Welcome back to part 3! Today, I want to take a good look at the Promise of God the Holy Spirit fulfilled to in Acts and what the Apostles taught regarding the Gift of the Holy Spirit. I’d like to reiterate that I am not following any denominational quick-guide on the Holy Spirit. I shall endeavor to simply share what I’ve read in the Scriptures. I maintain 2 fundamental statements of faith as the basis for this discussion:
- The inerrancy of the Bible as the Word of God. In it we find that which God has revealed of Himself, His Nature, His Will, and His Love for us. While we cannot claim (nor should we) to know and explain everything about God (for we are only created beings) we can (and must) aim to know what He has given to us to know about Him, that which He has chosen to reveal about Himself by giving us His Word and His Spirit.
- The Trinity. There is only One God. He exists eternally as 3 distinct persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.
In the last post, we ended by taking a look at the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28 and Mark 16. I neglected, however, to share that Luke included a Great Commission as well.
Luke 24:44-49 (ESV) 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Personally, I think the reason we don’t have a grandiose declaration of the Great Commission here in Luke, is that he isn’t quite finished writing. He didn’t need to belabor the point here at the end of the Gospel, since he was going to share how the Great Commission was carried out by the early church. Notice here that we still have all of the elements of the Great commission, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ who suffered and died and rose on the third day and that the repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Name would be preached to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. Let’s pick up from this thought in Acts
Acts 1:4-8 (ESV) 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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 2:1-15 (ESV) 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians 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.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day…[9 a.m.]
This is amazing. I’m going to pause here to let you know that we will be skipping through Peter’s sermon for now (I do plan on revisiting because it is just such a wonderful sermon!) so that we can remain focused on the Gift of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus Christ. Notice here that there are more places listed than there are Apostles at this time. Notice also that each hearer (of which 3,000 would be saved and baptized) heard praises of God in his own foreign language, something that wasn’t done. Since the Law and the Prophets were for the Children of Israel, why would it need to ever be translated into Gentile tongues? Galileans were not exactly known for their scholarly achievements, so any thought that these men were trained in language simply wouldn’t have been entertained. In fact, the very idea that this was the result of drunkenness is in itself a bit absurd. I struggle to understand a drunken person speaking English, much less a language I would recognize to be beyond the knowledge of the drunk. Nevertheless, Peter sets them straight and immediately begins preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s jump to the conclusion of his sermon.
Acts 2:32-39 (ESV) 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
I find the inclusion of this last portion telling. The promise of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the Apostles. The promise of the Holy Spirit was for all who would believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is an integral part of the Gospel. Matthew worded the Great Commission to include the Holy Spirit in the baptism into all who would become disciples. One baptism, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Remember in the first post also, that when the Spirit of God fell on Saul who was anointed as the first king of Israel he prophesied? And the terminology used for the Holy Spirit moving in David is that the Holy Spirit “rushed” on David? Interesting how all of the elements come together in the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit to all who believe. This is not the work of men, but of God the Holy Spirit. Don’t lose sight of that. Many did, and many still do today, but don’t you do it, dear reader. Remember that the whole of Scriptures isn’t about you or me, but about God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit. Yes, friend, this is about God the Holy Spirit moving as a precious promised Gift from Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, for everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.
Now, I urge you to continue reading through Acts (or restart after finishing this blog post) to see very clearly the boldness and the clarity of scriptures granted to the Apostles by God the Holy Spirit to stand firm in the face of judgment and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Seriously, better sermons you will never witness… and not just from the Apostles. Check out Stephen, a deacon, filled with the Holy Spirit and the wisdom and boldness granted him through the Holy Spirit (Acts 6-7). However, right now I want to focus on the importance of preaching the Gospel completely.
After Stephen’s death a great persecution arose on the Church in Jerusalem and the believers (minus the Apostles) scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Now Philip was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he was filled with the Holy Spirit who was performing many signs and wonders through Philip, leading many to believe.
