3. Wait

Meditations in Acts : 3 :  Wait for the Spirit

Acts 1:4,5  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “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.”

Once they have got past the shock of going back to Jerusalem, the disciples can focus on why they are going. Jesus speaks of a gift they are to receive, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Having taken in the basics we can then reflect on some of the other aspects of these verses. This was a gift that the Father had promised. So when had God spoken about His Spirit coming? It was there in what we now call the Old Testament documents. And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” (Joel 2:28) Now the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit was understood through the Old Testament.

There were numerous occasions when the Spirit came on people and they were endued with power, and then Joel in the latter days of the Old Testament period had spoken of God pouring out His Spirit on many people.  Jesus had likewise spoken about the Spirit’s coming  e.g. Jn 14:26, 15:26,27 etc. yet one wonders just how much the disciples understood.  I have lived as a Christian though the seventies, eighties and nineties of the twentieth century, a period which contained what is referred to as the charismatic renewal, and a period in which there was much teaching about the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Spirit, but it was also a period of controversy about just what that means and when it happens. The truth is not always ultra clear to everyone (or anyone?).

Jesus tells his disciples that they will soon be baptized by his Holy Spirit and the only picture he gives them to give some meaning to that phrase is the parallel of John the Baptist baptizing people in water. The disciples are about to be immersed in the Spirit in the same way that John immersed people in water. When this happened as recorded by Luke in chapter 2 of Acts – for the events of Pentecost can be the only fulfillment of Jesus’ words –  he speaks there of them being “filled” with the Spirit. What is the link between being immersed and being filled? It is simple: if you immerse a cup in water it is filled.

The more I read Scripture, and I have read it for well over forty years, I am sure that for most of the time we only take in surface meaning and miss out on so much more. For example, I wonder what the disciples were feeling as Jesus was giving them these instructions. In the previous meditation I have suggested that they might feel upset at the thought of having to return to Jerusalem for an undefined period of time. But what, I wonder did they think about these references to the coming of the Holy Spirit. I mean they might have known the Old Testament teaching about what happened when the Spirit came upon a person (see the Judges for example) and had known that power and confidence seemed to come with the Spirit – but did they need that?  I mean, we’ve been out at Jesus’ direction before and preached and healed the sick and cast out demons, why should we need anything else?  Surely we’ve got all we need?

Isn’t this the same natural thinking that so often raises its head in the Church today? We’ve got the completed Scriptures, we’ve had really good teaching, we have established buildings and organizations, so what more could we want?  It is a way of thinking that doesn’t realise our frailty and the impossibility of dealing with the spiritual powers of darkness without the power and presence of the Lord.  For the disciples at that moment, with Jesus still there with them, still full of life, still full of vitality, and still full of authority, it may have appeared the same.  It doesn’t seem that he has made it clear that he is going to leave them soon.  They had been through that once and it had left them emotionally devastated; surely he wouldn’t do that to them again?  But how long can he stay with them? Five years, fifty years, five hundred years, or for ever?

There are two things here: first if he stays they will leave it all up to him to do and that isn’t God’s plan.  Second, until he goes and until they feel their sense of loneliness and frailty and inability, their hearts are not going to be open so that the Father can fill them with His Spirit. When we are full of self and self-ability, we cannot be filled with Him.

No, they may not understand what this is all about at this stage but they are hearing God’s will declared.  How often, I wonder do we hear the Lord’s will declared and not realise the fullness of it?  Very often it is only when we have entered into it and are able to look back on what has happened, do we realise some of the greater dimensions of what the Lord had said previously. Yes, the Lord will speak it, but so often we’ll only understand such a small part of it – but that won’t stop us being used by Him. Thank goodness He doesn’t wait until we have full understanding to use us!

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