The Gift of the Holy Spirit? Third Sunday of Easter. April 26th 2020.
This is a hard time for many. The physical isolation, working at home nearly always, no longer able to hug, to shake hands, keeping 1.5 m apart. Physically distanced yet also socially distanced. Easter that great gift of Christ, alone on that cross, yet through his death, in our place, a substitute, a sacrifice for our sins so we don’t need to face God’s judgement, demonic powers disarmed, love proclaimed, victory over death when we come to face it. The great gift of Jesus – crucified yet both Lord and Christ. And to that tremendous gift offered to each of us – it is there for us to take it – to accept it – as 3000 dead when Peter preached – Peter, so aware of the Lord’s gift, his death for him, he say there is another promise, another gift:
‘’Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…’’
That includes us in All Saints and all who are watching and praying with us this morning. The Promise of God’s presence with us in every situation, every place, in every home, so we may feel alone but God promises his presence by his Spirit.
Who is he? Who is the Holy Spirit? We look at 5 things: 1.He was involved in creation; 2. in the OT he was given to particular people, at particular times for particular tasks; 3. the gift of the Spirit to everyone was promised by the Father; 4. Jesus said the time of the gift was now here; and 5. the gift is given.
1.The Holy Spirit was involved in creation:
Genesis 1, verses 1 and 2:
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.’
Out of the chaos, the Holy Spirit brings the cosmos; out of disorder he brings order; out of confusion, harmony; out of deformity he brings beauty; out of the old he brings the new.
The word ‘hovering’ is used again, in Deuteronomy 32, to compare God to an eagle hovering over the nest of its little ones. Ready for action, ready to prepare, ready to protect. A beautiful image for the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God seeks to work in our lives – to act, to prepare to help us to become what we are meant to be – to people who fly , to protect and care for us. He seeks to work in our lives, as he does in Creation, wanting to bring order and harmony and beauty and newness, he’s the Creator Spirit.
The phrase Spirit of God – can also be translated ‘wind of God’. Now, years later, Jesus when talking with a Jewish teacher, Nicodemus, talks about the wind.
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3).
Spirit he says gives spiritual birth. The Spirit is described like the wind. That link to creation. But not creation in the sense of the world this time, but of a person being born again, a new start. Paul: 7 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those 3000 people who responded to Peter’s preaching, were new creations that day…
I person, I’ll call Patrick, and I were at University. It came to uni in the third year of my four year degree. He was someone who came from a horrible background. And he self harmed. I got to know Patrick through the group I was part of. My friend I’ll call Janice, and I would share our faith with him, as opportunities arose. Janice spent a lot of time chatting to him. He was in a very dark place… but something happened, and I can only say it was sometime in the early months of my final year, when he became a Christian… someone we thought, he probably wouldn’t ever become a Christian. And also we saw his life transformed – from hopeless, to someone who had a laugh, and to see him get married and become a Dad… chaos, yet life came, beautiful life…
A new creation – life out of an unlikely place, order and beauty out of disorder and pain. The Creator Spirit is promised to those who believe, Peter says.
2. He came upon particular people at particular times for particular tasks.
Yet the Spirit wasn’t only at work at creation. He continues to be at work and to be present throughout the Old Testament.
It’s fascinating to read through the Old Testament and see how the Spirit of God rested upon particular people at particular times for particular tasks. It seemed to be the right person, right time, right time… The Spirit enabled these people as part of the working out of God’s plans and purposes. It was no random choice. Three examples.
For Leadership (Gideon) – Judges, chapter 6
The people of God are being oppressed and occupied by a neighboring nation. The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon. Gideon has many questions, doubts about himself and about what God can do in these days, lacks confidence. Who am I , he says.
14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
We read a little later.
33 Soon afterward the armies … crossed the Jordan… 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms …
Gideon, a man, who is gifted to lead. But again note the person – lacking confidence, doubts, and facing huge challenges if he is to be a leader… the Spirit is given. Gets us thinking once more – God doesn’t seem put off by who we think we are, but he sees who we really are and who we can be and equips by his Spirit…
Artistic work (Bezalel)– Exodus, chapter 31
31 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.
The Spirit gives practical skills, creative skills, help, inspiration, wisdom, ability in creative or practical things. The Spirit is not given for only religious actions but a much greater vision. The Spirit is given and works not just in religious tasks, but is involved in regular life, the whole of life.
Prophecy (Isaiah) – Isaiah, chapter 61, verses 1-3:
‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
…to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour’
The Spirit empowers a group of people called prophets, who are able to see and communicate what is happening by God in history around them. Spirit of the Lord speaks. Through prophets, or individuals at certain times, telling people about the freedom that God offers, words to strengthen, to comfort, to build up, to encourage.
The experience of the Holy Spirit is not just that we should have a ‘nice, warm feeling in our hearts and feel good’! It’s so we can go out and make a difference to our world.
