Life in the Spirit, Part 1
May 14, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Happy Ascension Day! This is 40 days after Easter, the day the Scriptures tell us that Jesus ascended into Heaven (see Acts 1:3). There is much significance tied to the ascension of Christ (his vindication, his exaltation, his intercession, etc.), but I would like to spend a few weeks reflecting on the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says in John 16:7, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” The ascension of Christ precedes, and directly causes, the giving of the Holy Spirit. Let’s unpack some of the riches of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Approaching his ascension, Jesus tells his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father… ‘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 1:4, 8). The Holy Spirit is a gift of the Father for his people to receive power to be witnesses of Christ. The book of Acts (which our Bibles may title “The Acts of the Apostles,” but may be more appropriately titled “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”) gives an account of that very reality.
Notice how the Spirit works throughout the book of Acts:
Peter stands before the very same Jewish court that condemned Jesus to death. We read in 4:8-12, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-- by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’” Peter’s boldness in proclaiming the name of Jesus in such a hostile environment is the power of the Spirit.
One of the first deacons, Stephen, was described as a “man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (6:5). He also stood before the same council and they “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (6:10). Even as the council was filled with rage, seeking to stone him, Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit… and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (7:55). It was the power of the Spirit that enabled Stephen to bear witness to the Christ and face death with hope.
The author of Acts also gives us a general summary of the work of the Spirit in the church. Acts 9:31 reads, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” The power of the Spirit brought peace to the church and caused it to multiply.
It was the Spirit that led Peter to preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his household (10:19).
It was the Holy Spirit that sends out Paul & Barnabas on their first missionary journey (13:2-4).
It was the Spirit that guides Paul to go further in his second missionary journey in order to bring the Gospel to Europe (16:6-7).
There are many more instances in the story of Acts of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of the apostles and the church to bear witness to Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Is it any different today? No! We receive the same Spirit for the same purpose: power to be witnesses of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:13). Be of good courage! You can bear witness to Christ because the Father has given you the Holy Spirit. It is to our advantage that Christ ascended! We have the Helper! More next week…