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Sermon 2019-05-26 Ross Woodhouse

Acts 1:1-8 Holy Spirit series: The Gift the Father Promised

The word picture you might recall from last Sunday was this: sometimes our lives are like boats, sitting on the mudflats at Raglan when the tide has gone out. Just sitting there! Difficult to row or power a boat with no water, it has no effectiveness. Can’t do what it’s designed to do.  And we’re just waiting for the “tide” to come in.

We all agreed we want to be a church that embraces and receives ALL God the Holy Spirit would want to give us, yes? Many of us either know little about the person of the Holy Spirit, perhaps we have seen, heard, been a part of something that made us uncomfortable or didn’t rationalise with scripture, regarding the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps we’ve put some walls up and are possibly reluctant to allow the Spirit to do all he might want to do?  Resistance to the Holy Spirit makes us like the boats going nowhere. Being hungry for God, a more-of-God less-of-me approach…is when the tide comes in!

Here’s how David put it: “God you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63)

D. L. Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride, (selfishness and worldly things), there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled.”[1]

Some of us have an agenda, don’t we? And I know it’s right that we as Christians stand for truth and we rally against a tide of unbelief and godlessness. What we need more is to be a church that loves Jesus[2]…that has confidence in his power to, God! Paul said, “I consider everything rubbish compared to the greatness of knowing Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3). This person Jesus, he is worth giving our lives to!

Whoever we are and whatever we do for God, our #1 great desire should be to glorify God and be filled with God’s Spirit so that whoever we are and whatever we do will spring from his resulting power.

Last Sunday we commenced this short series on “the giving of the Holy Spirit”, and we began in the concluding verses of the last chapter of Luke. We read about Jesus having been physically present with the disciples, for the last time, Jesus ‘opened their minds’ to the truths of scripture, and they were able to see him for who he is. When Jesus ascended, the disciples worshipped and went back to Jerusalem to wait as Jesus instructed. Well, the waiting continues…

READ Acts 1:1-8

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

*For John baptized[3] with water, but in a few days you will be baptized[4] with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.”

Verse 8 of course is the great summary of what in fact unfolds in the book of Acts, which documents the work of God the Holy Spirit in the early years and what church and mission looks like when it/we are centred on the glory of God as the goal, salvation in the person of Christ and in the power of the Spirit.[5]

Acts has often been referred to as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The reason: all that the church achieves is through the Spirit, and these first few verses of Acts are Luke communicating 3 things: how the church prepared for the reception; the promise… and the power of the Spirit, and for what can be achieved when we are a church submitted to the Holy Spirit.

Billy Graham was asked, “What is the most important theological concept in the Bible?” Without hesitation, he responded, “Surrender.”

Let’s look firstly at…

  • The preparation for the Holy Spirit (v.1-3)

“In my former book, Theophilus…” (V.1)

We’re so grateful to Luke, aren’t we? The doctor who became a missionary, a companion of Pauls[6] who while travelling with Paul learnt about the life, words and work of Jesus, and who then wrote his Gospel and Acts. And Luke’s immediate purpose was to help Theophilus- interestingly the name means “dear to God or lover of God”[7] – see, what he had witnessed himself and what Paul had taught him, the truth about what Jesus did and said and how the gospel was shared and the church grew. What a tremendous responsibility Theophilus had to share these accounts!

Luke says: “I wrote about all that Jesus (note this) began to do and to teach after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”

Began, is an important word here. Luke’s saying you’ve only seen the start of much more to come, this was only the start of his ‘doing’ and ‘teaching’, even though Jesus said on the cross “It is finished”, referring to his saving work, what is to come is a continuation of the work of Jesus but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What Jesus in the power of the Spirit had begun in his own ministry, the church in the power of the Spirit continues to do. Because what is the church in the absence of the Holy Spirit? Mary said it last week, “dead”!

It’s crucial we appreciate the enormity of Luke’s teaching here because it represents what the book of Acts is about, and our priority as a church. What we must appreciate is this – He is not finished, actually. Because Jesus is a living Jesus. He is not done with his work, there is more for him to do and teach, by the Holy Spirit. Jesus now is “building his church and the gates of hell not prevailing against it”[8] Jesus alive and active in our ministry today.

From what we read in verses 1 thru’ 3, we can infer that one of the key ways Jesus prepared his apostles for the revival that followed at Pentecost was to give them sound teaching, instructing them in the truth, convincing proofs he was alive, all part of the preparation work of Jesus for what would happen next…

…so they had the knowledge, the teaching, but to be the effective witnesses the Lord commanded, they required power that would come from the Holy Spirit…

  • The promise of the Holy Spirit  (we see in v. 4)

The person of the Holy Spirit has always been. As long as God has been so the Holy Spirit has been. And he was and is promised to us.

God never fails to deliver on what he promises (what he says he will do) …

Let me give you a few examples of the promise of the Holy Spirit across scripture…

  • The promise of the Spirit’s work on Jesus[9]

Isaiah 61:1–2, The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.

Isaiah 11:2 — The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding… 

  • The promise that Jesus would baptise with the Spirit[10]

Matthew 3:11 — “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 

  • The promise of the Spirit by Jesus[11]

Luke 24:49 — 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.”

John 16:13-15 – But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.

All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

  • The promise of the Spirit for the believers’ future

Ephesians 1:13–14, And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 

The preparation for the Holy Spirit, clear biblical evidence for the Promise of the Holy Spirit and 3rdly, to be effective as a church we are recipients of… 

  • The Baptism In the Holy Spirit (1:5, 8)[12]

I’ll read the relevant text shortly but want to say here first, I’ve studied this extensively, there are many theological positions on this matter, among Christians, pastors, churches and scholars. All the views can be supported solidly in the word. What I offer you today is a view on what is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. We’ll discuss how we are baptised in the Holy Spirit in a couple of weeks.

