Even a cursory reading through the book of Acts wows the average Christian. It was a time of great growth, marvelous miracles, and overwhelming wonders!
Permeating persecution accompanied the early Church as God’s hand continued to guide thousands upon thousands into the kingdom. One person in particular can take credit for this.
Nope, not the renowned Apostle Paul.
Not even Peter, the rock upon which Christ would build his church.
It was someone better, more able. None of this could have occurred without the effectual and supreme work of the Holy Spirit.
“So the Church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)
There is a clear sense that the growth and development of the church was (and is) precisely linked to the manifest power of the Holy Spirit, and the church’s dependence upon that power. The church walked in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Spirit. It is a joyful picture: simultaneously walking cautiously as they listened to God, and yet moving swiftly and confidently as they understood that they were filled with the greatest power in the world — the power of the Comforter, the Encourager, the Counselor.
This foundational belief that the Holy Spirit is in all and empowers all was not only tangible within the church as a whole, but in individuals as well. Barnabas carried in him this power of the Paraclete: “When (Barnabas) came (to Antioch) and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” (Acts 11:23-24)
So did Stephen: “And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 6:5)
What about the church today? Do we understand the Holy Spirit to be the central reason we can succeed in what God has called us to undertake? Are we acutely aware that the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever carries this faithfulness throughout each Person of his Trinitarian self — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A friend of mine, Andy, wakes up every morning and heads to work. Before he begins to teach the daily lesson, Andy prays for the Holy Spirit to help him. “He is right there with me,” he says, confidently. “I couldn’t do any of this without him.” For him, the Holy Spirit is a lifeline that if cut, would cause Andy to wither up and be ineffective.
Louis Berkhof once wrote, "The Holy Spirit creates a world of his own, a world of conversion, experience, sanctification; of tongues, prophecy, and miracles; of upbuilding and guiding the church, etc. He appoints ministers; he organizes; he illumines, inspires, sustains; he intercedes for the saints and helps them in their weaknesses; he searches everything, even the depths of God; he guides into all truth…"
Arthur Glasser writes, “With the advent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, God’s redemptive activity shifted from working through a particular people (the descendants of Abraham via Isaac and Jacob and Israel) to working in the midst of all peoples."
“All peoples” means you and me and the Church universal and local today. It means that like Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, and the myriad of others who have gone before us that we too can indeed be good men and women, filled with the Holy Spirit, and faith. As we live out our days as followers of the all-powerful God, let us all strive to walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit as we confidently proclaim him and love on others through his power.
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)