We like to receive gifts. It makes us feel accepted and supported. I've brought a few gifts that I have received that mean a lot to me: Hummel, "I Love You This Much" figurine (my first Mother's Day present), Italy necklace, club aluminum pot, etc. I received a gift last Wednesday from Sandy Graham. Sandy is President of the Fort Smith PTA City Council. She gave each of the local unit presidents a package of LIFESAVERS last week and asked each of us to put it near our phone. She can't be with each of the 27 local unit presidents to help us through our everyday decisions, but she gave us a symbol of her help to look toward when the phone is ringing and just won't stop ringing. She told us when it gets really bad to take the Lifesavers back to a room away from the phone, take one out and take a few minutes to just savor the flavor - relax and get away from the hubbub of it all - and then if all else fails, call her! I hope I don't need more than one package throughout the year. This is her attempt at saying, "I'm supporting you." This is one of the cheapest gifts I have ever received. But it is one of the most meaningful. 'Cause I've found myself leaving my house just to get away from the phone. Last week was a rough one and I needed this little symbol of help, comfort and support.
A couple thousand years ago there was a group of students who had been left by their Teacher. He had told them He was going away, but that He would be sending them support - a Helper - a Counselor to guide them, to teach them all things, and bring to remembrance all that they had been taught (John 14). John 16 tells us the Counselor would convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement, and that He would guide them into ALL truth. This Counselor is the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Truth that had been prophesied about in Joel, Isaiah, etc. He is known by more than thirty names in the scriptures. The people in Old Testament times knew about the Holy Spirit, but in Old Testament times it had come temporarily upon prophets, priests, kings, men of war for courage, etc. The Spirit had dwelt with them as needed by God, but not in them. We'll talk about that a little later. Ezekiel 36:26ff and Joel 2:28 looks forward to the time of the Messianic Kingdom when the Spirit's operations would be greatly extended and would be able to dwell in the average man of God - regardless of his station in life.
That time comes here in Acts 2. Staying in Jerusalem, until they received that which was Promised, put the apostles there at the festival time of Pentecost when the sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest was waved before the Lord. Thus, it was quite often called the Feast of the Harvest. How appropriate -- for the harvest of souls was about to begin. Jesus had told His disciples He would send them the Counselor only after He had left them (John 16:7) and that the Counselor would bear witness to Him. The giving of the Spirit had to wait until Jesus had been glorified (John 7:39).
If you ask one hundred different knowledgeable people questions about the Holy Spirit you'll probably come up with one hundred different ideas or variations of ideas on the Holy Spirit. When I studied Acts at Harding University, our professor spent seven hours on this chapter alone. There are many facts given about the Holy Spirit in the scriptures about which most everyone who believes the Bible is the inspired word of God accepts as truth. Here are some of them:
The problems come in when we look at the book of Acts, and the rest of the New Testament, and see all the miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles and others. Extra gifts had been given in New Testament times to confirm that the Apostle's message was from God. They couldn't prove by New Testament scriptures that they were from God, because the New Testament had not been written yet. The giving of the Mosaical law was accompanied by miracles to convince the Israelites and Pharoah that the message was from God. Now once again ordinary men had been given extraordinary gifts to confirm this new revelation was indeed from God. In addition to the apostles, we'll see later where other men received a special gift for the same reason - to convince others their message was from God.
The apostles had been instructed to lay their hands on those who had obeyed the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit would decide if this individual would receive a special gift of the Holy Spirit. It was not the Apostles who decided who would receive a special gift, but the Holy Spirit Himself. I Corinthians 12:11. It seems that only a few individuals in each area received a gift. More was not necessary. It was not a reward given to the "Holy individuals." Nor did it lessen the gift of the Holy Spirit given to everyone obedient to the Gospel. It merely helped provide proof that what these men were now teaching - The death, burial and resurrection of Christ and what that means to men - these teachings were from God.
I Corinthians 13 tells us that these gifts would cease when "that which is perfect" comes [verse 10]. When the apostles and those on whom they had laid their hands on died, so early Christian literature tells us, the gifts ceased. The perfect had come. That which is perfect is the written Gospel inspired by the Holy Spirit. Now the Word of God provides that testimony. We have enough evidences here in the scriptures to convince others this is from God. Those who are looking for signs and miraculous gifts of the Spirit are really expressing a lack of faith in God, the Spirit and His Word. They want some other proof that God is with us.
So how do we know God is with us today? The goal and ideal of the Christian life is always to be filled and controlled by the Spirit. Are we filled with the Spirit? How do we know? How does the Holy Spirit present Himself today?
Now, how many have a good understanding of the Holy Spirit? Me neither.
Acts 2 covers a multitude of subjects. I'm talking about the Holy Spirit today 'cause we'll be confronted with this all through the book of Acts. We need to feel comfortable with the subject.
The Holy Spirit is a lot like my air conditioner in my house.
I don't have to thoroughly understand it to reap the benefits of it.
I'm not suggesting that we don't need to try to understand the Holy Spirit better. When we finish Acts we'll all have a better understanding. God has told us all we need to know.
The Holy Spirit is our LIFE SAVER/SOUL CONDITIONER today. If we are obedient, love God's word, share it with others, shun sin, desire godly things, and bear the fruits of the Spirit, then we can depend on the Holy Spirit for help, comfort and support.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR