Pentecost feast and the “seceded” church

Acts 2: 1b

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord[a] in one place."

Yes, today some people say: in those days it truly was a real Pentecost feast. Because then there was unity! Nothing like that today! They celebrate the Pentecost feast as “separated” churches. They both mention the Spirit, and they both sing: Praise the Spirit! And they both pray: Veni Creator Spiritus! (Come, creator spirit). But they don’t do it: “together with one accord”.
Maybe they do use one building. Around 10:30 the one congregation is waiting for the other to leave the building. Because they want to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, but they want to celebrate it in no other way then in their ridged isolation. The “secessionists” .

But on that first Pentecost day there were also people with different natures and characters, different feelings and understanding? But in those days they were still so broad minded that they all could be together with one accord.
And by us, every slight degree of difference leads to a contrast and every contrast ends up in a separation.
Isn’t it high time that we start showing again the style of the first Pentecost


I believe so. It is more then high time. Because every feast of Pentecost makes the responsibility greater!

But then, we will have to do it also like that first church did it: “all with one accord”.

This means: we must stop once and for all to go out of our way in making endearing remarks about unity, and proclaiming a Christianity above religious divisions as a Pentecost- command. And we must also stop giving the brother hand to reach over church walls. We should simply take the Gospel serious as it is written here.

Literally translated it doesn’t say anything about unity and harmony. It says: they were together in the same place.

Now, one should not say that Luke expresses himself quite awkwardly by using two expressions which practically say the same thing; it only seems that way at first glance. When you are “together” you are “in the same place” and vice. But when tomorrow when a train goes to Amsterdam the passengers are all together ‘in the same place’. But they do not travel together. One goes there for business, the second one goes there for family visit, and a third one goes to the museum. Each one has a different destination. They all travel to their own to their destination but they travel not as a group, not ‘together’.

That’s how it is stated here: they were all together, that means as a group, together in the same place.

They all, that means those 120 disciples from Acts 1, are together somewhere in a house, perhaps in a locality in the temple. It doesn’t really matter that much. Nevertheless, they present themselves on this feast of Pentecost as a separate group. In any case, if they would have been in the temple they would not have mingled with all the other feasting Jews, but they formed a separated unit in Israel.

This has never ever happened before. For until now Jesus went with His disciples up to the great feasts, and on the way they mingled with those also going to the feast. In the temple they moved around between all the other. But today, now that all Israel is again in the temple and as one people of the Lord celebrate their feast of Pentecost, hundred and twenty people stand there as an independent group under the leadership of its own consistory.
Here a second church-institute places itself next and over against the first, the old one. Here a group openly separates itself, and says: we celebrate the feast separately . Because we say: here, with Peter, here is the address of the people

Well, then let’s be straightforward and ask the question: was this then not schismatic?

They may have had objections against the Sanhedrin who had unjustly accused Jesus of blasphemy, and therefore had condemned Him to be crucified.

But, were they therefore allowed to walk away?

To present themselves as a separate group?

And to pretend: we are here the lawful church gathering?

The word ‘sect’ has been applied to them time and again by the people of the ‘old’ church. It was revolution what they were doing, and they must stop their preaching.

Their action was not Reformation but unlawfully breaking with the church. Could they just abandon all the others in the ‘old’ church and say: we will no longer participate with you in the worship services? Were there, for instance in the “old’ church by the Sanhedrin, no longer any believers?

The question is a painful one for everyone who seeks unity. And for everyone who prepares himself for the feast of Pentecost. Because on that morning, everyone in Jerusalem was confronted with the question: what is the true church, and where is her address? Is it by Caiaphas, or by Peter?

Where is the true church?

No one who takes the Gospel of Pentecost seriously and who wants to celebrate this feast faithfully can ignore this question.

Where is the true church?

No, that is not: where are faithful people? They could be found with Peter, and there were also some with Caiaphas.

And neither is it the question: where are things perfect and orderly? Because in the church with Caiaphas is much sin, but hypocrites could also be found in the company of Peter.

But the essential question is: to which gathering does God calls Israel today?

Both of the gatherings hold the pretense that they are gathered together in the name of the Lord, with his promises and His grace. But who is right? Both of them? Or none of them?

Looking back: we say that they have to be with Peter. There was the true Church. But do you think that they were proclaiming heresies by Caiaphas? Peter preached that day about Joel and a few Psalms. Do you mean that those truths were not proclaimed and confessed in the temple, and that one could not hear a good orthodox sermon there?

Acts 2 says: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”. That is to say: the church of Peter. But not the church of Caiaphas! There they have the old name, the old heritage, the old buildings, all the church property, the old orthodox teachings; and with them remains the great mass of people.
Hundred and twenty have gone over to the sect of the Nazarenes. But all the others ‘remained faithful’. However, God pours out His Spirit in the circle around Peter and passes by Caiaphas! Caiaphas may put all of Israel’s heritage on the table and a family tree of legitimate priestly succession. But God says to Peter: get on the pulpit, because here by these hundred and twenty is the true church. “Here I will dwell, for I have desired it. This is my resting place for ever”. (Psalm 132).

I say therefore: The feast of Pentecost is a church feast.

But then no longer idolizing with invisible unity or unity above religious divisions in order to reach over church walls, but respect for God who places
Himself on the side of the “seceded sect”. Because that is where they confess Jesus Christ. Because that is where they do not hold fast to the orthodox doctrine but they definitely believe the Scriptures which testify that Jesus is the Christ. Because there they hold fast to the church order according to the Scriptures and therefore they confess that Jesus Christ by the hands of the unrighteous was nailed to the cross and killed.
Those disciples had so much in common with the Sanhedrin. The same heritage, the same Scriptures, the same feasts, the same tributes. But they accepted the account of the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ, while the Sanhedrin had killed Him which was against the Scriptures.

Old buildings, the great masses, O! It all is of so little importance.
It’s not a shame to belong to a seceded church and to be scolded by everyone for a sectarian. It is not a shame to be sitting with that small group. The only thing that is important: having been justified by the Scriptures. To cause schism in the church is a terrible thing to do. It is a great sin.

But people don‘t decide who causes schism in the church. Only the Scriptures point that out. And therefore not a soul can say to God on Sunday:” the synod said”….. for God will answer; “Have you not read”?.
Nobody will be able to say: “ we are concerned, but we want unity”……for God will answer: talk no longer of unity, but join yourselves to the true church and keep the communion of saints. You know from the Scriptures where they are faithful to Christ.

Do we then have to be careful when we speak about the true and the false church, and therefore let the worship service this coming Sunday morning become vague and problematic? Then the flock will be scattered. Blessed are the small groups where according to the Word they join themselves to the true church, where on Sunday morning they are together in one place, perhaps with two or three but in the name of Christ! There it will be the feast of Pentecost .

But at all the other gatherings, there they will grieve the Holy Spirit.

B. Holwerda.

Translation from “Pinksterfeest en de ‘afgescheiden’ kerk” in De Reformatie of June 4, 1949.