The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
THE ACTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
- Tonight we will start a new series in the book of Acts. The author is Luke, the only Gentile writer of Holy Scripture (1:1; cf. Luke 1:3).
- Luke was a medical doctor, and he is referred to by the apostle Paul as "Luke, the beloved physician" in Colossians 4:14.
- Sir William Ramsey, the famous archaeologist, after making a critical study of Luke's writings, declared that Luke was the greatest historian, ancient or modern. Ramsey found Luke to be perfectly accurate.
- Over 100 years ago, A.T. Pierson published a book (sadly it is overlooked by many today) entitled, The Acts of the Holy Spirit.
- Dr. Pierson wrote, "The Acts of the Apostles forms a fifth Gospel, and can be properly understood only in its relation, not alone to the narrative previously written by Luke, but to the fourfold Gospel which precedes it" (The Acts of the Holy Spirit).
- Dr. Pierson goes on to say that in the book of Acts, the Lord Jesus Christ is presented as the Prince of Peace, ascended to the throne and sending the Paraclete .-- i.e., the Holy Spirit -- "as His ascension gift to believers, to conduct in His name and behalf the great work and warfare of this dispensation, the age of outgathering from all nations" (cf. Acts 1:8).
- Dr. Pierson compared the book of Acts to "the mercy-seat which both rested upon and held united the four sides of the sacred ark of the testimony."
- The four sides of the ark are the four Gospels, and the book of Acts is the cover of the ark where the Shekinah fire burned and glowed, because "it is in the Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit's fire is first seen to burn and shine in latter-day glory."
- It is my hope and my desire to preach through all 28 chapters of this marvelous book, giving emphasis to the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Dr. Pierson said the Acts of the Apostles should be studied mainly "to trace our Lord's unseen but actual continuance of His divine teaching and working; and secondly, to trace the active ministry of the Holy Spirit as the abiding presence in the church" (cf. Acts 1:1, 2).
- Our Lord said in John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
- The book of Acts is a collection of some of these "greater works."
THE PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1:4)
- The promise of the Holy Spirit, referred to here in Acts 1:4, is referred to throughout the four Gospels (cf. Luke 11:13).
- In Luke 24:49, our Lord said to His disciples, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
- "Endued" (Luke 24:49) means to be clothed, possessed, enveloped.
- Today many Christians understand that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but they know nothing about being endued with power from on high. It is foreign to them.
- In Luke 24:49, our Lord refers to “the promise of my Father” (cf. John 14:16; 15:26), and that is the same term we see in Acts 1:4. This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4).
- In John 16:7, our Lord said it was expedient for the disciples that He would go back to heaven (cf. Acts 1:9, 10), for if our Lord did not go away the Comforter would not come.
- Had our Lord remained upon the earth, He would necessarily have been restricted by space and time as are all men. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of born-again believers provides a fellowship with God that is in many ways even closer than the apostles had experienced in the physical presence of Jesus.
- With Spirit-filled soulwinners spread out all over the world, more souls can be won than when our Lord walked this earth 2,000 years ago.
- This is what Jesus meant when He said in John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
- That is quite a promise! And it only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can win souls and do these “greater works.”
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1:5)
- In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."
- John said the same thing in Mark 1:8, and Luke 3:16, and John 1:33.
- There is much confusion over the meaning of being baptized with the Holy Ghost. Much of the confusion has come from the tongues crowd (Pentecostals, charismatics, etc.).
- John the Baptist's prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
- Some preachers (such as RA Torrey) have used the terms "baptized by the Holy Spirit" and "filled with the Holy Spirit" interchangeably.
- I believe there is a distinction.
- Ephesians 5:18 says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”
- Torrey said, "A man may be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and still not be baptized with the Holy Spirit. In regeneration there is an impartation of life, and the one who receives it is saved; in baptism with the Holy Spirit there is an impartation of power and the one who receives it is fitted for service."
- I think it would be clearer to say, "A man may be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and still not be filled with the Holy Spirit. In regeneration there is an impartation of life, and the one who receives it is saved; when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit there is an impartation of power and the one who receives it is fitted for service."
- We are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but this is not the same thing as the baptism of the Holy Spirit because we are not commanded to be baptized with the Spirit.
- In the apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he deals with a situation where the church was splitting into various factions or cliques.
- “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (I Cor. 3:4). (This type of carnality is still prevalent today.)
- Later on in this epistle, Paul says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Cor. 12:13).
- I do not think I Corinthians 12:13 should be restricted to the church at Corinth, because I Corinthians 1:2 says, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord..."
- The point is all believers are baptized by the same Holy Spirit. We are united in Christ. We are all part of the body of Christ. This took place at our conversion (cf. Acts 11:15-18).
- Ephesians 1:13 says, “after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”
- This takes place the moment a person receives Jesus Christ as his Saviour. When we got saved we were regenerated by the Holy Spirit, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and baptized by the Holy Spirit.
- We may need to be filled with the Holy Spirit many times, but the Bible nowhere teaches that the baptism by the Holy Spirit is to be repeated.
THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1:8)
- The context indicates that this marvelous, supernatural power is needed to evangelize the world (cf. Luke 24:46-49).
- The Great Commission (Matt. 28:19, 20) involves three things:
- Personnel – the local church. We are God's "witnesses" (1:8).
- Plan – worldwide evangelism started in Jerusalem (1:8). The application today for us would be to start here in Elmont. The disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, followed our Lord's plan. They evangelized Jerusalem (Acts 1--7), Judea and Samaria (Acts 8--12), and the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 13--28). Acts 1:8 is the outline for the book of Acts.
- Power – the power behind the Great Commission is the person of the Holy Spirit. We need God’s power to do God’s work God’s way.
- The disciples were asking about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel (1:6), but our Lord told them His program for this dispensation was not the restoration Israel but getting the Gospel out "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:7, 8).
- To accomplish this, there must be supernatural power (1:8), i.e., an enduement of power from on high (Luke 24:49).
- A. J. Gordon used to tell
a story about an American taking a friend from England to see Niagara
- He said to his friend,
"Come, and I'll show you the greatest unused power in the world." And taking
him to the foot of Niagara Falls, "there," he said, "is the greatest unused
power in the world!"
- "Ah, no my brother, not
so!" was the reply. "The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit
of the living God."