Lukes Theology of the Holy Spirits Empowerment Based on Acts Narrative
by catherine concepcion
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THE HOLY SPIRIT’S EMPOWERMENT
BASED ON ACTS NARRATIVE
Altar call in the Pentecostal world is a norm. After the message was delivered by the minister it normally follows by an altar call especially in the conferences or revival nights. There are three reasons that I often observed why there is an altar call. These are: first to accept Jesus as their Lord and Personal Savior, second if someone needs healing, and lastly if someone wants to be filled with the Holy Spirit. These are good cause but I am having a problem about the third reason. The preacher often say “If you want to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, or if you want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues come in front...” which makes this as if the only reason to the Holy Spirit’s encounter. I am having a difficulty accepting this teaching and I wonder if these were really the reasons for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment during the Pentecost in Acts 2. The problem of the reasons that were mentioned above of wanting to be filled with the Holy Spirit is that they are only confined in the encounter as experience. What does it really mean by the outpouring on the Day of Pentecost? Being baptized with the Holy Spirit is one of the great experiences that I had but that does not mean that it only stops there?
When the 120 disciples had an encounter, I believe that it did not stop there. They didn’t stop in the upper room, gather around and just keep their experience only to themselves. This is more than just an experience; they were empowered for a purpose. Indeed, encountering God is the desire of every disciple of Christ. This did not end only in experiencing him.
The manifestation of the early disciples’ lives is an aftershock of their encounter. It is their transformed lives which I believe the one reason which attracts their neighbours to join the new movement that had an impact was the result. Even up to this day, the aftershock of the earliest disciples is still evident. They have set a new standard of conduct a disciple of Christ must possess. This standard is not based on human but divine. I believe that the purpose of the encounter with the Holy Spirit is not just for the sake of encounter only. Just as the disciples were empowered to do the mission, we too must do the same mission that they did. God involved every disciple to the mission He is doing - redeeming humanity. In His salvific plan after His ascension, the Holy Spirit has a great role. F.F. Bruce is right when he said that, “... in all the book there is nothing which is unrelated to the Holy Spirit.” He said this pertaining specifically to the book of Acts.
The Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is one of the significant events in the early church history which later on became the starting point of everything that had happened. The birth of a new community exhibited by transformed lives that impacted the whole world is one of the results after the encounter. They wanted to tell the whole world who and what causes them to do such things. This is the mission that the disciples were doing; proclaiming Christ with the evidence of the witnesses’ lives transformed. This I believed, built up the integrity of a discipled- witness of Christ. It is the aim of this paper to investigate the relationship of the encounter of the disciples and its relationship with their mission as a community of Disciples of Christ.
The Big Picture
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is one of the highlights in the book of Acts. Many attempted to explain the phenomenon. Many have drawn up theological point of view on the event itself that made an impact to the Pentecostal world. Hermann Gunkel stated that the Holy Spirit is originated in the concept of wonder-working power being experience by the disciples that operate in an abstract and mysterious way. He focuses more on Paul’s perspective and life. Eduard Swcheizer viewed that the Spirit is a source of an inspired speech like glossolalia or speaking in tongues and preaching, and argued that this view is under the influence of Hellenistic Jews which was opposed by David Hill. He argued that the Spirit concept of the early disciples was purely Judaism , though the two have the same point of view with regards to the function and role of the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, Friedrich Buchsel’s belief of ‘Pneumatiker’ or Spirit-inspired Person is somewhat different from Gunkel and Swcheizer. He presented how the early church became a community of Pneumatiker being inspired by Jesus as the Son of God. The life of the new covenant through the Spirit is the point of James D.G. Dunn. His point of view impacted the Pentecostal world the most. He pointed out that a mark of a true believer is the baptism of the Holy Spirit .This however became controversial among the evangelicals. Some who accepted this point of view became too extreme that they equate baptism of the Holy Spirit only to glossolalia. If one cannot speak in tongues, that person was not baptized with the Holy Spirit. However a different view by Heinrich von Baers’ was observed by him as “the Spirit of Pentecost is the Spirit of Mission” and Gonzalo Haya-Prats’ view as ‘hystorique/kerygmatic, eschatologique/fruitif’ are primarily in line with the proclamation of the gospel but M.M. B. Turner pointed out that it is not limited to the propagation of the gospel but also highlights the new movement of community giving corporate worship as a character of the charismatic church in connection to the revelation of a prior prophecy presented in the Old Testament by the prophets. No matter what view they believe, there is no doubt about the common ground that they were heading. They were all saying that the Holy Spirit impacted much of the early disciples’ lives that moved them to go beyond an ordinary Jewish citizen. They were empowered and turned the world upside-down by becoming a change-agent as they themselves were willingly submit to the leadership and the training of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of witnessing about the Resurrected Jesus, the Messiah and the Risen King, and advancing the Kingdom mightily and forcefully. But amidst all the persecution they faced, the Holy Spirit is always there empowering them to obey and enabling them to do what they were commanded to do for the fulfilment of what Jesus had said.
