During the 1800’s, the Billy Graham of that day was a man by the name of Dwight L. Moody. God used D.L. Moody in a powerful way both in America and in England. It has been said that Dwight L. Moody took two continents and shook them both for God. Once, when an evangelistic campaign was being planned in England, an elderly pastor was reported to have protested, “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He’s uneducated, inexperienced, etc. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, “No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.”
The same could be said of the early Christians. Under the control of the Holy Spirit, they turned the world “upside down for Christ.” What could God do with us today if we filled with Holy Spirit as well?
I. The Holy Spirit’s Presence
A. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
We read in Genesis 1:2 that since the time of creation, the Spirit of God has moved upon the earth. We see also throughout the Old Testament that the Spirit of God often came upon certain men such as: Bezaleel who build the tabernacle, Joseph who ruled in Egypt, Gideon and Samson who acted as Judges, and Saul and David who were kings of Israel. In each instance, the Spirit came upon a man for a particular point in time and empowered him to do God’s will.
Yet the Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament was different from today. David prayed after his sin with Bathsheba – “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps 51) With King Saul, Scripture says – “the Spirit of the Lord departed from him…” In the Old Testament, the Spirit could come upon a person for a specific period of time and then leave that person at some later point.
B. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament
When we come to the New Testament we learn that when the Spirit of God comes into a believer’s life, He remains with them forever. Jesus said –
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.
Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and empower them to be His disciples and to do His will.
Lu 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
For the church to be the church, it must walk in the Presence, the Power, and the Purpose of the Holy Spirit.
C. Who or What is the Holy Spirit?
I suppose at this point we need to take a moment and understand ‘who’ or ‘what’ is the Holy Spirit? Without taking the time to go into great detail, the Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is God and therefore a part of what we often call the ‘Trinity’ (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit). There are numerous passages that we could turn to in order to prove this, but perhaps the clearest evidence of the Spirit’s deity is the many titles given to Him in Scripture: “Spirit of God”, “Spirit of the Lord”, “Spirit of the Father”, “Spirit of Christ”, and “Spirit of Jesus Christ”. In addition to this, Jesus said to His disciples in John 14 –
John 14:2 …I go to prepare a place for you.
18 …”I will come to you”
23 …”we (Father and Son) will come unto him (the believer), and make our abode with him.”
In order for Jesus to go away and yet be with the believer, He and the Spirit must be one. In order for Jesus and the Father to be in heaven and yet abide with the believer, the Father, Son and Spirit must be one.
II. The Holy Spirit’s Power
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The word “power” means- ability or strength. As many of you know, it is the Greek word ‘dunamis’ from which we get the English word – ‘dymamite!’ Jesus instructed His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until – “you are clothed with power.” The work of God cannot be done without Holy Spirit power. Yet with Holy Spirit power, nothing shall be impossible.
We read in Acts 2 concerning the powerful way the Holy Spirit came to the church.
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
We are doing a series on the book of Acts. We could easily do a series on Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost. But for sake of time, allow me to try to condense this down into two or three simple points. I call your attention to the “sound of a rushing mighty wind”, “the cloven tongues life fire”, and the supernatural ability to “speak with other tongues or languages.”
A. Like the Sound of a Rushing Mighty Wind
First of all, let’s consider the sound of a rushing mighty wind. The Bible does not say that there was a wind. We cannot assume that the disciples were sitting a house filled with winds of hurricane force. There is good reason why Scripture symbolizes the Spirit with the word ‘wind.’ The Greek word for wind and spirit are the same. It is also the same word for breath and often we see the Spirit as the ‘breath of God.’ In addition to this, Jesus compared the Spirit’s work to the wind.
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. NKJV
The work and movement of the Spirit is a mystery known only to God. It is not something that we can produce or control. There have been times when I, with good intention, tried to plan a service where the Spirit would move and nothing happened. And there have been other times when the movement of the Spirit was the last thing I expected and He completely took over.
The sound of a rushing mighty wind announced to the world that the hand of God was now upon the church.
