The Holy Spirit - Learning from Acts
We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’ would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified’. Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up... into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’ (Acts 1:11,8). He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’. He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). ‘In Jerusalem’, on ‘the day of Pentecost’ there are ‘Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:1,5). They are ‘amazed’ at what they hear - ‘we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God’ (Acts 2:7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!’ (Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’, the apostles pave the way for Peter’s bold proclamation: ‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (36). Empowered ‘by the Holy Spirit’, this message - ‘Jesus is Lord’ - is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (Acts 2:41-47).
Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’...’ (Acts 4:31-33).
There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’ (Acts 5:14). There was persecution (Acts 5:17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (Acts 5:42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (Acts 6:1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men... known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ (Acts 6:3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’ - ‘filled with the Spirit’ - as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’ (Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (Acts 6:7).
In life and death, Stephen was Christlike. In life and death, he made a great impact. In life, we see him, ‘full of grace and power’, doing ‘great wonders and signs among the people’. People noticed that ‘his face was like the face of an angel’. Even his enemies took notice of him. Unable to ‘withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke’, they decided that he needed to be silenced. (Acts 6:8,15,10-11). In death, we hear him praying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (Acts 7:59-60). In Stephen’s words, we hear an echo of Christ’s words from the Cross (Luke 23:34,46). Stephen was dying. Stephen was praying. Saul was watching. Saul was listening (Acts 8:1). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:4-6)!
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; Acts 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (Acts 10:44; Acts 11:15).
Barnabas ‘was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord’ (Acts 11:24). Let’s be like Barnabas, giving ourselves to the Lord and asking Him to make us more useful in His service.
‘Set apart’ by ‘the Holy Spirit’, ‘sent out by the Holy Spirit’, ‘filled by the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 13:2,4,9): In the ministry of Paul and Barnabus, we see the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In their teaching, we have ‘the teaching of the Lord’ (Acts 13:12). This is what Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (Acts 16:13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (Acts 16:16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (Acts 16:25-34). They had gone to Philippi ‘to preach the Gospel to them’ (Acts 16:10). Even when they were ‘in chains’, the Gospel proved itself to be ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’ (Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). ‘The Word of God is not bound’. It is ‘living and active’. ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword’, it is ‘the sword of the Spirit’ (2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (Acts 16:30-31)? ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit... with all perseverance’ (Ephesians 6:18).