Posts Tagged 'Pentecost'

Reflections on Pentecost


“Pentecost” is more than just “speaking in tongues,” although you would think that’s all it’s about these days. “Pentecost” is actually a Jewish feast observed exactly 50 days after Passover, marking the anniversary of God’s giving the Law to Moses. Devout Jews will stay up all night to review the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) in commemoration of this great Feast.

It’s not surprising, then, given the fact that the early Church was made up almost exclusively of Jews, that the new Church appropriated this Jewish Feast and “Christianized” it. To them, it became associated with that great day when the promised Holy Spirit was poured out upon that infant church as they gathered in the now-famous Upper Room during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem.

But is this “Spirit-filled” life a New Testament thing? Did the Holy Spirit have anything to do with people in the Old Testament? One thing is certain, the phenomenon of the Holy Spirit is not just a historical fact. His work in believers transcends history. Let’s take a look.

Filled with the Spirit, Numbers 11:24-29; Acts 2:1-4, 16-17

The Elders, Numbers 11:24-29

Moses had just lead his people out of Egypt; he was their deliverer, and had now become their leader. The burden of this kind of leadership must have been overwhelming and Moses needed all the help he could get. The people faced the grim prospect of having to walk across the desert to reach their destination; they had few provisions and they did what hungry people do: they complained. A lot.

Moses vented to God out of frustration.

Moses said to the Lord, “Why pick on me, to give me the burden of a people like this? Are they my children? Am I their father? Is that why you have given me the job of nursing them along like babies until we get to the land you promised their ancestors?” (Numbers 11:11, 12 TLB)

God always has a plan even though we rarely see it. He shared His plan with Moses:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Summon before me seventy of the leaders of Israel; bring them to the Tabernacle, to stand there with you. I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take of the Spirit which is on you and will put it upon them also; they shall bear the burden of the people along with you, so that you will not have the task alone. (Numbers 11:16, 17 TLB)

When Moses obeyed God’s instructions, an amazing thing happened:

And the Lord came down in the Cloud and talked with Moses, and the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied for some time. (Numbers 11:25 TLB)

God gave the 70 elders His Holy Spirit, as He had with Moses before, and they began to “sound forth the praises of God and declaring His will,” according to the Amplified Old Testament. What the elders did was not unlike the witnessing done by a similar group on the Day of Pentecost. The elders probably went throughout the Hebrew encampment proclaiming the faithfulness of God so far in their journey out of bondage. Essentially these men built up the morale of the people.

Two of the elders, Eldad and Medad by name, for some reason never showed up at the meeting of the elders. In spite of that, we read this:

But two of the seventy—Eldad and Medad—were still in the camp, and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied there. (Numbers 11:6 TLB)

Not everybody was excited about these two elders prophesying. They hadn’t bothered showing up at the Tent of Meeting, so what gave them the right to run around prophesying like the others? Joshua was positively exorcised about it and insisted to Moses that they be stopped. Moses’ answer is epic:

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I only wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!” (Exodus 11:29 TLB)

What a great lesson for Christians of every age: Not all who are serving God effectively are called in the same way nor do we all exercise our gifts the same way. A similar thing happened to Jesus:

His disciple John came to him and said, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons. And we told him not to. After all, he isn’t in our group.” But Jesus said, “You shouldn’t have done that! For anyone who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49, 50 TLB)

“He isn’t in our group.” Yes, the dying words of any church. It’s a mature believer who understands the wisdom of Warren Wiersbe’s words:

We do not use the Holy Spirit, He uses us.

Moses’ answer to Joshua isn’t really a prophecy, but in it he sort of foreshadows what the prophet Joel would utter centuries later:

After I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all of you! Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions. (Joel 2:28 TLB)

The Obedient, Acts 2:1-4

Flash forward to the Day of Pentecost, when The Lord poured out His Spirit on the believers gathered in that small, crowded Upper Room. This time, the miracle happened on a Jewish festival which was celebrated on the “day after the seventh Sabbath,” or 50 days after Passover. Originally it was the festival of the firstfruits of the grain harvest, and it was called the Feast of Weeks because it came after a duration of seven weeks of harvesting that began with the offering of the first sheaf of barley and ended with the wheat harvest. It wasn’t until much later in Judaism that it was considered the anniversary of the the giving of the Law at Sinai.

