The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts – Part I

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The Holy Spirit has such a prominent role in the book of Acts, some have suggested it should be designated as the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Here are all the verses that mention the Holy Spirit of God in the book of Acts. Read their context and make notes on what you learn…

VERSES WHICH ATTRIBUTE INSPIRATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO OLD TESTAMENT WRITERS: 1:16 (David); 4:25 (David); 7:51 (prophets); 28:25 (Isaiah).

VERSES WHICH ATTRIBUTE INSPIRATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO NEW TESTAMENT PREACHERS: 4:8 (Peter); 4:31 (church in Jerusalem); 5:3, 9 (Peter); 6:3, 5 (deacons), 10 (Stephen); 7:55 (Stephen); 8:29, 39 (Philip); 9:17 (Saul/Paul); 10:19 (Peter), 38 (Jesus); 11:24 (Barnabas), 28 (Agabus); 13:9 (Saul/Paul), 52 (Christians); 19:21 (Paul); 21:4 (Christians), 11 (Agabus).

PASSAGES WHICH DESCRIBE THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT:

1:2, 5, 8 – Verse 2 shows that Jesus taught and guided His apostles through the Holy Spirit of God. This sets the apostles on the same level of authority as the prophets in the OT. Verse 8 is Jesus’ promise that the promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit and the power that would come with Him was about to be fulfilled. Subsequently, they would be witnesses of Jesus Christ and His Gospel message.

2:4, 17-18, 33, 38 – Acts 2 is the drawing together and the fulfillment of all the previous passages we have considered, going back to the OT (Isa. 32:15; 44:3; Eze. 36:26-27; 39:29; Joel 2:28-32) that the Holy Spirit would come over Christ’s followers. Here, He comes specifically over the apostles, and as with the prophets in the OT, He gives them the ability to share the message of God, here, even in foreign languages.

After quoting that famous passage from Joel 2, Peter tells the Jewish audience that they know the Spirit has been poured out from heaven because they both “see and hear” the prophesying and the speaking in foreign languages. So it is that if someone were to repent of their sins and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, then he (or she) would also receive the gift that is the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that everyone who receives the Holy Spirit will have also the ability to prophesy and speak in foreign languages. Those gifts had a specific and limited purpose.

5:32 – Peter and John have been arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, who had warned them not to preach the Gospel. Peter is the speaker and he makes six points (vss 29-32). The final point being that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness through the Words of the apostles and others who had the miraculous gift of prophesying among those early Christians. Yet, he also says that the Holy Spirit is given to “all who obey God.”

8:15, 17-19 – Philip, the deacon from Jerusalem who was full of the Holy Spirit, could perform miracles and signs so that the Samaritans would believe his message (vs 13). But, it is evident that he could not, in turn, give that same miraculous ability to others. The text is clear in verses 15, 17, and 18 that it was through the laying on of the apostles’ hands that miraculous abilities were given. Simon wanted that same ability but Peter corrected him, saying that such a decision could only be made by the Holy Spirit Himself, a point we will see when we study 1 Corinthians 12.

Next week, we’ll consider the rest of the passages in Acts that deal with the Holy Spirit.

–Paul Holland

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The Holy Spirit in the Lives of the Disciples in the Gospel Accounts

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    We are trying to be as comprehensive as we can, so here we consider the Holy Spirit in the lives of others in the Gospel accounts besides Jesus Himself and John.

    Luke 2:25-27 – The Holy Spirit was on Simeon and revealed to Simeon that He would not die until he had seen the Messiah come. When Mary brought Jesus into the temple to be circumcised, the Spirit led Simeon to the temple at that very moment. It was then that Simeon held the baby Jesus and blessed Him (vs 29-32).

    Matthew 10:20 (Mark 13:11 – destruction of Jerusalem; Luke 12:10, 12) – This series of texts show that when the disciples / apostles were sent out on their limited commission (or during the destruction of Jerusalem) to preach the coming of the kingdom, they were guided in their message by the Holy Spirit. The text in Luke 12 elevates the words of the disciples with the words of the Holy Spirit in the context of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We better make sure we take the words of the apostles seriously!

