Communication always involves transferring an idea from the mind of one person to the mind of another (or others) through the medium either of speech or written text. The Bible is no different. As readers of the Bible, our goal is not to create our own meaning (what this means to me), but to understand what the author intended to say.
This involves not only the immediate text but the broader context and argument (or plot) that the author is developing and how a particular text fits into that argument.
One of Luke’s purposes in writing his two-volume work (Luke-Acts) was to show how God was fulfilling Old Testament promises made to Israel. He tells us this in the first verse of his gospel. He says he compiled “a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us” (Luke 1:1).
The words translated “accomplished” is the same word Greek scholars often translate “fulfilled.” Luke wants to show his readers that the Old Testament predicts all that Jesus did, all he taught, and all that happened to him.
One feature of these prophecies was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For example, consider the following passages from the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:26–27).
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants (Isaiah 44:3).
. . . until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever (Isaiah 32:15–17).
Wow! Look at those passages again. God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, promised his people that one day He would pour his Holy Spirit into their hearts, that this outpouring would write His law on their hearts, and that, as a result, times of refreshment would come and their barren fields would become fruitful and their dusty wilderness would become a luscious forest.
So, it must have been exciting for the disciples of John the Baptist to hear him say,
I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).
Could it be that these ancient promises of the outpouring of God’s Spirit have arrived in this Nazarene named Jesus?
Yes! That is what Luke is trying to tell his readers. In fact, Luke ties John’s statement to the outpouring of the Spirit in the household of Cornelius. Note that in this passage, Peter is unable to finish his sermon! God was so excited about fulfilling his promise he interrupted the sermon and poured out His spirit before Peter had even gotten to his conclusion.
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way? (Acts 11:15–17).
But let’s back up a little to the Day of Pentecost where the Spirit is poured out for the first time. Luke describes the outpouring of the Spirit in vivid imagery.
Divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:3–4).
This was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel as Peter makes clear when he quotes the prophet of Joel (2:28-29).
This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy’ (Acts 2:16–18).
But there’s more.
What also comes out in Acts 2 is the fact that with the outpouring of the Spirit, Jesus is crowned King of Israel by his ascension.
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 (Acts 2:33).
The enthronement of Jesus in heaven and the outpouring of the Spirit are two faces of the same coin. One was necessary for the other to occur. Jesus takes the eternal throne of David and simultaneously gives the Spirit to the people of God.
What has this to do with blasphemy against the Spirit? We will see that in coming posts.
Photo: The Holy Spirit as a bird descending with spread wings at top center; the twelve Apostles standing below gesturing to it in front of an archway by Domenico Campagnola, 1518. Licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.