Just before His ascension, Jesus gave His followers some specific instructions:

And now I will send the Holy Spirit upon you, just as my Father promised. Don’t begin telling others yet—stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven. (Luke 24:49 TLB)

In all, 120 of Christ’s followers obeyed this instruction to the letter, and like Moses’ 70 elders, each one was individually filled with the Holy Spirit accompanied by both audible and visual signs. The Spirit enabled them to speak in all kinds of languages they had never learned so that their listeners could understand their words.

And we all hear these men telling in our own languages about the mighty miracles of God! (Acts 2:11 TLB)

What an amazing day of miracles this was!

Fulfillment of Prophecy, Acts 2:16, 17

The great crowd gathered in Jerusalem for Passover had come from all over the known world and they were witnessing something truly extraordinary. They needed answers, and it was up to Peter to explain it to everybody.

No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel—‘In the last days,’ God said, ‘I will pour out my Holy Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams.’

It wasn’t a “new thing” at all. Joel had prophesied it. Moses had experienced it. God calls people to do His work and in His providence, He empowers them to get the job done.

Spirit-filled living, unity, and service

Fellowship, Acts 2:41-47

The early church was born, and in very short order it numbered into the thousands. Yet for their size, they had no building or buildings and no formal leadership structure. They did, however, have each other – the bond of community.

They worshiped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness… (Acts 2:46 TLB)

The fellowship of the early church revolved around worshiping God at the Jewish temple. It’s true that they met in “small groups,” probably in each other’s homes and they shared meals together, but notice neither their worship nor their fellowship was done “in private,” out of public view. While they didn’t have their own church building (yet), they did make use of the temple grounds for their times together.

All this fellowship led to some astounding spiritual results. The church grew at a phenomenal rate; more and more people were accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior and were becoming part of this new church. These new members were not shunned or turned away, but embraced and made part of this new community of faith. The upbeat, positive attitude and behavior of the church, combined with the excitement and joy of the Lord, impacted the community at large.

Worship, Ephesians 5:18-21

Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him. Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:18, 19 TLB)

Paul was combatting some strange religions in his day; religions that threatened to split and destroy some of his churches. Often these religions involved drunken orgies and mind-altering experiences. Paul’s bone of contention was that drunkenness is merely the gateway to excess, hence his admonitions like this one: don’t use wine in hopes of having a spiritual experience, instead, let the Holy Spirit lead you. Christians should be “filled” with the Spirit. That’s a present imperative; an ongoing and important experience. Ralph Earle observed:

This is not to be a transitory experience, but an abiding one.

Far from a once-in-a-lifetime experience, believers should be filled with the Holy Spirit continually, on moment-by-moment basis. It’s the indwelling of the Spirit that forms the foundation of our fellowship as believers. Of note here is that our fellowship should involve things of a spiritual nature. That’s not to say that Christians should never get together and talk about the weather or sports, but we ought to recognize that the only reason for our fellowship – the only reason for our being together – is the presence of the Lord in our lives.

A fruitful community, Galatians 5:22-25

This group of verses describes how Spirit-filled Christians should live by describing certain attributes or character traits that should be common in our lives. These are known as the “fruit of the Spirit,” and also represent a kind of test – a proof that one is truly filled with the Spirit.

These character traits are not native to human beings, which is why they are the fruit of “the Spirit.” Naturally, there are people who from time-to-time may exhibit some or all of these traits who may not be believers, but when one is controlled by the Spirit, the Spirit will live through him and there will be peace and harmony within the church. When Christians finally learn to let the Holy Spirit control them, the church will be all that God wants it to be. This kind of life is far beyond the ability and strength of man; it is made possible by the Holy Spirit. And yet, it is available to all people who are in Christ.

William Adams Brown, clergyman and academic, once noted:

The church exists to train its members through the practice of the presence of God to be servants of others, to the end that Christlikeness may become common property.

Just so. The more we allow the Holy Spirit access to and control of our lives, the more like Christ we will become. When we become truly Christlike, we will be able to accomplish great things for the Kingdom. Michelangelo’s great wish will find its fulfillment in us:

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.

It’s possible!



