More about the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts

More about the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts

August 4, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] As the number of disciples multiplied, a complaint was made by the Greek-speaking Jewish widows, who had apparently migrated to Jerusalem, against the local Jewish widows who did not speak their language. The complaint was that the widows who spoke Greek were being neglected when the food was being distributed daily. To solve this problem, it was necessary to chose “seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” to appoint over this business (Acts 6:1-7). A good decision was made, resulting in great growth in the church in Jerusalem.

[2] It is significant that it was necessary to choose men who not only had a good reputation, but who were also “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” This brings to mind that the Spirit of the Lord that would rest upon the Messiah was first described as “the Spirit of wisdom” (Isaiah 11:2). There are other aspects of the Spirit, but this event in the life of the first century church underscores the necessity of wisdom on the part of those involved in any facet of church leadership, and this kind of wisdom comes only from the fullness of the Spirit. Those who are not filled with the Spirit may have good reputations and some level of wisdom, but spiritual leadership requires spiritual direction.

[3] Stephen, one of the seven, was not only full of faith but also of power, doing “great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Those of the Synagogue of the Freedmen disputed with him, but “were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10). This continues to illustrate the role of the Spirit in empowering Spirit-filled people to speak, a function of the Spirit of which we saw glimmers in the Old Testament.

[4] After Philip’s ministry in Samaria, an angel of the Lord gave him specific directions as to where to go. When he obeyed, Philip met a man from Ethiopia, “a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27). Traveling homeward, this eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53:7-8. Then the Spirit gave Philip further direction: “Go near and overtake this chariot” (Acts 8:29). At the conclusion of this encounter, after Philip had explained the Scriptures to the Ethiopian and baptized him, “the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip way, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus” (Acts 8:39-40).

[5] The radical turning point in Saul’s life was not complete until Ananias, sent by the Lord, entered the house where Saul was staying, laid his hands on Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). Immediately Saul received his sight and was baptized. It is not said here that Saul uttered what we have called “Spirit-empowered speech,” but he affirmed this experience when he wrote to the Corinthian church, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all” (I Corinthians 14:18). Paul’s experience with the Holy Spirit included praying and singing in tongues (I Corinthians 14:14-15). He also alluded to this in I Corinthians 13:1: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” This does not diminish the significance of speaking with tongues; it emphasizes the importance of love in the practice of the gifts of the Spirit. Paul’s description of his practice of speaking with tongues indicates he was not referring to the gift of different kinds of tongues, one of the nine spiritual gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12:8-10. This gift serves a specific purpose in conjunction with the gift of interpretation of tongues, and it is not given to all believers (I Corinthians 12:30). Paul’s praying and singing with the Spirit (i.e., in tongues) is distinct from the purpose of the gift of different kinds of tongues (i.e., various tongues or languages).

[6] Barnabas is characterized as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). Together with Saul, he taught many people in Antioch over the period of a year. It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

[7] Agabus, a prophet, “stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world” (Acts 11:27-28). This enabled the disciples to send relief for those who would be affected. It was also Agabus who later warned Paul of his upcoming imprisonment in Jerusalem. Agabus did this by taking Paul’s belt, binding his own hands and feet, and saying, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’ ” (Acts 21:11). It is to be expected, of course, that prophets would exercise the gift of prophecy. (See Ephesians 4:11; I Corinthians 12:10, 28.)[archive]

Our study of the Holy Spirit continues …

This morning Pastor Mitchell Bland of The Sanctuary UPC in Hazelwood, Missouri asked if I would be interested in continuing our study of the Holy Spirit through the month of August. I am happy to do this, so we will pick up in the Book of Acts and continue as time allows, examining the references to the Holy Spirit through the rest of the New Testament.

We will begin next Sunday, August 4, by taking another look at the work of the Spirit in Acts that we have not yet talked about. This will include the role of the Spirit in resolving the tension between the Greek-speaking Jewish widows who had migrated to Jerusalem and the local Jewish widows who did not speak their language.

We will talk about the Spirit’s role in Philip’s ministry after Samaria, the radical transformation in Saul’s life, Barnabas, Agabus, the first church council, how the Spirit prohibited Paul from preaching, the role of the Spirit in raising up overseers in the church, and how Isaiah prophesied about the rejection of Jesus by first century Jews.

I look forward to continuing this study with you, and I plan also to follow our previous practice of posting study guides and videos related to these classes.[archive]