Power of the Spirit (E)
As we enter this chapter,
we find the disciples anticipating a new beginning. Earlier the disciples
are joined together in constant prayer as they work to follow God's plan
for their new beginning. They are struggling to follow God's plan according
to his timetable. They had spent three struggling years on the peripheral
of God's will as they sought an understanding of what it was all about.
Now we find them in Jerusalem immediately after appointing Matthias to
take Judas' place. Little do they know they are about to help bring about
the birth of the church of our Lord.
On Pentecost, or Feast
of Firstfruits, devout Jews from all over the world gathered for this annual
Jewish celebration. It was a day when they celebrated the agriculture harvest.
Pentecost occurred 50 days after the Passover, which would be on Sunday.
Luke mentions seventeen different geographical locations from which the
Jews came. They all spoke different languages. No one understood anybody.
As they meet together on Pentecost, a strange thing happens. God's Spirit
descends upon those twelve Galileans. As the Spirit fills them, they begin
to speak in other languages. Amazingly, the Spirit descended upon the apostles,
miraculously enabling them to speak the native languages of those gathered.
Everyone miraculously heard the wonders of God simply proclaimed in each
person's native tongue.
are needed. When President Carter was president, one of his interpreters
was fired. He said something that was to be interpreted to a foreigner.
The interpreter mistranslated what was said. He was fired. There was none
of this on Pentecost. Everyone heard very plainly the wonderful message
of God. Those speaking miraculously understand what they themselves are
saying. Those listening plainly hear the message in their own familiar
language. They are perplexed, utterly amazed and they marvel at what is
taking place. There is some confusion about what is taking place. Initially,
some believe the apostles are drunk. Yet, each understands in their native
language. No drunk could pull this off .
The twelve apostles
received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as promised by Christ. Jesus said,
"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless
I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send
him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in
regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:
in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to
righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no
longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now
stands condemned." (John 16:7-11)
As the Spirit came,
the disciples praised God in different languages. He empowered Peter to
preach and then the Spirit convicted the listeners so that 3,000 of them
were saved as they surrendered to Christ in water baptism. God took these
ignorant and unlearned men who had emptied themselves at the foot of the
cross and filled them with his fullness through his Holy Spirit. The excitement
is astounding as the fullness of God's Spirit enables them to share the
message with others. With that kind of excitement, it is little wonder
they appear to some to be drunk.
Filled With God's
How do you rise from
the dust of shattered dreams, hurt and failure? The apostles had followed
Jesus for three years before they collapsed at the foot of the cross. Now
they are seeking a new beginning. They didn't run from their failure by
going to another town. They only walked 3/4 of a mile back to Jerusalem.
The garden from which they fled on that awful night was in sight. Calvary
was still visible. The religious hierarchy that crucified Christ was still
in place. That's where they decided to take their stand. They sought a
new beginning among those who had crucified their Lord.
What chance would
they have had on Pentecost without the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
What chance do we have in finding God today without the Spirit's leading
through the words initially given through the apostles? What chance does
the cause of Christ have without the influence of the Spirit through our
Initially on Pentecost,
when God's Spirit broke through in a spectacular way, Luke gives no indication
of what the apostles were saying. He only speaks of their reactions resulting
from the Spirit's influence. They were amazed and perplexed about the wonders
of God, which they heard in their own language. Some made fun, while others
thought they were drunk. But in the final analysis, the Spirit's influence
was all-important. The Spirit was cultivating their minds to ask, "What
does this mean?" Peter reminds them that only God's Spirit could make this
spectacular event possible.
These men are not drunk,
as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken
by the prophet Joel: "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit
on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will
see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both
men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood
and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the
moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
The Spirit came
to manifest God's power and approval. Even Jesus needed God's approval
to accomplish his purpose. Peter said, "Men of Israel, listen to this:
Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders
and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know
. . . " (Acts 2:22 NIV)
What chance do
we have today without the enabling power of God's Spirit?
Paul wrote, "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die;
but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will
live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For
you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but
you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs-- heirs of God and co-heirs with
Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also
share in his glory." (Romans 8:13-17)
Distinctiveness of the Spirit's Work
We recognize two
distinct ways the Holy Spirit was working on Pentecost. Initially,
the Spirit endeavored to cultivate their hearts through the miraculous
speaking of different languages. Secondly, the Spirit endeavored to plant
the word of God in their hearts through Peter's message. Initially the
Spirit overwhelmed the apostles as they spoke in different languages. The
disciples were overwhelmed, as the Spirit descended to guide their speech
through his enabling power. As far as we know, this only happened to the
The purpose of the Spirit-guided
message on Pentecost was to convict them of their guilt in regard to sin
and to teach them about God's righteousness and judgment. The Spirit sought
to lead everyone through the message of Peter. It was not an overwhelming
force to the 3,000 who responded. The final response to allow the Spirit
to lead was the decision of each individual. The Spirit sought to convict
the listeners of their guilt and sin through the Spirit guided message
Peter spoke. Hearts had been cultivated and the seed had been sown. Now
they must receive it.
Although there was a
miraculous powerful manifestation of God's presence, it was the message
that Peter spoke that led the 3,000 to salvation. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians
saying, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because
our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with
the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you
for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite
of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the
Holy Spirit." (1Thessalonians 1:4-6) The power of the Spirit made
the apostles credible. But it was obedience to the message that saved.