Pentecost and the Coming of the Holy Spirit, Luke 2

The Book of Acts is definitely a book of history, but it is a book of history with a difference: there are no dates in it. It is left up to scholars to fill in the chronological blanks. The consensus among Bible scholars and historians is that the events recorded in Acts 2 occurred during the Jewish feast of Pentecost celebrated during the last week of May, in the year 30 AD.

The word “pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” As part of their Feast of Weeks, the Jews celebrated Pentecost on the fiftieth day after Passover. It is also known as the Feast of Harvest, at which the celebrants presented the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.

While Christians have appropriated the word “pentecost” and associate it with the work of the Holy Spirit in the church, that is not the correct use of the word. Pentecost was a Jewish feast, it was part of the the Jewish calendar and has no real meaning outside of that context. The Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost, not because Spirit baptism is a “Pentecostal Blessing,” but because that particular day was the one day when Jerusalem was literally overflowing with visitors attending the day’s festivities. It was the perfect day for the Spirit to descend, fill the followers of Christ, empowering them to witness to the greatest number of people at one time. All these visitors who heard the Gospel would take the Gospel back home with them when the Feast of Weeks was over.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was eluded to in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, where it was carefully distinguished from John’s baptism:

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)

Luke is the only Gospel writer who connects what John the Baptist said with the miracle at Pentecost.

The coming of the Holy Spirit was the final phase of Christ’s mission. First came the Incarnation; when God became man to secure our redemption; to unite man with His Creator. Then came then the Crucifixion, the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, during which He gave His life as a ransom for sinful man; separating those sins from those He came to save. Next, the Resurrection—the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Finally, Pentecost and the coming (or giving) of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

1. All together in one room, Acts 2:1

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

When the Church began, you could squeeze it all into one room. There were some 120 souls waiting patiently for something to happen. Luke gives us a hint as to when the event happened: “when the day of Pentecost came,” which simply means that the Holy Spirit came some time during this particular Day of Pentecost. While Luke gives us some practical information, he is also giving us a statement of great theological import. By mentioning “the Day of Pentecost,” Luke is reaching back in time to embrace the many Old Testament prophecies surrounding the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, like Joel 2:28. Not only prophecies, there were many “foreshadowings” of this great day. In Leviticus 23, we are given all the details of the Jewish feasts and festivals, including Passover. Passover was celebrated in the spring of the year, and this foreshadowed the death of Jesus Christ. He and the disciples celebrated Passover on the evening before His death—the death of the perfect Lamb of God.

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7—8)

After Passover, they were to bring their firstfruits—a sheaf of grain as an offering. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul reckoned that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a kind of firstfruit of the resurrection of all believers to come.

As part of the Feast of Pentecost, we read this in Leviticus 23:17—

From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

The two loaves of bread could not represent Jesus Christ because of the presence of yeast, which represents sin. So what then does the bread represent? This wave offering in Leviticus represents all those who, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, are presented to God, though not perfect, but still redeemed by Christ.

These imperfect believers were “all together in one place.” This phrase suggests that the 120 were not only in the same place at the same time for the same purpose, but they were in unity. However, this unity was not why the Spirit came, as some like to suggest. In fact, the Holy Spirit’s coming to the Church was an event preordained by God. It was an event determined by God in eternity past; God did not give His Spirit because the 120 were manifesting any kind of unity.

The interesting thing about this “unity” is that the 120 were all expecting something to happen; they were gathered together as they had been instructed by the risen Lord, all with a spirit of expectation.

2. The Age of the Spirit, verses 2—4

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Because the Holy spirit is just that, a Spirit, there is nothing sensory about Him. However, for the sake of the 120, along with the coming of the Holy Spirit, God manifested certain visible and audible signs so there could be no mistake that what happened to the faithful that day was what they were expecting.

Wind. The first thing we notice about the coming of the Holy spirit is the suddenness of His appearance. The believers expected something to happen, but when it happened, it was quick, and it was sudden and surprising. Why wind? The Lord in His providence and wisdom manifested the Spirit’s presence using a very familiar thing. Jesus taught this in John 3:8—

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Fire. This sign was in fulfilment of what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11—

I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Of course, what looked like fire really wasn’t fire; it was the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The “tongues of fire” were not so different from what appeared to be dove, descending upon Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River.

