The Purpose of the Power of the Holy Spirit
Topic: Holy Spirit Passage: Acts 1:8, Acts 2:1–2:13
The Holy Spirit
Grace Community Church
Sept. 19, 2021
The Purpose of the Power of the Holy Spirit
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from the Holy Spirit. We know his disciples were already saved, were already Christians, and according to John 20:22 had already received the Holy Spirit, but Jesus told them to wait until they received power from the Holy Spirit.
That power, Jesus says in Acts 1:8, will have a purpose, and that purpose is to display Christ to a lost world. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. They had all the information about Jesus to tell the world, but Jesus knew they needed power from God to impact the world with the saving message of Christ. So Jesus said wait.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty 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. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:1-13
- The Spirit’s power is primarily about harvesting souls for the kingdom of God
Jesus said the purpose of the power was to empower them to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. That purpose is reinforced in the second chapter of Acts when the Holy Spirit is poured out.
Notice verse 1 says when the day of Pentecost arrived. Why is that significant? Pentecost means 50th. Counting from the 2nd day of Passover, the Jews waited seven full weeks (or 49 days) and then on the 50th day they celebrated Pentecost or what Exodus called the feast of harvests or the feast of firstfruits. The Jews celebrated the ingathering of the grain harvest on Pentecost.
What happened each Pentecost is people from all regions and countries around the world came to Jerusalem to celebrate, so it was the one time of year when people from around the world were gathered in one place. It was kind of an inverted evangelism: instead of going out to the world, the world came to them!
The Holy Spirit was poured out on the church on Pentecost because the primary, overarching purpose of the power of the Holy Spirit was to harvest souls for the kingdom of heaven! That is still God’s heart today. There is a harvest waiting to be gathered in for the kingdom of God.
It is so revealing of the heart of God that on that day there were people from all over the world. That’s God’s heart. God loves all peoples from all nations. He created us all! Jesus wasn’t content to say wait for power to be my witnesses throughout Jerusalem and Judea and all of Israel. That would have been what most Jews would have expected: love your city! Love your people! Transform the nation for Jesus! That would have been as far as the average Jew’s vision would extend. Jesus’ vision, God’s vision, extended much further than the nation of Israel.
So in Acts 1:8 Jesus includes Samaria – a people group the Jews hated (and the Samaritans hated the Jews right back), so right away we see Jesus breaking down racial and cultural walls. And then Jesus said to the end of the earth. Same thing with the Great Commission: make disciples of all nations.
The purpose of the Spirit’s power was to harvest souls from the whole earth for the kingdom of God!
- The Spirit’s power in the church presses us outward
The purpose of the Spirit’s power then and now is primarily (not only, but primarily) to harvest souls for the kingdom of God. But let’s consider the impact of the Spirit’s power on the church. Because that room of 120 disciples or so would never be the same after that first Pentecost.
They are all together in the upper room when suddenly there is a sound like mighty, rushing wind that fills the entire house. They see what appears to be tongues of fire resting over each of their heads. So first they see and hear extraordinary things.
We want to be careful we don’t try to put the Holy Spirit in a box and say, this is what it looks like when the Spirit moves. He moves in different ways at different times throughout the book of Acts, sometimes rushing wind, sometimes shaking a home, sometimes healing a lame person, sometimes empowering the preaching of the gospel, sometimes releasing a disciple from prison, sometimes giving a disciple grace to be imprisoned and even put to death. No formula. No box!
As the disciples hear the wind and see the tongues of fire, they are filled with the Spirit. That we can claim for our lives, in fact the Bible commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. John Piper points out that the Holy Spirit is God, so when the Holy Spirit fills us, He fills us with the fullness of God. The Holy Spirit fills us with His knowledge of God, His love, His glory, His power, His goodness! The Spirit fills our hearts with the Father’s love for Jesus! We are filled with confidence in what God can do, as lesser things are swallowed up by the greatness and glory of God.
When we are filled with the Spirit, the gaps in us are filled. Gaps of emptiness are filled with overflowing meaning and purpose! Gaps of loneliness are filled up with the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge! When we are filled with the Spirit, we can’t be filled with fear! When we are filled with the Spirit we can’t be filled with anger. We can’t be filled with the Spirit and bitterness. Or unforgiveness. Or lust. Nothing will push pride out of our hearts faster than a glimpse of the greatness of God. We can’t be filled with self and filled with the Spirit at the same time! Can’t happen. The Holy Spirit fills the gaps in our hearts and presses out the junk in our hearts.
I think this is what the church needs today more than anything else: a greater filling of the Spirit giving us a bigger view of God! We need that more than self-help books, webinars, church growth conferences, evangelistic strategies or more programs. I’m not against any of these things – God can use them - but what we need most is more of God’s power and presence in the church and in our lives today.