This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)
Luke ended his first book too abrupt on the ascension account of Jesus Christ after the forty days of being with his disciples, convincing and showing them many proofs of his resurrection. Prior to his ascension, he showed that a promise was given to them. In the third account of the Gospel, the promise of the Holy Spirit was not unnamed, (Luke 24:46-49) but Acts 1:4-5&8 Luke named Him and talked about Him as the promise of the Father as Jesus mentioned in John 16:5-15, the Holy Spirit as the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth who will be their guidance. “The Gospel ends with a brief reference...which was preceded by important teaching giving by Jesus...summarizes it briefly in the introductory part of the Acts...”
These very words of Jesus become the commission of the disciples recorded by Luke. We can also see here that the disciples need to wait for the promise. They obeyed Jesus by staying in Jerusalem. ‘...stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’(Luke 24:49) It’s so important that they need to be clothed first with the power from on high before going and becoming a witness (v.48), and preaching about the resurrected Jesus, repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nation. Whitelaw pointed that promise of the Holy Spirit brought comfort to the disciples thus giving them hope in carrying out the special task given to them, to be a witness for Christ. Warrington asserted that the Holy Spirit is ‘the source of life of the kingdom of God’ which he offers the “...perspective that the Spirit enables believers to proclaim the kingdom of God forcefully and effectively.”
Luke pictured this way, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine) But first, they need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit before doing their mission. Luke didn’t put the purpose why he wrote the book instead he summarized his first book with the first four verses of the first chapter of his second book, the book of Acts. By doing this, he’s intention to connect his first book to his second book emphasized the unity of Jesus’ ministry and the disciples’ ministry. But before doing His ministry, He was baptized first with the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 3: 16-17; Mk.1:10-11; Lk.3:21-22; Jn. 1:33-34). The empowerment of the Holy Spirit enables Him to willingly submit despite of His being nature God, to the will and work of the Spirit in the redemptive plan of God for humanity. That is why; the disciples need to wait that they would be empowered first before they will go, because the Holy Spirit will be the one who will direct them, enable them and strengthen them to do the task amidst all persecutions that’s on their way. The Holy Spirit was also the one who gave them boldness and courage to speak the Word effectively.
In the narrative of Luke, he presented Acts 1:8 as the paradigm of his second book in connection still of his first book in relation to Jesus ministry. The ministry of Jesus opens the ministry of his disciples. In his first book, it contains the ministry work of Jesus fulfilling all prophecies that pertains to him in the Old Testament. Luke magnificently pictures how these events came to pass: the birth of Jesus Christ, the affirmation that Jesus is the Son of God, his ministry of teaching the people through parables, his miracles, his death and his resurrection which became the highlight of Luke’s first book concluding the words of Jesus in Luke 24:44. “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Prior to His ascension, Luke noted that He also gave a specific command for his disciples to do. In his second work, Luke’s with all his great intent crafted all events wonderfully which indicates the fulfillment of Jesus words in Luke 24:45-49. Luke is a historian but he is more than a historian. He presented his theology that the Spirit of the Pentecost is indeed the Spirit of mission. He is the Spirit who enabled the disciples to do the mission Jesus had commanded. He is the Spirit who gave the boldness and courage to the disciples in proclaiming the message of the resurrected Jesus. Even though persecution on that day is everywhere, it is still the Spirit who made a way for the message would reach to the Gentile nation. It is neither just an experience nor having the power for the sake of acquiring it for the purpose of healing the sick nor the ability to speak in tongues. It is the power to fulfill the mission. In my own perspective, healing and speaking in tongue were not the main objective of the early believers in the Pentecost yet when it is necessary for them to use the power of the Spirit to heal and speak in other tongues in order for the people they were sharing the message about Christ believe, they will do it. However, it is not a guarantee that this power is 100% power for healing and doing signs and wonders. It’s not a power that they could use wherever, and whenever they like. Luke stresses that through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, believers can boldly proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
