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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:

Verses 1-2
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

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!

Verse 3
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God

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.

Verses 4-5
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit."

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?

Verse 6
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

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:

Matthew 21:43
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

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.

Romans 11:25-27
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."

And we know that this Jewish revival will be of enormous benefit to the whole of mankind.

Romans 11:12
But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fulness bring!

But we donít know when it will happen:

Verses 7-8
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

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.

John 15:26-27
When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify...

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!