What was the significance of this display of sound and light? of wind and fire? There is a distinct parallel between the giving of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. Consider the similarities:

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. (Exodus 19:16—19)

The giving of the Law ushered in a brand new epoch and the Israelites needed to see and hear and experience it in all its fullness. The manifestation of God’s presence on Mount Sinai was unnecessary, but God knew the people needed to be fully alert and conscious of the significance of what was happening. So it was at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit. The era of the Holy Spirit had arrived; the disciples needed to experience God’s presence and His authority in a manner they would never forget.

Tongues. Immediately, the whole group was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Greek text indicates that the entire group, all 120, were filled once, all at the same time. In other words, the Spirit came and stayed with each of the 120; He did not come and go, come and go, as He did in the Old Testament. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the 120 happened one time; they were not baptized in the Spirit over and over. Henceforth, He abides in the Body of Christ, the Church, both corporately and individually. When a sinner confesses Christ as His Savior, he is filled with the Holy Spirit; Jesus Christ comes in and abides in that new believer in the Person of the Holy Spirit. That new believer at the moment of his conversion is not only filled with the Holy Spirit, but he becomes part of the Body of Christ—the Church (that is, the invisible Church). At some point, he will become part of the visible Church, a local body of believers.

When the Spirit filled all those believers, they literally became the “mouthpieces of the Spirit.” At Pentecost, the curse of Babel was lifted. the effect of the Spirit literally reversed what happened in Genesis 11—

Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:7—9)

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and miraculously enabled the Christians to speak in languages all visitors to Jerusalem could understand. In fact, the word “tongue” here means “spoken language.” These “tongues” were not an “unknown language,” but known languages, as Dr. Luke makes clear in verse 6:

When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.

No matter how much some people want to equate the “tongues” here in Acts 2 with the “tongues” Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 14, there is no correlation; they are not the same “tongues.” The purpose of “tongues” here was for a more effective witness in and around Jerusalem. Only God knew how many different languages were represented by the many visitors to Jerusalem during this particular Pentecost. By empowering the believers with the ability to speak in different languages, God was enabling all these visitors to Jerusalem to hear the Gospel in a language they could understand.

There are those who wonder if the miracle was in the speaking or in the hearing. The miracle of “tongues” had to be in the speaking of different language because the Spirit filled the 120, no the crowd who heard them.

3. Final thoughts

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the most significant event in the history of the Church. It is significant theologically and practically. We might say the Spirit came for these two purposes. First, theologically, the Holy Spirit took all those believers and baptized them into ONE Body of believers. The Church existed before the Spirit fell, but it was at best a very loose group with little or no organization. The Church before Pentecost was just a bunch of people who loved Jesus. But when the Spirit came, that bunch of loose knit people were knit together as one; baptized into the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit took that disparate group of men and women and them one.

Second, practically, the Holy Spirit empowered those believers to spread the Gospel. The Spirit came to take the teachings of Jesus and of the Word of God and make them real to the believers, giving them the supernatural unction to proclaim those things to others with confidence in a way they could understand.

After the Spirit fell at Jerusalem, the empowered Church of Jesus Christ began to grow and multiply. When it reached the Samaritans, they received the Holy spirit. When it reached the Gentiles, they received the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Gospel was preached and received by those who heard it, the Spirit filled those new believers immediately.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd


The Gospel of John, various verses

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity; He is as much God as both the Father and Son.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is the often ignored member of the Godhead, usually just mentioned along with the other Two, and rarely understood.  The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has its own name:  Pneumatology, coming from the Greek pneuma, meaning “spirit,” “wind,” or “breath.”

The Holy Spirit is unique to Christianity, and what we know about Him and His work comes from only one source:  the Bible, specifically the New Testament.  Other religions have their founders, their holy writings, and their teachings, but only the New Testament gives us all we know about the Holy Spirit.

1.  How to receive the Holy Spirit, John 14:15—18

There is a lot of confusion about receiving the Holy Spirit, so the best thing to do is read what the Bible says about it.  Verses 13 and 14 make it clear that the power of the Christian comes from prayer—

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  (verses 13, 14)

Jesus was stressing the point that He and the Father were one; yet He was going back to the Father soon, and in going back to the Father, Jesus would make it possible for His followers to do the things He had done all during His earthly ministry; namely working miracles.  There is no other way to interpret these verses:  followers of Jesus Christ have the God-given ability to “ask anything” in the name of Jesus Christ, and He will do it.

