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]

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts: Study Guide

The following study guide will be the handout for the final lesson I will teach on the Holy Spirit during the month of July. I’m teaching these lessons at The Sanctuary UPC in Hazelwood, Missouri, where Mitchell Bland is pastor.

This study guide is very much abbreviated from the material I have written on the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts for my upcoming book tentatively titled “The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology.” Current plans call for the book to be published this fall, but not in time for the general conference of the United Pentecostal Church International.


The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts

July 28, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] Just before His ascension, Jesus gathered His apostles and commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5). After they asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom of Israel,” Jesus answered, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).

[2] By connecting what they were about to experience with John’s forerunning ministry, Jesus gathered and brought forward everything about the Spirit found in the four gospels from John the Baptist to this moment. All anticipation about the Spirit pointed to the moment when the Holy Spirit would come upon the waiting believers in a new and profound way.

[3] After His ascension, about 120 of Jesus’ disciples gathered prayerfully to await the Promise of the Father. The fulfillment came on the Day of Pentecost, a Jewish feast day, when a multitude of devout Jews “from every nation under heaven” and many language groups were in Jerusalem to celebrate. Suddenly, a sound like a rushing, mighty wind filled the house where the believers were waiting. This was followed by an appearance of something like divided tongues of fire, sitting on each of them.

[4] These were awesome events, in the finest sense of the word. But the greatest was yet to come. It may have been that the roaring sound continued and the flames still flickered when “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). It was nothing less than a miracle when the 120 men and women began to speak fluently in languages they had never learned, using complete, grammatically correct sentences filled with all the relevant parts of speech. We can say this, because the multitude gathered to celebrate the feast marveled in amazement to hear these Galileans speak in their own languages “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:6-11). Had this been anything less than a fluent display of these languages, these visitors to Jerusalem would certainly have noted that and assumed what they were hearing was, at best, merely a crude effort to impress them with elementary language skills.

[5] So astonished were those who heard this phenomenon that they asked one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Mocking, some said, “They’re drunk!” (See Acts 2:12-13.) At first, it may escape us how anyone speaking in a language never learned could be thought drunk. But that’s how mockers think.

[6] It is at this point Peter stood to answer the questions raised by miraculous events of the day. In a straightforward response to those who suggested intoxication, Peter said, “It’s only nine o’clock in the morning!” Then began his message, which fulfilled previous predictions about what the Spirit would do through him and others in this new day of the Spirit. (See John 16:12-15.)

[7] Peter’s message gathered up biblical prophecies about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. (See Acts 2:16-35.) To summarize, he said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Those who had not yet been filled with the Spirit “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let everyone 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 2:36-39).

[8] For the first time, people were baptized with the Holy Spirit, fulfilling the promise of Joel 2:28-29. This would not be the last (Acts 10:44-48; 19:1-6). If people could receive the Spirit short of the Pentecostal model, how could those in Samaria know they had not received the Spirit? (See Acts 8:19) It is doubtful Simon would have been interested in paying money for the ability to lay his hands on people, only to see nothing happen.

[9] In addition to the initial Pentecostal event with the Spirit, the Book of Acts tells us of those who were present on the Day of Pentecost who were baptized with the Spirit on that day who were later “filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). This includes Peter and John, who participated in a prayer meeting with other believers, a prayer meeting that included corporate prayer from Psalm 2, interpretation of that Psalm, and shaking of the place where they were gathered. Even though it does not mention speaking with tongues on this occasion – and it need not, since those present had already had this initial experience – it is recorded that “they spoke the word of God with boldness.” This fits perfectly with what almost become a common expectation. When the Spirit comes upon people, it is not unusual for them to speak under the Spirit’s influence, even if not in tongues. (See Acts 4:19-31.) Indeed, before this prayer meeting, when Peter and John were questioned about power and the name by which a lame man had been healed, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit” delivered such a powerful message about the name of Jesus Christ that the high priest and his family marveled. (See Acts 4:1-13.)

[10] 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.

[11]      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 a “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.

[12]      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.

[13]      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).

[14]      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).