    Matthew 28:19 – Baptism is to be performed by the authority of all three members of the Godhead, including the Holy Spirit.

    John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13 – These texts all anticipate the inspiration given to the apostles. The apostles will be guided by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, in three broad areas: to remember what Jesus had told them (the Gospels); all truth (the letters); everything that would come (referring to any prophecies that were yet to be fulfilled).

    John 20:22 – Jesus gives the apostles an object lesson, acting out what would take place, once they went to Jerusalem and waited for the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came over them, then they would be empowered to forgive sins by preaching the conditions of salvation. Here is a drawing together of the prophecies of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the promise of a new covenant based on the forgiveness of sins in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

    All things are ready now for the coming of the Holy Spirit and the actual fulfillment of all of these promises that we have anticipated. We are ready for the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.

–Paul Holland

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Indescribable Joy 1 Peter 1:8-9

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    Are you happy? Do you want to be happy? What makes you happy? What would make you happy?  “Happiness” is often tied directly to exterior things: people we know here on earth, things we can do, stuff that we have and enjoy. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of that – in it’s proper place.

    Yet, often we get distracted by these things and start thinking that this is what life is all about: being happy with what we have in this life. But that’s not how the apostle Peter saw things in 1 Peter 1:8-9. How can we experience this “indescribable joy”? Let’s see what Peter has to say about it.

JOY IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS – vs 6:

    The Christians to whom Peter is writing were experiencing trials of various kinds. They were Christians who were living as aliens in a foreign country (see also 4:12-17). The Christians were suffering trials. But here in verse 6, Peter says that they can “greatly rejoice” in this. Why?

JOY COMES FROM SALVATION – vs 5:

    Let’s begin with verse 3…  Jesus Christ has caused us to be “born again” to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The new birth, the change from being a follower of the devil to being a child of God, is brought about by God the Father.

    Just as a newborn baby (physically) enters into a new world, Christians enter into a “living hope.” A hope that is alive and well. What gives that hope reason for expectations is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

    But, let’s examine this further, verse 4… Peter says we have an inheritance from our Father that is waiting for us and observe how he describes that inheritance: imperishable, undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for us.

    But, Peter goes on… vs 5. Man cannot take away our blessings nor can he take away our relationship with God. We are protected by the power of God.  Yes, a Christian can lose his or her salvation but no one can take it away from him / her. Here, Peter says as long as our faith, our trust in God, holds out, we will be protected by God for that salvation that we are anticipating.

    But that’s not all Peter talks about here…

TRIALS PROVE YOUR FAITH – vs 7

    The distress that comes from various trials is the atmosphere in which you prove your faith. As with Job, if you lose everything, do you turn your back on God? If life is not going well, do you decide to change your convictions so you can fit in to the world’s culture? If you stay faithful through the trails of your faith, then you “prove your faith.”

THE LIFESTYLE OF JOY – vs 13ff:

    In verse 13, Peter returns to the matter of staying faithful to receive that salvation that is promised to us. So, in this part of the chapter, Peter describes the “lifestyle” of joy. Observe the commands in verses 13-17: Prepare your minds. Keep sober in spirit. Fix your hope. Do not conform your mind to the world’s pattern. Be holy. Live your life in fear of God.

    In verses 22-25, Peter brings up one more point that would help us have this “indescribable joy:” love people. Love people. We are all fallen creatures. We all have struggles and weaknesses that annoy others and sinful practices that offend God. But love one another. There are very few of us who are like Hitler and just wicked clean clear through. Love one another.

    Indescribable joy is ours when we walk sincerely and contentedly with Jesus Christ each day.

–Paul Holland

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The Holy Spirit in the Life & Ministry of Jesus

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    We have seen that the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be anointed with the Holy Spirit and would pour out the Spirit on His followers. We have seen that John predicted the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a look at the Spirit in the life of Jesus.

