Focus on Christ Meditations: 52. Christ Poured Out?
Acts 16:7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
Our temptation, as we have worked our way through Old Testament prophecies, the birth and arrival of Christ, his names, his ministry, his death, resurrection and ascension, might be to say, right, that’s it, end of the story, but it isn’t, it isn’t the end of the activity of the Christ, it continues today, and we need to see that. But before we come up to date, we need to take in the events of the Day of Pentecost and all that followed, because that was the START of what CONTINUES today and reveals HOW Christ continues his work through us, and that is vitally important.
It is important here to understand the bigger picture. We concluded the previous study by noting that the New Testament tells us very clearly that Jesus has ascended back to heaven from where he came, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, in a position where he rules. In the next studies we will examine this rule in some detail but for the moment we need to realise that that rule, shared with his Father, started from the moment he ascended but was only seen, tangibly if you like, from the moment his Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. We need to link that with Jesus ruling at his Father’s right hand.
Now to see this perhaps even more clearly, we need to see how the Holy Spirit is described in the New Testament. Most of the time, the third person of the Trinity is simply described as “the Spirit” or often as “the Holy Spirit”, and sometimes as “the Spirit of God”, e.g. “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 also 1 Cor 2:11,14, 7:40. 12:3 2 Cor 3:3, Phil 3:3, 1 Jn 4:2). However, because there is a unity within the Trinity there are also a (limited) number of occasions when he is referred to as “the Spirit of Christ” or even “the Spirit of Jesus” etc.
Observe: “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” (Acts 16:7) and “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Rom 8:9) and “I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Phil 1:19) and “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet 1:10,11) and even, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” (Gal 4:6)
The book of Acts, most of us would agree, is an account of the work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. Usually we use the language of “being filled with the Spirit” or “baptized in the Spirit” but the ‘Spirit’ we refer to is in fact, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus. If we hold in our mind’s eye the picture of Jesus now ascended and ruling at his Father’s right hand, what we see in Acts is in fact the outworking of that rule in Jesus, there in heaven, prompting, leading, and inspiring his people by his Spirit. It is the way he expresses that rule when it comes to his people, us, Christians.
One has to admit that there did not yet seem a real consciousness in the apostles most of the time that this is how it is; it is only when we come to an incident as that referred to in our starting verses that Luke and Paul recognize what is going on. They wanted to move on into Bithynia but they became aware that “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” i.e. Jesus, exercising his rule from heaven stirred an unease in them that this was not the right thing for them to be doing. It is one of those rare occasions when it is made clear just what is going on. Most of the time, the apostles just move as, presumably prompted by the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, to act as they did, revealing the power and revelation of Jesus. Those are the two primary ways we see him working through the apostles – through power and through revelation.
When the Spirit is poured out on the Day of Pentecost it is power that energizes Peter to get up and preach and his ‘sermon’ is full of revelation. A short time later at the Gate Beautiful the healing that took place there was attributed by Peter not to themselves (Acts 3:12,13) but as in line with all that happened already (see v.13-16). Power exhibited and revelation poured out in his ‘sermon’ that followed. After being imprisoned over night, when called before what was almost certainly the Sanhedrin, Peter is filled with the Spirit to boldly explain all that had happened (Acts 4:8-). When they leave and tell the others there is a praise meeting and the Holy Spirit fills them so they speak out boldly (Acts 4:31). The incident with Ananias and Sapphira, who both end up dead, has surely got to be a judgment of God (Acts 5:1-11). As a general statement we are told, “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.” (Acts 5:12) Power continues to be seen. And so it continues.
Now most of the time it is simply attributed (where there is an identity) to the Holy Spirit, but all the time we must remember two things: first, the Spirit is sometimes named as ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ and all the while we have this picture of Jesus at his Father’s right hand overseeing and directing what is going on. There is in Paul’s writing that which sheds even more light on what is going on, describing the end times, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) I have emphasized what are, in this context, key issues: Jesus is working to establish the kingdom of God and he does that by ruling over – expressing the power of God and bringing the revelation of God – all things until there comes a climax after which he hands back the control, so to speak, to the Father.
Before we finish, there are some things Jesus said that I believe we take for granted but they also shine light into this teaching. For example: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (Jn 15:4) See four times in that one verses Jesus says we are to ‘remain’ in him. Remain means to stay in the same place, or continue in the same place. What is that place? See another expression: “in Christ”. e.g. Rom 6:11,23, 8:1, 12:5, 16:7,9,10, 1 Cor 1:2,4,30, 4:10,15,17 etc. etc. Elsewhere, of course it talks about him being in us by the indwelling presence of his Holy Spirit. We are one with Christ, there is this link with the living Christ who, for the time being is reigning at his Father’s right hand. The story did not end at the ascension, it continues as Christ continues the work of the Father but now at his side and as he administers it through his Spirit. We need to understand more of this if we are to understand his ongoing working today, and that we will do in the following studies.