[15]      While Peter spoke about Jesus Christ to Cornelius and his relatives and close friends, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46). This event essentially duplicates the Day of Pentecost. Although there is no mention of a sound “as of a rushing mighty wind” or of “divided tongues, as of fire,” the work of the Spirit here is identified as “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” a term Peter used on Pentecost (Acts 2:38), the Spirit is described as having been “poured out,” another term from Acts 2:33, and the astonished Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter heard them speak with tongues and magnify God (i.e., those upon whom Spirit had come were magnifying God in languages they had never learned), just as amazed onlookers on Pentecost heard the Spirit baptized believers speaking in their own languages “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).

[16]      As if to confirm the duplication of this event with the Day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47-48). The phrase “just as we have” cements the identical nature of this event with Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost was primarily a Jewish event, and this was a Gentile event, confirming the normativity of baptism with the Holy Spirit for all people and, also, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ as an essential experience for those who believe on Jesus.

[17]      When Peter returned to Jerusalem, the Jewish believers there contended with him because of his visit to Cornelius’s home, where he also ate with the gathered Gentiles. In his response, Peter explained that the Spirit had told him to go with those who represented to Cornelius (Acts 10:19; 11:12). An angel had told Cornelius to call for Peter, who would tell Cornelius words by which he and his household would “be saved” (Acts 11:13-14). The Holy Spirit had fallen upon Cornelius and those gathered in his house as it had upon the Jewish believers “at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). This reminded Peter of the words of Jesus, who said, “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:16). Peter concluded that God had given the Gentiles at Cornelius’s house “the same gift as he gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 11:17). These final words of Peter confirm that baptism with the Holy Spirit is for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no indication here that Spirit baptism is an optional experience for those who believe on Jesus.

[18]      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).

[19]      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.)

[20]      When Paul reached Ephesus, he found some disciples of John the Baptist, and asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2). This does not mean they had never heard of the Holy Spirit, for John taught of the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit connected with Jesus’ ministry. Rather, these disciples of John had not yet heard that the Holy Spirit had been given as foretold by John.

Paul asked, “Into what then were you baptized?” It is evident that Paul expected Spirit baptism to follow water baptism.

They answered, “Into John’s baptism.”

“John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance,” said Paul, “saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When John’s disciples heard this, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” They had done the right thing to follow John’s teaching, but John’s message was superseded by Jesus’ message. Their willingness to believe on Jesus shows the genuineness of their faith.

After their baptism, Paul laid his hands on them, “the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).[archive]

 

Looking Ahead to Pentecost: Study Guide

Here is the study guide for the lesson I plan to teach on July 21, 2019 at The Sanctuary UPC. Keep in mind that the manuscript from which this lesson is drawn is much more detailed, covering important related texts we cannot discuss during the limitations of a Sunday school class. This material will be included in the published book, which should be released sometime this fall.


Looking Ahead to Pentecost

July 21, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] Early in the ministry of John the Baptist, John pointed ahead to an unprecedented work of the Holy Spirit, introducing his own ministry and explaining its transitory nature: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Luke agrees (Luke 3:16).

[2] Baptize. Here is a word we have not heard before. No one in the era before the coming of the Messiah had been baptized with the Spirit. They had been filled and the Spirit had moved upon them and rested upon them and led them. But to be baptized with the Spirit is something above and beyond those experiences. It is to be immersed, plunged, or dipped. To follow this analogy, a person who is immersed in the Spirit is certainly filled with the Spirit, but a person who is filled with the Spirit — as were some before Pentecost — is not necessarily immersed in the Spirit. A person upon whom the Spirit moves or rests or who is led by the Spirit has a remarkable experience, but it is something other than and short of being baptized with the Spirit.

[3] This is that to which Jesus referred when He said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). As John explained, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).

[4] Before the glorification of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was not experienced in the way He would be. There is no verb for “given” in John 7:39, which is why translations including the word place it in italics. Literally, the phrase translates “for the Holy Spirit was not yet.” Of course, the Spirit existed; we read of the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 and throughout the Old Testament and into the New. The point of Jesus’ words here is that there was a future day when those who believed on Jesus would enjoy an unprecedented experience with the Holy Spirit. That experience would best be described as baptism with the Spirit.