    Luke 10:21 – This text comes at the end of Jesus sending out the 70 on their commission to share the message of the kingdom. The Spirit revealed to Jesus what had been going on with the 70 missionaries with their success and, subsequently, Jesus rejoiced at that news.

    Luke 11:13 – Jesus promises that He would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask in humble obedient faith.

    Matthew 12:28-32 (Mark 3:29) – By rejecting the source of Jesus’ miracles, that of the Holy Spirit, the Pharisees were putting themselves in a position that was irredeemable.

    John 3:5-6, 8, 34 – The famous passage dealing with the role of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. We do not understand how the Spirit moves (as the song says), convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him. But we know that He does.

    At the end of the chapter, John writes that Jesus had the full assistance of the Holy Spirit to do what His mission was to accomplish: teaching the word of God and performing miracles to confirm that message.

    John 6:63 – Jesus gives credit to the Holy Spirit in this text of the message that He was preaching.

    John 7:39 – Jesus alludes to Isaiah 44:3, a passage we have seen is a prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Yet at this point, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given as the prophets, John, and Jesus have prophesied because Jesus has not yet been “glorified,” a reference to His resurrection.

    Finally, we’ll look at the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples, as it is seen in the Gospel accounts.

–Paul Hollad

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A Repentant Heart Matthew 3:1-12

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    Imagine if you were a faithful Jew living in the first century and you heard about John the baptizer…

THE ENTRANCE OF JOHN THE BAPTIZER – 3:1-4:

    His dad, Zechariah, was from the family of Abijah and his mom, Elizabeth, was from the family of the great high-priest himself, Aaron, brother of the famous Moses. That would put John in the line of priests. But John did not choose to be a priest. John chose to be a preacher.

    A big part of John’s popularity may have been the simplicity of his message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As a faithful Jew, you knew what the word “repent” meant. It was used over a dozen times in the Old Testament. You also knew the Greek word for “repent” could have a broad meaning and a narrow meaning. 

    In it’s narrow meaning, the word “repent” meant to “change your mind.” The Jews used it this way to say that if you wanted to be right with God, you had to “change your mind” about living your life your way and had to live life the way God wanted you to live. But “repent” could also be used in the broad, general way to refer to the sadness and regret that you felt in your heart when you learned what sin was and that you, personally, had sinned. And the “change of mind” that resulted from that sadness and regret and the change of behavior that would result from that change of mind.

RESULTS OF THE PREACHING – 3:5-6:

    John’s preaching was simple. John’s preaching was drawing a crowd. People from villages all around the Jordan River were going out to hear him. They knew they were in sin. They knew that they needed to change their minds about how they were living and then change their behavior. They confessed those sins and, based on John’s preaching, they were being immersed in the Jordan River for the forgiveness of sin (Mark 1:4).

PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIPS DO NOT APPLY – 3:7-10:

    John warns the Pharisees and Sadducees – the religious leaders – about God’s coming wrath. Could that mean that God’s wrath was coming against the nation of Israel? That happened several times in the Old Testament. In fact, the prophets said that both the Assyrian exile and the Babylonian exile had been the result of God’s wrath against His people, your people, the nation of Israel. Now is John warning of another exhibition of God’s wrath on His people?

    But your nation is the nation of Israel. Jacob was your father. Abraham was your father. Your people were promised by God to be a blessing to the world. That was the promise God had made to Abraham, your illustrious ancestor. What about this coming wrath?

    John tells his audience to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Again, you knew what that meant: Feel sorry for your sins; change your mind about how you are living; then change your behavior. That is “fruit” that is “in keeping” with that changed mentality.

JOHN’S PROPHECY OF THE MESSIAH – 3:11-12:

    The Messiah again. Oh how excited you are that you might very well get to meet the Messiah! How wonderful He will be; how wonderful He is! If John was having such an impact on peoples’ lives by preaching as He is doing and the Messiah is even greater than John… wow!

