The Holy Spirit as Guide, Preacher, and Indwelling in the Book of Acts
A research paper submitted to Dr. L. Timothy Swinson
In Partial Fulfillment of the requirements For
May 7, 2014
The moments were powerful and moving. The book of Acts, written by Luke bridge the gap between the gospel accounts and the letters to the churches with the historical account of the actions of the Holy Spirit, working through a rag-tag band of peasants lead by a man who denied Jesus three times, and later joined by a man previously in the business of hunting down and murdering Christians. Twelve men, and what was the mission? It was to spread the gospel to the entire planet. It was impossible for them to do this themselves, alone, without the direct power of God working through them. As God the Father gave his son Jesus Christ to appoint the apostles, so Jesus Christ gave the Holy Spirit to guide, speak through, and indwell his messengers, effectively spreading the gospel to the barbarian war torn world. Empirically we see that Jesus Christ, by way of the given Holy Spirit was quite successful. Today there are over two billion Christians worldwide, and the Bible is the best selling book of all time (“Best selling book of non-fiction”, “Major Religions ranked by Size”).
The centrality of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts is obvious from the very beginning (Turner, 2003, p.147). All Lukan scholars tend to agree that Luke’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit is less explicit than one would expect (Turner, 2003, p.147). There are still many divides in scholarly circles on Luke’s view on the Holy Spirit (Turner, 2003, p.147). The majority of scholars seem to be of the view that the Holy Spirit is expressed by Luke as an empowering for service and mission (Turner, 2003, p.147). This is the thesis I intend to defend, that the Holy Spirit empowers, for specifically the spread of the gospel, the three principle avenues of evangelism being the reception at Pentecost and the subsequent ability to speak in the gentile languages first; Second, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in regard to travel, and the encouraging assurances of the Spirit. Third, the Holy Spirit as speaking directly through apostles by filling them, creating a unique combination within the apostle similar to the idea of inspired scripture, both spoken with human words and ideas, yet also fully inspired by the Spirit. These three principle ministries of the Holy Spirit provided the framework necessary for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be spread effectively into all the world.
It is important to note that the Holy Spirit does not have a ministry outside of Jesus Christ. The baptism of the Spirit, a ministry of the Holy Spirit not discussed at length in this paper is for the purpose of bringing one into the body of Christ. A.C. Gabelein (1962) a theologian put is best when he wrote: “The baptism with the Spirit brings the one who is thus baptized into the organic union of the body and under the imputed blessings and power of Christ who is the Head. It establishes an identity between the believer and his Lord which is as a member of a body to the head, or a branch to the vine. There are upwards of 130 passages which declare that the Christian is in Christ. It is never said that we are baptized into the Spirit. Such an interpretation is impossible, but it is said that by the Spirit we are baptized into one body.”
Jesus Christ gives the Holy Spirit
After his incredible victory at the cross, Jesus Christ reclaimed his life and appeared to the apostles in various locations for forty days. The Holy Spirit did indeed minister through Jesus Christ, which is noted very early in Acts by Luke (Acts 1:2 NIV). Just a few verses later Jesus instructed the disciples not to leave Jerusalem and said this: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5 NIV). The beginning of the ministry of the disciples is contingent on the Holy Spirit being distributed.
The commissioning was simple yet effective as a final order: “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” (Acts 1:8 NIV). Then Jesus ascended to heaven, and the apostles watched, stunned, but were urged by angels to know that he will return again (Acts 1:11 NIV). The final words of Jesus Christ are linked to passages of scripture across much of the Old Testament (Moore, 1997). One such passage is Isaiah 49:6 (NIV) which states, “he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Some scholars believe the statement made by Jesus denotes not only a geographical sending, but an ethnic ministry to the gentiles (Moore, 1997). Such a daunting commission to the entire gentile world requires a powerful friend, the Holy Spirit working through the disciples, to have any possibility of success.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, and they were then able to speak in foreign languages (Acts 2:4 NIV). Nearby gentiles from all over the world heard their native languages being spoken (Acts 2:5-6 NIV). The Spirit was at work, creating a situation that allowed for evangelism of Jew and Gentile alike. The result was 3,000 new Christians (Acts 2:41 NIV). The Holy Spirit had begun to work through the apostles.
The Holy Spirit Fills Believers as they Preach
After Peter’s speech at Pentecost the church began to grow. Soon enough however, the Jewish leadership came against the Way. Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and it was at this time that Peter spoke, filled with the Spirit. Acts 4:8 (NIV) says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!” Peter goes on to make an inspired speech to the Jewish leadership, telling them Jesus Christ is the exclusive way to salvation (Acts 4:12 NIV). Luke notes specifically that Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit. This is at a moment when evangelism is needed, and upon the filling of the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ is presented as Lord and savior; the Gospel is preached.