[5] There are several places in the gospels where it is said that Jesus was glorified. But, if we keep reading in John, it is apparent that the glorification in view here is that which occurred in conjunction with His crucifixion and resurrection. (See John 12:16, 23; 13:31-32.) This was Peter’s understanding (Acts 3:13).

[6] From the earliest days of the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was described as a gift. There was never any suggestion that the Spirit could be deserved or earned. The word “gift” was used of the Spirit before Pentecost. Using an analogy from human experience, Jesus said, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Of if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13).

[7] Three ideas are included in Jesus’ words that are worked out upon the pouring out of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost: (1) The Spirit is something for which we can ask; (2) The Spirit will be given by the Father, an interesting insight, since at Pentecost it was Jesus who poured out the Spirit (Acts 2:33); (3) The Spirit is a gift that is freely given.

[8] When Jesus used this analogy, the giving of the Spirit as would ultimately happen was not yet. (See John 7:37-39.) But words like these pointed pre-Pentecost believers in a direction of anticipation and expectation that the promise of the Spirit would not be a continuation of life dependent on the works of the law. Instead, it would be a life of faith that resulted in receiving the Spirit. (See Galatians 3:2.)

[9] One of the most significant texts of Scripture referring to the work of the Spirit in the lives of people preserves a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a “ruler of the Jews” who was impressed by the “signs” Jesus did. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, asked no questions, but Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The word translated “again” (anōthen) can also mean “from above,” preparing the reader for another double entendre in John 3:8: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The word translated “wind” (pneuma) can also mean “spirit.” The sound as of a rushing mighty wind on the Day of Pentecost is noteworthy here (Acts 2:2). It may be that the “wind” and “fire” of Pentecost were meant to signal the inauguration of the New Covenant in contrast with the wind and fire of Sinai. (See Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 5:5, 22; Hebrews 12:18.)

[10]      Nicodemus was puzzled by Jesus’ statement that it is necessary to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. He asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). To explain what it means to be born again, Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ ” (John 3:5-7).

[11]      As the gospels look ahead to the work of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and beyond, they also warn of the persecutions that will follow. Even then, however, the Spirit will come to the aid of those who believe. Jesus said, “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). (See also Matthew 10:17-20; Luke 12:11-12.) Once again, we can see this as a case of Spirit-empowered speech, as seen so often in the Old Testament and into early days of the New Testament. Although this is not a case of speaking in languages one has never learned, it is nevertheless another example of the potentially close relationship between the Spirit and the words spoken by believers in crisis. The Book of Acts records events like these of which Jesus warned. (See Acts 23:1-10.)

[12]      Jesus promised another practical work of the Spirit that would benefit believers after His resurrection and before the New Testament Scriptures were completed: “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:25-26). Not only would the Spirit enable believers to speak without preparation in moments of crisis; He would also enable them to remember key teachings of Jesus at just the right time. (See John 2:22; 12:16; Acts 11:16.)

[13]      In addition to identifying the Spirit as another Helper, Jesus referred to Him as “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him” (John 14:17). To receive the Spirit of truth, one must believe in Jesus (John 14:11-12). Even before Pentecost, the Spirit of truth was dwelling with those who believed in Jesus, but their future experience with the Spirit would surpass that; the Spirit would be in them (John 14:17).

[14]      An additional indication that the experience Jesus’ followers would have with the Spirit in the future would surpass that which they had before Pentecost is seen in John 15:26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” Four points are seen here underscoring the future work of the Spirit: (1) Although the Spirit was already with the disciples, He was yet to come in an unprecedented way; (2) The Spirit would be sent by Jesus, anticipating Acts 2:33; (3) The Spirit proceeds from the Father, as foretold by Joel and quoted by Peter on Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18); (4) The Spirit’s future work would include testifying of Jesus, as Jesus foretold in Acts 1:8.

