Acts 4: 8-12; 6: 1-7; 7: 54-60; 9: 17-21; 11: 19-26; 13: 6-12
It will be observed, dear brethren, that these Scriptures refer to persons who are said to be full of the Holy Spirit. I do not want to go into the detail of every chapter, but I would like to arrest your interest in what was said and done by such persons and the features that they showed. It would help us all, and the young ones, therefore, to establish what finds its source in the Holy Spirit. I will just take them up in the order in which they come in the Scriptures. I hesitate to take this subject up because I am conscious of my own failures; but nevertheless these things are in the Scriptures and they are for our education.
The first person said to be full of the Holy Spirit is Peter. He had a distinctive place in the launching of this dispensation in which we are. He was one of those that the Holy Spirit came and sat upon at Pentecost. One significant feature about Peter’s early preaching was the magnification of the Man in heaven. That is one feature that will always find its source in the Holy Spirit. You wonder at the boldness and the faithfulness of Peter there in Jerusalem, where, just days earlier, the Lord Jesus was crucified; but he boldly says, “God has made him, this Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”, Acts 3: 34. What a contrast! It was not that He was going to do it, but God has already done it, He has made Him both Lord and Christ. He has installed Him in the greatest office of His universe and He is morally qualified to be there. The power and coming of the Holy Spirit was evident in these early days. This lame man had been at the Beautiful gate of the temple. Peter says to him, “silver and gold I have not; but what I have, this I give to thee”. It resulted in a man that leaped and walked and praised God. The effect of the power of the Holy Spirit could not therefore be gainsaid. Peter was asked by what authority he did these things, and he says to them, that it is in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazaræan, the One who was here, the lowly, despised, rejected Man. It is in the power of that Name that that man walked and leaped and praised God; the one that had no place in this religious world’s system. He says, “the stone which has been set at nought by you the builders”; that is, they had their own building and their own system of things, but Christ had no place in it. That One has become Head of the corner, there is another order of things which the Holy Spirit would connect us with, drawing attention and linking us to the ascended Man in heaven. There is a centre and an order of things on the other side of death, in a glorious, living Man. It is in the power of that One that these things were done and “salvation is in none other, for neither is there another name under heaven which is given among men by which we must be saved”. Peter drew attention to the one Person in whom salvation was. Now, dear young people, if you hear those kinds of things in the magnification of Christ, the source of it is the Holy Spirit.
It is a different setting entirely in chapter 6. There was a murmuring among the Hellenists against the Hebrews because their widows were overlooked in the daily ministration. It was a situation of which the enemy could have taken full advantage. The apostles had their ministry, so that others were appointed to look into this matter, an administrative matter. Gift is not referred to but they are told to look out from among their own selves seven men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. You might say that gift is not needed, but what is needed is for persons to have wisdom and be full of the Holy Spirit. I speak feelingly, beloved brethren, but in recent times there may have been occasions when administrative acts might have given the enemy a handle. This situation was sectional, it was partisan; and I think, beloved brethren, one thing we can be assured of is that nothing on that line finds its source in the Holy Spirit. We are not actually told here exactly what happened, but a potentially dangerous situation was retrieved by persons who had wisdom and were full of the Holy Spirit. So at the end it says the word of God increased and the number of disciples in Jerusalem was very greatly multiplied. The enemy was defeated. The apostles laid their hands on these persons and they prayed. The matter of prayer and dependency is never to be far from any one of us. But the result was that the enemy was defeated and the testimony was strengthened.
We have Stephen in chapter 7. He was one of the seven appointed to look into that administrative matter. One feature I would draw attention to in Stephen is that he was a faithful man. In his address to the children of Israel previous to where we read, he pointed out to them time and time again that they opposed that which was of God. And he skilfully brought it right up to date and showed that in the rejection of the Lord Jesus they had proved themselves to be stiff necked and unbelieving. That was a witness, a faithful witness, of Stephen. That is another feature, I believe, that marks persons where the Holy Spirit is free, faithfulness. He was full of the Holy Spirit and he looked up to heaven. I think, beloved brethren, that we can see a fresh step forward in Stephen here. There was that which persons could take account of here as a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. “This which ye behold and hear” (Acts 2: 33), Peter says, was the result of the Holy Spirit, but Stephen looked upward, paving the way, I think, for the heavenly ministry of the apostle Paul. He looked up there and in a time of suffering he had the full support of what there was in heaven at that time. The One who was here stood there. It says that, “having fixed his eyes on heaven, he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”. That lowly despised man was now in the position of power and authority; and Stephen proved all the weight of that in the time of his need, in looking up to heaven. But what he tells them is that he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. That is, the Son of Man was there available for all those whom he had addressed, all those who had rejected what he had said, on the basis of repentance. Another thing I would like to draw attention to that marked Stephen was that he went out in the same spirit as his Master. The Lord Jesus, you will remember, said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23: 34. Stephen says here, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. What a spirit! A person full of the Holy Spirit, which produced in him the spirit of Christ; the Spirit of the lowly Man, the spirit of the Man of Philippians 2. That is another feature that is seen in a Man that is full of the Holy Spirit.
