Baptized in the Spirit
BY TIMOTHY LOPEZ
Key Verse 1:8
“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.”
The book of Acts is the sequel to the gospel of Luke and is written by none other than the beloved physician Luke himself. Though his name is mentioned just four times throughout the scripture, we can tell from his writings that Luke was deeply moved and changed by the life and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. His gospel is the longest out of the four gospels and includes many details such as the story of Mary and Joseph, and Zachariah and Elizabeth. He discerns the Holy Spirit’s role and leading throughout Jesus’ life and through the birth of the early church. Luke stepped into church history when he decided to follow Paul on Paul’s second missionary journey. There are biblical scholars who acknowledge his humility, never mentioning his profession, or what he did as he accompanied Paul, nor even his own name. Luke was a Gentile, in fact the only Gentile author of any of the books in the Bible. He was a doctor, theologian, evangelist, historian, and a pastor. And while there are many reasons for Luke’s greatness, what I really find to be great about him is that he didn’t abandon Paul. Just before he was martyred, Paul mentions that all have deserted him while Luke alone stayed. Let those words sink in, “Luke alone…” When Paul listed off his sufferings he mentions that 5 times he received the forty lashes minus one. Picture what Paul’s back may have looked like after those lashes. Who do you think tended to him after those lashings. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the beloved physician Luke. The kind of companionship that existed between Paul and Luke must have been hard to understand. Luke’s faithfulness to God’s mission seemed as strong as Paul’s. It was so blessed that Luke wanted to write all about it. He wrote so much that not only does he have the longest gospel, but he also wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else. Did you know that? Paul has 13 letters but if we add all Paul’s letters together, Luke’s still are more. And if you add Luke’s and Paul’s writings together, that’s over half the New Testament. This means that over half of our New Testament is inspired by their journey’s together.
Let’s turn back to Luke 1:1-4. Can someone please read these verses? Both of Luke’s books: That is, Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the apostles, are written to the most excellent Theophilus. It seems that Theophilus had learned some things about Jesus and about the church. Perhaps they’re not all accurate, or maybe they’re incomplete. So Luke wants to clarify or even affirm what Theophilus might have heard. We’re not told if he’s a believer or not and therefore we don’t know if Luke is attempting to convert or establish him. There are many different thoughts as to who he might be and one of those is that he’s a Roman official. The title here “most excellent” has only been used by Luke for 2 other people, such as the “most excellent Festus” (Acts 26:25) or the “most excellent Felix” (Acts 24:3). So I’m assuming that “most excellent” also signifies someone of authority within the Gentile Roman society. Luke’s high social standing as a Gentile physician may have provided some means for conversation with this Roman official the way he does in both of his letters.
Let’s read verses 1- 2a, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day he was taken up to heaven…” Let’s think about the phrase, “Jesus began”. Now we’ve just went through the gospel of Matthew. All that we heard of Jesus’ words and deeds was just the beginning of Jesus’ work. All that Luke carefully investigated and reported to Theophilus was only the beginning. Therefore, the purpose of this book is the rest of what Jesus will teach and what he will do in the Holy Spirit through the church. The book of Acts, as many of us know, has not ended! Why’s that? Because we are living in the last chapter of this book! Therefore, Jesus began his work, he has been working, he’s working right now, and he will be working tomorrow and will continue working till He returns. Although we mention the work Jesus began, we need to keep in mind what Jesus did finish. We don’t want any confusion about the finished work of Christ before this point.
When Jesus hung on the dreadful cross, his last words were, “it is finished.” (John 19:30) There was a debt to pay first before the work in the book of Acts could begin. The author of Hebrews says, “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb10:12) It was the debt of our sins, and it had to be paid! Our guilt before God had to be lifted. Satan’s head had to be crushed. We needed peace with God before anything else could continue. Therefore, none of the work that we’ll discuss is to in anyway minimize the finished work Jesus completed on the cross for our sins. And what Jesus began to do and teach he will continue until he returns. He worked through the early church and he is still working through us now. Today he is right here speaking and accomplishing what the Father has given him to do. He is doing it around us and through us. In Phil 2:13, Paul says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” And if this is the case, then we should want to be a part of it! While the world goes on doing its own thing, as for us, we should concern ourselves with nothing less than to fulfill his good purpose through us. He is moving in the world today in fresh new ways, and we shouldn’t miss any of it. Those who do are usually either distracted or blinded by the world’s glitter. As for us, we should want a front row seat in the Lord’s work. He is fulfilling his great commission in reaching lost soul all around the world, and we should be right there being used by him to do that. The Lord is also awakening, quickening and reviving of his church through his words and mostly through the prayers of the saints. We should be part of that work too.
