The Promise of the Spirit

Title: The Promise of the Spirit

Text: Acts 1:4-5

Date: October 7th, 2007

Last week we learned how impossible it is to live the Christian life in our own power, and how we need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live the Christian life and be a witness to the reality of God in the world. Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father concerning the Holy Spirit to empower them. But that raises the question, “What exactly were the disciples to wait for?” And, “What was the promise that Jesus spoke to them about waiting for?” And, “What does it mean to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?” It’s no wonder that the disciples were a little confused. It’s no wonder that they started wondering what this “promise” might be. It’s no wonder that they thought that perhaps the promise had something to do with the restoration of Israel to a free nation once again, since the Jews at that time were all waiting for the Messiah to fulfill all the promises of the Old Testament concerning Israel. But Jesus wasn’t talking about those promises, which were to be fulfilled at Christ’s second coming during the end times. Jesus was talking about the fulfillment of some very specific promises made in both the Old and New Testament periods concerning the Holy Spirit. Here are Jesus’ exact words in Acts 1:4-5, “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.’” We’ll be talking about the famous prophetic promise in the Book of Joel in the Old Testament concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit in a few weeks, so I won’t take the time to cover that today. But I’d like to go back over the New Testament promises of the Holy Spirit in order to help us understand what is so special about the promise for which Jesus told his disciples to wait – and what that same promise means to us today in our lives as well. The promise that Jesus talked about to his disciples was important enough for them to wait for instead of simply starting in to their Christian lives and ministries. If it was important enough for the disciples to wait for, might it also be important for us to wait for as well? If so, what is it that we are supposed to wait for before we attempt to live the Christian life and minister in Jesus’ name? These are important questions that require we get a context for the prophecy and promise Jesus is speaking about in respect to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Rather than simply jump ahead to the promise, let’s take the time to back up and hear the prophecy concerning the promise, which will help us understand things better. First, let’s see what John the Baptist says. Second, let’s see what Jesus says in the gospels. Third, let’s see what the promise means to us today in our lives.

First, John the Baptist says the promise will be like being baptized in water, only in the Holy Spirit. Luke 3:16, “John answered them all, ‘I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’” This statement by John the Baptist appears in all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew 3:11: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I’m not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” Mark 1:8, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John 1:33, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” So all four gospels record John the Baptist prophesying that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Then, of course, in the Book of Acts, Jesus himself repeats the prophecy and the promise, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So the promise of the Holy Spirit baptism is something like baptism in water, only a spiritual baptism. Now what happens when we are baptized in water. Lots of people don’t remember their baptism in water because they were baptized as babies a long, long time ago. There is a longstanding Christian tradition of baptizing babies, but the early church baptized adults only. There is no specific account of baptizing babies until much later in the history of the church. From the start, only adults were baptized, just as John the Baptist baptized only adults because of the requirement of repentance. Many people today have been baptized twice, once as a baby and then again as an adult believer. Is this necessary? It certainly more strictly follows the practice of the early church as described in the Bible, but whether it’s technically necessary for one to be re-baptized once one has been baptized as a baby, that’s hard to say. I know for myself, I was baptized again as an adult because I wanted to follow the exact biblical practice, but whether I absolutely needed to do that, I leave for you to decide between you and the Lord. One thing is for certain, if you have never been baptized at all either way, you need to get baptized if you are a Christian. But the word “baptize” in the original Greek language of the Bible means “to dip or immerse.” When John the Baptist baptized people he dunked them in the water, they were completely and totally submerged, and they were fully surrounded by water. In the same way, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is when a person is completely and totally surrounded, immersed or submerged not by water but by the Spirit of God. So the promise is that the disciples would be fully and totally immersed in the Holy Spirit. And the same promise applies to you and me today.

Second, Jesus says that the promise, the coming of the Spirit, will help believers. John 14:16-18, 26, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . . . But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 16:7-8, 13-15 says, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. . . . 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. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” The word Jesus uses in these verses is “paraclete” in the original Greek of the New Testament, which means “counselor, comforter, helper, etc.” It literally means “called along side” to assist. Now we can understand why Jesus says he wouldn’t be leaving the disciples alone after he goes, because the Holy Spirit or Paraclete or helper would be with them. This helper would counsel them and continue to teach them truth. He would be there to counsel them at every twist and turn in the long road ahead on earth. In fact, Jesus even says that it’s better or more advantageous for them if he goes away physically, because then the Holy Spirit or Helper will come who can be with them at all times in all places without limit. The Spirit will not only speak to the believers but also convict the unbelievers of sin, righteousness, and judgment in order that they too might believe. Everything the believers would need for life and ministry God would provide through the Holy Spirit. Now we see why Jesus was so insistent that they all wait for the fulfillment of the promised Spirit. If they were to simply go out without waiting, without the resources of the Holy Spirit, their lives and ministry would collapse overnight. This is the same reason why many Christians are so weak and powerless to live the Christian life. Powerless to resist temptation, powerless to love, powerless to witness the gospel to others, powerless to pray or read the Bible, powerless to serve others in ministry – they haven’t waited for the promise of the power of the Holy Spirit. They’ve either ignored the promise or rushed ahead to live and minister in their own power. Either way, they’ve missed the supernatural dimension that Jesus promised. Now let’s talk about what this all means to us today.

Third, Jesus instructs all of us to wait and receive the power of the Holy Spirit for life and ministry. Luke 24:49, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” In John 20:22, it says, “And with that he (Jesus) breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Jesus is still saying to us today, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Receive all of the Holy Spirit. Receive the fullness of the Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit continually.” If we don’t listen to Jesus, if we don’t take the time to wait to be filled with the Holy Spirit, if we just rush out the door every morning on our way to here and there, then we will lack the power to live the Christian life and minister in Jesus’ name. If we rush out the door every day without getting filled with the Holy Spirit, without praying for the Spirit’s filling every day, then we’ll probably fall into temptation and lack the power to say no to sin. We’ll probably get discouraged when things don’t go our way or work out the way we had hoped. If we don’t take the time to ask for the filling of the Spirit, we probably won’t be filled, we probably won’t have enough power to love people during the day, we’ll probably be impatient with people, uncaring, unloving, insensitive – and all the other problems associated with a lack of love. If we don’t wait for the Spirit’s power in our lives we probably won’t pray much, and when we try we won’t get much out of it. We probably won’t read the Bible much, and when we try we probably won’t get much encouragement or inspiration from it. Why? Because the Spirit will lead us into all truth, he will guide and direct us into truth. That’s the promise Jesus gave us. But if we neglect the Spirit or try to do things in our own human strength, we’ll miss out on all that God has for us. We will live weak and ineffective Christian lives, all because we simply ignored the Holy Spirit. But we shouldn’t ignore the Spirit, we shouldn’t neglect the Spirit’s filling in our lives. We should ask, and keep asking for the baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit. We should ask daily to be filled with power from heaven to live the Christian life and minister in Christ’s name in the world. We should not settle for anything less than a complete filling of the Holy Spirit. It’s common for Christians to settle for a lot less than is available to them from God. It’s common for Christians to just settle comfortably in a similar lifestyle as the world. Many Christians lack spiritual inspiration or motivation. Many Christians are worldly in the sense the same things that excite the world and unbelievers excite them, and the things of God barely register with them. What these Christians need is the filling of the Holy Spirit. What about you? Can you honestly say you are filled with the Holy Spirit most every day? Does you life demonstrate that you are filled with the Spirit? If not, or if you would like a greater filling, please pray with me this morning for the Spirit to give to you the same Paraclete that Jesus promised. Would you bow with me in prayer?

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