In chapter 9, Ananias is not one who is said to be full of the Holy Spirit but he was sent to Saul of Tarsus that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit. So I think it would be right so say that Ananias moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord had prepared that vessel. Saul of Tarsus had just been converted, the Lord had prepared Ananias and He told him to go to Saul of Tarsus and the first thing that he said to him was “Saul, brother”. The contrast was that Saul of Tarsus had breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples, v 1. That was the spirit of the religious world. Ananias comes and says “Saul, brother”. It is the spirit that prevails in the Christian circle. I think it made a profound impression upon Paul, what was to be found in the local assembly. That which he had never experienced before - “Saul, brother”. “There fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he saw, and rising up was baptised”. I suppose the first thing he saw was Ananias. And no doubt that left an indelible impression upon Paul. He stayed certain days at Damascus. Then “he preached Jesus, that he is the Son of God”. I do not think it was given to anybody else at that time to preach Jesus that He is the Son of God. I do not think Peter preached that aspect of the gospel but it was given to Paul to preach about another Man in another world. Another thing that marks a person full of the Holy Spirit is the power to open up a heavenly order of things and of which Christ is the centre.
In chapter 11, subsequent to the martyrdom of Stephen, Christians were scattered away from Jerusalem, apart from the apostles, and there were those who preached to no one but Jews alone. “But there were certain of them, Cyprians and Cyreneans, that entering into Antioch spoke to the Greeks also”. That was outside of the confines of Israel. It was something entirely new, a remarkable thing. And such a remarkable thing reached the ears of the assembly in Jerusalem, the apostles; and they sent out Barnabas. He is the next person who is said to be a good man and full of the Holy Spirit. He goes along there and he rejoices in the grace of God. He rejoiced in the work of God that was apparent outside the confines of Israel. I think the Holy Spirit would promote feelings in us so that we value the work of God; value the work of God in one another; value it wherever it may appear. Then he exhorted with all purpose of heart to abide with the Lord. He exhorted them to keep near the Lord. I think that is the promptings of the Holy Spirit: keep the saints near the Lord. Barnabas came and he established them. He strengthened them. All these features stem, I think, from the activity of the Holy Spirit. Another remarkable thing about Barnabas is that, when he saw the greatness of the work, he did not try to do it all himself, he went out to Tarsus to find Saul. There was no spirit of rivalry with Barnabas. He knew there was one that he needed to help him and he unselfishly went and sought him out. These are things, dear brethren, that find their source in the Holy Spirit. Paul was brought into Antioch and so it was with them that for a whole year they were gathered together in the assembly and taught a large crowd. You think of the effect of a whole year under the teaching of two men who were said to be full of the Holy Spirit. What was the effect? They were first called Christians at Antioch. That is, that the teaching that found its source in the Holy Spirit produced Christ-like features in those that sat under the sound of that ministry. If you read chapter 13, you have a list of persons at the beginning of that chapter who were at Antioch; and there is no suggestion of rivalry with them, none whatsoever. They worked together, and such was the freedom of the Holy Spirit that it says that “the Holy Spirit said, Separate me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”, v 1, 2. Somebody must have said it, but the point was the Holy Spirit said it. It brings out the freedom and the liberty that the Holy Spirit had in that assembly. I just draw attention to those features that they may be firmly in our minds so that we are helped to identify what finds its source in the Holy Spirit.
Finally, in chapter 13, we have Paul and what we see in him there is that he had discernment so that he was able to expose this false prophet. That is another feature, I think, that marks a person where the Holy Spirit is free: power to expose what is opposed to the testimony. There was this man with the proconsul Sergius Paulus an intelligent man who was interested in the truth, he wanted to hear the word of God. And this man Bar-jesus, a false prophet, seeks to turn him aside. But Paul, “filled with the Holy Spirit, fixing his eyes upon him said, O full of all deceit and all craft: son of the devil, enemy of all righteousness; wilt thou not cease perverting the right path of the Lord?” There was a complete and utter exposure of what the man was and the proconsul was not turned aside, he was secured for the testimony.
That is all I have to say. I find it an exercising thing to make way for the Holy Spirit. But I would suggest, beloved brethren, that we study the features that came out in these persons who were said to be full of the Holy Spirit and take account of what they said. I would suggest that they should be features that become more prominent in you and me, both individually and collectively as we make way for the Holy Spirit.
May God bless the word.
28th April 2007