Acts

The pentecostal blessings

1. Baptized with the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:1-13 describes the baptism of (with) the Holy Spirit. This baptism was prophesied by John the Baptist - "he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Jesus said, "do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit", Acts 1:2-5.

 
a] The term itself

The statement en pneumati baptisqhsesqe aJgiw/, "you will be baptized in/with the Holy Spirit", is one of many phrases used in the scriptures to describe a single occurrence, eg:

IThe outpouring of the Spirit on God's people. Joel.

IThe "coming on" a person or group of the Holy Spirit. Acts.2:3

IThe "giving" of the "gift" of the Holy Spirit to all who believe. Acts.2:38.

Although some Christians feel that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a special infilling of the Spirit of God subsequent to the receiving of the Holy Spirit at conversion, it is clear from the scriptures that it is simply another term for the gift of the Spirit. In Acts 11:15-17, note the different terms used to describe the coming of the Spirit upon Cornelius and his friends.

 
b] The meaning

The giving (baptizing) of the Holy Spirit entails the direct and intimate invasion of the life-giving Spirit of Jesus into the very being of a believer. The disciples had discovered Jesus as their friend and he had become for them a "spring of water welling up to eternal life." In leaving them, they would be "orphans" for a time, but Jesus promised to come again to them at a more intimate personal level. "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you."

 
c] A gift to whom?

The gift of the Holy Spirit is for all who ask. "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him", Luke 11:13. It is to all who repent. "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Luke, in the book of Acts, makes it quite clear that the baptism of the Holy Spirit (the gift of the Spirit) is for all, not just Jews, but "all people". This is dramatically presented as the gospel moves outward from Jerusalem. The Spirit comes dramatically, not just upon the disciples, but also upon:

ISamaritans, 1:17 who "receive the Holy Spirit", "the Spirit was given" them;

IGentiles, "the Holy Spirit came on all who heard", " the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out", 10:44;

IEven upon the followers of John the Baptist, 19:6, "the Holy Spirit came on them".

 

There can be no doubt that the promise of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is for all believers, for the gift was clearly seen to be given to a much wider group that just the descendants of Abraham.

 
2. Filled with the Holy Spirit

The term "filled with the Spirit" is often used to describe the activity / filling of the Holy Spirit within the life of believer, so enabling the exercise of ministry - in particular, proclamation. It is likely that Acts 2:1-13 describes such an infilling of the Spirit within those who had been baptized with the Spirit.

On the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of Christ came on the disciples, they were filled with the Spirit and prophesied. In the years before, the disciples had ministered with Jesus, and through him they had done wonderful things. When he left them, he promised he would not leave them comfortless, he would come again to them. Pentecost is the answer to this promise. When the Spirit of Jesus came again to the disciples, they found that, as before, they had unlimited power to proclaim, in sign and word, the wisdom of God. They experienced being filled with the Spirit, filled with Christ's power to prophesy.

 

The following can be said of the infilling of the Holy Spirit:

IAlthough the term "filled with the Spirit" sometimes means the same as "the baptism / gift of the Holy Spirit", it does often take on its Old Testament meaning of the application of, or release of, the Spirit's power in ministry, particularly in proclaiming God's word.

IA number of Old Testament personalities were filled with the Spirit, as well as John the Baptist, Zechariah and Elizabeth. This infilling is therefore not new.

IAs part of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people", the infilling of the Spirit is available to all followers of Jesus. For this reason Paul is able to say, "you have been given fullness in Christ", Col.2:10.

IBeing filled with the Spirit is an ongoing occurrence in the Christian life, not a once only experience. Luke describes numerous fillings of the Spirit for the first disciples, eg., Acts 4:8, 4:31, 13:9.

IPaul says, "be filled with the Spirit", Eph.5:19. He prays, "that you might be filled to the measure of the fullness of God", Eph.3:19. Therefore, the filling of the Spirit is something that should be sought.

IThe filling of the Holy Spirit expresses itself in the Christian life primarily in powerful proclamation:

At Pentecost the disciples were filled and "declared the wonders of God."

John the Baptist was filled for his prophetic work, Luke 1:15.

"Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and in a loud voice she proclaimed", Luke 1:41-42.

"His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied", Luke 1:67.

Peter before the Sanhedrin "filled with the Holy Spirit said...." Acts 4:8.

The gathered disciples "filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly" Acts 4:31.

Peter was filled and preached, Acts 9.

"Saul filled with the Holy Spirit.....said...." Acts 13:9.

IThe scriptures promise the infilling of the Spirit. "Do not worry what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Matt.10:19-20.

