by Bob Burridge ©2016
Power from the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)
After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appeared alive for 40 days. During that time he taught his disciples about the Kingdom of God. That had been the center of his earthly ministry, and continued to be the theme of his resurrection lessons.
The kingdom had been symbolized in Israel. They were given written copies of the laws of God’s kingdom. They were told that becoming a child of God was not earned. It came by faith, trusting that God would adopt them. The temple worship was to show that Messiah would come to take up our offense to satisfy God’s justice. Their leaders were to show submission to God, their King. They were to be a noticeably different people. They and their children were to be marked out as belonging to God’s kingdom.
But the kingdom would be seen even more clearly in the Apostolic church. They would have a complete Bible: the promises and rules of the Kingdom. They were reminded that becoming a child of God was not earned. It came by faith, trusting that God would adopt them. The church sacraments would show that Messiah had already come and satisfied God’s justice. Their leaders would show submission to God their King. They would also be a noticeably different people; not for their outward customs, but for their love and moral living. They and their children would be marked out as belonging to God’s kingdom.
But they were not ready yet to spread the good news and to build his kingdom. First they must go back to Jerusalem and wait. God was going to send the Holy Spirit to make them able to do their work. Then Jesus ascended and disappeared into a cloud. He returned to the throne of heaven to reign forever at the right hand of the Father. The disciples obeyed. They returned to Jerusalem, chose Matthias to replace Judas, and waited in prayer, fully expecting God to be faithful to his promise.
1. When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.
Pentecost was the 50th day after Passover (7 complete Sabbaths plus one day; Leviticus 23:15f). The “first-fruits of the wheat harvest” (Exodus 34:22) were presented to God. Later the Jews also made it a celebration of the anniversary of the giving of law on Sinai (Exodus 19:1).
Many Jews gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Empire for the feast. It was about ten days after Jesus’ ascension. Almost 7 weeks since his resurrection.
While the disciples were gathered together in one place the promised Spirit came suddenly upon them. We do not know where they were gathered. Some think they were still in the upper room. Others say they had gone to the temple area where the thousands were converted upon hearing Peter’s sermon. (:41)
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.
These were symbols of of the coming of God to bring judgment and life.
There was a noise like a strong rushing wind. We do not know if there really was a wind or just a sound like the wind. It does not matter. The symbolism of wind remains.
Wind was often a symbol of the Spirit’s invisible work. The word translated as “spirit” is “pneuma” (πνεῦμα). It can also mean breath, breeze, a current of air, wind. The same word is translated as “wind” in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” In that verse Jesus used the wind to illustrate to Nicodemus how the Spirit moves invisibly in those born again by God’s grace.
In Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Prophet described his vision of the dry bones. He saw a valley filled with the remains of dead men. But when the wind blew on them they took on flesh and became alive. God said the dry bones represented Israel, dead in sin and corruption. The wind represented the Spirit coming to breathe life into Israel.
This special Pentecost was a fulfillment of that prophesy. Physical Israel had become spiritually dead. The Spirit came to revitalize the faithful into a renewed living spiritual nation.
Flames of fire filled the house, and rested on each person. John the baptist said Jesus would baptize in a new way. He would baptize with the Spirit and in fire. (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16)
We all know how God showed his divine presence to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2ff). Now his presence was seen in raw flames. The flames came on each individual, showing that in this new age, God’s presence would not be represented in a Temple in Jerusalem, but in the lives of each believer.
They all began to speak in other languages. The Bible warned that Judgment would come if Israel as a nation fell into unbelief and sin. Deuteronomy 28:49 said, “The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand” When God was ready to judge Israel it would be by a foreign nation, and they would hear foreign languages. Isaiah 28:11 adds, “For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people.”
The hearing of foreign languages would be a sign of God’s judgment on Israel. He would use a Gentile nation to finally end the perverted sacrifices in the temple defiled by wicked Priests. It was Rome that was used to finally destroyed old Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
The time had come when the Jewish era was ending. A greater era, including believers from all nations, was beginning. The Jews should have realized this meant their dominance was over. Those who persecuted the followers of Christ should be alarmed – the sign of Judgment had come.
As the gospel spread to the Gentiles this sign was repeated in various places. They spoke in other languages confirming their inclusion in the New Zion, the Spiritual Kingdom of God’s True Israel. (Acts 10 & 19)
At Corinth there were abuses that had to be corrected. But even there, tongues was a sign to unbelievers of God’s judgment ending apostate Israel. 1 Corinthians 14:22, “Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.”
Tongues were given only for the founding of the Apostolic church. Tongues were a supernatural means for God to display his judgment ending the Jewish era. That that happened almost 2000 years ago, it would serve no purpose today. It marked the beginning of the non-Jewish, Gentile era. Once the Apostolic Church was established, tongues would have no purpose.
