Pentecost and Receiving the Holy Spirit

(Acts 2:1-4)

Jesus appeared to the disciples for forty days after he had arisen. This was to show them the truth of the resurrection so that they would believe and know that all He had said concerning the ministry was true.

Receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day
Receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day

And Jesus was preparing them for what was to come for the disciples were about to commence their work and their ministry to take the gospel of Jesus Christ and salvation to the world. The time had come to begin this work, but there was one piece left to be completed before they began their work. It was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel that the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon all mankind who came to The Lord.

On the Day of Pentecost which was about a week after The Lord was finally lifted up from the earth to sit at the right hand of the Father, this prophecy was fulfilled.

Three Signs of Receiving the Holy Spirit

The very first time that the disciples received the Holy Spirit after The Lord had been resurrected occurred on Pentecost Day. There are a number of things we learn from this event which we will explore in coming posts. Today let us look at how the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. The scriptures here say the following.

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.
2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

There were three distinct signs that occurred when the disciples first received the Holy Spirit. There was the sound of rushing winds, flames of fire resting on each of the disciples and speaking in new tongues.

These signs are important for when we see people receive the Holy Spirit in the bible, usually one or more of these signs is in evidence. The most typical sign that we see is the speaking in tongues, but there were also the other signs at times too.

For example, look at the situation when Paul spoke the word to the group of disciples he found in Ephesus. After he had baptised them and laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit they spoke with tongues (Acts 19:1-7). Also when Peter first took the word to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius we see that they too spoke with tongues and prophesied extolling God, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentile believers. (Acts 10:44-48)

How the Holy Spirit was Given

This brings up an interesting point too. How did all of these people receive the Holy Spirit and by what processes is it given?

In the case of both the disciples and the first Gentile believers we see that the Holy Spirit “fell upon” the believers. In both cases The Lord just gave it to them without any other interventions. And it had to be done that way in those particular cases for the Holy Spirit had to come upon the disciples somehow to enable them to begin the ministry. Also in the case of the first Gentile believers the Holy Spirit was given in the same way as it had been given to those first Jewish disciples to show that the promise was not just to the Jews but to all of mankind.

But we also see in many other situations that the Holy Spirit is given through the laying on of hands. This is how Paul received the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him (Acts 9:17-19) and it was how the Ephesians received the Holy Spirit when Paul laid hands on them. (Acts 19:1-7)

The Lord has established the laying on of hands by the Apostles or elders of the church as the primary means through which the Holy Spirit is given to people today. Yes He can still just give it to anyone as He chooses, just as He did with the first disciples and first Gentiles, but the normal method today is for two or more elders to lay hands on the person and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. And this process accords with the scripture in other ways where it speaks of two or more agreeing on a thing on earth and it will be bound in heaven, (Matthew 18:16-20) and a matter being established by the evidence of two or more witnesses.

When two or more elders lay hands on a person to receive the Holy Spirit today, they agree this is what they wish The Lord to do and they are witnesses to the receiving of the Holy Spirit should the matter ever come into question.

Who or What is the Holy Spirit

Again these three signs of the wind, fire and tongues are important for they tell us who or what the Holy Spirit is.

First let us look at the speaking in tongues and what it is. We see in 1 Corinthians 14:13-19 that Paul describes speaking in tongues by the Holy Spirit as a means of prayer. He speaks about praying in the spirit and praying with his mind also. We see this again in Romans 8:26-27.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Here again Paul shows the Holy Spirit praying on our behalf when we are suffering and in weakness and especially when we don’t know what to pray for. The Holy Spirit intercedes by praying on our behalf using the language of speaking in tongues to go directly to God for our benefit and to help us in our weakness.

And then we see in 1 Corinthians 13:1 what this language is, for Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” When we pray using our own mind, thoughts and understanding we are praying with our mind. But when we pray in tongues using the Holy Spirit with our voice we are praying in the tongues of angels. This prayer language that is speaking in tongues is an angelic language and that is important to remember.

Now we also see the writer of Hebrews in chapter 1 speak about a comparison between Jesus and the angels. He says a number of interesting things including these words.

Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” (Vs 7), and,

“13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Verses 13-14)

These words are interesting for he speaks about the angels becoming “winds and flames of fire.” This is exactly what happened at Pentecost when the disciples received the Holy Spirit. They heard the sound of rushing wind and saw flames of fire resting on each of the disciples who received the Holy Spirit.

Then we see in Hebrews 1:14 that the angels are described as, “…ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.”

Well, we are those who are to obtain salvation through the ministering of these spirits/angels. Salvation comes to mankind through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the work of transformation is the the service that the Holy Spirit performs on His behalf in us.

From all of these descriptions it is clear that the Holy Spirit that we receive to do the work of transformation in us and to bring us to perfection in Jesus Christ, is an angel. And not just one angel but many angels for they are the servants of God sent to work on us and in us so that we have the nature of Christ developed in us and we can be like Him.

(Clip art sourced from oChristian.com)

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