Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
Before Jesus departed from His disciples to be with His Father, He relayed to them a promise. This promise caused their entire lives to change. These ordinary fishermen, tax collectors, and otherwise nobodies took part in the birth of a movement that would turn the world upside down. That is, after the promise, and after they waited for it.
When Jesus gave His followers the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, He didn’t send them out alone to accomplish His will. He told them that with his departure would come another. The Holy Spirit would be poured out on them, just as promised, and they would receive power from God to do everything they needed to do to bring about His purposes. The power of the Holy Spirit changed them from cowards who ran at the time of Jesus’ arrest and trials to bold evangelists who proclaimed the Gospel to thousands upon thousands.
They waited for this power because they knew Jesus was true to His word. The man who predicted that He would rise from the dead had more than earned their trust. They knew the power would come and they knew when He showed up. There was no reason left to question, only reason to act. And the Holy Spirit helped them to do that too.
John 16:13-14 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
In moments where something spiritual that once seemed unclear becomes clear, the Holy Spirit is at work. Whether it’s a verse of Scripture or something you’re learning through prayer, God is working in you for the purpose of His own glory. When we need an answer from God, it’s not often that we’d hear an audible voice speak to us. It’s more likely that we’d “hear” from Him through the person of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit guides us in truth. He helps us discern right from wrong, allows us to see what sound biblical doctrine looks like, He declares to us what God is revealing. When we’re in need of direction, it’s the Holy Spirit that shows us the way. When we’re looking for God’s will, it becomes clear (though usually not all at once) by way of the Holy Spirit’s work. He convicts us of sin, leads us in truth, and speaks to us the things of God.
It’s because of the Holy Spirit that we’re able to bring glory to God. He molds us and shapes us to be of godly character, bearing witness to Christ through our example to others. He loves others through us, accomplishes the Father’s will through us, and empowers us. He’s God in us and He’s what other people see of God through us.
John 16:8-11 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
What is the Holy Spirit? Is it a force? Something that makes people act crazy in church? Maybe it’s our conscience? A ghost? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit? What does the Bible say?
First, the point must be made that the Holy Spirit is not an “it”, but a “He”, the third distinct person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is God, just as Jesus is God and the Father is God. His purpose is unique and He moves in the lives of people to make things happen. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit when He was about to ascend back into heaven. He pointed out that once He was gone we’d still have God with us because we’d be given the Spirit. But so few of us understand what this means.
If you’re a believer, it’s only because you were first called by the Holy Spirit. God was working in your life to reconcile you to a right relationship with Him. You and I don’t have it in us to move towards God without Him initiating. Our sinful nature makes us want to move away from God, not towards Him.
The Spirit convicts the world of sin (makes us aware of our sinful nature and need for forgiveness), of judgment (to show us the penalty that has to be paid for our sin), and of righteousness (to show us the character of God and all that’s good). Jesus no longer walks among us as our example for what righteousness and holiness are, so the Holy Spirit’s job is to reveal them to us. It’s also His job to reveal God’s character to other people through us by enabling us to show the Fruit of the Spirit. Lives are changed by the work of the Holy Spirit, who glorifies Jesus.
John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
Put yourself in the place of the original disciples. You’re walking along daily with Jesus. The Son of God is not only your teacher, but your friend. You spend time with the one person on earth who has lived a perfect life and never committed a single sin. But then, just when you think things are going great, He tells you He’s going to go away. He’s going to die. What do you do with that?
We can’t blame Peter for his reaction to Jesus’s news. When he swore it couldn’t be so, Jesus rebuked him and we, living so far removed from that moment, are quick to judge his stupidity. But let’s be honest, we would most likely have done the same thing Peter did. If Jesus lived right here among us, if we thought He was going to establish His kingdom right here and now, we’d have tried to keep Him around too. But Jesus pointed out that it was actually to our advantage that He go away. How can this be?
When Christ came to earth as a man, He emptied Himself of His divine prerogative. He, as a human man, could only be in one place at a time. In the brief time He was here in the flesh, He could not be omnipresent. He could not be with every single person at once. But by sending the Holy Spirit (who, by the way, operated in Christ at all times), we could have God present with us always. If God was still present in the form of Jesus in a historic place and time, we wouldn’t be able to experience His divine guidance unless we were right there with Him. But the Holy Spirit is our helper whenever and wherever. His power operates in us and through us to the glory of God.
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In Christ, the many promises of God to His people, the Jews, came to pass. He encompassed all that God had chosen to reveal to man. In the Holy Spirit then, all of the promises of Christ to His people, the Christians, were fulfilled. Jesus had told His followers to go and wait for Him after He had resurrected and reappeared to them. He promised if they waited they would receive power.
And so they waited. They hid, really. They were all together in one place on that day, the day of Pentecost. And when they received the Holy Spirit they all were given the power to speak in languages they didn’t know, for the purpose of evangelizing to others in his/her own tongue. Those who heard them were amazed that these uneducated men were able to speak many languages. Some scoffed, some mocked…but they listened.
As they listened, the previously timid disciples who were in hiding boldly came out among them and preached the gospel. Peter delivered a sermon that brought around 3,000 to Christ that day. It wasn’t a “here’s how to get a better life” sermon, or even a “Jesus loves you” speech. Peter simply pointed to the truth through events that had taken place and then let the conviction of the Holy Spirit do its work in the hearts of the people. They heard it and were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). Then Peter gave them a chance to respond, which they did.
The work of the Holy Spirit in believers on Pentecost is the same power He employs today in us. Things may not always be so drastic as to see thousands of people saved in one moment, but His conviction in their hearts and His work in us to be bold in speaking the truth is still very real, just as it was for Peter and the eleven. He may not ever urge you to speak in tongues or to preach in front of a massive crowd, but He will empower you to do God’s will in whatever situation you do find yourself in.
To God be the glory.