(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
The church needs the Holy Spirit
10th May 2007
Let's look at the first 8 verses of the book of Acts.
Luke is continuing the account he started in his gospel. Having described what Jesus said and did on Earth, Luke now goes on to talk about what the Holy Spirit did in the early days of the church. But first he takes a few sentences to set the context, by reminding his reader(s) of the last things Jesus told the disciples. He starts by saying:
Itís worth noticing that Jesus taught the disciples ďthrough the Holy SpiritĒ. He Himself needed the Holy Spirit for His ministry. Jesus came to be our pioneer. He emptied Himself of His divine power and was born as a baby. He was baptised in water, just like us, and He was baptised in the Holy Spirit, just like us (if we have been). He did no miracles, and he didnít teach or preach, until after he was baptised in the Holy Spirit. And when He taught His disciples, He taught them ďthrough the Holy SpiritĒ. And if He needs the baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit, then so do we!
After Jesus was crucified, He rose from the dead and He appeared to his disciples over a period of 40 days. If they were going to preach the resurrected Lord, in the face of bitter persecution from both the Romans and the Jews, then they were going to have to be absolutely certain that He did rise from the dead. So He kept on proving it to them.
Jesus told the disciples to wait - wait until they were baptised in the Holy Spirit. The church couldnít change the world until it had received power through the Holy Spirit.
With the Holy Spirit, there is nothing the church canít achieve. But without Him, there is very little we can achieve. We can try so hard, do so much, and yet achieve so little, when we work without the Holy Spiritís power. We need the fulness of the Holy Spirit.
Some people seem to think that the church only rediscovered the doctrine of the fulness of the Holy Spirit in the 20th century. But it's not a new idea; Robert Traill wrote in 1682:
What can be the reason of this sad observation, That when formerly a few lights raised up in the nation, did shine so as to scatter and dispel the darkness of popery in a little time; yet now, when there are more, and more learned men amongst us, the darkness comes on apace? Is it not because they were men filled with the Holy Ghost and with power; and many of us are only filled with light and knowledge, and inefficacious notions of Godís truth?
So often, our agenda is not Godís agenda. Jesus wanted them to understand about our need for the power of the Holy Spirit. They wanted know about the future course of history. They knew that Jesus was taking the Kingdom of God away from the Jews and giving it to the church:
And they wanted to know when the Jews would get it back.
We know that one day there will be a great revival amongst the Jews.
And we know that this Jewish revival will be of enormous benefit to the whole of mankind.
But we donít know when it will happen:
Hear Jesusís answer. Itís not for us to know when the Jewish revival will happen. Itís not for us to know how great a world-wide revival it will trigger. And itís not for us to know when Jesus will return in triumph. We know these things will happen, and that should be enough for us.
Our priority should be to receive power from the Holy Spirit and to go out and tell the world the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Just like the first disciples, some Christians are more interested in speculation and fanciful interpretation of Biblical prophesy, trying work out ahead of time what God has already told us we wonít know until it happens. Just like the first disciples, we should instead seek to persuade people through the Bible that the Good News is true; Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead, and all who call on His name will be saved.
Again, this is not a new idea. Charles Spurgeon wrote in 1887:
Your guess at the number of the beast, your Napoleonic speculations, your conjectures concerning a personal antichrist Ė forgive me, I count them as mere bones for dogs; while men are dying and hell is filling, it seems to me the veriest drivel to be muttering about an Armageddon at Sebastopol, or Sadowa or Sedan, and peeping between the folded leaves of destiny to discover the fate of Germany. Blessed are they who read and hear the words of the prophesy of Revelation, but the like blessing has evidently not fallen on those who pretend to expound it, for generation after generation of them have been proved to be in error by the mere lapse of time, and the present race will follow to the same inglorious sepulchre.
God has the future well in hand. He's planned it out, both for every Christian and for the whole world. Our job is not to spend our time on endless investigations into possible detailed interpretative schemes for the future. It's to receive the power of the Holy Spirit so we can tell the world about Jesus Crist our saviour - risen from the dead!