Of course, “in my name” should not be taken to mean Jesus is giving us a magical phrase, like “abracadabra.”  Christ never meant this to mean that we could use His name like a magic charm; rather, it was given as a guarantee, like an endorsement on the back of a check.  This also means there is a limitation in what we may ask for:  it must always be in agreement with what Jesus would want and also be consistent with His holy character.  Not only that, verse 13 limits the kind of prayers that will be answered to those that bring “glory to the Father.”

This limitation puts the pressure on the believer to pray properly.  How can we be sure if we are praying the kind of prayer that is guaranteed to be answered?  Verse 15 gives us the first clues:

If you love me, you will obey what I command.

First, loving Christ is essential.  This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many believers don’t know how to manifest their love for Christ.  Simply declaring your love for Him is virtually meaningless.  Our love for Christ is demonstrated is our obedience to His Word.  The word “obey” means far more than merely agreeing with something Jesus said, it means “doing” what Jesus taught consistently.

Those who keep Christ’s commands will receive a tremendous blessing from Jesus—

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. (verses 16, 17a)

Jesus, as our Mediator, made a request when He went back to be with His Father.  The phrase, “another Counselor” may also be translated “another of the same kind.”  In other words, we may consider the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ in another form, and yet from the way Jesus spoke, the Holy Spirit is not just a supernatural power or Jesus Himself in a different uniform, but another Person, just like the Father and the Son.  If Jesus was a Person, then the Holy Spirit must also be a Person if He is “another of the same kind.”

The Holy Spirit was given to believers, then, because Jesus specifically requested it.  In fact, the whole Trinity was involved in the giving of the Spirit:  the Father gave, the Son sent, and the Spirit came.  Hendriksen made an interesting remark:

The Holy Spirit is the person in whom the Father and the Son meet one another.

The Greek word translated “counselor” or sometimes “comforter” is parakletos, which means a variety of things:  “advocate,”  “intercessor,” and “pleader.”  Originally, parakletos referred to one “who is called alongside to help another person.”  This gives us a good idea of what the Holy Spirit’s main ministry is:  He is always on duty, helping the person in whom He dwells.

But the Holy Spirit is not for everybody; His presence in a believer’s life is a gift that the world can never experience—

The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  (verse 17)

The first part of verse 17 is really connected the verse 16, but is a powerful thought.  He is the “Spirit of truth,” meaning that the Holy Spirit would never lead a believer into anything false or harmful in any way to a Christian.  Since the world is full of lies and liars, in general, it “cannot accept” the Holy Spirit.  Notice the careful choice of words:  the world cannot accept the Spirit; Jesus did not say the world “would not.”  It is as though the Holy Spirit operates on a wavelength unknown to the world, known only to the Christian.  This makes the Holy Spirit an intensely personal gift!  Christians are the only people who can understand, appreciate, and experience the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Jesus loved His disciples so much, that He said this—

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  (verse 18)

What an encouragement this must have been to The Twelve!  He was about to leave them, yet He promised that He would “come” to them.  He is not referring to His Second Coming, but to Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came to the infant Church.  However, what is often overlooked is that the phrase “I will come to you” is written in the present tense and could very well look like this:  “I am coming to you.” The use of the present tense of the verb indicates “repeated comings.”   Some scholars think that Jesus is referring to all of His comings:  at Pentecost, His resurrection, His Second Coming, His judgment, etc.  However, given the narrow context, it seems more likely Jesus is referring to repeated outpourings of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and continues to come to indwell believers to this very day.  Each time a sinner comes to Christ, repents and believes, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in him.

2.  What the Holy Spirit does, John 14:26; 16:12—14

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  (John 14:26)

From this verse, it seems clear exactly what the function of the Holy Spirit is:  He is a teacher.  There is a divergence of thought throughout the Church as to what the Holy Spirit does in the believer’s life.  In one corner there are the Pentecostals and Charismatics with their stress on speaking in tongues and other gifts of the Spirit.  In the other corner are the mainline denominations that pay lip service to the Holy Spirit but little else. The truth is found in Scripture:  the function of the Holy Spirit is to “teach.” This does not mean that the Holy Spirit will make a Christian into some kind genius or that He will make Christian students pass their tests without having to study.   In fact, the teaching of the Holy Spirit is very narrow in scope:  He will remind Christians of the teachings of Christ.  Not only that, without regard to any particular gift of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will teach only what a believer already knows:

[He] will remind you of everything [Jesus] said to you.

