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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Title:The Promised Gift
Text:Acts 1:1-8 (View)
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ezek 36:22-32; Acts 2:1-12

Hy. 48
Ps. 119:36-48, after the law
Hy. 47:1,2, after the readings
Hy. 47:5, after the sermon
Ps. 67
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

 Today is Pentecost, the day upon which we commemorate that 50 days after his resurrection, from the dead, and ten days after he ascended into heaven, the Lord poured out the Holy Spirit upon the church. The Book of Acts tells us much about the activity of the Holy Spirit. The most well-known story about the Holy Spirit is what we read in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit fell upon the church and the believers spoke in tongues.

 This great event was repeated a number of times. When the gospel came to Samaria, the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers (8:17). When the gospel went out to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers (10:44ff). The same happened again in Ephesus (19:6).

 Over the summer months, I want to look at the various passages in the Book of Acts that speak about the Holy Spirit–about the gift, the promise, the power, and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Today’s text is important in this regard for, in many ways, it sets forth the program for the work of the Holy Spirit. Luke, the author, mentioned the Holy Spirit three times, in vv 2, 5, and 8. What we will learn in these verses about the Holy Spirit is going to be important for our understanding of him as we stop at the various places in Acts where Luke refers to the Holy Spirit. Let us begin.

 I preach to you under this theme:

 The Lord Jesus Christ ministers to the church by way of the Holy Spirit.

1. He instructs us through the Holy Spirit

2. He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit

3. He empowers us by the Holy Spirit

 The Book of Acts is about the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. The evangelist Luke wrote both Luke and. It is a two-volume composition about the life and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The first volume narrates the earthly life of Christ from his birth, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Volume 1, the Gospel according to Luke, ends with the ascension of Christ; volume 2, the Book of Acts, begins with the ascension. Luke linked the two volumes together in this way. Also, they are both addressed to the same man, Theophilus, unknown to us but, likely, Luke’s friend or benefactor. Volume 2 gives the story about the work of Christ from the time of his ascension until the gospel makes its way all the way to Rome. Acts is about the work of the Holy Spirit spreading the gospel by way of the church from Jerusalem all the way to Rome and beyond.

 The instruction Christ gave after his resurrection was, as Luke says, through the Holy Spirit. He gave them spiritual instruction. Luke told us what Christ taught them about. He taught them about his suffering. While he was suffering, they did not understand what was going on. You remember that during the last night of his passion, they all forsook him and fled. Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him. Jesus needed to instruct them about his suffering. As he had said earlier, the Holy Spirit would guide them in the truth and help them understand things they could not understand on their own.

 Then he gave them spiritual instruction about his resurrection. This was something they could not understand. Of themselves, they were not equipped to understand.

 He spent 40 days with them and spoke about the kingdom of God. He was the king, and he would ascend to heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords. Again, they could only understand and believe this as the Holy Spirit worked that understanding and faith in their hearts and minds.

 It is the same for us. We would not be able to understand the significance of his suffering, nor of his resurrection, nor of his ascension to the right hand of God, were it not for the instruction through the Holy Spirit. Had the Holy Spirit not worked faith in our hearts and understanding in our minds, we would all be rank unbelievers. Without the Holy Spirit guiding us, without Christ instructing us through the Holy Spirit, we would know nothing about Christ and believe nothing about him.

 Christ instructs us through the Holy Spirit.

 2. And, secondly, he baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.

 On one occasion, during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension, he said to the apostles: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

 There are many wrong ideas about who gets to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Some think that only those who meet certain conditions are baptized. That one needs to excel in faith, or obedience, or godliness before he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. Or that one needs to be a certain kind of person: a very good person. That there first needs to be some things special about you before you are given the Holy Spirit. And then, those who do receive the Holy Spirit are even more special. And so a separation is created in the congregation between the Christians who have the Holy Spirit and the Christians who do not. Between the special Christians and all the rest, the, sort of, run-of-the-mill Christians. What Jesus said here should kill that idea once and for all. The idea that there are greater Christians and lesser Christians should be done way with forever. What is the only command in the vv 4 & 5? In other words, what condition must the apostles meet to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? There is only one thing they must do, and that one thing is nothing. They must do nothing. They must wait. Don’t leave Jerusalem but just wait.

