and speak in tongues together. Personally, I think that is the kind of spiritual unity among us Christians that Jesus prayed for in his High Priestly Prayer.[xviii] A unity in the Spirit that arises when believers from all nations, peoples and languages gather in the name of Jesus, and thus become the New Covenant equivalent of the “house of prayer for all peoples” that the temple in Jerusalem was intended to be.[xix]

Pentecost is, through the language-miracle, a fulfillment of God’s promise that there will come a time when “all the nations[xx] will flock to Jerusalem to meet God.[xxi] The fact that the disciples begin to speak foreign languages marks the fact that the Gospel is for all peoples, not just the Jewish one, and that from now on the mission is outward-looking. A foreigner who gets saved does not have to move to Israel, get circumcised and start speaking Hebrew. On the contrary, it was the Jewish disciples who began to speak foreign languages and who were commissioned to go out to all the world and to all nations and to all languages.

Just as God used the confusion of languages at Babel to cause people to migrate and fill the earth, so the Lord uses the Pentecostal language miracle to empower the born-again disciples to spread the gospel throughout the earth.

Live on All the Face of the Earth

To further explore this, I thought we would look at a sermon Paul preached in Athens, Greece, on one of his missionary journeys:

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way towards him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,”

(Ac 17:26-27)

The first point from these verses is that God created all human beings from Adam and Eve and allowed their descendants to populate the earth.[xxii] This idea of a common origin for humanity may be obvious to us with a biblical worldview, but is challenging to Greek thinking. They saw themselves as superior and all other peoples and civilizations as barbaric. But since God created all human beings from a single human being, we have a common origin, belong together and there is thus no room for xenophobia or philosophical ideas of a “master race”.

The second point Paul makes is that God’s mission to humanity to populate the earth is not a chaotic process. The Lord has not left humanity to its fate, but is in control, allowing peoples and nations both to arise and to perish. Ancient empires like Assyria, Mesopotamia, Babylon and the Roman Empire have both come and gone. The Lord has held his hand over the Jewish people and saved them time and time again. Even today the world is changing and empires come and go, but the Lord’s control remains. God has the power to bring down kingdoms that are complacent, such as the Roman Empire, and he also has the power to preserve and save nations that are in danger of destruction, such as Israel.

Therefore, when there are cataclysmic global events where countries are going under and refugees are being scattered around the world, Christians should see that God is in control of the situation and that it will lead to more people seeking God. If the “allotted period” of a kingdom is over and its borders are being eroded, then as generous fellow human beings we should demonstrate the principle of hospitality and help the people who are forced to flee. If a country we have not been able to reach with the Gospel suffers an internal crisis and its inhabitants flee to Europe, the opportunity arises for these unreached people to finally hear about Jesus. Or conversely, if a country closed to both foreigners and the Gospel suddenly opens up, then we should put on the shoes of willingness and go there as eager messengers of joy. As Christians, we should not rejoice and welcome the fact that a country is going through a crisis and that people are fleeing their country, but we should welcome its refugees, help them in the best way we can and give them the Gospel in word and deed.

An example of a people that has been forced to flee because of the destruction of its kingdom is the Jewish people. God called Abraham out of Ur. He led the patriarchs into Egypt. He rescued Israel out of Egypt. He led Joshua into the land of Canaan. He forced the Jewish people into exile in Babylon. He brought them back. And so on. In the midst of all these chaotic transformations, God has still been in control. Because of wars and crises, the Jews have been forced to flee Israel on numerous occasions. They have been welcomed into many countries, but have also faced many closed borders. In the countries to which the Jews have been welcomed, they have been able to develop a diaspora community that has enabled them to survive and stick together as a people even into our time. Moreover, in all of these countries to which they have been welcomed, they have been able to become a blessing to the native population.

Paul’s third point is that God allows kingdoms to flourish so that they can seek God and find him. The God of Israel is not only the God of Israel, but of the whole world. The Greeks should be at least indirectly aware of this, Paul argues, because it is possible to seek God even if you have never heard of Jesus. Partly because God has “put eternity into man’s heart”,[xxiii] but also because it is possible to see and understand in creation itself that God has created the world,[xxiv] because God has left his fingerprints and testimony in his creation.[xxv]

The bottom line of Paul’s argument is that the Lord wants all peoples, Jews and Greeks alike, to come together as humanity to believe in him as a universal God for all peoples.