You cannot be reminded of that which you never knew in the first place.  If you wonder why you never seem to experience the working of the Holy Spirit in your life, perhaps it is because you are not doing your part in reading and studying the Scriptures!

Having said that, the work of the Holy Spirit has another dimension—

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16:12—14)

The first part of this group of verses says a lot about ourselves; we don’t know it all.  As Christians we keep growing in grace and in our knowledge of Him.  The question is:  How do we do that?  In answer to that, Jesus intimates that reading the Bible is not the complete answer; the Holy Spirit must be involved—He must be our Teacher and Guide.

Remember, Jesus had already called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth,” so it makes complete sense that He would lead us into all truth.  In the very strict interpretation of this verse, the Holy Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost, and enabled them to write the truth; the inspired Scriptures.  But in the broader sense, the Holy Spirit today guides believers into truth, if they are willing to be led.  The Holy Spirit gives us discernment to tell the difference between truth and error.

The “truth” that the Holy Spirit leads believers into must involve the Word of God, given—

He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears.  (verse 13b)

Jesus is not telling His disciples or modern readers that the Holy Spirit will give us “new revelations” from the spiritual plane.  He will give the earnest student of the Bible understanding he otherwise would not have.  He will enable the Christian to take the Word of God and apply it in meaningful ways to his life and to any situation he may find himself.

The fact that the Holy Spirit will:  …tell you what is yet to come (verse 13c), does not mean that Christians will turn into fortune tellers or prophets because the Holy Spirit is in them.  Given that one of the names of the Holy Spirit is “the Comforter,” and given that knowing what is to come generally can lessen the stress in one’s life, we can see that this function of the Holy Spirit is simply part of His role as One who enables Christians to live in peace.   The Word of God is full of comfort, which the Holy Spirit enables us to understand and to remember.

Finally, a function of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to God.  The working of the Holy Spirit will never draw attention to Himself or to a person in whom He dwells; Christ will always be glorified when the Holy Spirit is allowed to work.  Simply put, the Holy Spirit makes God and Jesus Christ real to people.  Hoskyns wrote—

The power of the Holy Spirit does not consist in secret and mystical revelations but in the external preaching of the Gospel, which makes men revolt from the world and attaches them to the Church.

The Persons of the Trinity always glorify each other.

In concluding His teaching on the Holy Spirit and His returning to the Father, Jesus said this—

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

The implications of this single verse can fill a library.  Very simply put, Jesus told His disciples, and us by extension, “You will definitely overcome the world.”  Part of our ability to “overcome” the world is that fact that the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

The Holy Spirit in the Church Today

Jesus Christ lived before His incarnation and continued to live on after His ascension; but for some 30 years in between those two events, He came to earth to perform a specific mission. Having accomplished it, He returned home to be with the Father. So the Holy Spirit came into the world at an appointed time for a specific mission and He too will leave when His mission is completed.

1. Three Dispensations of the Trinity

There are three major dispensations or periods of time in Scriptures that correspond to the Three Persons of the Godhead (the Trinity).

  • The Old Testament is the dispensation of the Father.
  • The New Testament is the dispensation of the Son.
  • The Age of Grace, in between the ascension and the Second Coming of Christ, in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry on earth will continue until Jesus comes back, and then another dispensational ministry will begin.

The whole Trinity works together to manifest God during each of the dispensations; each Member exercises an earthly ministry.

  • The Father descends at Sinai;
  • The Son descends at the Incarnation and the Father commends the Son from Heaven;
  • The Spirit descends at Pentecost and the Son commends the Spirit and the Spirit testifies to the Son.

As the Son of God became incarnate in a human body at His birth, so the Holy Spirit became incarnate in the Church, which is His body. This is what happened on the day of Pentecost. What the cradle was to the incarnate Christ so the upper room was to the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at exactly what happened on that day.

The Day of Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1 NIV)

Birth of the Church

The Feast of Pentecost is a Jewish feast celebrated 50 days after Passover. It’s place within the Jewish calendar is all-important.