Once again the idea of the filling of the Spirit is seen at the stoning of Stephen. Stephen has just made a long speech to the Sanhedrin. At the end of the speech, the crowd is about to explode with anger. Then we see Acts 7:55-56 (NIV) which says,” But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” This last statement drove the crowd mad, and they covered their ears and proceeded to stone Stephen (Acts 7:57-60 NIV). Though it is highly likely that Stephen was filled with the Spirit during his entire speech, Luke does not make note of this. But it is noted that the Holy Spirit provides a vision to Stephen of Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God. The vision triggers Stephen to speak audibly and describe what he is seeing. He was preaching by way of the Holy Spirit just by describing what he was seeing. In describing this beautiful scene, the Sanhedrin’s resistance to the Spirit was perfected. The Sanhedrin had heard Jesus describe himself as the son of man only a few weeks earlier, and Stephen’s use of that title was a clear testimony to the Sanhedrin of the deity of Christ (Constable, 2014, p.127). In furious anger they proceeded to kill him.
The third filling of the Holy Spirit I’ll touch on is Paul in Acts 13:9. Acts 13:9 (NIV) says “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said.” Paul goes on to rebuke the sorcerer named Elymas. According to Constable (2014) “Paul was about to announce a divine miracle designed to frustrate Satan’s work in hindering the progress of the gospel.” The divine miracle left the sorcerer blind for a time (Acts 13:11 NIV). Once again while Paul attempts to share the gospel, persecution occurs. The Holy Spirit used the persecution, in this case a Jewish false teacher attempting to mislead the Roman proconsul, for the purpose of evangelism. The proconsul is so amazed he ends up believing (Acts 13:12 NIV). Once again the Holy Spirit has succeeded in spreading the gospel.
The Holy Spirit’s Guidance of the Church
The Holy Spirit has clearly been shown to be a received indwelling, given by Jesus Christ for the purpose of empowerment and mission. He has also been shown to be a filling empowerment for the purpose of evangelism. The third ministry of the Holy Spirit in regard to the thesis is the Spirit’s loving guidance.
Acts 10:19-20 (NIV) says, “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” In this situation Peter had just received a vision from the Spirit regarding ministry to the Gentiles. Peter proceeded to obey the leading of the Spirit and later baptized a Roman named Cornelius and his family (Acts 10:47-48 NIV). The Holy Spirit guided Peter to a situation where he had the opportunity to preach the Gospel, he preached, and new believers were baptized. The Holy Spirit strategically moved about, building the church one brick at a time in the book of Acts, truly astonishing, mysterious, and wonderful.
In Acts 13 the Holy Spirit speaks to the church at Antioch. In this case the Holy Spirit is working as a missionary mobilizing force, pairing Paul and Barnabas together in preparation to be sent. Acts 13:2 (NIV) says “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The Holy Spirit is once again seen strategically building the church. Not only does the Holy Spirit guide the missionary to new converts, in the case of Peter to the family of Cornelius, but it also works in the church mobilizing and sending missionaries. The Holy Spirit is truly the loving guide of the church of Christ.
The Holy Spirit also works in strategic prevention and timing in His ministry of guidance. Acts 16:6-7 (NIV) says, “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” The Holy Spirit knows how to guide the apostles to new converts, the Spirit mobilizes missionaries, and the Holy Spirit also knows where the apostles should not go. It’s just after these verses that Luke writes of the vision Paul receives, most certainly from the Holy Spirit, to take the gospel to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10 NIV).
Paul in Acts chapter 20 is sent by the Spirit to Jerusalem. In his speech to the Ephesian elders, he says, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:22-24 NIV). This is probably the only speech by Paul that Luke heard with his own ears (Constable, 2014, p.289). The Holy Spirit sometimes leads the apostles into difficult situations, for the sake of the glory of God. The ultimate purpose here is that the gospel be preached, no matter what. Once again the Holy Spirit shows himself as guide, as he beckons Paul back to Jerusalem where prison and pain await. Later in Acts the Spirit leads Paul to Rome itself, where once again the Gospel is preached (Acts 28:31 NIV).
