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Receiving Power from Heaven

(Acts 2:1-17)

Lesson 5 -- fourth quarter 2008
October 5, 2008

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2008

Building on Two Foundational Concepts

The manner of the Spirit's coming was unique to that occasion. Acts 2:2-4 reports an event whose details and manner are not repeated in the Biblical record. This marked the dawning of the age of the Holy Spirit, when God's own Spirit began to dwell among men in the hearts of His people. Perhaps that explains why God didn't repeat certain signs every time His Spirit entered an individual. That possible explanation is only conjecture on my part. We have no way of knowing the actual explanation because God chose not to record it in His Word.

The Spirit equipped them for the task at hand. Jesus wanted His disciples to be witnesses unto Him, beginning in Jerusalem "and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Interestingly enough, "there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5). This gave the disciples the opportunity to immediately plant the seed of the Gospel among all nations without even leaving Jerusalem. God made matters easier yet, if you will, by empowering the disciples with a gift that allowed each listener to hear the Gospel in his own tongue (Acts 2:6,8,11). God always "gifts" and empowers His people for whatever assignment He gives them at a particular time.

Does God give the same sign to everyone who is filled with His Spirit?

The New Testament presents a few cases of people speaking in tongues upon receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:45-46; 19:6). The New Testament mentions initial Holy Spirit infilling eight other times. Here you have them with a summary of the immediate results:

Luke 1:41prophecy
Luke 1:67prophecy
Luke 4:1left river for tempting in wilderness
Acts 4:8preaching
Acts 4:31preaching
Acts 8:17nothing?!
Acts 9:17sight restored
Acts 19:6tongues and prophecy

Then how can I know that I have received the Spirit of God?

This question has bugged and puzzled many folks. In fact, it still does. They crave some sort of divine assurance and manifestation. They want to be able to point to a definite experience as proof that they have received God's Spirit. I can understand that easily enough, so I don't necessarily fault them for that mind set.

Unfortunately, many people do what seems to be the obvious thing: They look at certain events in the early church in order to establish what that confirming experience needs to be. For instance, they read in Acts 2:4 that "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues." From that and similar passages they conclude that unless a Christian has spoken in tongues, he has not received the Holy Spirit.

The fact is, though, that the Biblical record has only a few isolated cases of people speaking in tongues upon receiving the Holy Spirit. So I do not believe that God gives everyone the gift of tongues in order to prove that the Spirit has been given. Otherwise it would seem Paul got it all backwards in 1 Corinthians 14:19 when he affirmed, "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding...than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." It is also instructive to notice that 1 Corinthians 12:10 does not say, "to everyone divers kinds of tongues."

So, how do we know if we or anyone else has received the Holy Spirit? I have a hard time distinguishing lemon trees from orange trees. But I have a sure-fire way of eventually identifying such trees. I wait till the trees bear fruit. Then I know a lemon tree from an orange tree!

Similarly, those who have the Spirit bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). I have no other way of knowing if I or anyone else has received the Holy Spirit. But I need no other way. This method of discernment works amply well. Remember, the Master Himself declared, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:16).

Note these Scriptures for further evidences of God's Spirit at work:

Ezekiel 36:27causes obedience
Mark 13:11guides speech
John 14:26teaches and reminds of all things
Romans 5:5sheds God's love abroad in our hearts
Romans 8:26helps infirmities and makes intercession
Romans 15:13causes to abound in hope
Romans 15:16sanctifies
Gal. 5:22-23produces godly attitudes and desires
Titus 3:5renews
Hebrews 10:15witnesses to the person

Having said all that, we must not forget our first proof: Those who repent and turn from sin to serve Jesus as Savior and Lord receive His Spirit. Can you provide the Biblical foundation for that proof?

Is the filling of the Holy Spirit something to be sought?

The Father gives the Spirit to those who surrender to the Son. In other words, our covenant with the Godhead brings the Spirit into our lives. As Christians we do not need to seek the Holy Spirit; He has already been given to us.

However, there *is* another dimension to this issue. As we mature in our relationship with Jesus, we discover areas of our lives to which we have not given Him full and free access. We need to seek out those areas and allow Him that kind of access. In that sense, we *do* need to seek further filling of the Spirit. Actually, though, our real pursuit is a more complete surrender to His Lordship. A more abundant filling will naturally result from that surrender.

If you are one who pleads with God to fill you or fill you more with His Spirit, I challenge you to take the surrender approach instead. Ask God to show you areas of your life which you have not yet yielded unconditionally to Him. Then when He answers those prayers, yield those areas to Him...unconditionally. Only under such circumstances will you know the greater filling of His Spirit. You see, God's Spirit does not force His way into your life. You must open all the doors and invite Him in. Just never forget that He doesn't enter anyone's life as a guest; He enters only as Lord!

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