  • Passover commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egypt in the night after the people of God ate the slaughtered lamb in houses marked by it’s blood. This is typical of the death of Christ, the Lamb of God, whose blood shelters us from the judgment of God.
  • On the Sabbath after Passover a sheaf of specially selected barley was reaped by the priests and offered before God as the first-fruits of the harvest. Similar to the tithe principle, it was offered in recognition of God’s rulership and ownership over the forthcoming harvest. This is also typical of Christ as “the first fruits of those fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). In other words, as He was resurrected, so all believers will be resurrected in due time. He is the guarantee that all believers will follow Him.
  • 49 days follow this offering and on the 50th day, Pentecost, the first two loaves of bread made from the wheat harvest are waved before God, again in acknowledgment of God’s headship over that harvest.

What does all this have to do with what happened in the upper room? The 120 in the upper room were the “first loaves” of the Christian church, offered up to the Lord by the Holy Spirit 50 days after the resurrection of Christ. Those 120 men and women were just the first-fruits of millions of believers that have followed since.

Evidence of Christ’s Glorification

The descent of the Holy Spirit was a “message” from heaven, announcing Christ’s arrival the God’s right hand–

Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Acts 2:33 NIV)

The disciples knew that their Lord had ascended because He answered them by the “sound from heaven.”

The Completion of Christ’s Work

The Exodus was not complete until 50 days later, when Israel gathered at Mount Sinai and organized as the people of God. Similarly, the work of the atonement was not completed until, in the fullest sense, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred, as a sign that Christ’s sacrifice was accepted in heaven and that now His work was done.

The Anointing of the Church

As the Lord’s baptism had been followed by His ministry in Galilee, so the baptism of the church was to be preparatory to a world-wide ministry that could only be fulfilled in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Indwelling of the Church

After the nation organized itself at Mt. Sinai, God came down to dwell in their midst, in the Tabernacle. On the day of Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit came down to dwell in another kind of tabernacle: the collective body (the church) and individual believers.

3. The Ministry of the Spirit

In simplest of terms, the Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative on earth to whom has been committed the administration of the Church until Christ returns. Christ took His position in Heaven at the Father’s right hand (symbolic of a place of high authority), and the Spirit came down to being the work of building up the Body of Christ.

The perfecting of the Body of Christ is the ultimate purpose of the Comforter.

When we read the book of Acts and the Epistles, we get the impression that Paul and Peter and all the very early church leaders utterly depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance in all aspects of their lives and ministry.

The Spirit’s control is recognized in these aspects of the life of the Church:

  • Administration. The expansion of the church in Acts were commanded and approved by the Holy Spirit. Paul was ever-conscious that his whole ministry was inspired by the Holy Spirit. On all his journeys, Paul was guided and protected by the Spirit. The Spirit guided the church in it’s organization. Acts 8:29; 10:19, 44; 13:2, 4; Rom. 15:18—19; etc.
  • Preaching. The first Christians were accustomed to hearing the Word “preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Peter 1:12). Note the words of 1 Thess. 1:5,

[O]ur gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.

A.J. Gordon once observed, “Our age is losing its grip on the supernatural—the pulpit is descending to the level of the platform.”

  • Prayer. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. We call that prayer “the Lord’s Prayer.” But before leaving, our Lord spoke of a new kind of prayer, prayer “in my name,” John 16:23. This doesn’t mean repeating His name like a kind of magic charm, but by approaching God spiritually, united to Christ by the Spirit.
  • Singing. When they were filled with the Spirit, believers spoke to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18—19). Being filled with the Spirit means that when you turn and speak to each other and when you sing to God, you do so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “Making music in your heart to the Lord” denotes a kind of spontaneous melody of praise and worship to God inspired by the Holy Spirit. In other words, anywhere, anytime is the appropriate time to worship God.
  • Testimony. In the very early church, there was no distinction between the minister and the laity, as we have today. The church was governed by a group or council of elders, but the ministry of preaching or testifying was not confined only to them. They all spoke as the Spirit moved them.

4. The Ascension of the Spirit

What is true of Christ is also true of the Spirit. After He has accomplished His mission during this dispensation, He will return to heaven in a body which He now inhabits—the Church.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:15—17)

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