The Spirit blows across the pages of Acts, blazing in his enthusiasm for Jesus. His first appearance is in 1:2 in which we discover that it was the Spirit that inspired Jesus. In chapter 2 the Spirit ignites a fire that rages through the rest of the book. He brings courage and boldness to timid disciples, clarity to Peter, discipline to a wayward couple – and so on throughout the book. Lives are changed (usually for the better although Ananias and Sapphira may have a different take). People are healed. Evil spirits are thrown out. And the infant church grows.
The Spirit is mentioned 57 times in Acts (unless my counting has gone awry). As such the Holy Spirit is clearly a major actor in the book. There are several ‘set pieces’ that feature the Spirit very prominently. There are less dramatic occasions too – when the Spirit is working in, through and with followers of Jesus. Usually the Spirit is described as the Holy Spirit, and once the Spirit of Jesus.
The Spirit in Acts is always active, always engaged. He never takes a passive stance. He is central to the unfolding plot as Luke tells the story of the growing church over the first forty years. He is seen as directing the disciples, sometimes in very specific ways, to ensure that the witness of the church unfolds as Jesus said it would – from Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The Spirit sets aside personnel for specific task; He gives courage and power to enable the young church to be faithful witnesses. The Spirit appears in numerous ways: dramatic encounters at Pentecost; dreams and visions; inspiring believers; prophecy; healings. The early church and the Spirit colluded in mission. Where things happen the Spirit is at work – where the Spirit is at work, things happen!
In Peter’s pastoral guidance to the early churches, recorded in Acts 15 after the so-called Council of Jerusalem, we find an intriguing phrase: ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’ This level of collaboration between the Spirit and the church is lacking in the contemporary church.
It is challenging for us today to ask ourselves a few questions. Do we encounter the Spirit at work in and through us? In what ways? How can we be sure that we are colluding with the Spirit? Are our churches growing, here in the UK and overseas?
Faithful witness is all about the Spirit. And Jesus.
The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.