ByCraig van Echten
August 29, 2018
Bible reading: Acts 2:1-4
Brothers and sisters,
‘Do you speak in tongues, have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ This was the question that was asked of me once as I walked into the church. On that Sunday morning, this man went from person to person asking that question. He even had the audacity to come into the foyer of the church! As he kept beating his drum, ‘Do you speak in tongues, have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Eventually he was asked to leave.
Maybe you’ve been asked that question before too? These well meaning Christians believe in what is called ‘second blessing experience.’ They believe without this ‘second blessing’ experience your Christianity is like those old Nokia phones. Basic, limited, and far from ideal.
So what are we to make of this so called ‘second blessing’ experience? Are you missing out? Is your Christianity second rate? Have we in Reformed Churches squeezed the life out of the Spirit? And why do people see things so differently on this issue.
This morning I’m continuing in Acts 2. This fits our theme for the year which is the person and work of the Holy Spirit. And what we are going to see this morning is that: because of the pivotal moment of Pentecost every Christian has the deeper, richer and more powerful work of the Spirit.
Firstly, we must understand the flow of redemptive history.
Let me begin by asking: Did the O.T church have the Holy Spirit? Did the Israelites enjoy the person and work of the Holy Spirit?
Yes, they did!
The Holy Spirit was active in equipping prophets, priests and kings for their task. 1Samuel 16:13 “And the Spirit of the LORD rushed on David from that day forward.”
The Holy Spirit was regenerating the hearts of the Old Testament saints. The same Spirit that prized open Abraham’s heart, prized open our own hearts. Otherwise there would be no chance of believing.
The Holy Spirit was empowering the people for service of God. Haggai 2:4 says, “Be strong all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts…My Spirit remains in your midst.”
The Holy Spirit brought forth fruit in lives of the Israelites. There were times when they were filled with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and selfcontrol.
The Holy Spirit ministered to the nation at large. Nehemiah 9:20 “You gave them your good Spirit to instruct them.” And because God’s Spirit ministered among them, they were rebuked for grieving the Spirit. Isaiah 63:10 “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.
So in many ways God was active by His Holy Spirit in the Old Covenant. But, God also promised something even better for His people. For the ministry of the Holy Spirit in that covenant was imperfect.
So we read in Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will put within you.”
And Jeremiah 31 God speaks about a new covenant. And He says He will write the law on their hearts in the new covenant.
And of course Joel says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”
Now when does this come to pass? It doesn’t happen during the life of Christ. During the earthly ministry of Christ the coming of the Holy Spirit is still a future reality. In fact, the gospel of John Jesus foreshadows the future ministry of the Spirit. He says, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” And then we are given a clue as to when it would happen. John 7:39 says, “Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” In other words, this new covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit is connected to Jesus’ glorification.
And this is where the book of Acts is so crucial. The book of Acts is not just some record of religious experiences. It is recording for us unique events in redemptive history. The book begins with Jesus ministry prior to the Ascension. And Jesus reminds the disciples in 1:5 “…for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” He also says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
And then Jesus ascends to the right hand of God.
So now the stage is set for the day of Pentecost. Now the stage is set for Christ exercise His Kingly reign. How will He do so? By pouring out His Holy Spirit. And so arrive at a significant, watershed moment.
Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, 375fee high and 11,000 feet across. Egypt’s President Nasser commissioned it in 1953 and it was completed in 1970. Now during it’s lengthy period of construction, the Nile river wasn’t completely stopped. Even as the reservoir was filling, part of the river was allowed to flow past. As people down river depended on it. But on the day when the reservoir poured through the turbines, a power was unleashed that spread to and far beyond the few folk down river. Pentecost was a bit like that. Before Pentecost the river of God’s Spirit blessed God’s people Israel. It was their very life. But after Pentecost the reservoirs have been opened to bring more light to God’s people and also light to the world.
So, secondly, every new covenant believer has the fullness of the Spirit. Acts 2 is not simply recording the experiences of the early church. It’s not just a sample of first century spirituality. This is how the book of Acts often gets misused. Not everything is an example to follow. For this is a significant watershed moment in redemptive history.
This watershed moment is accompanied by great phenomena. In verse 2 we read of a “mighty rushing wind.” It’s loud and intense. This is no draught sneaking under the door. It probably sounds like a freight train coming through. What are we to make of this wind? Remember when God answered Job in Job 38? We read “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind…” Wind has been used before as the manifestation of the invisible God. Not only that, wind has also been associated with the Spirit of God (Ezek. 37).
Then, in verse 3 we read of “tongues of fire.” What are we to make of this fire?