[15]      Jesus’ disciples were sad about His approaching departure, but it was to their advantage that He go away, for, He said, “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:6-7). This again anticipates Jesus as the One who will pour out the Spirit (Acts 2:33) and describes major aspects of the Spirit’s future work, as further explained in John 16:9-11.

[16]      Jesus had many more things to say to His disciples, but they were not yet able to understand them (John 16:12). For this reason, He spoke to them “in figurative language” (John 16:25). They would be able to understand these further truths in the future: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). An example of the Spirit’s work in this regard can be seen in Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost, with Peter’s keen insight into Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit. Shortly after Pentecost, Peter also spoke authoritatively about eschatological events, some of the “things to come” the Spirit would reveal (Acts 3:18-24).

[17]      The work of the Spirit in testifying of Jesus (John 15:26) is further described in John 16:14-15: “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” At least one of the ways this would occur is that those who would be baptized with the Holy Spirit would witness of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:4-8).

[18]      After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples, showed them His hands and His side, breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). These words indicate they had not yet received the Spirit in the sense that both John the Baptist and Jesus had previously promised. They had not yet been baptized with the Spirit.

[19]      Some think the disciples received the unprecedented experience of Spirit baptism at this point, when Jesus breathed on them. That this is not the case is demonstrated not only by their subsequent experience on the Day of Pentecost, but also by the grammar of John 20:22. The verb translated “receive” (lambanō) is in the aorist tense, active voice, imperative mood. Time is lost in the imperative mood, and action has not yet begun in the aorist imperative. Jesus’ words could be translated, “Start receiving the Holy Spirit.” This is certainly a look ahead to the Day of Pentecost, but it may also look even farther to texts like the phrase in Ephesians 5:18, commonly translated “be filled with the Spirit,” but which could be rendered “keep being filled with the Spirit,” due to the present passive imperative form of the verb “fill” (plēroō).

Summary

  1. For the first time, we hear the word baptize in relation to the Spirit. This is an experience above and beyond anything that happened prior to Pentecost.
  2. The Spirit is a gift that cannot be earned, worked for, or deserved.
  3. The new birth consists of both water and Spirit baptism.
  4. The Spirit is identified as a Helper, from a Greek word that is translated “Comforter” in the KJV.[archive]

 

The Holy Spirit in the Lives of People before the Day of Pentecost

The Holy Spirit in the Lives of People before the Day of Pentecost: Study Guide

July 14, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] As the opening books of the New Testament continue the flow of revelation begun in the Hebrew Scriptures, the work of the Holy Spirit remains much like that seen throughout the Old Testament. Specifically, as it relates to the anticipation of the coming Messiah, the Spirit was still at work to foretell and prepare His way.

[2] As Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, performed his priestly duties in the days of Herod, an angel of the Lord appeared to him with these words: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17). 

[3] But for the space of time between the testaments, we could imagine here that we are still reading from the Hebrew Scriptures. An angel of the Lord appears speaking prophetic words that ultimately point to the Messiah. A barren woman would have a special son whose name was determined before his birth. There would be restrictions on what this son could drink, and he would be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born.[1]

[4] After Mary received her visit from the angel Gabriel, she traveled to visit Elizabeth. This was about three months before the birth of John. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, “the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). We can’t be certain, but it seems reasonable to think that John and his mother were both filled with the Spirit at the same time. John would not be the only one ever to leap upon being filled with the Spirit! 

[5] As so often happened in the days before this, as recorded in the Old Testament, when Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit, she “spoke out with a loud voice” (Luke 1:42). Her Spirit-empowered words blessed Mary and the baby Jesus in her womb. They also identified Mary’s baby as the Lord, which, for a devout Jewish woman meant Jesus was, in some miraculous way, Yahweh (Lord) Himself. (See Luke 1:42-43.)

[6] After John’s birth, Zacharias “was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied,” linking the birth of John with Old Testament messianic prophecy (Luke 1:67). (See Luke 1:76; Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1.)

[7] When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for His circumcision, Simeon, a just and devout man, was “waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple” (Luke 2:25-27). As did Zacharias, Simeon spoke prophetic words linking Jesus with messianic prophecy. (See Luke 2:29-32; Isaiah 52:10.)