The ministry of Jesus is the same ministry being downloaded to us in connection to His salvific plan for humanity. It is the same mission echoed in the book of Genesis 12:2-3 “...I [God] will bless you...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you...” and Isaiah 49:6 “...I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth...” Menzies stated, “By accepting the vocation of the Israel to be a prophet commissioned to bring ‘light to the nations’ and ‘salvation to the ends of the earth’, the disciples actively participate in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy.” The mission of the disciples in reaching out their Jewish brothers and sisters was not limited only to them but this good news was extended even to the unreached people- the Gentiles. Just as Jesus came reaching out the marginalized and cast-out people of the society, He wants also his disciples to do the same mission that He did. As we can see in the records of the books of the Gospel, Jesus exemplified a great work in his ministry. The life of Jesus and his ministry work became the model of the disciples in doing their mission too. This mission was outlined by Luke in Acts 1:8 as some of the scholars agreed upon. The Menzies’s continue to point out that this promise of the Holy Spirit must not be interpreted only in the light of Joel’s promise concerning the restoration of Spirit of prophecy (Joel 2:28) which is a promise of prophetic enabling granted to the repentant; but this promise also include the promise of salvation (Joel 2:32) which points beyond the ‘restoration of Israel’ but salvation is now offered to all.
The disciples went back to Jerusalem and waited for the fulfillment of the promise Jesus said. They’ve gathered in the upper room worshiping and praising God. Suddenly, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and filled the 120 which enabled them to speak in the tongues proclaiming the wonders of God in the native tongues of every people that were present at that time (Acts 2). This event was so significant to the early disciples that became the turning point of their lives. It is the fulfillment of what was Jesus had said before the ascension. In the Pentecost narrative, the Holy Spirit empowered them to be a witness by speaking in different tongues telling the goodness of God. Dunn interpreted the gift of the Holy Spirit of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost as initiation-incorporation term. He pointed out that this event marked the early disciples to be a true believer by receiving the gift of the Spirit- through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Stronstad, however, at his lectureship given at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, Missouri stated, “...the Pentecost narrative stands in the same relation to the mission of the disciples as the inauguration narrative does to the mission of Jesus” which he contradicts Dunn’s view. Talbert on the other hand explained, “...the experience of both Jesus at his anointing and the disciples on the Day of Pentecost in prayer is parallel.” According to Whitelaw, the event in the Pentecost signified that (1) the ascension of Christ is real; (2) it motioned the commencing work of becoming a witness, and (3) it entailed that the apostles and the early believers were already equipped for the service work.
In Acts 2 during the outpouring or encounter there were aftershocks that shapes the narrative of the book of Acts. First, they received the ‘power’. They were clothed power from on high just as Jesus had said. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirt comes on you...” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine) The word ‘power’, “‘dunamis’ in Greek is a supernatural power by which miracles were wrought and the preaching made effective” This power is a ‘Power for witnessing’ that enables the disciples to preach about Jesus with boldness and great courage in spite the great persecution they were facing. The power to perform miracles just as Jesus did for the benefit of spreading the Gospel. It is an invincible power that clothed the disciples. Their old garments of fear and discouragement have been changed by a new garment full of hope because their Hope resurrected and conquered the sting of death. They were just willing to do everything to do the command of Jesus to be a witness as an act of their obedience to their Risen King. Even though the disciples face death for the sake of doing the mission Jesus told them to do, they wouldn’t mind it. I believed that they have understood every event that was happen, and that compels them to do their task. It’s the ‘Power’ of the Holy Spirit enables the disciples to grasp and understand things in connection with the mission of Jesus and theirs. A ‘Power’ that made the disciples to become bold enough to proclaim the gospel effectively that trembles and convicts their hearers to repentance and asks for forgiveness of their sins. A ‘power’ that shapes their lives in obedience to the will of God and a ‘power’ that compels them to see Jesus compassion for the lost. Therefore this power transformed their perception about being a witness to the world. Not for the sake of becoming a witness but a reliable and credible witnesses of Jesus.
Another aftershock in the Pentecost encounter was they becoming witnesses. “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine) The disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses and there ministry was to start in Jerusalem, then to Judea and Samaria which later on extending to the ends of the earth. Resurrected Jesus was their message.
