In part one of this study, mention was made of the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding and teaching men. He will not only convince of sin, of righteousness and judgment, but will guide into all truth and show things to come. He also has other work that we need to consider.
After the resurrection, Christ met with the disciples to give them further instruction for their future work. One of the chief subjects was the Holy Spirit. This was going to be invaluable to them, to have a clearer understanding of His office. He had spoken to them of the Spirit before, but they had not fully grasped the significance of His words. As He was about to leave them and send the Spirit to take His place, He gave them final instructions as to the Spirit, His reception and work.
Christ “being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” – Acts 1:4-8
It is noteworthy that the disciples were under Christ’s tutorship more than three years before they were ready for the outpouring of the Spirit. When Christ called them to follow Him, they were unlearned men without any literary training. They were also unconverted and ignorant of the very foundation principles of the gospel. They needed to be taught many things before they could be worthy representatives of Jesus. They must be rooted and grounded in the truth, for they would meet opposition. It was necessary for them to receive the outpouring of the Spirit for service, there was a work that must be done for them before they were ready to receive the power of God. They must be taught.
“Ye shall receive power.” Christ wanted His disciples to have this power, but He wisely waited until they were prepared to use such power as should be given them. Only when He considered them ready did He make them partakers of the Holy Ghost.
There are some well-meaning people even in our own day who believe that if a person only has the Spirit, nothing more is needed. But note how Christ considered this matter. Christ needed men, men filled with the Spirit. He found it necessary however, to give them a thorough training for more than three years before He entrusted with the power of the Holy Spirit. This alone tells us that education is essential in the gospel.
There are diverse views concerning the value of education. There are those who think education is everything, while others think it of doubtful value. As is often the case, neither side has the whole truth. It would be wise to make comment however, that education without balanced sound religious principle is not a true blessing. In many cases it can be a definite curse.
Christ was the Master Teacher. His ministry lasted a little more than three years and He had the disciples under His care for about that length of time. His school however, did not meet only few hours a day. It was more nearly a twenty-four-hour-a-day school. Nor did it convene for only four or five days a week. It was in session every day, for though the Sabbath was observed, the disciples probably learned as much on that day as on any other. Nor was there any summer vacation. School lasted fifty two weeks of the year. It is therefore not entirely correct to say that the disciples went to school three years, if by that statement we mean to convey the idea that they went to school three of our school years. It was much more involved than that. To add to all that, we may be rest assured Jesus was the most efficient teacher.
We are therefore justified in saying that though Jesus chose twelve unlearned men, they were far from ignorant when they had finished their course. We must believe that three years of intensive training gave the disciples a grasp of His mission and of their work that removed them from the charge of being uneducated. They were men of native ability and sound judgment. Under the tutorship of Jesus they developed into leaders, chosen of God to be the founders of the new church which He was about to establish. Jesus laid a well grounded foundation for the disciples to base their future on.
Let no man despise education. The church of God needs men who know their God and know their Bible. Too many preachers preach despite the facts. Too many preachers preach without a sound background of Biblical knowledge. If Christ were here, He might again choose unlettered men, but He would send them to school. He would give them a course such as He gave the twelve when He was with them. And when He was done with them, men would take knowledge that they had been with Jesus.
We object – and surely God objects – to a ministry engaged in lecturing in social work, in political activity, in international good-will endeavours, to the neglect of the work to which it is called and to which it is ordained. We object to a ministry that is well versed in psychology, social sciences, and social graces, but unacquainted with the great Textbook given by God. We object to the change of face in recent years on the part of the ministry from being physicians of the soul to dabblers in psychoanalysis, psychiatry and kindred pseudo-sciences. The people have a right to demand a well-educated ministry, but that education must first of all concern itself with the knowledge of God. All else is secondary.
The kind of ministry that Christ developed when He undertook to educate the twelve men under His care, is the kind if ministry we need today. Those men knew the prophecies, they knew the law, the knew their God, and they knew Christ. With that knowledge they met the world, and conquered. Twelve men today with the same zeal for God and knowledge of Him would accomplish a similar work. This however, can no more be done now than it could then without a definite influx of power, available only through the Holy Spirit.
Ye Shall Receive Power
“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” – Acts 1:8. All the knowledge of the world can do little to change men’s lives unless accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. It would be natural to think that after the disciples had been three years with Christ they would be qualified for their work. But Christ asked them to tarry in Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high. He told them that it would be useless to go anywhere – even after they had been in His school three years – until they received the Holy Ghost.