3. The Promise of the Father
So the Spirit – working in leadership, to liberate, to give wisdom and ability in creative practical skills, speaking through prophecy. But Peter said: ‘from the Father, the promised Holy Spirit.’ (v33). The Promise of the Spirit to come to all.
There is an ancient saying: the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.’’ The problem lay in the source of human behaviour.
In Ezekiel 36:26, God says this:
‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.’
Prophets say that Spirit would come and act like Genesis 1, bring creation. Now he comes to transform the human heart, to empower people and enable people to love God and love others.
By the Holy Spirit coming to live within them and within us. Promise of a transformed life.
To whom does this promise apply?
Joel, chapter 2, verse 28 – this is what God says:
‘For afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days’
The Promise is for everyone! So it is not about age – we see old people, young people, it is not based on gender – men and women – it is not based on being a religious leader or not, as the Spirit is given to everyone.
‘On all people.’ That’s the promise of the Father. But this promise remained unfulfilled. Then, with the birth of Jesus, it’s like a trumpet sounds. The time is near for the promise, for the gift is near!
Everybody connected with the birth of Jesus is filled with or led by the Spirit. Zechariah is told his son John the Baptist will be filled with the Spirit. Mary is told the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and she will give birth to the Son of God. Elisabeth, when Mary visits her late has her son leap in her womb and Elisabeth bursts out with prophetic praise as she is filled with the Spirit. Zechariah, days after his son;s birth, is filled with the Spirit and speaks what we now as the Benedictus. Simeon – elderly man, when Jesus is 40 days old, a man described as having the Spirit upon him and being led by the Spirit so that he holds the Messiah in his arms and praise God.
4. Jesus and the Gift is near.
But it’s still particular people at particular times.
But then John the Baptist is the first person to make this link between “The Promise” and Jesus. Luke 3:16:
‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’
Baptism with water is important, but it’s not enough. Jesus is the Spirit baptiser. In the secular Greek, the word ‘baptise’ meant ‘to overwhelm, to immerse, to plunge, to drench’. And that’s what the Spirit wants to do – he wants to drench us, soak us.
Jesus himself was completely full of the Holy Spirit, the power of God.
Luke chapter 3, verse 22:
‘The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.’ The Spirit empowers him to begin the work towards the new creation.
In Luke 4:1 we read that ‘Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit’.
Verse 14: After 40 days of testing by the devil in the desert, ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit’
Verse 18: he says, in his home town, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he’s anointed me to preach
good news to the poor’ – he’s quoting directly from Isaiah’s prophecy that we heard earlier. His ministry will be fulfilling that prophecy.
We see Jesus empowered by the Spirit. Filled by the Spirit. Yet in Luke’s second volume – Acts – which speaks about the first years of the Christian church, we read about Christians being filled by the Spirit, not once but a number of times – as if Luke says – see Jesus – he was filled – and you, Christian, can experience the same power, presence of the Spirit etc
- Jesus in his ministry predicts his presence
In John 7, Jesus says: “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.
Jesus said those words at a Jewish festival when part of the religious act was for a priest to take a pitcher of water and pour it out on the west side of the altar in the temple … it pointed to a promise of God, from Ezekiel 47 which speaks of a river of life flowing from the temple, out of the city and transforming the land. life from dead.
Jesus is saying, through the Spirit, ‘Not only will I satisfy your spiritual thirst, but then you will become a source of blessing, a source of life.’
At the end of Luke’s gospel, before Jesus ascends to heaven, we read that Jesus said this:
‘I’m going to send you what my Father has promised [the promise of the Spirit]; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
They – including Peter – waited, and they prayed – for ten days. And all the time there’s this rising sense of anticipation. Then it happens. The Day of Pentecost.
5. The Gift is Given.
The Day of Pentecost, the same day we hear Peter’s words.
2 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. … 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
All of them – likely to be 120 and not just the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages they did not know.’
Peter gets up and says, ‘This is … The Promise, this is Biblical, this is what was promised in the Old Testament:
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” ’ (he quotes from Joel 2, which we read earlier).
Suddenly, the promise of the Father – the gift of the Holy Spirit is no longer just for right person, at the right time in the right place.; it’s for everyone. As Peter says: Jesus has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.’’
So we see gifts from the Spirit – languages; we see boldness in Peter; and power:
37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
Thousands become believers, and Peter says to them, to all who are Christians or become Christians, he says : the gift of the holy Spirit, this promise is for everyone … he says to you and you and you, this is the promise and just like they have had gifting, confidence in their faith, and power to witness and act for Christ, so can you…
The Spirit is no longer for particular people, for certain tasks. A promise, a gift for each believer. From when they believe. God’s very presence within them.
That is the gift each believer receives – as Peter says – when we turn to Christ in repentance and trust – the gift of the Spirit.
Shall we pray:
Holy Spirit, promised and sent by the Father and the Son,
ignite in us your holy fire, strengthen us your children with the gift of faith,
revive each of us with the breath of life,
and renew the face of our troubled land.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.