We can see the progression in the book of Acts of the disciples being witnesses. After their encounter, the first sermon was given by Peter. (Acts 2:14-41) As a result, about three thousand were added to their number that day. [v.41]. Peter and John in Solomon’s Colonnade preached. (Acts 3: 12-26) They were brought to the Sanhedrin. ‘Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit preached the message of the resurrected Jesus before the rulers, elders, and the teachers of the law with great boldness. (Acts 4:1-17) Still, at Solomon’s Colonnade, the apostles were performing miraculous sign and wonders, and the disciples used to meet together in that place.(Acts 5:12-15) In 5:14, we can see that ‘more and more men and women believed in the Lord and added to their numbers’. As a result of this many people drew near to God yet on the other side, the tension was present- persecution. (Acts5:17-40) Despite the threats they’ve received Luke was able to record that they rejoice about the persecution and counted it worthy of suffering disgrace for Jesus (5:41). In 5:42 “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is Christ.” In Luke’s narrative we could see that their role as a witness of Him started in Jerusalem. But in his narrative, Luke also narrated that persecution also started in Jerusalem and their Jewish brothers were their great persecutors. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death. (Acts 7: 54-60) His death was caused by his Jewish brothers. Immediately after the death of Stephen, persecution finally became so overwhelming and Christians had to flee Jerusalem for their lives, the apostles were able to remain.
‘On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (Acts8:1, emphasis mine) “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (8:4, emphasis mine) This persecution made the early disciples to flee to Judea and Samaria. Yet this event did not make them fearful, instead made them more courageous to continue their missions they have started. Amazingly, they, (the unnamed disciples) were the ones who preached the word not the apostles for they remained in Jerusalem. I can imagine their boldness while they were preaching the gospel to the people in Samaria and Judea. Despite the prejudices and biases they had and persecutions they’re suffering, they laid it aside to communicte the gospel to the one who were being called the ‘dogs’ of the society. It’s the love of Christ that enabled them to do such things for I believed that they have captured the heart of Jesus toward the lost. The scattering of the disciples “paved the way for the transition of the gospel to the Gentiles...was carried on in the Judean provinces and in Samaria formed a bridge for the passage of the herald of salvation to cross over into regions beyond...” “The scattering of the Christians led to the most significant step forward in the mission of the church... to make them fulfill the implicit command in Acts 1:8.” Indeed, the event was not good yet still yielded to the most unexpecting way of God in including the Gentiles to be saved. This is also a way that the church expanded. The kingdom of advances even in the middle of all persecutions and amazingly it is unstoppable. In Acts 8:5, Phillip was on the move, and he was preaching Christ there. He was also the one who preached the good news of Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of queen of the Ethiopians’ treasury of Candice. He preached the gospel in every town of Azotus until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40) All who were scattered preached the good news wherever they went. “The missions of Philip in Samaria, and the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, are possibly the first indications of the church willingness to receive the non-Jews.” Philip preached to the highest person and even to the lowest person during their time.
The gospel is not only for the privilege but even for all who needed it and are willing to accept it. Phillip did not care who he was talking to, rather filled with the Spirit he just preached the word. Some disciples however, “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to the Jews...” (Acts 11:19, emphasis mine) “Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 11:20-21, emphasis mine) The unnamed disciples of Christ were scattered due to the persecution yet Luke pictured it as an important event in the propagation of the gospel. These disciples were ordinary disciples yet they have an extraordinary task as their participation in extending God’s kingdom mightily and effectively. As a result many believed and came to the knowledge of the faith; churches were built in many provinces not necessarily by the apostles. There is a notion today that the preaching of the gospel is being done by the pastors, evangelists or the one who went to Bible College or Seminary only. As we can see in the early church that preaching the gospel was not the job of the apostles only but by all disciples of Christ. It’s so heartbreaking that the great numbers of believers of today do not really doing the mission that Jesus commissioned us to do because they have this wrong theology that sharing the gospel to the people is the job of the pastor.
