This goal of preaching to all nations and all tongues that BibleTalk has dovetails perfectly into the Bible passage for my lesson today.
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified."37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:36-38
It is Pentecost Sunday and the crowds that have come to Jerusalem from many nations to celebrate the feast have witnessed the miracle of tongues where they hear, each in their own language, the different Apostles proclaiming Jesus.
I make one last reference to BibleTalk here to note that the miracle of tongues done here so that all could hear the gospel in their own language, is now reproduced today with technology. I believe that God has provided both in order to fulfill His will that we preach to every tribe, every tongue.
As far as Acts 2:36-38 is concerned, I believe Marty and I, as well as other teachers, have clearly explained that repentance and baptism are the proper response of faith when one hears the good news of Jesus. In other words, repentance and baptism (immersion in water) are the proper expression of the believer's faith in Jesus. By these I demonstrate that I understand and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I am also assured that this congregation has also received many lessons dealing with the meaning of repentance and the proper, Biblical, mode of baptism: full immersion in water by the authority of the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Peter mentions that upon repentance and baptism the believer receives the forgiveness of sins (which I think everyone understands) and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is what I would like to focus on.
Is The Gift of The Holy Spirit The Same as The Gifts of The Holy Spirit?
Does this gift mean I should expect to exercise supernatural powers like some of the people in the New Testament? No. The gifts or ability to perform signs and miracles were given by God to certain people for very specific reasons in the 1st century.
To the Apostles
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
- Acts 1:8
The purpose was to confirm with signs and miracles the gospel that they preached was indeed true. Confirmed with power.
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
- Acts 10:44-48
Cornelius was a Roman military officer sincerely looking for the truth. Peter was sent to preach. Purpose here was to provide a sign to the Apostles that Cornelius and all Gentiles like him were to receive the gospel, just like the Jews. Peter and the Apostles were under the impression that the good news was only for the Jews and God worked a miracle through a non-Jew as a signal to Peter that it was alright to preach to non-Jews as well.
To First Century Disciples
14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 8:14-17
This was done by the laying on of the Apostles' hands. The purpose was to help the early church to evangelize, organize and protect itself without the Bible which was not complete yet. The term "Holy Spirit fell on them/received the Holy Spirit" was used to describe the empowering of an individual to do miracles. These gifts were no longer given once the Bible was completed and the Apostles died. The Bible was and is the tool used to evangelize, organize and protect the church.
What Was the Gift of the Holy Spirit?
What is it that Peter is promising? It is the Holy Spirit, a divine being of the Godhead, given to the believer. God not only speaking to man through His word, but now dwelling within man through the person of the Holy Spirit. In order to understand this we need to go back to the Old Testament.
Old Testament Concept
The expectation of the people in the Old Testament was that with he Messiah and the age of deliverance was to come the Spirit of God in a mighty way. Not only on the prophets and special servants as had happened in the past, but in a new and dynamic way, and upon all the people.
'For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants;
"It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
- Joel 2:28
These Old Testament prophets said that when the Messiah came He would bring the Spirit on all the people.
New Testament Fulfillment
In the New Testament Jesus and the Apostles repeat the promise and explain how it has been fulfilled.
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:38
(Focused on this since familiar with baptism)
15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you [...] 23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
- John 14:15-17; 23
The word "abode" here means that it is God Himself who will dwell within the believer through the actual person of the Holy Spirit. Not just the teachings or ideas or love of God, but God Himself will dwell within anyone who obeys God. Obeys what? Obeys the gospel (repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and receive the Holy Spirit).
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
- Romans 8:11
Paul explains plainly that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who indwells the Christian (says it twice). Indwells comes from a Greek word meaning house, the form here means to live in a house. It is the same word for those who live together in marriage (I Corinthians 7:12-13). Paul is saying that the same Holy Spirit that indwelled Jesus and raised Him up on the third day also dwells in the Christian and powers his spiritual life. The implication is that the Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian. Paul does not explain the mechanics of how a divine being can inhabit a mortal body, only that it happens. Faith is believing God at His word even when we do not see.
Hebrews 11:3 says that by "faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible."
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
- I Corinthians 3:16-17
Paul again uses the same Greek word dwell, except this time the image of an individual as a temple and the Holy Spirit as living or dwelling within is very clearly put forward.
Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
- II Timothy 1:14
Note that Timothy says to guard, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within him (same word) the treasure entrusted to him. The treasure is not the Holy Spirit, the treasure is the word, the gospel through which he obtained salvation and the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 2:2). Timothy possessed both the word and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwelled him, the word was entrusted to him. He had to guard the word through the power of the Holy Spirit. These were separate things.
The reason I am emphasizing this point is because some people teach that...