Remember the burning bush that Moses stood before? Remember the pillar of smoke or fire that guided the Israelites in the desert? Fire has often been used as the manifestation of the invisible God. Again we are reminded God is here (there’s some further symbolism behind the fire which we hope to look at next week).
This watershed moment is also accompanied by a great sermon. As we saw last week, the guts of Peter’s sermon is ‘this is that.’ And he basically said, what is happening is what was promised. In verse 33 he says, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
Now the big question is: who is the Holy Spirit being poured out on? It is being poured on the N.T Church! What was promised to God’s people has now become a reality! As Joel said, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” And so on the day of Pentecost 120 disciples are gathered. And verse 4 says, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” And every believer since that day has enjoyed the full ministry of the Spirit.
But then why do some people claim advocate a second blessing experience? They see these disciples who were already believers, and conclude Pentecost is a sort of second blessing. They also conclude this from Acts 8:14, 10:44, & 19:1 which do actually sound like a second blessing. But what’s going on? The believers in the book of Acts are passing from old covenant dawn, to new covenant day. They live during this watershed moment.
It’s a bit like a sportsman who experiences the change for the amateur era to the professional. If he or she experienced that change, they would have got a significant top up in money. But player born in the professional era don’t experience the top up. They simply receive it all.
So what does this all mean for us? For a start we are not going to have the same experience. We were born into the new era. We automatically receive all the blessings of the new era.
When we believe in Christ, we receive the fullness of His Spirit. The two go together. And they go a lot closer together than we sometimes think. You can’t separate Christ and His Spirit. In John 14:28 Jesus speaks of the coming of the Spirit and says, “I am going away and I will come to you.” In 1Corinthians 15:45 Jesus is called the “life giving Spirit.” In 2Cor. 3:18 the Holy Spirit is called, “The Spirit of Christ.” John 16:14 “He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” All this is to say that the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit is closely related. The Holy Spirit is like a floodlight on a building. He focuses our attention on Christ. So it’s impossible to be united to Christ and not be in possession of all that is Christ’s.
Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every Spiritual blessing.” It’s not that in Christ we receive a car with three gears, and then get 4th and 5th later on. No. We have it all!
Finally, we are filled, and yet are called to be filled. We have it all, and yet, there’s a tension isn’t there? An already/not yet tension. We already have the Holy Spirit poured out into our lives. As Ephesians 1 says, we have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” To use the language of Acts 2 we have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. To use the language of John 3 we have been regenerated by the Spirit. This is what we have already when God first worked in our lives.
But, we do not yet come under the complete control of the Spirit. Otherwise, we would be perfect! So there is a sense in which we need to keep being filled by the Spirit.
This is the language of Ephesians 5:18. There we read, “be filled with the Spirit.” In the Greek it is an ongoing command. And it’s a present command. This means it is something that needs to keep happening. Keep being filled with the Spirit.
Now what does that mean? It means our lives need to increasingly be shaped by the life of Christ. Remember the Holy Spirit is Christ’s floodlight. He is Christ’s representative. To be filled with the Spirit is to know the fullness of Christ.
This is clear from the prayer in Ephesians 3:19 “…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
This is also clear from the equivalent verse in Colossians which puts it this way, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
So to “be filled with the Spirit” is not about seeking some second blessing. It’s not about some unusual or spectacular experience (although that could happen). Simply put, it’s that Christ rules every part of your life.
Isn’t that something we want? Those people who preach a second blessing are on to something. Their theological framework might not be correct. But, they are helpful in reminding us that there is far more to the Christian life than we realize. Life in the Spirit of Christ is beautiful. And it’s worth seeking after!
Why wouldn’t we want to know more of Christ? He redeemed us from slavery to satan. He paid our debt. He washed us clean. He has dressed us in the white robes of His righteousness. He is gracious, He is loving, He is kind, He is all powerful, He is sovereign, He is just. He is glorious and majestic.
And what a blessing to be in His Kingdom is beautiful. Look at how life in the Spirit is described after this passage in Ephesians. It is characterized by singing Psalms and other songs in corporate worship, marriages that are lasting, harmonious, and loving, homes where parents and children enjoy being with each other, and job situations free from oppression and filled with meaning and purpose.
Don’t settle for second best but crave more of the life of the Spirit!
So, in conclusion, the question is not ‘do you speak in tongues, have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom. The real question is: ‘Do you know Christ?’ For, if you are united to Christ, you are united to all His benefits, including the power and presence of His Spirit.
Then the next question is: ‘how are you experiencing Christ?’ The Holy Spirit has so much more of Christ to show and reveal to us. “Taste and see that Lord is good.”