The charismatics today misunderstand the biblical meaning of this supernatural event. They make tongues a sign of something very different.
How can the Holy Spirit come when, as god, he is already always with us? God fills all space, all the time. He’s “omni-present”. Since the Holy Spirit is God he’s always been everywhere. His coming wasn’t that he came to where he hadn’t been before.
The Holy Spirit’s always ministered to believers. Ever since the fall of man in Eden, humans have been inclined toward evil. The only way they could repent, have true faith, obey, or understand spiritual things, was if the Holy Spirit was at work in them.
The Old Testament often credits the Spirit of God as the One who enabled God’s people, and gave them spiritual understanding.
Some new relationship must have begun at Pentecost. Before Pentecost the Holy Spirit must have regenerated lost humans by God’s grace, indwelt saved humans to specially minister to them, produced the fruit of the Spirit in them. Otherwise these things could not have happened. But the Spirit’s filling seems to have been more rare then.
When someone is “filled” with the Holy Spirit, they are specially enabled to do something God calls them to do. He filled the kings to rule well over Israel. He filled the Prophets to speak accurately the word of God. He filled the Priests when they had special jobs to do.
But after Pentecost the Holy Spirit became available to fill all believers. Since we all reign with Christ, we are called kings and princes. There are no prophets today. Instead we’re all called to testify to God’s prophetic word in our Bibles. There are no Priests today. Jesus was the last Priest who made the last sacrifice. We are all called to tell about how he paid for sin as the final sacrifice all the previous ones foreshadowed.
As the Holy Spirit specially filled kings, prophets and priests, today he is available to fill us all with his power as we carry out our various jobs and kingdom work.
This coming was also called a “baptism” of the Holy Spirit. When we baptize with water one of the things it symbolizes is that the Holy Spirit descends upon each believer when they become a child of God. We sprinkle or pour water when we baptize because that’s how God’s law required baptisms to be done. It symbolizes the coming down of the Spirit on us.
John the baptist said in Mark 1:8, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The letters of the New Testament make it clear that Spirit Baptism occurs with every believer once, when God regenerates them.
Pentecost was the first such baptism of the new era. We do not expect the same results today, such as fire and speaking in tongues, each time the Spirit comes. There would be no reason today to warn ancient Israel of coming judgment, and the beginning of a new age. It’s already happened.
But Spirit baptized believers are not all always filled with the Spirit.
Filling involves repeatedly coming under the Spirit’s enablement. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Literally it could better be translated, “be being filled …” as a “durative present tense verb”. Tht is, we are to be under the Spirit’s control in our work just as someone would be under the control of alcohol if he drinks too much wine.
On various occasions the same people are said to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. It’s not a once-for-all event like Spirit baptism. It’s a repeated need. We always need to be coming to Christ for Spirit enablement as we go about the work he calls us to. A church can only be empowered by the Holy Spirit, when its members as individuals are empowered by the Spirit.
The filling of the Spirit comes with prayer. Luke 11:13 tells us, “… how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Prayer is a means God established for that filling.
We should pray for the Spirit’s filling for each skill we need in our work. To approach our daily obedience to Christ without prayer for the Spirit’s enablement is like trying to do your best work without eating well or getting enough sleep. Before you attempt to work, stop and pray for the Spirit’s enablement. Be specific. Ask Him to empower you to do each thing you attempt to do.
The filling of the Spirit demands a consecrated life. Ephesians 4:14-32 is a long section about moral conduct. It forbids us from being selfish, unforgiving, deceitful, unkind, etc. :27, “give no opportunity to the devil.” :30, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”
Jesus called us to live morally obedient lives. In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” Obedience also means that when we sin we come to Christ in humble repentance for forgiveness. Moral obedience is itself an evidence of salvation. It is not salvation’s cause. We are saved by grace through faith. But when we are morally disobedient, we are not being good tools for the Spirits use.
God may withdraw his Spirit’s enablement when there is moral disobedience. That’s what worried David in Psalm 51:11 when he prayed, “… take not your Holy Spirit from me.” He was not afraid he would lose his salvation, that’s not possible. He was not afraid the Spirit would be absent from his part of creation, God is everywhere.
But David had just sinned with Bathsheba. He remembered the king before him, Saul. When he sinned God took away the blessing of Spirit enablement. He became a pitiful king. David did not want that to happen to him too.
If we are to succeed in our work for Christ; in obeying him, showing his lordship, telling others about the good news, then we need to be first enabled by the Holy Spirit.
Before we see the power of the Holy Spirit empower a church, we must have the Holy Spirit empower the individual members of that spiritual family.
God calls us as individuals to serve him. We need to sincerely and diligently ask God for the filling of His Holy Spirit. We should plead with Him that he’ll enable us in whatever we do to honor Christ and to promote His kingship. Work on eliminating every moral hindrance from your life.
(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)