Look at verse 2. “Until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” Before we begin to consider the Lord’s work there’s something very important we need to see. In verse 2, Luke tells us that Jesus gave instructions to his disciples. What instructions might these be? Of course, we know that Jesus gave his disciples the great commission before he ascended to his throne in heaven, and before they began doing his work. In the same it’s necessary that we too also be commissioned by God before taking part in this work. Let’s turn our Bibles one page to left to John 20:21,22 where we see Jesus instructing and commissioning his disciples in a personal way. I’ll read it, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”’”
According to John the Holy Spirit was involved in more than just prompting Jesus to give the command. The apostles needed the Spirit’s help upon hearing this command as well. Jesus just lived a life of suffering and of being despised and rejected. He’s now telling his disciples that he’s sending them out to do the same thing and to go through what he went through. So the disciples need some help at the moment. They need help to believe it, to accept it, and even more help to rejoice about it. They’ve just witnessed Jesus suffering and death, and upon hearing that they’re going to be sent out in same way to go through some of the same sufferings, I don’t think their first reaction was, “Yes! I can’t wait to go!” The Spirit had to write this commandment on their hearts so that they could understand it, accept it, and get ready for it, and fulfill it as well. So Jesus was not only inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the disciples needed the Spirit’s help in receiving this commission. Therefore, before anyone can go out they will need a fresh commissioning of the Spirit ministered deep within their hearts. We all do!
The second thing the apostles needed— and that all people need as well— was convincing evidence that Jesus is alive. Look at verse 3. “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” We cannot move forward in participating in the great commission until our hearts are gripped with the amazing reality that Jesus is alive! Imagine if we conducted ministry and we didn’t even know that Jesus is alive, and that he is reigning triumphant over the power of sin and death. We would dry up in the mission field if we didn’t believe this truth. Therefore, Jesus appeared to them for 40 days because they had to see and know without any doubts, without any skepticism that he was actually alive. We might think it shouldn’t be that hard after the first couple of times of seeing Jesus appear to them. But when they saw the suffering Jesus beaten bloody and crucified, the last person he would now look like was the King of universe. So Jesus appeared to them many times, cooking for them, eating with them, and showing them the wounds on his body. He did this for 40 days until they were persuaded that this is no vision— that he’s no ghost— that they’re not hallucinating— that they aren’t crazy— that he’s truly alive— that he reigns— that his cause is unstoppable— and that now they and we would lay our lives down for him! And, they were able to have a conviction of “Let’s go!!! Let’s follow the Lord!”
This same realization needs to happen to us too in some measure as well. Jesus is aware that there will be multitudes that won’t see him as yet. He told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) 1st Peter 1:8 says “Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” God does miraculously prove to us that Jesus is alive through his words and his presence in our lives. We need this, and we need pray that God would continue to show us convincing proofs of this living and Risen Christ.
We also see in verse 3 that the third thing they needed was to be taught about the kingdom of God. There were many things that weren’t easily understandable about the kingdom of God. Like what it is, how is it in Jesus, how is it in us, and how is it working in the world, how will it come, and how will it come at the end of the age as well? Throughout the book of Acts we’ll get more acquainted with all these truths. So at the moment we won’t dive into them. But these apostles needed to understand this clearly as they were going to begin building a foundation for the church in order to spread the message of God’s kingdom.
