By Josh McCoy, Pastoral Resident
The Holy Spirit can be described as an “it” or an ethereal force operating at random times throughout history. The picture Luke paints in Acts 2 provides a grounded and authoritative description of who the Holy Spirit is and his ability to empower Christians. Before the Holy Spirit is examined in this text, the person of the Holy Spirit needs to be explained. In John 14:16, Jesus promises that a helper will come, and he will be with Christ’s followers forever. From a human perspective, we can question Jesus’ wisdom and discernment here. If Jesus stayed with us on earth, why would we need a helper? Is it not better to have Jesus with us all the time?
Despite our objections, the New Testament explains that Christians have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). Instead of having Jesus physically present with us at all times, Jesus allows the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to live inside of us. This means that through the power of the gospel, God now lives in us. It is also important to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit, as the third person of the Trinity and along with the Father and Son, is equal in deity to his counterparts and worthy of praise and worship.
Before Jesus ascends to heaven in Acts 1, he reminds his disciples of the coming helper, and that the power the Holy Spirit will grant them to be witnesses in the world. In Acts 2, Jesus’ promise comes to fruition. As the early church is gathered in one room, the Holy Spirit descends on the people gathered, and tongues of fire appear and rest on each of them. In addition, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues by this power.
When the Bible mentions speaking in tongues, there are two overarching scholarly notions as to what this is.The first is seen in Acts 2. Christians are talking fluently in known languages that they do not know. For instance, my primary language is English, and I do not know any other language well enough to speak it fluently. With Acts 2 as the model, this would be like me speaking Italian or French to a room of native speakers in order to communicate the truths of the gospel. The only way for this type of communication to happen is through the power of the Holy Spirit. The second type of speaking in tongues is often referred to as a private prayer language and requires an interpreter (1 Cor. 14:1-25). However, this topic is beyond the scope of this blog post.
Back in Acts 2, Peter, as the leader of the apostles, preaches a sermon to everyone who is gathered. He cites the prophecies in Joel that allude to the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the psalms that reference Christ’s first coming—the events happening in Acts are prophesized even in the Old Testament. After Peter delivered his sermon, people were cut to the heart and asked what they should do (Acts 2:37). Peter responds by saying that they should repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The only way to a saving relationship with God is through the person of Jesus Christ. The forgiveness of sins can only be accomplished through Jesus, and this is a mighty act of redemption, grace, authority and power. In Acts 2, God has decided to display more of his authority and power by bestowing Christians with the indwelling of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit and My Walk
Although the events in Acts occurred approximately 2,000 years ago, the Holy Spirit has remained active and working throughout the history of the church. The same Spirit that lived inside the earliest Christians lives inside you now, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Practically, one of the ways the Spirit helps us is by interceding to God on our behalf when we do not know what to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). When a Christian is faced with a situation where he or she is unsure of the best choice or decision, the Holy Spirit is present to intercede on our behalf and turn our groaning into words that God understands. In addition, the Holy Spirit is described as a comforter and counselor (John 14:26). Pain and suffering are realities of living in a broken world. However, God, in his sovereignty, has provided a person to help guide and shepherd us through the difficult emotions and experiences of life. We simply need to go to him with our burdens and listen to his voice.
The Holy Spirit and Our Walk
Finally, Acts 2 demonstrates a powerful example of what Christian community is. Believers are worshiping, serving, and sacrificing for one another all in the name of Christ. The gospel is fixated on Jesus Christ, and he brings people from different tribes, races, and ethnicities into a diverse, yet unified, community. The people in the early church saw the power of God, and their lives were changed forever. When you see the power of God at work in Acts, do you desire to follow Christ more closely?