The Power of the Spirit

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, this is what he told his followers:

But 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 1.8

Jesus promised to send his disciples the Holy Spirit, and on the day of Pentecost, he did. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of himself to believers. Why is this important?

Imagine a parent who gives their young son a new toy car for Christmas. It’s battery operated, but batteries are not included. For the car to work, it needs power. Too many Christians live as if batteries are not included.

The good news for us is that in addition to the Spirit’s indwelling, He also empowers us to be witnesses of Jesus. The Lord himself said, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses’ (Acts 1.8).

As we reflect on the Pentecost story as described in Acts 2, we learn about the Person, Presence, and Power of the Holy Spirit. In addition to understanding who the Spirit is and what He does in our lives, we also want to position ourselves to be filled with and empowered by the Spirit.
1. The Holy Spirit is God. When we talk about being filled with the Holy Spirit, we’re not talking about God+ or some outside force. Remember the Trinitarian formula: 1) There is one God; God eternally exists in three Persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; 3) all Persons of the Trinity are fully God.

2. Jesus promised the person of the Spirit. In Acts 1.4-5, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem because they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. This baptism language speaks to an immersion into the Spirit; the Holy Spirit is the domain in which we live the Christian life (see 1 Cor. 12.13).

3. Jesus promised the power of the Spirit. In Acts 1.8 Jesus told his disciples they would receive power to witnesses when the Holy Spirit came upon them. This is Jesus' way of restating what Joel had prophesied. The Greek word for power is dynamis which means power, force, might, ability, efficacy, energy. The Holy Spirit gives us divine enablement to witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.

4. According to Jesus, the purpose of the Spirit's people was to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. God began his redemptive agenda with Abraham, and now the risen Messiah is sending his followers all over the world.

5. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred on the day of Pentecost, the ‘first fruits’ feast held annually in Jerusalem and attended by Jews from all over the Roman Empire. In addition to the prophetic significance of this day, God intentionally chose a moment when Jerusalem was overflowing with people.

6. The coming of the Spirit was marked by sights and sounds. There was a sound of a mighty rushing wind; there were visible tongues of fire that rested on people.

7. Those people in the upper room were filled with the Spirit. In scripture, some people like Cornelius got saved and filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time; for others, like the Samaritans in Acts 8, it was a two-step process. The point is not to try to replicate the pattern but to receive everything God has for you.

8. The filling of the Holy Spirit was for all. They were all together in one place; this was not an optional add on for those who wanted to be ‘really spiritual’; it was Jesus’ intention that all of his followers would be filled with the Holy Spirit.

9. The believers who were filled with the Spirit spoke in other tongues. The Greek word for ‘tongues’ is glossa (literally ‘tongue) and can mean tongue, language, nation. The tongues were the native languages of the people who had gathered for the feast from across the Roman Empire.

10.The Holy Spirit gave the believers ‘utterance’. That is, He enabled them to speak by his power in these languages that they had not learned.

11.The people who had gathered in Jerusalem heard the followers of Jesus ‘telling the mighty works of God’ (Acts 2.5-13). The languages were real, understandable languages, and the content of the messages was the praise and glory of God. This was also the fulfilment of what Jesus said - the nations had gathered in Jerusalem, and by the power of the Spirit Peter proclaimed powerfully the gospel.

12.Some people were curious and wanted to know the meaning of what was going on; some people were sceptical and thought the Christians were drunk. The point simply is that not everyone is open to the working of the Spirit. The same thing is true today: when the Holy Spirit shows up doing 'Spirit' stuff, some people rejoice, and others get bothered. Amazingly, even Christians can get bothered.

13.Peter explained that the Pentecost outpouring was to fulfil Joel’s prophecy 
that God would pour out his Spirit on everyone, producing prophecy, visions, and dreams (Acts 2:6-21). God keeps his promise even when it was made centuries before.

14. Peter used the opportunity to preach the gospel. Jesus had said that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would produce power to be a witness, and this is exactly what happened; Peter preached powerfully as a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

15. Peter preached the death and resurrection of Jesus. Sometimes we overcomplicate the gospel; Peter put forward the facts that 1) God attested to Jesus through signs and wonders; 2) he was delivered up according to the plan and foreknowledge of God and 3) ‘you crucified him’ through the hands of sinful men but 4) God raised him from the dead and 5) has made him both Lord and Christ.

16. Peter told the people to repent and get water baptised. 
The modern conception of the ‘altar call’ had not been invented, and so when the people asked Peter what to do, he told them repent – turn from your sin – and get water baptised.

17. Peter promised that they people who repented and got water baptised would receive the Holy Spirit. Remember the Joel prophecy – God was pouring out his Spirit on all flesh – that is – the Holy Spirit is available for all believers.

18. Over three thousand people responded to the gospel. Acts 2.41 describes the beautiful results of this glorious day: So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.