[8] As it relates to the work of the Spirit in the lives of people, nothing is new here in comparison to the Old Testament. People are filled with the Holy Spirit, they speak Spirit empowered words, and they are led by the Spirit. But a major advance in the work of the Spirit is pending. It begins to unfold in the next lesson as we look ahead to the Day of Pentecost.

Summary

As the New Testament begins, the work of the Spirit is much as it was in the Old Testament.

[1] See Genesis 15:2-4; 18:9-15; 21:1-7; Numbers 6:2-3; Judges 13:3-7, 24-25; II Kings 2:15; Malachi 4:5-6.


(c) 2019 by Daniel L. Segraves[archive]

An Introduction to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament: Study Guide

An Introduction to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament

July 7, 2019

[1] As we move into the New Testament, we must assess the approach we will take in our study of the Holy Spirit as it relates to what we have seen in our examination of the Old Testament. The first thing we notice is that there are many more references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Whereas there are but three times the term “Holy Spirit” is found in the Old Testament, there are nearly ninety in the New Testament. Even then, this is not the most common referent. The simple term “the Spirit” appears nearly 130 times in the New Testament. The phrase “the Spirit of God” is used eleven times and “the Spirit of the Lord” five times. “His Spirit” is used four times, “My Spirit” three, and “Spirit,” in reference to God, once. There are, therefore, about 240 times the New Testament refers to the Spirit. Since there are 260 chapters in the New Testament, the Spirit is referred to, on average, almost once per chapter.[1]

[2] In our study of the Old Testament, we saw there were no readily discernable differences in the identity or work of the Spirit, regardless of what descriptors were used. Since the same terms are used in the New Testament, we do not expect to find such differences here. There is, after all, “one Spirit.”

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV).

The New Testament will not introduce a Spirit foreign to the Spirit presented in Genesis 1:2 and referred to in several ways throughout the Old Testament.[2]

[3] We are interested not only in every Old Testament text that mentions the Spirit and is quoted, paraphrased, or alluded to in the New Testament. The New Testament is not limited to these references in its concern with the Holy Spirit. Its interest includes the great phenomenon of Pentecost, where all who waited in an upper room, men and women, were baptized with the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages they had never learned. This was biblically unprecedented, although prophetically anticipated by Joel, John the Baptist and Jesus.

[4] The mysterious, miraculous work of the Spirit includes the Incarnation, wherein the Lord God Himself was manifest in full, authentic human existence by means of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the virgin Mary, causing her to conceive and give birth to Jesus, God with us.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matthew 1:20–23, NKJV).

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. . . . 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. . . . 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Luke 1:31–43 (NKJV)

While He was fully God, Jesus was also fully human, filled, empowered, and led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14).

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness . . . . Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region (Luke 4:1, 14).

To work out the ramifications of this requires considerable effort, time and space.

[5] A thorough study of New Testament insights on the Holy Spirit includes, but is not limited to, the role of the Spirit in regeneration (i.e., the new birth), the fruit of the Spirit, what it means for believers to be led by the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the use of terms like “the Spirit of His Son,” “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” and Jesus’ warning about blasphemy against the Spirit.

Summary 

  1. The Spirit is much more visible in the New Testament than in the Old Testament.
  1. There is no difference in the identity and work of the Spirit, regardless of the descriptors used.
  1. The Incarnation was an unprecedented event, whereby God was manifested in human existence.
  1. The Incarnation necessarily introduced an interest in the work of the Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
  1. Pentecost was another unprecedented event, a turning point in the work of the Spirit in the lives of people.
  1. Aspects of the work of the Spirit in the New Testament include the new birth, the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, blasphemy, and descriptors not used in the Old Testament.

[1] This lesson and the next three are drawn from the upcoming book by Daniel L. Segraves, The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology (Weldon Spring, MO: Word Aflame, 2019). The book will discuss in detail some of the issues alluded to but not fully worked out in these lessons.

[2] There are, of course, angelic spirits, human spirits and evil spirits, but that is not our concern in this work. We are interested in the Spirit of God.[archive]