Acts 8:9-24 (ESV) 9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
Now, often this passage is used as a proof-text for those who believe that the speaking in tongues (and for some even prophecy) was granted only to the Apostles and those who had direct contact with them. If we looked at this passage alone and allowed someone to fill in several blanks, I could see that being a very persuasive argument. However, nowhere in the underlined portion do I see it plainly stated that Simon was wrong to ask for something that was only for the Apostles. It isn’t what he was asking for that was wrong, it was that his heart (motive) was not right before God. So much so, that Peter wasn’t sure if repentance would be possible for him. We didn’t cover it, but Peter saw God strike down Ananias and Sapphira for attempting to steal from the Holy Spirit (chapter 5). Also, at the end of the chapter, we see the Holy Spirit use Philip in a way we don’t have recorded of the Apostles… the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away from Gaza to Azotus. How many times have you thought or even prayed, “okay Lord, please instantly move me from here to there as you did Philip”? I will not venture a guess as to why these believers had not yet received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. I think it is important that we see that it sometimes didn’t happen immediately.
Now, the majority of Acts 10 is God working on the Apostle Peter to bring deeper understanding of the very Gospel he preached, that God was indeed bringing in Gentiles. It’s a wonderful story (especially for us Gentiles), but I want to pick up at the beginning of his sermon to Cornelius (a Gentile)
Acts 10:34-48 (ESV) 34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
Their hearts were ready. The pump was clearly primed by the Holy Spirit (God had already spoken to Cornelius in a vision to send for Simon-Peter) because they believed the Gospel even while it was being preached! And the Gift of the Holy Spirit fell on these Gentiles in the same way it fell on the Apostles. Now it would be some time until the fullness of this revelation of the new covenant would be made official (the topical focus of the letter to the Galatians), but in Chapter 11, we see Peter bring this good news of just how far the Gospel will go to save (truly to the ends of the earth for all nations and every tribe and every nation). I would also like to caution against tying the Gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, rather than to the Holy Spirit. So far, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were as much a sign to the Apostles as they were to others, because the Holy Spirit is God, not some parlor trick. Skipping ahead to chapter 15, we see the fruit of Peter’s witness to the Gentiles in the Jerusalem Council. The Elders declare that the yoke of the covenant of Abraham (circumcision) and the Law of Moses should not be tied to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Since the Law of Moses is still being read in synagogues throughout the land, they encouraged Gentile believers to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality, from blood, and food from strangled animals. I believe that from this letter to the believers in Antioch the Holy Spirit then guided Paul to address it more completely to the Galatians, for they had been lead astray by those from the circumcision party (teaching that to be saved, all had to be circumcised into the covenant of Abraham).
Okay, so lets look at one more instance. In Acts 18, we are introduced to Apollos who was preaching in Ephesus that Jesus was the Christ, though he only knew the baptism of John. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately, and then sent him off to Jerusalem to continue preaching. Paul arrives in Ephesus (as Apollos is in Corinth) run into some disciples. Let’s pick up the story in Acts 19:
Acts 19:1-10 (ESV) 19 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. 8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
A couple of notes here. First, while Apollos was teaching from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, the baptism was that of John the Baptist. This is probably one of the things Apollos was corrected in. One question I like to ask whenever I read this passage is, “what prompted Paul to ask the question?” I think it is a fair question to ask of the Holy Spirit yourselves, so I’m not going to dive into what I think might have been at play here. Suffice it to say that since they had received an incomplete Gospel and Baptism, Paul shared the full Gospel, and as they heard it they were baptized in the Name of Jesus and then Paul laid hands on them so that they can receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Interesting how this played out, but again, I want to emphasize that if you are looking for a formula or a system, you’ve already missed it. The Holy Spirit is a person. Look to God, not to a formula, or ritual.
Remember Luke 11:13 (ESV) “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Now, I’ve gone beyond my intended word limit, but I think that is as it should be. So far, we’ve managed to look at God the Holy Spirit as both a Person of the Trinity and a Promised Gift sent by Jesus Christ (God the Son) after He ascended to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven. I’ve done my best to simply share what I see in the Scriptures. If the Lord Wills, the next post we will take a look together at Paul’s instructions regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is a topic that greatly divides the church today as far as doctrine goes. No legitimate doctrine of faith denies the Trinity or that the Holy Spirit is God, or that the Holy Spirit dwells within all those who believe in the Gospel. I say that with great confidence, because if you don’t teach properly these basic truths regarding the Holy Spirit, then the God you teach is not the God plainly described in the Bible. However, what we will be discussing next is not the Gift or Promise of God the Holy Spirit to all who believe; rather, the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to those in whom He dwells, the body of Christ. We will be looking specifically at 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul’s instructions to the church in Corinth.
May the Lord bless and keep you,