 

The release of Jesus' power within the disciples was expressed in powerful proclamation. At Pentecost they had received the Spirit and so were filled with the Spirit to speak boldly for their Lord.

 
3. Other Tongues

The baptism of the Holy Spirit ensures our place within God's plans for this final closing age; the Spirit of the living God covers us and thus we are secure. Through the gift of the Spirit we are empowered to serve our God, particularly in powerfully making known his Word. We are filled to overflowing.

Yet, where does tongue speaking fit in with all of this? In Acts 2:4 we are told "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." What can we make of this strange occurrence?

 
a] Tongues present as a miraculous prophetic word

The crowd that gathered to hear the disciples, heard them speaking in their "own native language" v8. The problem is, what did they actually hear? There are three possibilities, along with possible combinations of the three:

Ecstatic prophecy. This form of prophecy may range from the intelligible to the unintelligible. It is fairly clear that ecstatic prophecy developed within the Corinthian congregation and is addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Paul uses the same word to describe the Corinthian experience as Luke uses in Acts, yet he does not seem to describe exactly the same experience. In Acts, tongues are understood by different language groups, although the content is mysterious. In Corinth it doesn't seem to cross over between different language groups, but is clearly ecstatic (mysterious) and it is for this reason that Paul is critical of its use in church. In 1Cor.14:20-22 Paul actually describes it as a sign of judgment upon God's people. Using the prophecy of Isaiah 28:9-13 he points out that a people who have failed to listen to a clear word from the Lord will end up hearing meaningless sounds. Sav lasav sav lasav, kav lakav kav lakav is a word of judgment, not blessing. Jesus used parables in the same way with his own generation, Matt.13:11-17. Parables were a form of judgment upon a people who failed to respond to the clear word of the coming kingdom. So, Paul in 1 Corinthians gives instructions as to the proper exercise of the gift of tongues, and particularly with their replacement by a clear prophetic word.

Foreign languages. It is possible that the disciples spoke in foreign languages enabling the gathered Jews of the dispersion to understand in their own dialects. The Cornelius episode is the same, but did anyone need to speak in different languages on that occasion? If the tongues at Pentecost were different languages, how would they have sounded? It would have been a cacophony of sound, a "Babel" indeed.

A miraculous word. Luke seems to describe the event as a miraculous occurrence where there is a unity in what was said and heard. There may or may not be a language content in what was said - Luke gives us little to go on. What he does tell us is that the people heard as one, even though they came from different language groups. So, at Pentecost, we may have a miraculous word from God, clearly heard by all, although mysterious in content.

 
b] The tongues were a prophetic word from God, heard and understood

It is clear from Acts, that on the three occasions when tongues evidenced the outpouring of the Spirit upon an ever widening humanity, it was understood by those present.

"We hear them declare the wonders of God."

"We heard them speaking in tongues and praising God", Acts 10:46.

"They spoke in tongues and prophesied", Acts 19:6.

A knowledge of the content of what is said, even though mysterious, implies an understanding of what is said.

 
c] Tongues occurred as the gospel moved outward to touch all mankind

As such it evidenced the outpouring of the Spirit on all mankind. cf., the Cornelius debate in Acts 11:1-18.

Jews at Pentecost.

Samaritans - although tongues are not specifically mentioned.

Gentiles - Cornelius.

The followers of John the Baptist.

Therefore, tongues seem to be a miraculous prophetic word unifying the hearers as one people.

 

The significance of the tongue-speaking events in Acts lies in their reversal of the judgment of God on mankind at the tower of Babel. At Babel the nations were scattered through their loss of a common language. Mankind was divided and broken through diverse language (culture). In time the prophets spoke of a coming age when the nations would again be united, a time when the Gentiles would come into the kingdom with the remnant of Israel. Isaiah 11:10, 42:6, 49:6, 60:5-6, Mal.1:11.

When God calls in one voice to the nations to gather the lost from the four corners of the earth, know that the final age has dawned and that the day of judgment draws near. At Pentecost, the call went forth - the clear trumpet was sounded. It was the disciples' voice that sounded the closing age and the coming judgment upon the nations (depicted in the prophecy of Joel), Acts 2:19-21. In fact, in the gospel the judgment of the world is now. From Pentecost on, the unifying of the nations is a reality in the church, Rom.1:16, Col.3:11. The unifying of a new people unto God is also, in its fullest sense, a future glorious hope, Gal.2:4ff, Rev.22:2-3. The day will soon come when all people will be united under two banners, either Christ, or the Anti-Christ.

 

Acts Introduction

 

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