Jesus Christ while teaching salvation and the narrow way the Christian must walk was asked: Given how difficult the Way is, who then can possibly be saved? His reply was simple and straight to the point, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 NIV). In the same way, it was impossible for the church of Christ to spread effectively and lead the lost to salvation without the Holy Spirit guiding the church, ministering through the apostles, and indwelling the body of Christ with gifts like tongues. Jesus Christ commissioned his followers and distributed the Holy Spirit to them at Pentecost (Acts 1, 2 NIV). The Holy Spirit inspired and spoke through great men like Peter, Stephen, and Paul (Acts 5, 7, 13 NIV). The Holy Spirit guided the church in baptizing new believers, sending missionaries, and leading missionaries into situations where the gospel could be preached (Acts 16, 20 NIV). The book of Acts is truly the historical account of God himself building His early church, eventually reclaiming billions from the hands of the evil one for eternity in his kingdom, to this very day.
B. Thesis: In Acts, the Holy Spirit is received, guides, and speaks through the Apostles effectively spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
II. The Ministry of the Holy Spirit through Jesus and at Pentecost
A. Jesus instructs the Apostles through the Holy Spirit
1. Acts 1:2 Jesus’ final instructions via the Holy Spirit
2. Acts 1:8 Jesus’ commissions to the apostles as witnesses
B. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
1. Acts 2:2-4 The Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles
2. Acts 2:14-21 Peter references Joel regarding the Spirit
C. Response to the Holy Spirit
1. Acts 2:5-13 Initial reaction of the crowds to the Tongues
2. Acts 2:37-47 The Response of the Jews to the Holy Spirit
III. The Holy Spirit fills the Apostles while they Preach
A. Acts 4:8 Peter speaks to the Religious Leaders filled with the Spirit
B. Acts 7:55 Stephen speaks while filled with the Spirit
C. Acts 13:9 Paul speaks by the power of the Spirit
IV. The Holy Spirit’s Guidance of Believers
A. The Holy Spirit speaks to the Apostles
1. Acts 10:19 The Spirit speaks to Peter regarding the three men
looking for him
2. Acts 13:1-4 The Holy Spirit speaks to the church at Antioch
regarding Paul and Barnabas
B. The Holy Spirit as a guide and instructor
1. Acts 16:6-7 The Holy Spirit prevents Paul from going into Asia
2. Acts 20:22-23 The Holy Spirit compels Paul to go to Jerusalem
[The Guinness book of world records is a highly reputable source, listing the Bible as the best selling book in human history.]
Constable, Dr. Thomas L.. “Notes on Acts.” Sonic Light. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/acts.pdf
(accessed April 20, 2014). [This commentary by Dr. Constable will be a good overall reference for general notes on the entire book of Acts. Dr. Constable deals with all the issues of title, authorship, purpose, events, and the work of the Holy Spirit for the mission to the Gentile world.]
Gaebelein, A. C. “Baptism of the Spirit.” Central Bible Quarterly 5:2 (Summer 1962): 34–40. [Gaebelein’s article regarding the baptism of the Spirit should help cover the topic in my thesis statement regarding the reception of the Holy Spirit. Gaebelein’s paper revolves around the baptism at Pentecost, and there is a subsection of my paper devoted to to Pentecost, as well as Peter’s speech after the tongues, so this piece should be quite useful.]
[According to the estimates made by adherents.com based on the best data, there are approximately 2.1 billion Christians in the world today.]
Moore, Thomas S. “‘To the End of the Earth’: The Geographical and Ethnic Universalism of Acts 1:8 in Light of Isaianic Influence on Luke.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:3 (1997): 390–99. [This paper by Thomas Moore effectively discusses Acts 1:8 in a way that ought to intersect with my paper nicely. My paper will touch on the giving of the Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ, so this article will be useful in citations for that section.]
“MyStudyBible.com.” MSB.com. https://www.mystudybible.com/
(accessed April 20, 2014). [I will make use of the website tools including the Holman Bible Dictionary, as well as Strongest Concordance if need be. If there are any issues for the paper that aren’t filled by the NIV Bible or the Notes on Acts by Dr. Constable then this should help fill the gaps.]
NIV Bible. Popular ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997. [My Bible of choice, referenced in paper form as well as online through various free access websites, most notably Biblegateway.com.]
Russell, Walt. “The Anointing with the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts.” Trinity Journal 7, no. 1 (Spr 1986): 47–63. [The Holy Spirit being the central issue of my research paper, this article will be useful. I will necessarily need to hit three areas of defense of my thesis statement: The reception of the Holy Spirit, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit as it speaks through the Apostles. This piece will help with the third area, the Holy Spirit as it speaks through believers.]
Turner, Max. “The Work of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts.” Word & World 23, no. 2 (Spr 2003): 146–153. [This piece by Max Turner describes the Holy Spirit as portrayed by Luke as central to the the propagation of the Gospel. Turner describes the Holy Spirit as a means for inspired speech, revelation, and wisdom. This paper will be useful in describing the guidance provided by the Holy Spirit which is the second issue of my thesis statement.]