Introduction: When I read internal criticisms of the Church of which I am a member, they most often deal with theological differences, or a concern about appropriate standards of behavior. This reminds of my car. If I were missing a headlight, or had a dent in the fender, I would think it needed to be fixed. But, if my engine didn't work, that would be my first concern. In the Church, the presence (or not) of the Holy Spirit should be our first concern. Without discounting the importance of other matters, we need to have the right focus. Our lesson today helps our focus. Let's dig into the Bible and learn more about the Holy Spirit!
Read Acts 2:1 and Acts 1:11-14. Where do you think the "one place" is that they were gathered? (We cannot be sure. But, I put these texts together so you could see the close connection between Jesus' ascension into heaven, the gathering in a room to pray and the gathering on Pentecost. They may still have been in that same room in the house "where they were staying.")
Read Acts 2:2-4. What three distinctive things happened upon the arrival of the Holy Spirit? (Loud and violent wind noise. Tongues of fire. Speaking in other tongues. Let's look at these separately.)
Holy Spirit and Wind
What purpose does the loud and noisy wind serve? (Read Acts 2:6. It got attention. It was part of what caused a crowd to gather.)
Why would the Holy Spirit appear as wind? The noise of the wind is the first thing mentioned!
Read John 3:5-8. What work does the Holy Spirit engage in here? (He gives birth to the new life in Jesus. Notice Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to wind.)
Read John 20:19-23. Is there a connection between receiving the Holy Spirit and forgiveness?
What about a connection between the Holy Spirit and having peace?
What about a connection between the Holy Spirit and witnessing?(Part of the new life, the baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, is forgiveness of sins and leaving the old, dead life behind.)
Friend, do you see that the Holy Spirit brings life, new life, just like the air we breath sustains our life? Do you have the Holy Spirit in you? If not, you are spiritually dead! You have stopped breathing!
Read Isaiah 4:4. What is the "fire" of the Holy Spirit doing here? (Cleaning.)
Read Matthew 3:11-12. What is the fire of the Holy Spirit doing here? (This does not specifically say that it is the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns up the "chaff," but the suggestion is that the Holy Spirit is part of this separation process.)
As you contemplate the "fire" aspect of the Holy Spirit, how would you describe the goal of this power? (Part of it is working on my mind to convince me of my sins and to turn me from them. Some accept the leading of the Holy Spirit and some do not. This results in the separation of the wheat and the chaff.)
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. What happens if you have put out the fire of the Holy Spirit in your life? (You will not hear His direction, you will not be able to tell what comes from God and what does not, you will not be able to separate the good from the bad and thus avoid evil.)
Re-read Acts 2:4. How do you understand the phrase "as the Spirit enabled them?" (This is a gift directed by the Holy Spirit. All of this power comes from the Holy Spirit, of course, but this indicates that the Holy Spirit enabled certain languages.)
Read Acts 2:5-8. What is the gift of tongues here? (The gift of having others understand you in their own language.)
Is this consistent with the wind and fire? (Part of a new life in Jesus is understanding His will for you. You cannot understand until you first hear.)
Acts 19:4-6. What happened to these new Christians when the Holy Spirit entered them? (They spoke in tongues and prophesied.)
Is it obvious that they needed to communicate to those around them? (It is hard to see that is true here. It appears that we are told the tongues to confirm the Holy Spirit came on them. They were given special abilities.)
Read Mark 16:14-18. Is there a way to prove that we believe in Jesus? (Jesus says that the following are "signs" of a believer: driving out demons, speaking in new tongues, picking up snakes, drinking poison, healing sick people.)
How many of these "signs" are "hanging" on you?
Let's explore this a bit more. What does Jesus tell His disciples to do? (Go to the world and preach.)
If you were to plan for your world evangelism trip, what would concern you? (Opposition from Satan and his fallen angels. Speaking the language of the locals. Physical danger from wild animals. Danger from bad food or water. Not being able to convince the people of my message. Do you see how these "signs" are actually ways to overcome the problems that arise in evangelism?)
Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-4. So far, the references to the gift of tongues either explicitly refer to foreign languages or are unclear. Is this spiritual gift of tongues a foreign language? (The text specifically says it is not. "No one understands.")
These verses make the argument that being understood is more important because it helps others. Why would the Holy Spirit give a gift of tongues that cannot be understood by anyone? What is the benefit of uttering a mystery? (If you carefully read these verses, they teach us that one version of the gift of tongues is a communication with God that "edifies" the Christian.)
Does this make any sense? (Think about the fact that a major work of the Holy Spirit is internal - guiding our mind into the right path.)
Read 1 Corinthians 14:27-28. What does this teach us about speaking in a mystery tongue? (It should not happen in church unless someone interprets.)
The Future Now
Read Acts 2:14-18. Are we living in the "last days?" (Peter says that Pentecost was part of the last days, so clearly we are in the last days.)
Let's focus on Acts 2:17-18. How widespread is the gift of prophecy, the gift of visions and dreams? (The verse says "all people." The Holy Spirit will work through everyone, regardless of gender or age.)
Read Deuteronomy 13:1-3. Are God's followers to test those who claim to have the gift of prophecy? (Yes.)
What is the test? (Whether they lead you to God or away from God.)
Read Deuteronomy 13:5. What should happen if the prophet fails the test? (Death.)
Read Deuteronomy 18:22. What are we told to do if a prophet gives a message that does not come true? (We need not be afraid of that prophet, for the prophet has spoken presumptuously.)
In the Old Testament, prophets were fairly rare. Joel tells us that last day prophets will be numerous. How should we react to modern prophets? (We should test them. If they get things wrong, then I would not place great confidence in other things they say. But, with a widespread gift, I don't think the same harsh death penalty is appropriate. Today, of course, we are not the state and have no such authority.
Friend, is the Holy Spirit alive in you? Are you letting the Spirit do its full work: giving us new life, cleansing us of sin, helping us to give others a right view of Jesus? If not, why not ask for that right now?