The Gift of the Holy Spirit is the Word
Some people teach that the way the Holy Spirit dwells within us is through the word. There is no actual divine indwelling. In other words, the way we have the Holy Spirit is by knowing and internalizing the word of God, which is given by the Holy Spirit.
I believe that this is not what the Bible teaches. By the words and images it uses, the Bible refers to the actual person of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each Christian. When the Apostles referred to indwelling they meant that the Holy Spirit Himself came into the person. They did not explain how, only that it happened. For example, we do not ever say that it was the devil's ideas or words that inhabited demon possessed people that Jesus cured. He spoke to them, and literally brought them out of the people. Devils went from the person to the pigs in one episode, not an idea transfer.
I believe therefore that when Peter says "the gift of the Holy Spirit" he is saying that the divine Spirit of God comes to dwell within the individual. Old Testament prophets promised Him, John proclaimed Him, Peter offered Him, Paul explained Him, Jesus gives Him, and all who obey the gospel receive Him within themselves.
How Do I Know I Have the Holy Spirit If I Do Not Perform Any Signs or Miracles?
(For example, speak in tongues). We can all know that we possess the Holy Spirit now because we can perceive His presence in a variety of ways, even if we do not do miracles.
God's Promise is Sure to Those Who Obey - Acts 2:38
The surest confirmation is God's word and if God has promised that those who repent and are baptized have the Spirit, they do. The reverse is also true, those who do not repent and refuse to be immersed for forgiveness do not possess the Sprit no matter what they say or do.
Begin to Have a Taste and Desire for Spiritual Things
Our flesh drives us to seek for security, satisfaction of our needs, gratification of our desires and much of our mental and physical energies are invested in these (some good, some bad). The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, motivates us to seek and experience spiritual things:
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
- Romans 8:26
He is our partner. He encourages us to pray with reassurance that our prayers will be heard. He stirs us to go to God and keeps our prayers before the throne. Why we should ask, seek, knock? Because the Holy Spirit is always there to help.
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
- Romans 8:12-14
The Spirit leads us into the doing of good, a desire for higher moral standards, and the cultivation of a more Christlike character. The Spirit gives us a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Flesh has no taste or interest in seeking righteousness, this is the work of the Spirit.
Desire and Ability to Have Intimacy with God
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
- Ephesians 3:14-19
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
- Galatians 5:22
There is a relationship between the word and the Holy Spirit and our own spirit deepens our sense of knowledge and intimacy with our Lord. The Holy Spirit acts as a facilitator or enabler in getting us to know and have a relationship with a being whose nature and scope our faculties, weakened by sin, have a difficult time in relating to. We have a hard time relating to God because of our sin.
In other words, the Holy Spirit helps our spirit to know and appreciate God for who He truly is, and this knowledge becomes the substance of our joy and hope and strength. Jesus said in John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." I know I have the Holy Spirit because my experience and knowledge of God grows causing me to rejoice and have hope and peace. (Eternal not just time, but quality).
Service in the Kingdom
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
- I Corinthians 12:4-7
In this passage Paul talks about miraculous abilities as well as the abilities to serve and teach still with us today. In the New Testament we learn that every believer receives the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit enables every believer to minister in some way. If one preaches he does so by the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit. If one teaches he/she does so in the same way. If one sings, prays, cleans, fixes, visits, gives or organizes, they do so through the grace of God and the strength of the Spirit.
I do not believe that the Holy Spirit empowers you to be a better sweeper or teacher because He indwells you. In the world these skills come with training and effort. I do believe however, that the Holy Spirit gives you the strength and faith to sweep and serve and give for something you cannot see, that is His work in so far as our ministries are concerned. People in the world fix, serve and give for something they can see and touch and taste. The Holy Spirit helps us to continue to do the best we can for something not yet seen. I know I have the Holy Spirit because I am spending my life serving a Lord I cannot see, dying for a kingdom I cannot touch.
5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
- John 3:5-8
Jesus uses a parallel between the work of the Spirit and the wind to explain how one can know the presence of the Holy Spirit without seeing Him. We cannot observe the Holy Spirit as He works within the Christian (like we cannot see the wind), but what the Holy Spirit accomplishes within the Christian is visible proof of His presence, just like the blowing leaves and rolling waves are proof of the presence of the wind.
Many go too far in looking for proof of the possession of the Holy Spirit by doing miraculous or mysterious things. Others limit the work of the Spirit by relating His presence to an internalization of information thereby voiding His dynamic power within the individual. But God's word assures all who believe in Jesus Christ, repent of their sins and are baptized, that He will give them the Holy Spirit to dwell in their hearts forever. And all those who do so will perceive His presence as they see their spiritual lives grow in assurance, righteous living, intimacy and communication with God and His Son Jesus Christ.