Another event that shines in the Acts narrative happened in the house of Cornelius. Peter preached the word to them, yet while speaking, the Holy Spirit came and filled those who heard the message. (Acts 10:34-46) This event amazed the Jews disciples and praised God. They realized that God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18) This event according to Dunn was “as evidence that, for Luke, the Spirit as agent of forgiveness, cleansing and salvation.” It was equated that the historic conversion as initiation of becoming a Gentile Christians with the baptism of the Spirit. However, Menzies stated, “...the prophetic gift received by Cornelius and his household is a ‘sign of salvation but not the means.” The event in Cornelius and his household was an indication of God’s acceptance as manifested by them being baptized with the Holy Spirit. This baptism can be equated as not just acceptance but also an empowerment from on high to be a part of Jesus’ witnesses, just as the Jews. Martin stated, “The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a proof from God that the faith and experience of Cornelius and the others with him were genuine...” and this experience is more than enough for them to testify that the God of the Jews were also their God. They may not experience the deliverance of God in the exit in Egypt or have eaten manna, but this experience was enough. Their encounter was the same encounter that the disciples had experienced in the Day of Pentecost. Indeed, this event didn’t contradict the plan of God to save the entire human race including Gentiles, just as Paul said that “this gospel is the power of God for the salvation, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)
Paul’s conversion “is without a doubt the most important [event] that has taken place in the history of Christianity-or of the world- since Pentecost.” Paul’s conversion in the road of Damascus was not an accident. (Acts 9) It’s God intention to used Paul in reaching out and bringing the message of salvation on all people to the ends of the earth. Once more, we can see Paul’s great participation in reaching out to the Gentiles. Others called him a missionary to the Gentile nation. After his conversion, Paul played a vital role in bringing the gospel to all nations. His remarkable strategy in building churches targeting the capital cities, where the centers of the world’s commerce was, a cities of an important place which the leaders occupied. Although some would critic the way of Paul in doing his mission as negative, Allen gave an excellent view on Paul’s way of doing his mission as:
“St. Paul’s centres were centres indeed. He seized strategic points because he had strategy. The foundation of churches in them was a part of a campaign. In his hands they became the sources of rivers, mints from which the new coin of the Gospel was spread in every direction. They were centres from which he could start new work with new power. But they were this not only because they were naturally fitted for his purpose, but because his method of work was so designed that centres of intellectual and commercial activity became centres of Christian activity...He was led as God opened the door; but wherever he was led he always found a centre, and seizing upon that centre he made it a centre of Christian life...”
Discipleship is another aftershock of the event. After the mighty and powerful preaching of Peter, there were about three thousand who accepted and added to their number that day. Luke immediately shifted his narrative, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer...” (Acts 2:42, emphasis mine) This new converts need to learn God’s word “Instructing the newly baptized converts in the elements of the Christian truth...” This can also be equated in Matthew’s version of the great commission. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them... and teaching them everything that I have commanded you...” (Matthew 28: 18-20, emphasis mine). The apostles were commanded to make disciples. Their apostleship by being with Jesus throughout made them qualified to do this task. “The apostles’ teaching was authoritative because it was delivered as the teaching of the Lord through the apostles...” On the other hand, we could see the response of the new convert, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching” v.42. This devotion is not just a one day event. In fact, this event was just the beginning because “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts...” (Acts2:46, emphasis mine) This entails the hungriness’ of the early converts to hear the infallibility Word of God. This devotion is not just a shallow devotion. They were willing to dedicate certain hour/s to hear his Word. Faith indeed comes from hearing and hearing the word just as Paul said. They were saturated with the Word which resulted to a transformed life necessary to witness with integrity. One example is Saul. A great persecutor of the church, who gave approval to Stephen’s execution, was transformed. His transformation resulted to the strengthening and encouragement of the church throughout Judea and Samaria who enjoyed the time of peace. Many were added to their numbers and lived their lives in the fear of the Lord. (Acts 9:31) Later on his ministry expanded in reaching out to the Gentile nation. Luke showed that becoming a witness to others requires the person to witness what to witness.
