One of the great contributions to the New Testament canon is that provided by the companion of the Apostle Paul, the doctor Luke. The gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles combine to provide a broad swath of Christian history that moves from the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem to Paul preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome. A key theme throughout the writings of Luke is the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While the activity of the Holy Spirit is present in the gospel of Luke, this work comes to the forefront following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Jesus’ last words recorded by Luke set the stage for Luke’s description of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Jesus promised his followers that he would send them the promise of the Father
This promise flowed through the prophets and was the mark of the New Covenant that God promised he would make with his people. Though the Old Covenant revealed God’s demands for how to live, it did nothing to change the hearts of those who desired to walk in God’s commands. The New Covenant promised power in order to live as God desired his people to live. Jesus’ description of power from on high reflected the words of the prophet Joel that would be fulfilled soon in Jerusalem.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, 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 the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:28, 29).
Jesus instructed his followers to go to Jerusalem
Jesus instructed his followers to go to Jerusalem and wait before they set out to fulfill his calling upon their lives. The baptism of the Spirit is the means by which God intended that his followers would be empowered to carry out the mission that he had given them. They had to begin by trusting Jesus and waiting for his promise to come. They were not given a time frame in which the promise would come, but merely had to wait until God acted and clothed them with power from on high. When the followers of Jesus were in one place and waiting according to his promise, the power of God fell upon them.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a 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 promise of the Father came at an exact time as the followers of Jesus were gathered in unison according to his command
The arrival of the Holy Spirit cam in a moment that was physically experienced as a rush of power of wind directly from God in heaven. Those present saw the presence of the Holy Spirit like fire upon all who were present. Every person in the place was filled with the Spirit and enabled to speak in other tongues. This speaking was a physical manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and was a sign to those around them that God had come upon them in power. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was not limited merely to the twelve apostles but as Joel prophesied was poured out upon all who waited eagerly and faithfully for God to act in power. The baptism of the Holy Spirit drew the attention of those who needed to hear the gospel message and have their lives transformed by its power.
“And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:6).
“both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit enabled the followers of Jesus to declare to people from all over the Roman Empire who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration about the greatness of God and prepared them for Peter’s gospel message. The baptism of the Spirit is provided to God’s people in order for them to fulfill his calling upon their lives. The Holy Spirit baptism provided both capability and boldness for the people of God to stand forth and declare the risen Jesus as the means of salvation for all. Peter’s Spirit-filled preaching had remarkable results.
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself’” (Acts 2:37-39).
Baptism and the Holy Spirit
The baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit gave Peter boldness to declare the gospel message and call the people to repentance. The power of the Spirit cut the people to the heart, which needed the transforming power of the Spirit, and as a result, they cried out for the means of salvation. Peter directed them to repentance and baptism as the pathway to forgiveness and to enable them to receive the promise of the Spirit which God had just poured out. The baptism of the Spirit was not limited to those in the one place but was available to all who would turn to God from sin. God’s calling requires the baptism of the Spirit to enable the person to carry out God’s purpose and calling. This calling continues as those who are baptized in the Spirit take the gospel to the ends of the earth. It is in the power of the Spirit that the church of God is able to fulfill the great commission and to bring transformational power to all who will repent of sin and give their lives over to God for his purpose in their lives. This promise of the Father was not limited to the Jews but was available to all.
“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (Acts 10:44-46).
Peter continued to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit and God directed him to declare the gospel to the Gentiles. As he did so, God poured out the Holy Spirit upon those who received his gospel message with faith. As they spoke in tongues and declared the glory of God, they were following in the path of those who first received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. God was making a point that his Holy Spirit’s power is available to all who will receive him by faith. This work among the Gentiles was taken up by the Apostle Paul and he carried that message all over the Roman Empire and eventually found himself in the capital at Rome. Luke finished his writing with Paul at Rome continuing to declare the gospel message to all who would receive it. The baptism of the Spirit in Acts is the activity of God in empowering all who will come to him to enable them to carry out the work to which he has called them. This work is not over, but it continues in the work of God’s church all over the world in those who come to God and allow him to empower them with his Spirit to give them the boldness and power to take the gospel message throughout the earth.