 This shows, brothers and sisters, that every part of our salvation is out of grace. Free, undeserved favour. Jesus does not say, “You have got to establish a dozen churches, and then, as a reward, you will receive the Holy Spirit.” He does not say, “You first have to be tested by hardship; or, prove yourself to be worthy by obedience, or faithfulness, or loyalty, or intelligence, or whatever.” No, he says, “Wait!” You can hardly call that a condition. But it is the only thing that comes close to a condition that must be met to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

 Why Jerusalem? It is at Jerusalem that the old dispensation came to an end with the death of Christ and it is there where the new begins. It begins there, but it goes out to the ends of the earth.

 However, there are more things our Lord said in vv 4 & 5 that shows that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is only out of grace. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the gift the father promised. What is a gift? What do you need to do to get a gift? Nothing. A reward you earn, but a gift you just get. On your birthday you might get a gift. What have you done for it? Nothing. Your mom did the work and you get the gift!

 The fact that baptism with the Holy Spirit is a gift underlines that it is of grace.

 Then Jesus said that it is the gift God the Father promised. If your earthly father promises you something, then all you have to do is receive it. If he promises you a gift, then the only thing you need to do to receive it is nothing. You just receive it.

 And then note that the Lord said to them, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” He does not tell them to get themselves baptized with the Holy Spirit. He announces that they will be baptized. It is not something they need to do but it is something that will be done to them. A big difference.

 Jesus did not say, “Wait in Jerusalem and you might be baptized.” No, he said, "You will be baptized."

 The Lord also said this for everyone. For all eleven of them. You, all of you eleven, will be baptized the Holy Spirit.

 And as you read through the Book of Acts, as you read the stories of people being baptized with the Holy Spirit, you discover that it is always the whole group. The 120 members of the church. All the Samaritans that came to faith in Jesus. All the Gentiles in the home of Cornelius. The 12 men of Ephesus who had turned in faith to Jesus. Not some of the 120, or some of the Samaritan believers, or some of Cornelius’s household, or some of the 12 men, but all. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for all who turn to Jesus.

 What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? As you read through the Book of Acts, you will see that baptism with the Holy Spirit is often accompanied by speaking in tongues or by prophesying. Some people say that things like that are necessary–that there is no real spirit baptism if there are no tongues or prophesying. But that is a conclusion that is not based on a good reading of scripture, for you do not read about tongues and prophesying every time you read about people receiving the Holy Spirit. E.g., in Acts 8 you do not read that the Samaritans spoke in tongues and prophesied when they received the Holy Spirit. They may have, but it does not say they did.

 We also need to realize what an exceptional time the days of the early church was. The NT had not yet been written, and so there was still prophesy. God was still giving new revelations. That continued until scripture was complete.

 We also need to think of the reason behind the gift of tongues. God gave the gift of tongues, the ability to speak other languages, to propel the gospel out into the world. Once that had happened, God withdrew the gift.

 To understand what baptism with the Holy Spirit is, we need to pay careful attention to these first verses of Acts 1. If we don’t understand these verses, and what Jesus teaches here about the work of the Holy Spirit, we will come to many wrong conclusions even as we read through the Book of Acts.

 Jesus tells us in vv 7 & 8 what it means to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. It is to be empowered to be a witness for Christ.

 3. Christ empowers us by the Holy Spirit.

 The apostles asked whether Jesus was, at that time, going to restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus told them not to worry about that. Rather, said he, they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout the world.

 What does it mean, then, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Look at the text. Look first at 2 & 3. It means to accept by faith the instruction of Jesus about his suffering, his resurrection, and his ascension to the throne of the universe. It means to believe what Jesus says about the kingdom–that he is king and that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and to establish forever his kingdom of peace.

 That, first of all. To be baptized with the Holy Spirit means to be born again. Regenerated. To believe in Jesus.

 And now look at v. 8. To be baptized with the Holy Spirit also means to be empowered as a witness for Christ. Christ does not call everyone to be a missionary, but he does call us all to be witnesses for him. In our homes, and places of work, in our communities, we are witnesses of Christ. Regenerated to be living letters of Christ.

 Accept by faith the gift of the Holy Spirit, and watch the Spirit empower you to be a faithful witness for Christ. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. George van Popta

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