Although the Book of Acts is called the Acts of the Apostles, it could also be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. If you read through Acts, almost every single chapter records the Holy Spirit being directly involved in the lives of the people of the church. In the very first chapter of Acts, Peter stood up and gave a message that referenced the working of the Holy Spirit: “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke…” (Acts 1:16).
Look at this sampling of Scriptures and see how often the people of God heard His voice:
- Acts 8:29: “Then the Spirit said to Philip, Go near and overtake this chariot.” Because Philip heard the Spirit’s voice and responded in obedience, an Ethiopian encountered Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
- Acts 10:19: “While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, Behold, three men are seeking you.” Because of Peter’s obedience to the Holy Spirit, the doors were opened for the church to begin ministering to the Gentile world.
- Acts 13:2: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Because the church heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, two men of God were called to go out as missionaries, preaching the Gospel.
- Acts 15:28: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” In this story, the church was praying for God’s wisdom in a situation that could have been potentially divisive. The Holy Spirit gave them wisdom, and the result was “they rejoiced over its encouragement.” (verse 31). We need to hear the Spirit’s voice in the church today.
- Acts 16:6-7: “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.” Not only did the Holy Spirit tell them where to go, He also told them where not to go. As a result of the disciples following God’s voice, they were given an opportunity to minister in Macedonia, where a merchant named Lydia and her family were saved. All because they learned to follow the Spirit’s leading.
The key phrase in Acts 13:2 is: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit spoke.” The believers heard the voice of the Lord during worship, prayer and fasting. One of the places we most clearly hear the Spirit speaking to us is during times of prayer or worship. When we focus on the Lord and shut the door to all of the distractions in our lives, we can more clearly hear His voice.
Jesus gave us a wonderful promise in John 10:27: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Jesus didn’t say that only pastors and prophets would hear His voice, but rather that all of His sheep – all Christians – would be able to recognize His voice. Why? He said, “I know them.” That speaks of an intimate, personal relationship. This is the first and most important reason for us to learn to hear the voice of the Spirit – to get to know Jesus better. But secondly, Jesus said, “They follow me.” Not only does God want us to obey what is written in the Bible, but He wants us to learn how to hear His voice and follow His leading in our day to day lives. Jesus himself said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19). We need to learn how to do what we see the Father doing, and say only what we hear the Father saying. When we do this, we will become more effective in our ministry, and see more lives transformed.
Over and over, we see the church in Acts following the leading of the Spirit. It was a normal, every-day occurrence for them to hear the Spirit speak. God is a God who is always speaking. It’s time for us to start listening!
The Holy Spirit With Us, In Us, and Upon Us:
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17).
“But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me.” (Acts 1:8).
There are three important things we need to understand about the Holy Spirit if we want to experience His fullness: The Spirit with us, within us, and upon us. These are three different stages or experiences that we can have with the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit With Us:
“He dwells with you…”
Before you ever became a Christian and called on the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was with you, drawing you to Jesus. Jesus said, “And when (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit was with you, convicting you of your sin, showing you your need to get right with God, and impressing upon you the reality of the judgment that waits at the last day. The Holy Spirit shows us our need for a Savior. “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3b).
- The Holy Spirit In Us:
“He will be in you…”
When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of you. When Jesus Christ becomes the Lord and Savior of your life, you become a new creation in Christ. What an amazing thought! “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Although many Christians have experienced the Holy Spirit being with them, and in them, not all of them have experienced the fullness of the Spirit – where God’s Spirit comes upon them, empowering them for ministry.
- The Holy Spirit Upon Us:
“But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you…”
One of the last instructions that Jesus gave His disciples was to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. He told them that He would baptize them with God’s Spirit. If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is already in you. But now God wants His Spirit to come upon you to give you power and boldness to minister to others.
One of the phrases the Bible uses to describe this experience is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. That word baptism means to be immersed, or filled to overflowing, with the Holy Spirit. When we talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, no longer is the Holy Spirit simply in us, He is now flowing out of us. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit.” (John 7:37-39a). We need to cry out for a fresh infilling of God’s Spirit, to be filled to overflowing in our lives.