There can be no mightier testimony to the need and indispensability of the Holy Spirit than this. If learning alone, if a knowledge of the Scriptures alone, if acquaintance with prophecy and sacred history alone could qualify men for the work of the ministry, these men were qualified. They had finished their course in the school of Christ, but He did not consider them ready until they had received the anointing of the Spirit. Without this anointing they were not prepared to go forth.
Too many men have education without power, knowledge without wisdom, brains without conscience. Too many sermons are preached without accompanying power, and the words fall flat. If the church of God is ever to do the work that is needed in the world today for the salvation of souls, the power of God must come into the lives of men and women, until souls cry out in agony, “What must we do to be saved?”
“Ye shall be witnesses.” Power was given the disciples for the purpose of witnessing. To witness means to give testimony, to tell what has been seen or experienced, and does not necessarily mean to preach. Let us apply this to the subject in hand.
The disciples had been with Christ three years. They had seen and heard many things, and had passed through many experiences. Their witness consisted in telling these things, and how they had been affected by them. It was a simple procedure and did not require great oratorical ability. They simply told what they knew.
John records it: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” – 1 John 1:1-4.
That is all there is to witnessing – telling what has been seen and heard. That is also the essentials of preaching, if it is to be effective preaching. It is of little use that a minster tells of the blessings and value of prayer if he has had no experience in it himself. It is of little use that he tells of the peace that comes to a soul as he surrenders to God, unless he himself has experienced that peace. It is of little use that he tells of the blessings that comes with a sacrificial giving if he has never had any part in it himself. In all these things he should be able to give his testimony as to the blessing that comes to his own soul. Unless he can witness by personal experience what he says is true, his preaching will have little power.
Peter's speech on the day of Pentecost was not a finished oration. Yet three thousand souls were converted by it. Peter was merely telling a straight-forward story of the recent experience of the disciples. The people thought that the disciples were drunk when they began speaking in tongues. Peter tells them that this was not the case, but that it was a fulfilment of prophecy. Then he goes on to tell them of Jesus who they had taken and by wicked hands crucified and slain. But death could not hold Him, He rose again, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses... Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus, who ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” – Acts 2:32,36
This was the sermon – not long or profound. Peter merely told them what he knew concerning the happenings of the last days, and said that they were all witnesses of the resurrection. As only the disciples had seen Christ since the resurrection, Peter did not have reference to the multitude when he said that they were all witnesses, but only to those who had seen Jesus. But something in Peter's testimony brought conviction to the multitude, for they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” That day three thousand were converted. This could have been accomplished only through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit took an ordinary sermon and added power to it, power of witnessing, power of conviction. And the results were marvellous. Without that power very little would or could have been accomplished.
The Power of the Spirit
One question remains to be answered. How may this power be obtained? How may we receive the Holy Spirit? In this matter the Scriptures do not leave us in doubt.
When the disciples were told to wait until they should receive power from on high, they went to an upper room where they “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” – Acts 1:14. The result of this seeking of God was seen in the attainment of full accord among themselves, so that “when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” – Acts 2:1
The disciples had not always been of one accord. There had been strife and debate among them over who should be the greatest. It was not until after the resurrection that the disciples were ready for the lesson which Jesus had been trying to teach them for a long while. They had felt their impotence time and time again, and at last it dawned on them where their difficulty lay. They needed power, and this power could not be had as long as there was rivalry and envy among them, each trying to get the highest place. Their only hope was in God and in unity with their brethren. All self-seeking must be laid aside. There must be no strife among them. There must be no seeking of selfish advantage. On the other hand there must be a seeking after God such as they had never experienced before. And when they became really in earnest, when they began to seek the Lord with all their hearts, the promised blessing was theirs. Ten days in the upper chamber, then Pentecost came.
God is not unwilling or hesitant to give the Holy Spirit to those who earnestly seek for it. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? – Luke 11:11-13. Then there is the well-known promise of the Saviour, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you...For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Luke 11:9,10
Christ was anxious not only that His disciples should understand about the Holy Spirit, but also that they should receive Him. He knew that they would be powerless without Him, and that it would be of little use to attempt to do anything for God unless they had the Spirit with them. It is the same today. More than ever we need power for witnessing. If we are to do the work required in a time such as this, we must have an unction from on high. This requires an outpouring of the Spirit even greater than that of Pentecost. It calls for prayer and supplication, and the laying aside of every wrong ambition, every seeking for supremacy. When we are willing to pray with and for one another, we shall “all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:13. When that state is reached, Pentecost will come again. God speed that day.
Based on The Faith of Jesus p. 523-530 by M L Andreason