    John says he was baptizing with water for the purpose of repentance – here’s the fifth time you’ve heard John mention repentance – but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (cf. Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 36:26-27; 39:29; Joel 2:28-32). When the Holy Spirit comes, people would be able to prophesy again! Just like in the Old Testament – sharing the message of God with the people around them! When the Holy Spirit comes, people would have a new motivation, a renewed motivation to serve God – they would have new hearts and new spirits.

    More reason for excitement! The Messiah was almost here. The Kingdom was almost here. The Holy Spirit with all of His blessings was almost here! All they had to do was repent of their sins and be patient for God to reveal the Messiah!

    That kingdom now exists on earth as the church of Christ, but it is going to be completed in heaven where it will include those faithful Jews in the Old Testament and it will become the “eternal kingdom” mentioned by Peter in 2 Peter 1:11.

    Just as it was necessary for the Jews to repent of their sins in order to be prepared for the coming of the kingdom, we, too, must repent of our sins in order to be prepared for the eternal kingdom. In fact, since we sin on a frequent basis, it is better to say that we always need to have a repentant heart so that as soon as we do sin, we’ll make it right.

    Regret your sin. Reform your heart. Refocus your life. Be prepared for the eternal kingdom.

–Paul Holland

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Keeping the memory alive

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“Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:1-3 ESV).

“What makes this night different from all other nights?” With this question, asked by a child, the modern Jewish observance of Passover begins. During the evening the events of the Exodus are related to all who are present and there is a feast containing many rituals that are based on what happened when God “passed over” the Israelites when they were freed from slavery in Egypt.

Moses gave these instructions to Israel just as they were about to enter the Promised Land, their new home. These had originally been given just as the Israelites left Egypt. The men who left Egypt had now died, so Moses again gave these instructions concerning the Passover observance, as well as the other required festivals that the Israelites were to keep (see Deuteronomy 16).

What was the point of doing this each year? It was very simple: “that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.” They would sacrifice, roast, and eat a lamb as well as unleavened bread to remember where they had been and that God had delivered them. In this way they would remember that they were who they were because of what God had done.

It is significant that Jesus and his disciples were eating a Passover meal together the night before his execution. While eating that meal, Jesus took the unleavened bread and wine of the Passover and gave them a new meaning.

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

As we read of the first Christians in the book of Acts we discover that they came together on the first day of the week to “bread bread” (Acts 20:7). This gives us an example to follow.

Why did they do this each week? Was it not to keep alive the memory of Jesus’ death on the cross because of our sins? Just as the Jews observed the Sabbath each year to remember the day they left Egyptian slavery, so Christians today “break bread” to remember the day Jesus died for us. In this way we remember that we are who we are because of what Jesus did on the cross.

When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we not only look back to Jesus’ death, we also look forward to the day he will come again. We must always remember what Jesus has done for us.

Jon Galloway

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When and How Will the Holy Spirit Come?

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Before John the baptizer steps onto the scene in Luke 1, what do we know of the Holy Spirit and what do we expect of Him?

  1. With the unbelieving world, the Holy Spirit judged them through the preaching of Spirit-guided men.
  2. In different moments of Israel’s history, the Holy Spirit gave men and women supernaturally endowed wisdom, knowledge, and skill in battle.
  3. There were times when men and women could prophesy.
  4. The Spirit did not stop men from sinning (cf. Jephthah & King Saul & David).
  5. The Spirit could leave an individual (Saul and potentially, David).
  6. Miracles were done almost always through the mediation of a prophet of God.
  7. The Holy Spirit tried to influence the Israelites to live holy lives. He did so through the prophets.
  8. He could even leave the prophets.
  9. Two promises involve the Spirit:
    1. He would come over the Messiah.
    2. He would come over God’s people (not just Jews) and give many the ability to prophesy.
  10. One is either led by the Holy Spirit or one is guided by His own spirit.

