Today we’re going to study Acts chapter 2, so open your bibles to John chapter 16.
II. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit
Jesus is teaching and comforting His disciples in the hours before His crucifixion. He’s letting them know His hour has come where the Son of Man will be sacrificed, and the disciples are understandably upset. But Jesus tells them that it must be this way. Let’s start with John 16:6-15,
Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
I wanted to back up to this chapter of John to remind us that Jesus is fulfilling a holy purpose. Jesus will become our sin and be crucified on a cross as punishment. The disciples were upset about the upcoming death of Jesus, but Jesus tells them that there is reason to be joyous.
And then, there is this statement in John 16:6-7 –
Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
The NIV uses the word “advocate,” NASB uses “helper.” King James uses “comforter,” not the kind from Bed Bath and Beyond of course. The original Greek word is “parakletos,” and the literal meaning is somebody who is called to your side to give help. Somebody who pleads your case before a judge, for example. But that definition is too limited, because a “parakletos” is also a helper, an assistant, and a comforter.
Jesus is talking about the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and John 16:6 was one of those verses that would raise a question in my mind. Jesus says He has to go away first or the parakletos won’t come to us.
III. Who is the Holy Spirit?
What exactly is this Holy Spirit? Why won’t He come unless Jesus goes away? Well, let’s go back to the beginning. And by the beginning, I mean the beginning, Genesis 1:1-2 –
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The Holy Spirit was an integral part of creation, part of God’s plan for this world. It reminds me of John 1:1-3 that says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
At creation, the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit – were present. The Holy Spirit is present throughout the Old Testament, and is usually described as “coming upon” people such as Joshua and David and even Saul. And in the book of Judges, the Holy Spirit “came upon” various judges to deliver Israel from her oppressors. The Holy Spirit is described as coming upon people to perform certain tasks, and then the Holy Spirit would depart.
I think we have to understand our condition as children of Adam before we can understand God’s plan for the Holy Spirit. See, in the Old Testament up to the crucifixion of Jesus, man was unclean. Priests would make atonement for the themselves and then they could be clean enough to present sacrifices for the people, but these sacrifices were temporary and had to be repeated. Priests had to purify themselves every time before entering the temple; the people had to be purified every year. We are infused with sin, or as Jesus says in John 8:44, we belong to our father, the devil, and we want to carry out our father’s desires.
But Jesus changed everything. When He died on that cross, he carried our sins away as far as the east is from the west.
Remember in the Old Testament, David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba? Once the prophet Nathan convicted David of his evil ways, David cried out to the Lord in Psalm 51, and acknowledges that David has been sinful from birth, but he knows God has had a plan for him even before that while David was still in his mother’s womb and says in Psalm 51:10,
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
I think this sheds some light on Jesus’ statement earlier in John 16:6-7 – don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that our lesson today is in Acts 2, but I’ll get there. Let’s go back to Jesus’ statement,
Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
Before the death of Jesus, we are unclean and in need of purification. If we accept Jesus as our sacrifice, we become clean forever and the Holy Spirit indwells in us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says,
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
So Jesus had to die as our sacrifice before we are considered clean before God and our bodies purified for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And that’s exactly who we are, temples for the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. And none of this would be possible without the sacrifice of Jesus. It’s a true cause for celebration.
IV. The Holy Spirit arrives at Pentecost
Speaking of celebrations, let’s now turn to Leviticus 23 for some reason that I hope will become clear to both you and me in this study of Acts. In Leviticus 23 are the mitzvots regarding festivals. Remember the 613 mitzvots? Maybe one day we’ll study how Jesus fulfilled these requirements, but we’re going to run out of time if I don’t eventually start talking about the book of Acts. Starting in Leviticus 23:4, the festival called Passover is described, where the unblemished lamb is offered to the Lord as a sacrifice to commemorate how the Lord brought the Jews out of Egypt. You may recall in the book of Exodus how the blood of the unblemished lamb was painted above the doors of the faithful Jews, so when the angel of the Lord came to Egypt to slay the first born males of every house, he would “pass over” the faithful Jews.
And we know that Jesus fulfilled this requirement once and for all, becoming our unblemished lamb, a perfect sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord. At the end of the week before Passover, Jesus came to Jerusalem, was crucified, buried, and raised again to life, hallelujah.
After Passover, though, what happens? Leviticus 23:15 describes the next festival, the Festival of Weeks:
From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord. Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the Lord, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.