What the Holy Spirit is for, has been in my view, confused in recent times as the church has sought more, and for itself dubious and inner experiences, that are biblically questionable and that have borne little in the way of fruit.  That fruit is made plain throughout the scriptures, not least, in Acts 2:42-47.

I want to suggest we must be careful to insist on experiences of God that the bible does not insist on.  What the Holy Spirit will do, will always align with the bible.

At the same time, to experience the Holy Spirit is important and necessary, therefore we do not limit or downplay or resist the Holy Spirit because we do not want any experience.

Relevant text…

He said to them: For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…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.

Jesus is saying here: for you to be effective for mission you need to be immersed (what baptism is) in the Holy Spirit. There is no reason to think the disciples at this point were not born again, so Jesus isn’t saying: Wait in Jerusalem until you are born again or have become members of the body of Christ.[13]

Rather, when we look at the biblical examples in Acts, which is where we see a concentration of Holy Spirit focus and activity[14] we see the main purpose for the Baptism in/with the Holy Spirit was/is for power, to be witnesses for Jesus – in our case – our city, our nation and the world.[15] 

Let’s look at several key and relevant passages then I’ll give you a summary view

  • 3:11 (see also Luke 3:3) …“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire

Saying: I’m baptising (immersing) you with water but one is coming after me (Jesus), he will baptise (immerse) you with the Holy Spirit.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:13…we’re baptised by one Spirit into the body of Christ.

At conversion, we’re immersed by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. When we first accept Christ as Saviour the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, to become members of his body, the church (1 Cor. 12:13)[16]. We could say we are born of the Spirit. I want to suggest this is NOT baptism in the Holy Spirit.

  • Acts 2:38-39…Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is…for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Here, repentance, forgiveness of sin and water baptism all precede the gift of the Holy Spirit and is for all Christians.

  • Acts 8:15-17, Peter and John in Samaria. “When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

They were believers first, then received prayer for being baptised in the Holy Spirit

  • Acts 10:44f. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 19:1-4. Paul in Ephesus “found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”[17] They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized[18] in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7

Here, Paul needed to tell them about believing in Jesus, baptise them in the name of Jesus, which led to them being baptised in the Holy Spirit. This is Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

What do these passages teach us for today?

Firstly, that the NewTestament is not prescriptive in this regard. No one absolute rule to apply.

What the New Testament does teach is that the Baptism in the Spirit is an immersion into the Spirit. That Jesus baptises Christians in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:3), joins us to the body of Christ and therefore is for all Christians (Acts 2:39; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

When and how we are baptised in the Holy Spirit is inconsequential to the fact that there is a baptism in the Holy Spirit and we need him, we need him for power to be his witnesses and to live the Christian life.

“…but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about”

Clearly, Jesus had very good reason in asking the disciples to wait. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was about to happen, for the purposes of mission, the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church.  Jesus asked them to wait…

But how many of us may still be waiting? 

What was Luke wanting to convey to Theophilus, and then onto the church, about the Holy Spirit? What I want us to see this morning is the Holy Spirit has been given to us, to you.  The Holy Spirit has been gifted to us for God’s glory…

The Holy Spirit is not a person stuck in the pages of the history who is aloof, distant to us, he is not someone we just acknowledge with our intellect but someone to personally encounter and experience. We are to be filled with and by him, for the purposes of mission.


Baptism in the Holy Spirit has been gifted to us for God’s glory.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is for all Christians.

Whoever we are and whatever we do for God, our #1 great desire should be to glorify God and be filled with God’s Spirit…I have given you the bible’s promises this morning.

It is to you to receive…


DIGGING DEEPER: Group Study Questions

  1. READ Acts 1:1-8
  2. What is Luke’s main point in the text?
  3. Have you struggled to relate to the Holy Spirit as the PERSON he is? Explain?
  4. Discuss any experiences you may have had that have made you feel uncomfortable and (if honest) left you a little uncomfortable about the Holy Spirit?
  5. Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit for the church today or do you believe what you read in scripture was a one-off encounter? What Biblical evidence can you provide for your argument?
  6. Do you believe there can be new ‘experiences/encounters’ of the Holy Spirit even if they are inconsistent with scripture? Why?
  7. What can a church look like where its members are baptised in the Holy Spirit? What are the priorities of such a church?
  8. Do you have a different perspective on what the New Testament teaches about baptism in the Holy Spirit? Is the New Testament prescriptive?
  9. What might I do differently this coming week to personally interact more with the Holy Spirit?


[1] Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.

[2] From Wed with Charles…

[3] GK= ebaptisen (submerge)

[4] GK= baptisthēsesthe

[5] Gives us a clue about the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit: Mission

[6] See Acts 16:10; 2 Timothy 4:11

[7] Brauch, M. T. (1988). Acts of the Apostles, Book of The. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 18). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[8] see Matthew 16:18

[9] see Luke 4:18-19

[10] See John 1:33

[11] See John 16:7-8

[12] In Acts 2 and 8, there appears to be subsequence. In chapters 10 and 19 however, the filling of the Holy Spirit accompanies salvation immediately. From:


[14] Notwithstanding the presence of the Spirit throughout all scripture

[15] Think about this logically. Does Jesus want all Christians NOW to be filled and baptised with the Spirit for mission. YES!

[16] NB: “baptised into one body”

[17] I don’t believe Luke would loosely use the term “believe”, if they weren’t believers.

[18] Not water baptised here as they had already received Johns baptism (See Matt. 3:11)