Look at verses 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.” John immersed and drenched people in water for repentance. His mission was to stir up the hearts of God’s people so that they would turn from their sin, and keep a tender heart ready to receive the Messiah. So a wave of repentance began with John’s preaching, and even among tax collectors and roman soldiers there were many who were preparing their hearts to receive Christ. But John the Baptist said, “I baptize you in water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16) Just as John immersed people in water, so Jesus would immerse us in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the forth thing needed for the disciples to do Jesus’ work and speak his word boldly is to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So the question is what is being baptized with the Holy Spirit? What’s the essence of what happened when it happened to the Apostles?
We won’t go through the whole story but we don’t know that it was a very dramatic and powerful one-time event. We know that when people are baptized with the Holy Spirit, the dramatic way it happened with the Apostle’s at Pentecost is not always the case. Sometimes people have unique and powerful experiences but it’s not the norm. But we can look at the heart of what is happening. But first I’ll start off with what isn’t happening. I don’t think that is new birth or conversion to Christ, or even being baptized into the body of Christ. Yes the Holy Spirit does this, but that is not what is going on here. If you are here today and you believe in Christ and have repented of your sins, the Apostle Paul would say that you’re a Christian just because of your faith alone. But simply said, when a believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit, that believer receives extraordinary Spiritual power for Christ’s ministry. Jesus says earlier in 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.” This to me is another way of Luke referencing the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” It is a spiritual empowerment specifically used for accomplishing the work of God— the work God has for each of his children to do— the work he left those who love him and who have committed their lives to him— that is, the great commission to bring his gospel of life to the world.
Let’s read verses 6-8. “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” What kind of power was the Lord talking about that they would receive when the Holy Spirit comes on them? According to what Jesus says, this power will be the power to effectively witness to Jesus all over the world. Again, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an extraordinary empowerment for ministry and for witnessing. In this passage, neither references of the Holy Spirit says anything about conversion or rebirth! Jesus simply says wait until you have been clothed with power from on high. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, Luke mentions that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. And since then, the filling of the Holy Spirit has been indispensable for effectively witnessing Christ to the nations. If we are to fulfill the great commission, then we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If we are to effectively do the work God has given each of us to do, we need the Holy Spirit to empower us. Without the empowering from the Holy Spirit, no one can lift a finger to do God’s holy work.
How do we receive this power from on high? When I visited Vancouver UBF, Pastor Daniel Kwon spoke about this in his last sermon at the summer Bible conference. He said that this is something that no one can give to us. I cannot give it you as a Pastor. Your Bible teacher cannot give it to you. The praise band cannot give it to you. We can only come to God, sincerely repent of our sins, believe in Jesus love, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) If we have asked and haven’t received it, then we should keep asking. We should keep repenting. We should keep calling out to God as the early church did until He arrives. How long do we ask for? 5 minutes? 30 minutes? A whole day? For those who don’t have the Holy Spirit, they need to repent of their sins, and put their trust in the Lord Jesus, and as God promised, he will give them the gift of the Holy Spirit. But for those who already have the Holy Spirit, as long as we live, we need be asking the Lord in total dependence on him to fill us full of the Holy Spirit so that we might be empowered to carry out his work.
This passage is one of hope and vision of God’s kingdom and of the Lord’s presence and work in the lives of his people, and of the Lord’s sure return one day. If we find that we have lost our hope or our vision, or if we find that they are lacking in some way, then this too is a cause for us to ask God in sincere prayer that the Holy Spirit rekindle our hearts with his hope and vision. These are things that no one can work for nor earn due to good behavior, nor can anyone bestow on anyone else. Hope and vision for a ministry, or for our own lives are things that only God the Holy Spirit can give us, or empower us with. And he does so not for some selfish purpose because I am bored or depressed, but for his own glory, so that I might rise up and have a great hope and vision to accomplish his work in my life and in my church. Let’s ask God together to pour hope and vision into our hearts this new year; especially the hope and vision to see his great commission accomplished and his gospel preached through us to many precious souls. The Christian life wasn’t meant for us to just barely survive spiritually— to just to hang in there. It was mean to be a powerful life full of God’s hope and vision through the Holy Spirit. May God clothe us with power from on high to be his witnesses this new year. Let’s claim this promise.