LIFE IN THE SPIRIT: Acts—Week 1 (Promise)
Last spring, we did a series walking in the footsteps of Jesus as outlined in the Gospel of Luke. We examined both Jesus’ teachings and his pattern of living to really understand what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. This spring, we will be examining Luke’s second book, Acts. While the Gospel of Luke covered the life of Jesus and his incarnational ministry here on earth, Acts shows us how Jesus’ incarnational ministry here on earth continues through a Church empowered by the Holy Spirit. Through our study of Acts we will see that this fast-paced book is more than a history of what happened after Jesus ascended to heaven. We will also see that it is more than an instruction manual for how the Church should operate. Over the 10 weeks of this study, we will instead focus on the Person of the Holy Spirit—a co-equal Member of the Godhead with the Father and the Son—and how He empowered, inspired, led, and molded ordinary men and women into a movement that turned the world upside down, and how He continues to do so today. We will do this by examining 10 themes in the book of Acts that describe either the Person or the work of the Holy Spirit. This week, the theme is promise.
In John chapters 13-16, Jesus is giving his final instructions and encouragement to His disciples at the Last Supper. In these chapters Jesus promises that though He will be going to the Father, the Father will send an Advocate or Helper, the Holy Spirit. In John 14:25-26, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will teach them and remind them of Jesus’ teachings. In John 15:26-27, Jesus promises that the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and will testify about who Jesus is. In John 16:5-11, Jesus promises that the Spirit will come to bring conviction of sin. Jesus even goes so far as to say that it is good that He will leave them so that the Spirit can come. This theme of promise continues in Acts 1 as Jesus promises that His disciples will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (vs. 5) and receive power (vs. 8). Much of what we see, not only in Acts but also in all of the New Testament, is how the Holy Spirit fulfills these promises in the lives of believers. We see miracles. We see ordinary men and women astound the elite of their day with their bold, powerful proclamation of the Gospel. We see these same disciples recalling all that Jesus taught them and recording it for posterity. We see them write and teach life-changing truth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And we see them face persecution and even death with grace, dignity, and peace, resting in the comfort only the Holy Spirit can bring.
However, the Holy Spirit is more than the mere fulfillment of Jesus’ promise. He is the promise Himself. In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the Guarantee of the sureness of our salvation in Jesus Christ. The word that Paul uses to describe the Holy Spirit there could also be translated as an engagement ring. I vividly remember the excitement I felt as I presented my wife with her engagement ring and asked her to marry me. Some 28 years later, that little ring still holds great value in both of our lives, and it is a constant reminder to both of us of the love we share and the commitment we made to each other. It is awesome to consider that the Holy Spirit fulfills the same role in our lives. He reminds us of Jesus’ deep and abiding love of us. His constant presence reminds us of Jesus’ commitment to see our salvation completed. Finally, the Holy Spirit gives us hope in the midst of failure and guilt, for in 2 Tim. 2:13 Paul reminds us that even though we are faithless, Jesus remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Thus, the promise of the Holy Spirit was not just for those early believers. The promises the Holy Spirit fulfilled for them, He fulfills for us. The same Guarantee he was for them, He is for us. No matter what we face, we can find peace in the presence of the Holy Spirit, for He is the living embodiment of the fact that He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23).
- In your spiritual upbringing, what was your view of the Holy Spirit? Was the Holy Spirit and His gifts embraced, or was He viewed with more fear or caution? How do you hope to grow in your understanding of Him?
- Review the promises about the Holy Spirit Jesus made at the Last Supper. How were those promises fulfilled in the early Church? How are they still being fulfilled today? How have you seen them fulfilled in your own life?
- Consider how the Holy Spirit is not just the fulfillment of the promises of Jesus but is actually the promise himself. What are the implications of that statement? What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is the promise? How can this fact bring comfort to us?