–Paul Holland

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vous avez travaille pour rien

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Neriah LeBlanc related an interesting story regarding the history of an island nearby his native home.  He says,

In 1715 the French established their rule on a small island state called Dominica. One of the cultures the French brought to that island was that when one died, their life would be evaluated by the leaders of the community. If that person was seen as one who was an ungodly person, an inscription would be placed on their tomb which read, ‘vous avez travaille pour rien.’ Translated into English, this means, ‘You have worked for nothing.’

Most people are very concerned about their legacy, what impression and memory they will leave on this world.  Presidents, facing the end of their last term, often think about what their legacy will be. The wealthy may donate millions of dollars to a university to have a building or even the school named after them, a legacy to their generosity.  Actors, athletes, and entertainers may wish to be remembered for something groundbreaking they did in their field.  Average, everyday folks like you and me wish to be remembered as having fulfilled a deeper purpose, too.

How will we know that we have not worked for nothing, that we have not misspent our time, talents, and thoughts?  In His teaching that repelled many of His disciples, Jesus urged, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27).  In this short statement, Jesus speaks profoundly about living with purpose.

Whether your occupation is in the secular or the spiritual realm, this principle is immovable.  Make sure you leave a measurable, spiritual footprint in all the pathways of your life–job, community, church, family, and wherever else you walk.  Did your example, influence, and words lead people to see and know Jesus? Would people say that when you were around, it was easier for them to be and do good?

The Judgment itself will be a testimony to this principle.  In essence, when we stand before Christ, He will say either “you have worked for nothing” or “you have worked for Me” (cf. Mat. 25:34-45).  Each day, we are building our spiritual legacy. May we labor for that “which endures to eternal life.”

–Neal Pollard

 

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With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves?

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Larry Wilde included a famous bit from one of Bob Hope’s monologue:  “Once I was flying in a plane that was hit by lightning. A little old lady across the aisle said, ‘Do something religious!’ So I did–I took up a collection” (Binghamton, NY, PRESS, 7/12/69, 15).  We get the irony in his fictitious story about the lady’s panic and Hope’s greed.  Yet, it is not funny when those in religion try to take advantage of people’s fears and anxieties.  The medieval practice of the Catholic Church was to allow people to “pay” for their sins by financial contributions called indulgences.  Modern televangelists have tried to do the same, assuring that financial contributions to their “ministry” would aid in their listeners’ forgiveness.  It is outrageous that religious institutions and leaders would seek to extort through such disingenuous means, but equally pitiful that people would seek such an inadequate substitute.

Micah poignantly addresses this matter in his inspired book of prophesy.  He writes, “With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:6-8).

We cannot pay for or earn our salvation.  All the money in the world could not pay the debt of a single sin.  Micah reveals the mind of God here.  He wants our hearts.  When He gets that, He will not get debates and disagreements about the need for our obedience in order to receive the benefits of His grace.  Jesus describes the good soil as the one where the implanted word is met by an “honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Lk. 8:15).  Truly, let us do something religious!  But let that be guided by Scripture!

–Neal Pollard

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Where Do Church Leaders Come From?

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Have you ever given much thought as to where church leaders (elders, deacons and preachers) come from? Unfortunately, they don’t just grow on trees, and neither do they just appear on the scene by chance.

First of all, we understand that church leaders must meet certain qualifications (for example, see 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1). In order for one to meet these qualifications, the process obviously begins in the rearing of young men in godly homes. A godly home seeks to instill in children many of the necessary virtues that may someday help a man to be prepared for the eldership (or other leadership roles) As parents, we need to be familiar with these qualifications (and priorities), and make sure we are instilling them in our children.

Additionally, while we should be careful of demanding that our son grow up to be a preacher or an elder, we can certainly encourage, and at least “plant some seeds.” With good and pure motives we encourage our children to be teachers, doctors and a host of other things. Is there anything wrong with placing before them the possibility of dedicating their lives to serving God in a special way?

We can also genuinely hold-up the hands of preachers, elders, and even dedicated Christians before our children. Children need more heroes than Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. Consider how you talk about church leaders in front of your children. Are men like Peter and Paul heroes in your home.

Daren Schroder

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