If you have no passion for the things of the Kingdom of God, no boldness to tell people about Jesus, no excitement about worship and reading the Bible, then you need a fresh infilling of the Spirit. Pastor Jack Hayford says, “A normal response to having received the fullness of the Holy Spirit is to gain a deeper compassion for the lost, a greater readiness to serve, or a more heightened hunger for spiritual pursuit.”
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit:
Dear reader, have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit like the disciples did on the Day of Pentecost? Jesus has a wonderful gift that He wants to give to you today. The first and greatest gift that God offers to us is the gift of salvation. When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are saved, forgiven, and adopted into God’s family. But the Lord has another gift that He wants to give to His children. Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me.” (Acts 1:8). How do we receive this gift of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you… how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:9,13b). If you ask, you will receive. This is an essential gift for us to have if we want to do the stuff.
Do you remember the story of the disciple Peter?
“Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.” (Mark 14:66-72).
Before Peter received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he was afraid to take a stand for Jesus. He was afraid to let people know that he was a Christian. After Jesus was nailed to the Cross, Peter even gave up being a disciple, and went back to being a fisherman. But something supernatural happened on the Day of Pentecost. After the Holy Spirit came upon Peter, the same man who had been afraid to witness for Jesus in front of a little servant girl now ran out into the streets and preached to a crowd of thousands of people. And it wasn’t a watered down sermon either. No! He preached: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37). Peter preached, and three thousand people got saved. What made the difference in Peter’s life? One thing: The power of the Holy Spirit.
Allow me to share with you the personal testimony of my baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was saved in August of 1989 in a farmhouse outside of Lacombe, Alberta, when my friend Jerrold Lewis shared the Gospel with me. During the first year after that experience, I never told anyone that I was a Christian. I was so afraid of what people would think of me if they found out. What if they made fun of me? I had the smallest pocket size Bible that you can imagine and I would hide it deep down in my pockets. There was no way that I would tell anyone that I was a follower of Jesus. One year later, in September of 1990, Jerrold asked me if I had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I said, “The what?” He said, “The Holy Spirit.” He then went on to explain to me that I needed power to live the Christian life, and that God was offering me a wonderful gift that would empower me to be a witness for Jesus.
That night I prayed a simple prayer and said, “Lord Jesus, would you please fill me with the Holy Spirit?” In that one moment of time, everything changed for me. When I got back home to my friends and family in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, I was no longer afraid to tell people that I was a Christian. I started witnessing to my family and friends. I walked into the high school that I had just graduated from and started passing out Christian tracts that explained the way of salvation. There was a new boldness on the inside of me to tell people about Jesus. I would preach to a dog if it would stand still long enough! Before I had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I never led anyone to the Lord, I never prayed for a sick person to be healed, and I never shared a prophetic word with anyone. But after the Holy Spirit came upon me, I started telling people the Good News about Jesus, I started praying for sick people to be healed, and I began an exciting adventure of following Jesus and doing the stuff. God is no respecter of persons – what He did for me, He will do for you.
If you have never received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then I want to invite you to pray this prayer right now:
Heavenly Father, I thank you that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and I am one of your children. I am asking that you would fill me with the Holy Spirit, and give me power and boldness to be a witness for you. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.
If you prayed that prayer from a believing heart, Jesus has promised to fill you with His Spirit.
Perhaps you have already received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at one point in your life, but the fire isn’t burning brightly any more. You need to be anointed with fresh oil. Just because you have already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that you don’t need any more of God in your life. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be continually filled with the Spirit. Peter for example was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4, but Luke tells us that Peter was filled with the Spirit again in Acts 4:8, and again in Acts 4:31. Although the Baptism of the Holy Spirit itself is a one-time experience, we need to be continually refilled with God’s Holy Spirit. Pray this with me:
Father, I’m not content with where things are at in my life. I want more of You. I want to be filled with Your Spirit to overflowing, to make a difference in the lives of those around me. Lord I pray also for a release of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in my life – prophecy, gifts of healing, and working of miracles. Freely I’ve received, now help me to freely give. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- “The Fullness of the Spirit” is one of the chapters from my book: “Supernatural: Contending for Signs and Wonders Today.” Contact me today if you would like a free copy of the e-book version of this study in the Book of Acts!