This Festival is called the Festival of Weeks by the Jews, or in Hebrew, is called “Shavuot.” So, after the Passover lamb, count off seven weeks plus 1 days, or 50 days, and offer sacrifices for our sins and for fellowship. In Greek, the word for “fifty” is “pentekonta.” We are going to abbreviate this in English as “Pentecost.”
The disciples of Jesus were faithful Jews, and they were full of joy after the Passover Lamb because they had met the resurrected Jesus and knew then that He was truly the Messiah with power over death. And in Acts 1, last week Theresa taught about the first 40 days after Jesus. Here is Acts 1:3-5:
After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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. 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 baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
And now finally we get to today’s scripture in Acts 2:1-4 –
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Fifty days after Pentecost, faithful Jews are supposed to make a sin offering and a fellowship offering, and do no regular work. We are supposed to fellowship, accept Jesus as our sin offering, and rest on the Sabbath. Pentecost is the birthday of the church when the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to us and who even today resides in us as Holy Temples for His presence.
The disciples were the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in tongues, and every person listening heard their own language being spoken. In utter amazement, the people listening were amazed at the miracle they were witnessing –
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Ok, so not everyone was amazed. Even today, there are plenty of skeptics about Christian behavior. But Peter goes on, beginning in verse 17, to give his first sermon as a Christian that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of the prophecy by Joel. And during this first church service, Peter concluded with, in verses 38-39 –
Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
On the birthday of the church, those that did not think the disciples drunk, became believers in Christ and 3000 were baptized that day. All due to the power of the Holy Spirit.
V. What is the Holy Spirit?
So who or what is this gift of the Holy Spirit that lives inside all believers during the Church Age? Is the Holy Spirit a ghost? Is the Holy Spirit sort of like The Force in Star Wars?
This has absolutely nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. If you had to classify the Force, it’s a New Age Pantheism that more or less believes that God didn’t create the universe, but that God is the universe. Belief in the Force, pantheism is.
The Holy Spirit isn’t a ghost; the Holy Spirit isn’t a mystical pantheistic force. The Holy Spirit is an integral part of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is a person, and in Genesis 1:26, God says,
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image.”
This “us” is the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are made in the image of the Holy Spirit. He looks like us. And the Holy Spirit has purpose in our lives, and I’m going to outline 4 broad missions of the Holy Spirit –
Regeneration. Rebirth. A new beginning. Just like in Genesis 1 where the Holy Spirit is present and hovering over the waters during creation, when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus as atonement for our sins, the Holy Spirit makes in us a new creation. Our old self is dead; behold, our new self will live in Him for eternity. We are born again. In the Old Testament, in the book of Ezekiel, the word of God came to Ezekiel and told him that the people of Jerusalem would be scattered, but a remnant would remain faithful, and in those faithful, Ezekiel 11:19 says,
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
The Holy Spirit was responsible for regeneration and rebirth from the beginning. This information was available to the Pharisees in Jesus day, but they did not understand. Jesus tells the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3:3-10,
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?”
Indwelling. Being filled with the Spirit. There is a major difference between the Holy Spirit’s role in the Old and the New Testaments. In believers today, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is permanent. 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us,
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
And Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us this is a permanent indwelling, a guarantee of salvation –
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
In the Old Testament, indwelling was selective and temporary. The Spirit “came upon” prophets and people such as Joshua and David for a specific reason and a specific time.
We are blessed by this indwelling because the Holy Spirit is right here when we need Him to intercede for us, even when we don’t know what we need. Look at Romans 8:26-27 –
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
The Holy Spirit is more than our conscience; the Holy Spirit guides us, helps us, gives us moral direction by directing us to obey God’s will. When you are troubled or confused or in conflict, ask God to search your heart like David did in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” The same Psalm in verse 7 asks,
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
The Holy Spirit also guides us. Look at John 16:13-14 –
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth; if what you hear conflicts with the Word of God, then you’re not hearing the Spirit, you’re hearing something else. And notice that Jesus says the Holy Spirit will bring glory to Him. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Jesus Christ. Turn to John 15:26-27 –
“When the Counselor 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, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to tell people about Jesus Christ and how they can have a relationship with God. God, Spirit, Jesus.
c. Restraint & Encouragement
Restraint. The Holy Spirit restrains us from sin. In Genesis 6:3 before the Flood,
Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
It seems to imply the Holy Spirit is withdrawn when men are unrepentant and the Lord gives them over to their sin. This theme is repeated in Romans 1:24 when God gives unrepentant men over to their sinful desires, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 when men are given over to lawlessness at the end of days before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes instead of restraining us, the Holy Spirit is compelling us. Later in our study of Acts we will get to Acts 8, and in verse 29,
The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Don’t confuse this with our sinful urges that tell us when we *want* to do something. But when we are compelled because we *ought* to do something, very often that is an encouragement from the Holy Spirit.