Discipleship is somehow, more than teaching but being Christ in character. Though, it seemed Luke focus on the quantity of people that were being saved or being added to the faith, we should not look the narrative in that way. The quality of every believer is also his point. Though it’s not directly stated, reading between the lines and mining the narrative would give us a new perspective. Indeed, Luke’s concern was not primarily on the quantity of the community of believers, but on how this community of disciples affected their neighbouring community with their deeds and actions as they operate in the standard Jesus had set before He was still on earth. The church’s vertical relationship was manifested in its horizontal relationship that attracts other people to be a part of that community. Luke was picturing a community that underwent a process of metamorphosis and now this community became so strange with its message and its character. This is the inside job of the Holy Spirit. This character was manifested by their willingness to suffer and became martyrs for the sake of the gospel’s propagation. Persecution of the Christian in doing their mission cannot be separated yet; even though this was the case they still preached the gospel wherever they were. The early disciples understood their ministry in the context of Jesus’ ministry. They also understood that Jesus’ promise of a ‘Paraclete’ to be with them being their Comforter. “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say...” (Luke 12: 11-12)
If we go back to Acts1:8, we could see the big picture painted by Luke in whole account of the book of Acts. It is the fulfillment of the very words of Jesus before His ascension. Luke showed how these things happened and came to pass. The book of Acts ended open in Rome which yields some scholars that Rome pertains to the ‘end of the earth.’ But Whitelaw stated that Luke showed how the Jews rejected the gospel that had been foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament, instead the Gentiles when the gospel preached to them, were the one who accepted it. However, Martin concluded, “The Holy Spirit directed Luke to break off the story at this point that it might be recorded and go out while the events were still going on...there is no real close to the acts which the Lord Jesus continues to do...” Marshall brought out many possibilities about the abrupt ending of the book of Acts; “1) Luke didn’t know what to write next or hoping to have another volume of his work, 2) The Jews failed to appear to prosecute their case against Paul, 3) Paul was tried and acquitted, or the Roman government dropped the case against him, 4) Paul was tried and executed but Luke was unwilling to record his martyrdom.” With all the possibilities that he cited, later on he concluded that “...the final picture is Paul preaching to the Gentiles the same message which he had preached throughout Acts with boldness and without hindrance.” F.F. Bruce said that the conclusion of Luke in the book of Acts formed no part of his project in picturing Acts 1:8. Whatever their points is one thing is certain, Luke carefully selected the events in the past and made sure to present the big picture about the plan of God for salvation is well executed - from the infilling of the Holy Spirit to becoming witnesses, first in Jerusalem, then it was extended in Judea and Samaria, and reaching out the ends of the earth. I believe that in Acts narrative, Luke also presented his theology with care so that his reader might not be confused. The infilling or the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is necessary in connection of becoming a witness.
We must view the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts in the lens of Luke. Yes, it is a historical account that signifies great emphasis in doing the mission of the present church. We must not take one event of the narrative and draw out specific theology. This may be true, but if this is the method we utilize in approaching the book of Acts, we might miss the essence why the author opted to write the account in this certain manner..
The empowerment of the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of being a witness to the world. We are anointed to conquer the world for God as we proclaim Jesus to all nations, inviting them to enter into the kingdom ruled by God. Luke undoubtedly exposed in his narrative that the ministry of preaching of the Gospel takes precedence in the life of the new community to advance the kingdom no matter what it takes. In our ministry today, we put more emphasis in preaching the Gospel because we reasoned out that we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit to do so. Indeed, this is true but I would argue that empowerment of the Holy Spirit is more than preaching the gospel. We have a concept of the word ‘witness’ being equated as proclaiming the gospel only, but becoming a witness is more than preaching. Being a witness requires one person to be a true disciple of Christ. A true mark of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is seen in a changed and transformed life of a person, not just a believer of Christ but by becoming disciple of Christ. It is a lifestyle. Discipleship* is the integrity of a witness.
(*I would like to clarify myself in using the word “Discipleship”. In this paper the intention of this word is in the context of becoming Christ in character or the Christ-like attitude.)
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Gonzalez, Justo, L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed.,vol 1 (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publisher, 2008)
Haya-Prats, Gonzalo. Empowered Believers: The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, edited by Paul Elbert, translated by Scott A. Ellington (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2011)
Marshall, I. Howard. The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986)
Martin, Alfred. Acts: Power for Witnessing (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1965)
Menzies, Robert. Empowered for Witness: The Spirit in Luke-Acts (London: T&T Clark International, A Continuum Imprint, 2004)
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Warrington, Keith. The Message of the Holy Spirit: The Spirit of encounter (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2009)
Whitelaw, Thomas. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, (New York: Funk & Wagnalis Company, 19?) vol.26.
Dunn, James D.G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Studies in Biblical Theology, Second Series, 15 (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1970)
Stronstad, Roger. “The Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts: A Synthesis of Luke’s Pneumatology” in Paraclete 22, no. 2 (Spring 1989)
Talbert, Charles H. Literary Patterns, Theological Themes, and the Genre of Luke-Acts, Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series, 20 (Missoula,Mont.: Scholars Press, 1974)
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...in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them... 2 Cor 5:19
Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Acts 13:38
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