Understanding the Power of the Holy Spirit
This is the second in a three-part series of a look at the opening passage of the book of Acts and the lessons in it for the Church today. Read part one
In part one of this series, we discussed how the opening verses of Acts set the stage for the rest of his story. The writer, Luke, does this by drawing our attention to three things that the disciples experienced; three things that continue as themes throughout the book and are important for the Church today.
These three things set the stage for the ways in which the resurrected King Jesus would establish and grow his Church. They also give us great encouragement for how King Jesus continues to grow his Church today. The previous post discussed the presence of Jesus. This installment will discuss the Spirit’s power.
Promise of Power
Luke shows us that there is a promise coming to the disciples that is activated through the resurrection victory of Jesus—the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit—which will empower his Church for the work he has called them to.
Jesus shared this when he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5). The baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus was referring to is a tremendous Old Testament promise synonymous with the establishment of God’s just Kingdom on earth. It pointed to Jesus’s power and the promise that the Holy Spirit would one day come as our Helper—just as he did before Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection.
In verse 8, Jesus went on to describe the kingdom of God. The disciples, were interested in what Jesus was teaching about the “kingdom of God” (verse 3), and asked Jesus when the kingdom would come. He told them that the exact timing was not for them to know, only that they would, “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). Again, Jesus was teaching his disciples that the promise of the Holy Spirit’s filling was near. And with this filling would come all the promises of renewal—including a new power.
The Power of the Holy Spirit: In Weakness
This must have been very exciting for an Old Testament Jew! Yet, it’s also exciting for us. The power of the Holy Spirit, which came on a day we refer to as Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), is also our helper today.
The promised power of the Holy Spirit makes the biggest impact when we as Christians are willing to examine and admit our weakness. The truth is, we don’t have it all together; we don’t choose the right things or succeed when left to our own devices. However, when we are willing to humbly admit our faults, failures, and sins, we find forgiveness in Jesus. We also find hope, for Jesus works great power through weak people.
The disciples have well-documented faults, ranging from minor mistakes to outright acts of rebellion. And these are written in the pages of the gospels for millions to see over thousands of years. Talk about embarrassing! But it is this same group of people who started the greatest movement of all time—not by their own power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit!
The power of the Holy Spirit means that as Christians, we can be open about our weaknesses and failures. For when we are, the Holy Spirit is able to work in mighty ways in us; and when we know that we are free to fail, we don’t fear taking risks for God’s kingdom. As we take these risks, we see the power of the Spirit at work, accomplishing great things through us that only God could do.
The Necessity of Humility Alongside Power
This humble willingness is a challenge for today’s Church because our sinful flesh goes against our godly desires. Just as our culture glorifies famous people, there are many examples of megachurch pastors or influential speakers who abused power and were exposed. For many, the downfall came on the heels of a belief that an accumulation of power and a good reputation were the necessary components for successful Kingdom work.
Fortunately, there are also great examples of church leaders who have not (to our eyes) fallen victim to this, leaders who allow for vulnerability—but also get a lot done! Let us be encouraged to live with this humble admission of weakness because we are filled with the hope that the Spirit’s power will overcome any weakness we bring to the table!