B. Cloven Tongues of Fire
We also see that the Spirit’s power at Pentecost was described as ‘cloven tongues of fire which sat upon each of the disciples.’ Here again, much could be said, but let me try to condense it. First of all, let’s consider the fire. Three things in particular come to my mind: (1) Fire completely consumes. The early church was consumed by the fire of God’s holy presence. (2) Fire purifies with the burning away of chaff. Oh how the church today needs a Holy Spirit purification! (3) Fire also symbolizes zeal and passion. Christ rebuked the church of Laodicea concerning their lukewarmness and complacency. “Be zealous therefore, and repent”, Jesus commanded them. The word zealous refers to a holy burning with zeal and passion for the things of God.
2. Cloven Tongues
a. Tongues – “Languages”
Next let’s consider that the fire of the Spirit came upon the church as ‘cloven tongues.’ Much has been said and misunderstood the issue of tongues. If we want to be biblical, we have to recognize that the word used here for tongues refers to an earthly language or dialect. That is made undeniably clear by the context of the passage.
Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
b. Cloven – “Divided or Distributed”
‘Cloven’ means divided or distributed. The Holy Spirit came upon the church like a fire and He manifested Himself through the disciples by giving them a holy boldness to glorify God and to preach the gospel.
Acts 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
C. Spiritual Power
1. Phenomena of Fire, Wind and Tongues
When thinking of the day of Pentecost, so many want to focus on the phenomena of the rushing mighty wind or the tongues of fire or even the apostles’ supernatural ability to communicate in the languages of the world. Some estimate that there were 16 different languages or dialects present that day and apparently every one of them heard these Galileans ‘speak in their own language.’
2. Phenomena of Bold and Courageous Christians
But the thing that catches my attention the most is the dramatic transformation of the disciples. Only a few short weeks earlier, they were self-centered, selfish men who ran at even the threat of opposition. They were powerless. Now they are powerful and with no fear or hesitancy they stood before the very audience that crucified Jesus and said –
Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
I may never miraculously speak in another language, but many times I have experienced the power of God swelling up in my heart and giving me a holy boldness to proclaim that Jesus is both Lord and Christ!
III. The Holy Spirit’s Purpose
What was the Holy Spirit’s purpose for being sent to the church at Pentecost? It’s too bad that so many have given more attention to speaking in tongues than preaching the gospel. The Apostle Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian church for trying to use the things of the Spirit to promote themselves.
1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification (building up) of the church that you seek to excel. (NKJV)
A chapter earlier Paul had said –
1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 14:19 …in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. (NKJV)
A. Spirit’s Purpose for Coming
What was the Spirit’s Purpose for Coming at Pentecost? Let me give a list of ten things to consider:
1. To make us become the ‘Body of Christ’ through spiritual baptism
2. To appoint and anoint spiritual leaders who can help guide the church to do God’s will
3. To equip every believer with spiritual gifts and abilities to evangelize and to edify
4. To reveal to us the deep things of God and to guide us into all truth
5. To help us to deny the lusts of the flesh and to live a sanctified life
6. To enable us to worship God in spirit and in truth
7. To comfort and encourage those that are cast down
8. To bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of God and to enable us to cry out ‘Abba, Father’
9. To produce in us the character of Christ: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control (spiritual fruit)
10. To empower our feeble service and to use us mightily for the glory of God
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The symbol of the Spirit at Pentecost of ‘tongues of fire’. Fire consumes. Is our mouth filled with the things of God because our heart is consumed with a love for Christ? Fire purifies. Is our speech pure and holy and that which will bring others to Christ and build up the church? Fire produces a zeal and passion. So many of us are eager to talk about the things of the world. Are we as eager to talk about the things of Christ?
The Holy Spirit was also symbolized by wind. Wind speaks of movement and mystery. Are we willing to let God take control of us and move us and use us according to His will? I was studying Unit 11 of Experiencing God the other day and Blackaby was saying things that disturbed me. They disturbed me, not because he was saying what was wrong, but because he was saying what was right and the things that he was saying was stretching me and moving me out of my comfort zone. I started out praying, “Lord, I’m troubled with these words.” Before I finished I was praying, “Lord, I want to become a KINGDOM CITIZEN. I want to experience God on a world-wide level. I want the Spirit to monopolize me and help me to shake the world for Christ!