After studying the Old Testament for six months, jumping into the Acts of Apostles was like jumping into an overflowing pool of color and life (I really don’t know how else to describe this) because of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. But the same Spirit did work and move in the Old Testament narratives and prophecies.
For instance, Joshua received the Spirit and ended up miraculously leading the Israelites to conquer much of the Promised Land. God also gave it to those who brought deliverance to the Israelites in the period of judges, and to those who rebuilt the temple:
Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Then the spirit of the Lord rushed on [Samson], and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town, took their spoil, and gave the festal garments to those who had explained the riddle.
And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God…
God gave His spirit to Saul, Israel’s first king, and David, their second king:
And the spirit of God came upon Saul in power when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.
1 Samuel 11:6
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.
1 Samuel 16:13
God also put His Spirit in the priests and prophets:
Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you.”
2 Chronicles 24:20
But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.
The Spirit was always given in the Old Testament to do the impossible. In the New Testament, the Spirit was given to any who believed in Jesus as Lord.
Belief in the Lord Jesus didn’t end there, but was always accompanied with being filled with the Holy Spirit. If it wasn’t, then the apostles had to make sure that the people did receive the Holy Spirit:
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied…
This tells me that repentance and belief in Jesus was just as important as
receiving the Holy Spirit. This is because it’s only through faith in the Spirit that mankind can do the impossible, just like it was only by God’s Spirit in the Old Testament that a human (Joshua) could drive out most of the nations from the Promised Land.
In Acts,the Spirit worked through the apostles powerfully to establish the foundation of the church:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition…
When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles…Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women…
Even though today the foundation of the church has already been laid, the Spirit still has much work to do in us and through us that is impossible without Him. For instance, it is impossible to overcome our human nature without His help. How can we possibly love God with all of our strength without God’s Spirit inside of us?
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
Now obviously through Jesus’ forgiveness, we are not obligated to keep the law, but just as Jesus came to fulfill the law and not abolish it (Matthew 5:17), so does God wants us to live by these truths through the transformation of our hearts.
This transformation will only come from the inside out, not by focusing on the law, but by allowing God’s Spirit to work in us. The very purpose of the Spirit is so that we can actually follow Jesus’ example and live our lives in accordance to the law and His heart:
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
It is such a relief that the purpose of God’s Spirit’s is to transform me in areas I struggle in. If it wasn’t for the Spirit working in me, I would repeat the mistakes of my parents and their parents and their parent’s parents and things would just never get better. I would struggle with my own aggravating sins and weaknesses for the rest of my life without any hope of actually overcoming them and discovering true freedom that Jesus died for.
I committed my life to Jesus in 2008, but even though I had repented and was baptized, I could only change so much without knowing how to live by the Spirit. When I was first baptized, I had only accepted the Holy Spirit as an intellectual belief because of the theology I was taught. I thought to myself, “Oh I have the Holy Spirit,” but didn’t actually actually bear much fruit of a Spirit-filled life. I might have found some more joy here and there, but inside I felt almost the same: insecure, trapped, enslaved, powerless, selfish, greedy, etc.
It wasn’t until I decided to learn how to actually live and practice walking in the Spirit that true transformation came. I became open to experiencing the Spirit in a new way even though it seemed really weird and off-putting because of what I had been taught and what I had seen.
I know that many are turned off by this focus on the Spirit’s miraculous work because of preconceived notions and/or because of the individuals who have misrepresented what being filled with the Spirit actually looks like. But my prayer for everyone who hasn’t experienced this kind of power that brings life, joy and freedom is to desire and to ask God to teach them how to live by the Spirit. It is truly is an amazing gift from God:
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 both see and hear…
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”