It is the knowledge
that the Spirit brings that leads us to salvation. Peter said, "Grace and
peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our
Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and
godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and
goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious
promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,
and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter
It was the reception
of Peter's message that would allow the Spirit to dwell in them. When the
people heard Peter's message, " . . . they were cut to the heart and said
to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied,
'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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who
are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call.' With many
other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves
from this corrupt generation." (Acts 2:37-40)
It was upon their conviction
of their guilt of sin and God's righteous judgment that they came to a
realization of their need of the Spirit's filling and leading. A correct
response to their failure and spiritual need was the only thing that would
bring the Spirit's enabling power. It was the only way God's Spirit could
enable a new beginning.
Many long for
another Pentecost Spirit-filled moment. But the miraculous filling
of the Spirit only happened twice. It happens here in Acts 2, as God shows
his approval upon the disciple's work to the Jews. It happens again in
Acts chapter 10, as God's Spirit descends upon the first Gentile converts
to the gospel. There is no record of this happening each time a believer
is baptized. Yet we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit.
To be sure, there is
a difference in baptism of the Holy Spirit and the command to be filled
with the Spirit. Paul wrote, "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand
what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.
Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns
and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always
giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:17-20)
If it is not possible
to be filled with God's Spirit today, why would Paul command it?
In commanding us to be filled with the Spirit, Paul also indicates that
today we have a choice in the matter. We can refuse to live sober lives,
or we can choose for our lives to be led by the sobriety of God's Spirit.
The enabling power of the Spirit is our choice.
Listen to Paul's prayer,
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power
through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your
hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established
in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide
and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love
that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all
the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Although the Spirit's
filling was overwhelming, it was due to their willingness to follow God.
The first century disciples were overwhelmed as the Spirit of God
descended upon them. The Spirit took control of their mental faculties
as He empowered them to speak. It was evidence that they were speaking
for God. However, experiencing the fullness of God through his Spirit was
largely voluntary. They had emptied themselves at the feet of Jesus. They
had voluntarily followed his plan and it put them in the right place at
the right time. This made the Spirit's work possible. Although the Spirit
does not overwhelm us, it is our choice that makes his work possible.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians
5:19, "Do not quench the Spirit." Another version says, "Do not put out
the Spirit's fire." The enabling power of the Spirit is only available
to those who are enabling the Spirit to dwell in their hearts through faith.
If we put out the Spirit's fire, we are doomed in our inadequacies. There
is no way we can praise God and sing his praises without being filled with
his enabling Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18-19)
Some hill people in
India, called the Kurkue, have a strange religion which demands that they
should be filled with demons! When this supreme desire has been satisfied,
they believe their lives will be immune to outward attacks from the devil.
While they recognize that a "good spirit" has created the world and brought
them into existence, they disregard him because they feel he is too benevolent
to harm them. A missionary who visited this tribe of approximately 100,000
declared, "If the same number of God's people had as their ultimate aim
in life the desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I believe such a
blessed surrender would cause a tremendous awakening. The evangelistic
results would reach to all corners of the globe!"
Upon the Lord Shall Be Saved"
If we were looking for
individuals to do what these men did, we would look for individuals who
possessed certain strengths. We would only choose those that emanate self-confidence
and power in an aggressive manner. We would choose those who have a proven
The apostles had used
all their human strength to follow Jesus and had arrived at Pentecost empty.
The beauty of it all is now that they have emptied themselves; God is able
to fill them with the fullness of his power through his Spirit. God has
brought them face to face with their greatest failures. Now God is preparing
them to face their greatest fears. God is filling their emptiness with
his message of salvation.
When the disciples emptied
themselves at the foot of the cross, it was a personal invitation for the
Spirit to fill them with God's fullness. Their emptiness made room for
the Spirit to dwell in their hearts.
inadequacy was a special gift.
enabled them to see their need. Amazingly, in God's scheme of things, those
who have the greatest failures have the greatest potential for greatness.
This is always true in God's order of things. If you have spent all your
life in failure, only God's grace can extend you hope and consolation under
God's rule. Our inadequacies usually have a profound
negative impact. However, the most positive step in solving any problem
is to realize your own needs.
As you look at these
men who had deserted Jesus at the foot of the cross, you began to realize
that now they are at a great advantage. At least they understand their
needs. The emptier you are, the more of God's fullness you experience.
Grace demands that it be so, for grace is designed to fill our emptiness.
The emptier the vessel, the greater the filling.
How many of us have
come up against our failures, inadequacies and fears? We see them everyday
as we wrestle with work and family. We try to be good providers, parents
and role models --- good wives and husbands. Oftentimes we fail, but we
can rest assured that God is more than willing to help us face our inadequacies.
He desires to replace our inadequacies with his fullness.
To have a new
beginning we must make a voluntary response to God's Word in repentance.
It is that commitment we make at baptism, to die to ourselves and come
alive to God (Romans 6:3-4), which makes the Spirit's leading possible.
We turn to God in a willingness to change our minds about the way we live.
It is then the Spirit takes control, He begins to fill us with the fullness
of God's revelation as we respond to the Word of God.
I am crucified with
Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the
life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me.
If you're looking for
a new start in life, it begins with the leading of God's Spirit. That is
where it begins with each of us. There must be a willingness to obey his
message. It is up to us to choose to be filled with God's presence through
the working of his Holy Spirit. We won't experience the same overwhelming
power, but we will experience the same enabling powering that comes through
the Spirit's leading.