When we look for reasons for the amazing growth of the early church, especially as recorded in the Book of Acts, the work of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of the early Church, with the Holy Spirit, stand out as the key factor.
The ‘Age’ of the Holy Spirit
The ascension of Jesus marked the beginning of an era, in the outworking of God’s purposes on earth, which would be characterized by the work of the Holy Spirit. So pronounce was the involvement of the Holy Spirit, that this ‘age’ which, we call, the Church age or the New Testament age, or the age of the world Christian movement, could just as easily have been labeled ‘The age of the Holy Spirit.’ In the 28 chapters of Acts the Holy Spirit is mentioned 56 times! Some Bible commentators, for example, have suggested, that the Book of Acts, should have been entitled, ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit.’
The Holy Spirit Led, the Apostles Followed
The Holy Spirit, upon being outpoured, immediately took charge. He led the way and the disciples followed! This was to be the model for all succeeding generations.
Often the Apostles were ‘surprised’ by the Holy Spirit’s initiatives and the sudden opportunities these ‘surprises’ presented to them. His sudden and dramatic arrival on the day of Pentecost, the opportunity to preach to a crowd hastily assembled, the immediate formation of a meg-church (3000 converts in one day), the healing of a lame man while they were on their may to a worship service, a sudden transportation to a distant location, a miraculous release from prison in the middle of the night – the list just keeps growing!
The Holy Spirit enabled them to perform miracles, preach powerfully, witness boldly, testify with astounding wisdom, make wise decisions, etc. These men were ex-fishermen, ex tax collectors, ex almost everything except scholars, men of prominence and leading figures of their day. They were common people, so common, in fact, that their ‘commonness’ was a talking point among the leaders of their day (Ac 4:13).
The Holy Spirit Enables the Continuation of the Ministry of Jesus
The Holy Spirit came to glorify Jesus. This he does by representing Him on earth! Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (Jn 16:14)
The Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to continue His earthly ministry. What He began to ‘do and teach’ on earth, as recorded in the gospels, the Holy Spirit enabled Him to continue to ‘do and teach’ (Ac 1:1), now from His throne at the right hand of the Father. This brings me to my favorite title for the Book of Acts, this being ‘The Acts of the Ascended Christ.’
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus continues as Head of the Church and as Lord of the Harvest. This was why Jesus was able to say to His disciples that he would be with them until the end of the age (Mt 28:18).
The Holy Spirit Today
Today there are ‘Book of Acts’ testimonies coming from all over the world – especially from workers laboring among least-reached peoples!
If the Church needed, Holy Spirit interventions, with the first ingathering of the harvest how much more do we need His ministry today as we gather in the end time harvest – the most challenging harvest of all!
In the annual agricultural cycle in Israel, the former rains that prepared the early crops for harvest were lesser than the rains that brought to maturity the end of year harvest. James tells us we need to wait patiently for those latter rains (Ja 5:7) and Zachariah tells us we should also pray for them (Zac 10:1).
We need to mix patience for God’s timing with hunger and expectation to see His promises materialize.
May God baptize us, right now, into a fresh understanding of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, may He grant us eyes to see His many initiatives that are already taking place and may we be ‘surprised’ by what we increasingly experience that will be “far above what we could ever ask or think” (Eph 3:20)!
There is a sound of abundance of rain (1Kgs 18:41)!