Empowerment. A fourth aspect of the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament is the granting of ability for service. For instance, in Exodus 31:1-5, Bezalel is given a gift to make artwork for the tabernacle:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.
VI. Fruits of the Spirit
For us in the church, we are empowered with both gifts and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the spirit is easy to find – they’re all listed in a single verse, Galations 5:22-23 –
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
This fruit of the spirit are, like fruit from a garden, beautiful evidence to all that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives. When we exhibit these qualities, we know that Holy Spirit’s sanctification of us is in progress.
We stumble when we try to do these things under our own power. Let’s take for instance, kindness. If I attempt on my own power to be kind, I can get frustrated when my kindness is not recognized. I may think, well, they just don’t appreciate me, why should I do all these kind things for them? And I may realize that with this attitude, I am long forbearing, I am not joyful, I am not gently, I am not faithful.
But when we grow and realize that we belong to Christ Jesus and He has a purpose, it will bring me joy to be used by the Holy Spirit to be kind to someone. My joy is in the Lord, not my own efforts. I find whether they are appreciative or not doesn’t matter, for I know that it pleases the Lord to be faithful and gentle. And I know that whatever rewards await for me at the Bema seat, the Judgement Seat of Christ, it is simply an added benefit to the gift of salvation that has been given to me. The difference between trying to be kind under my own power and being powered by the Holy Spirit to be kind is immeasurable. They’re not even the same thing.
Notice also that it is not “fruits” (plural) but “fruit” (singular). The fruit of the spirit embodies all of these characteristics and is available to all believers. One cannot pick and choose, saying I have the fruit of gentleness but not the fruit of self-control. It is one fruit with all 9 attributes, all bound by agape love summed up beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 –
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
It is our joy, our pleasure, our command to serve one another in agape love.
VII. Gifts of the Spirit
Gifts of the Holy Spirit are harder to list. Partly because they’re scattered over several verses, and partly because they overlap. Also, there is some debate about whether all the gifts are still available to us, or whether some of them were reserved just for the first apostles. Paul wrote much about these gifts, but let’s use 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 to summarize –
There are different kinds of gifts. But they are all given to believers by the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve. But they all come from the same Lord. There are different ways the Spirit works. But the same God is working in all these ways and in all people. The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in a special way. That is for the good of all.
Here’s a summary of the various gifts listed in the New Testament; there are a lot of overlaps and similarities, but generally either 7 gifts or 9 gifts are accepted.
It’s highly unlikely you have each and every one of these gifts in abundance. On the other hand, it’s equally unlikely you are missing one of the gifts completely. These gifts are given to each of us in a unique way specifically to enable us to help one another. It may or may not be the same as your skills at your job. But the number of gifts given to the individual members of the church just happened to be the exact same number of needs in the body of Christ.There is no “most important” gift. Each gift enables us to serve one another. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Let’s take one verse out of context and see what it means –
If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell?
They say the bible is unintelligible to those who claim to be wise. Let’s look at the surrounding verses and see if it makes more sense.
There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.
Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.
Each one of us is powered by a gift, freely given by the Holy Spirit. You have a spiritual gift, and God wants you to use it for the benefit of the body of Christ. What is your gift? Do you feel an urge to live a simple lifestyle so you can devote more time and money to God’s service? Do you express your love for God by singing? Do you have compassion for the problems of others? Do you like to make gifts that will remind them of Jesus? Do you find joy in speaking uplifting words to others? Does studying the bible bring you peace and joy? When you pray, does it seem as though the Holy Spirit steps in and helps you pray?
Whatever your gift is – and you have at least one – you can thank the Holy Spirit for His gift in your life. The Holy Spirit who has been a part of creation, is central to our “born-again” spiritual life, empowers us to serve one another in love. What a joyful realization that God loves us so much that He provide a sacrifice so that we are righteous before Him and our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit, working in our lives and the lives of those around us.
To God be the glory.