The Second Day of Pentecost

A modern expression of the Spirit’s work took place at the start of the Pentecostal revival in 1906 on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The African-American slave son William J. Seymour longs to see a fulfillment of God’s promises of the outpouring of the Spirit. When he preaches about this at a prayer meeting based on the book of Acts, the Spirit falls on the congregation and the global Pentecostal revival begins. In the first Pentecostal church, men and women, black and white, old and young, rich and poor, were baptized in the Spirit and began to speak in tongues. Despite a segregated and racist United States, it was quickly observed that “the color line was washed away in the blood.”

Normally, tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit that serves as a “prayer language” that you can use to pray in the spirit to the Lord in words that you do not understand.[xxvi] This language of prayer is usually not an existing language but a “spiritual language” that only God understands, but on certain special occasions we may be supernaturally given the opportunity to pray in an existing language that we have never learned.

Because tongues were so unusual at this time, the newly spirit-baptized Pentecostals on Azusa Street thought that, like at the first Pentecost, they could now speak real languages. They figured that since God had baptized them in the Spirit, the second Pentecost had come and with it the End Times had begun. Once the message of salvation had reached all the nations, it was time for the Second Coming of Jesus when the church would be caught up into the sky to meet Jesus. Only 14 weeks after the revival started, missionaries were sent out at a furious pace. Within two years, missionaries from Azusa Street had reached over fifty countries.

One of these missionaries was the Swede Andrew Johnson, or Anders Johansson as his real Swedish name was. When he was baptized, he believed he had been given seven different tongues, one of which was Arabic, and even claimed to be able to write in Syriac and Armenian tongues. Andrew traveled by boat across the Atlantic to Palestine with some other missionaries. They thought they would use their new languages to do missionary work among the Arabs of the Middle East.

One of these missionaries was Lucy Leatherman. She had been given Turkish as a spiritual language, which was actually confirmed when she tried to speak in tongues as she walked past a man wearing a Turkish fez in the street. He stopped and asked in amazement what college she had attended because she spoke such perfect Turkish.

However, the missionary journey was interrupted in Naples before the missionaries reached Jerusalem. Another of the missionaries, Lucy Condit, had tried to speak in tongues to some Moors in Gibraltar, thinking she had been given Arabic as a language. When she found out that they did not understand her, she felt betrayed and decided to take the first ship home to warn her comrades in Los Angeles who were preparing to go out as missionaries. Both Lucy Leatherman and Lucy Condit cut short their missionary journey and went home to the United States, while Andrew made his way back to Sweden. Andrew saw himself as a “Pentecostal missionary” in Sweden and wrote missionary letters to Azusa Street in Los Angeles. He witnessed, preached and prayed for a Pentecostal revival over Sweden.

So being baptized with the Spirit is not just about receiving the gift of tongues, but above all it creates a zeal for mission and a heart for vulnerable people. Or, as Jesus said, it gives you the “power” to cross borders, to go to Samaria, hated by the Jews, and even to the ends of the earth:

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(Acts 1:8)

Loving the stranger outside the church through missionary work and loving the stranger inside the church through integration work is, from beginning to end, a work of the Holy Spirit. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we see Jesus in our fellow man.

While it undeniably got a little crazy with the gift of tongues at the beginning of the Pentecostal revival, the outpouring of the Spirit on Azusa Street led to just that; integration in the church and a missionary zeal that spread the gospel throughout the world. Since the beginning of the Pentecostal revival over a hundred years ago, integration and mission have been a natural part of the Pentecostal DNA.

You have read a free chapter of my book Friend of Strangers. If you like this book, please consider purchasing the ebook through Amazon. Since English is not my native language, there may be some linguistic inaccuracies. Please contact me if you find any.

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[i] Ro 8:4

[ii] Ga 5:14

[iii] 1Ti 1:8

[iv] 2Co 3:3

[v] Le 23:15–22

[vi] Ac 2:41

[vii] Ro 8:23

[viii] Ex 19–20

[ix] Isa 2:3

[x] Ex 19:16–18

[xi] Ge 1:2

[xii] Ex 31:18

[xiii] 2Co 3:3

[xiv] Ex 19:21

[xv] Jn 14:26

[xvi] Ex 32:28

[xvii] Ac 2:41

[xviii] Jn 17

[xix] Isa 56:3–7

[xx] Isa 2:2–3

[xxi] Zec 8:23

[xxii] Ge 1:28

[xxiii] Ecclesiastes 3:11

[xxiv] Ro 1:18–20

[xxv] Ac 14:17

[xxvi] 1Co 14:2, 14

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