THE SPIRIT IS LIFE
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the word that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
(John 6:63 NASB)
It is fitting to call out a celebration, for in the writing of this particular blog, the body of Messiah is commemorating Shavuot, literally translated as Feast of Weeks. The gifts of Messiah, given to the Body by Christ as He ascended, ‘some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body,’ would establish a foundation in the body for the equipment needed to reach the full stature of maturity in Christ, (Eph 4:9-13). Yet, this was not at all the end, indeed not! The Father also intended to equip His children with power!
No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of the Spirit (John 3:5-8), and shortly after His resurrection, we see that Jesus “breathed” on His disciples, saying to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ (John 20:22). This clearly had to do with the forgiveness of their sins and the circumcision of their hearts through the Spirit (John 20:23; Col 2:11-13), indicating that they were now “born of the Spirit,” just as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3. Nevertheless, having already received the “breath of life,” Jesus solemnly commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:3-5), saying, ‘And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high,’ (Luke 24:49). (See also Acts 1:8.)
If Jesus breathed the Spirit over His disciples during the 40 days of testifying concerning His resurrection, why would He command the same disciples to wait for the promise of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Clearly, being born of the Spirit, and being baptized in the same Spirit proves to be two separate encounters with the same Spirit. The first is obviously ‘a new birth’ which occurs as an sovereign act of the Holy Spirit, for Jesus said, ‘The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is every one who is born of the Spirit,’ (John 3:8). To receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, requires faith and obedience on the part of every Believer.
The disciples had no participation in the act of Messiah when He blew over them to receive the Holy Spirit prior to His ascension, they did not anticipate it, neither did they ask for it. What they did, was to repent of their dead works when they believed in Messiah, (John 20:22-23). Yet, they had to OBEY His commandment to ‘stay in Jerusalem and wait’ – an obedience anchored in FAITH. For ten days, these faithful disciples, one hundred and twenty persons in total, ‘with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer,’ until the 50th Day of the feast arrived, (Acts 1:13-14). And on this day, having exercised faith and obedience in their waiting, they were immersed, baptized, in the power of the Holy Spirit. This power was NOT bestowed on them for the sake of a personal experience, BUT to enable them to further the Kingdom of God, to become witnesses of the gospel of salvation to ‘the remotest parts of the earth,’ (Acts 1:8).
The gifts of Christ, bestowed on men at the ascension of Messiah, are gifts given to lead the Body into a maturity. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, are given to empower the Body, each member receiving a gift to serve the members of the same Body. The apostle Paul explained, ‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit’ (1 Cor 12:4), yet, ‘to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,’ (1 Cor 12:7). The baptism of the Holy Spirit draws the Body into unity, pressing on every member the need for another member, for there is not ONE MEMBER, but many members in need of the others. What a marvelous thought captured in the words of the apostle, ‘For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were baptized into one body, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit,’ (1 Cor 12: 12-13). There is no place for a one man show in the body of Messiah. The fullness of the power of the Spirit is manifested in the serving power of the individual gifts of the Spirit, drawing all members into an interdependent work of service.
This baptism of the Holy Spirit is thus ultimately an empowerment to serve!