So they are filled with the Holy Spirit and two things happen that zeroes us in again on the purpose of the power of the Spirit.
- They all start to speak in tongues.
We’ll talk more about the gift of tongues in a later message, but there are two types of tongues mentioned in scripture, both simply called glossolalia (tongues). One is a heavenly language unknown to man, and the other is speaking in a foreign earthly language you did not learn. This second type of tongues is what is happening here and it is a part of the harvesting purpose of the Spirit. People from all over the world are hearing the disciples praising God in their native tongues and it’s getting their attention.
- They leave the upper room and went to the crowded streets below.
This second point isn’t explicitly mentioned, but it’s clear from the text that that’s what happened. The crowds wouldn’t be able to hear them speak in tongues if they were still huddled in the upper room.
The Holy Spirit’s primary purpose for giving the church power is to harvest souls. It’s not to make a great church service. It’s not to “bless our socks off”. To my knowledge the world has never been changed by someone’s socks coming off! I don’t know where that saying came from.
The disciples were comfortable in the upper room. 120 close friends, all sharing history, all sharing sweet memories of following Jesus, all energized by the resurrection of Jesus, all unified in prayer, worship and Bible teaching. I’m sure the upper room was sweet, and it was where Jesus wanted them…until the power of the Spirit fell. Then things got pressed outward and things got messy! But where work for the kingdom is getting done things will get messy. Where the stall is empty the stall is clean, but put an ox in there and you get work done and you get a mess. To paraphrase Proverbs 14:4.
Here are a couple ways this message speaks to Grace Community Church today.
- Let’s ask the Spirit to give us God’s heart for the harvest
The power of the Holy Spirit presses the disciples hearts with the heart of God for the lost. The same heart Jesus had for the lost. The same heart the Father has for the prodigal. The same heart the Holy Spirit has for the harvest, pressed on our hearts.
There are people all around us who need Jesus. I think when Jesus says see the fields, he’s not talking about getting excited about seeing large crowds. Large crowds generate an excitement just by being a large crowd. There’s a buzz, a sense “something’s happening here.” Sometimes that something might be God moving, sometimes it might not be. But when Jesus said it he was coming right off the harvest field of talking to one, nameless, outcast of a Samaritan woman and he was so excited about sharing the love of God with her it was like food to him.
One of the ways the power of the Spirit moves in our hearts is to give us a love for the lost. Seeing the fields is another way of seeing people as people who need Jesus. It’s caring about their physical needs, yes, but it can’t stop there. We need to care about their eternal souls, that apart from Christ they are separated from God and need to be rescued by the power of the gospel!
- Let’s pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to fill us
Sometimes when we hear a message like this we wonder, what can the church do to make this happen? What program can we start? What initiative can we take? What strategy can we come up with?
And maybe the Lord will give us a strategic direction – God can use that. But Jesus didn’t say wait in Jerusalem until I give you a marketing strategy to reach the world. He said wait for power. And that power hit them, filled them, and sent them. Peter and John over here, Philip over there, Stephen in a different place, Andrew, Nathaniel, Bartholomew, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, over here and here and here and here.
Here’s what I think the most effective church strategy for evangelism is today: it’s for me to ask the Holy Spirit to empower me and then I talk to people in my life about Jesus. And it’s for you to ask the Holy Spirit to empower you and then talk to people in your life about Jesus.
God is very real and very much working in the world today. And no matter how put together people may look on the surface, we live in a broken world and there’s a lot of brokenness behind the curtains, if you know what I mean. Brokenness in marriages, brokenness in families, brokenness in emotional health, brokenness in soul. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and the Holy Spirit carries on that ministry with power through ordinary people like you and me.
I want to share a story with you that happened to me many years ago because it displays the desire of the Spirit to speak to us and use us.
The car that won’t start and the walking woman
Maybe there’s someone that comes to your mind. They don’t believe in Jesus and it seems impossible to believe they ever will. Or maybe they are a lost sheep, that one in a hundred who has left the fold and is lost and separated. Let’s pray with faith that the Holy Spirit will draw them back. Maybe He’ll send us, maybe He’ll send our prayers.
If there’s someone on your mind – a lost sheep – and you’d like some extra prayer raise your hand. I was praying a whole list of people who once worshiped Jesus but have walked away. Or are having a crisis of faith and don’t know what they believe. If there’s someone you’re thinking of and want prayer, raise your hand and I’m gonna ask people to look around and gather around those with raised hands. You don’t have to mention names, we’ll agree with you and God knows.
More in Holy Spirit
October 17, 2021Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part Three: Sowing to the Spirit
October 10, 2021Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part Two
October 3, 2021Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part One