This is part 10 of an ongoing series on the Holy Spirit. To read the other parts of this series, click here.
The Promise of The Father
The Old Testament prophets frequently spoke of the coming kingdom of God. This new age would be initiated when the Holy Spirit is poured out on his people (Part 5). For instance, Ezekiel said:
I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.Ezekiel 36:27
I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.Ezekiel 39:29
And in Joel it written:
And it shall come to pass afterward,Joel 2:28-29
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on my male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
In similar fashion, John the Baptist said that the coming Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Part 9).
I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.Matthew 3:11 (cf. Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33)
Jesus himself spoke of a future day when he would send the Holy Spirit (Parts 6 and 7).
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.John 7:37-39
According to Jesus, the Spirit would be given to those who believed in him, but this would not happen until after he was glorified. Later, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus told his disciples that they would not see him anymore, but that the Holy Spirit would come and teach them all things (Jn. 14:16-26).
Jesus’s teachings, along with those of John the Baptist, were consistent with the Old Testament prophets, in that they all spoke of a coming day when the Spirit would be poured out. This brings us to what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit following his resurrection, but prior to his ascension.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.Acts 1:4-5
- Jesus told his disciples that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit “not many days from now.”
- Jesus connects this event with the “promise of the Father.”
- In doing so, Jesus seems to connect the Old Testament prophesies regarding the coming Spirit with John’s statement about baptism with the Holy Spirit
With this “baptism with the Spirit” and the “promise of the Father” in the front of his mind, Luke then tells his readers about the amazing events which happened on Pentecost.
The Spirit on Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.Acts 2:1-4
- The close connection between the mighty rushing “wind” and the “Spirit.” Recall that the words “wind” and “Spirit” are the same (see Part 1). This passage could be translated that the apostles heard a sound of a mighty rushing “Breath” or “Spirit,” they were filled with the Holy “Breath”, and began to speak in tongues as the “Breath” gave them utterance.
- It was the “Spirit”/”Wind”/”Breath” that gave them their words. This makes sense when we recall how God filled various people in the Old Testament, giving them the ability to speak words from God (Part 3). The apostles, filled with the Spirit, were speaking words that originated with God’s Spirit.
- In the context of Jesus’s statement quoted above (Acts 1:4-5), we can observe that Luke sees this event as closely connected to the baptism with the Spirit and the promise of the Father.
Next, notice how Peter explains these events by referring to the prophecy from Joel 2:28-32 (cf. Part 5).
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:Acts 2:14-18
And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
According to Peter, this prophesy was being fulfilled in the events of Pentecost.
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.Acts 2:33
Baptism With the Spirit in Acts
Later in the book of Acts, Luke records of another time when the Spirit was poured out, this time upon the Gentiles in Cornelius’s household (Acts 10:44-48). As Peter recalls the event, he makes the following statement:
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”Acts 11:15-16
- Peter said that the outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles in Cornelius’ household was essentially a repeat of what happened to the Jews on Pentecost
- Peter identified each of these events as a fulfillment of Jesus’s prediction about baptism with the Holy Spirit
If it wasn’t already clear from Acts 1-2, Peter’s statement here explicitly identifies “baptism with the Holy Spirit” with the events that occurred in both Acts 2 on Pentecost and in Acts 10 with Cornelius’s household. In other parts of the book of Acts similar events are recorded (Acts 8:14-19 and Acts 19:6) which very likely could also be described as “baptism with the Holy Spirit.” These will be discussed in more detail in the next part of this study.
What Paul Said About The Promised Spirit
Since Luke in the book of Acts explicitly identifies the amazing events of Acts 2 and Acts 10 as baptism with the Holy Spirit, we might think it logical to conclude that baptism with the Spirit does not occur where amazing signs and wonders (such as speaking in tongues) are absent. It would be a mistake, however, to draw a conclusion that does not account for the writings of the apostle Paul. For instance, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – so that in Christ Jesus the blessing on Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.Galatians 3:13-14
When Paul speaks of the blessings of Abraham being experienced by “us” so that “we” might receive the promised Spirit through faith, he seems to be referring to all Christians, or “those of faith” (Gal. 3:7). Notice that Paul says that “we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” While Luke in Acts speaks of the promise of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled in the observable events of Acts 2 and Acts 10, Paul speaks of the promised Spirit being received by all Christians through faith.
Paul also wrote the following in his letter to the Ephesians:
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:13-14
According to Paul, all Christians are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” The “promised Holy Spirit” is what we now have as a down payment of our future inheritance.
A Question to Consider
Since the book of Acts explicitly identifies the miraculous events described in Acts 2 and Acts 10 as the fulfillment of the prophetic promises regarding the Spirit, and as the fulfillment of Jesus and John’s statements about baptism with the Holy Spirit, why does Paul conclude that all Christians receive the promised Holy Spirit?
To answer this question, we must first:
- Pay close attention to Luke’s reason for highlighting the miraculous signs and wonders (such as the ability to speak in tongues) at very special and critical moments in the book of Acts, and…
- Pay close attention to how both Luke and Paul connect those miraculous outpourings of the Spirit with what happens in the baptism of every Christian
This will be the objective of the next two parts of this study.