Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, Part 1

I did not mean for this to be a multi-part blog post, but I didn’t get all the way through studying the book of Acts this week so I’ll have to split the post in half. When I was in Cincinnati last weekend for Sabbath services and square dancing, there was one particular part of the sermon message that caught my attention. The speaker said “We can’t use the Holy Spirit if we don’t understand what it is” and that we don’t talk about the Holy Spirit today the way it was viewed by the early church in the Book of Acts.

That got me thinking, just how did the early church talk about the Holy Spirit? We usually look at the first two chapters, which chronicle the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and then go no further in Acts when we talk about the Holy Spirit. That’s where I’ll start as well, and then next week I’ll plan to write a post about what my study turns up in the remainder of Acts.

Enter The Holy Spirit

There were people who had the Holy Spirit before this notable Pentecost, but not many. So few, in fact, that it says in John’s gospel that “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). Before Jesus ascended to heaven in the first chapter of Acts, He promised the disciples, “you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” and “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:5, 8). That promise was fulfilled in the next chapter.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

Not only was the Holy Spirit given to the disciples, but a miracle was performed at the same time which left no doubt of the effectiveness of the power God was giving. Men “from every nation under heaven … heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:5, 8). As we’ll discuss more in next week’s post, this is not the only time this particular miracle accompanied the giving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48).

Receiving the Spirit

When some doubted what was going on, Peter said this:

Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:16-18)

He also revealed a recipe for receiving the Holy Spirit which is repeated several times in later chapters.

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. (Acts 2:38-39)

I am finding it interesting, and inspiring, to read through the book of Acts taking note of every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned and seeing how the promises and prophesies mentioned in chapter 2 enfold in the early Church. I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts on this with you next week, and hope you’ll weigh-in as well — it seems like a topic that could lend itself well to discussion.

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