A Six-Pack on the Spirit

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The first 13 verses of Acts 2 no doubt generate a number of questions. Here are six common ones:

Q: In Joel’s prophecy, he describes God pouring out his Spirit on “all men.” Is this really all men, or just believers?

A: A better translation, and one that fits the context completely, is “all kinds of men.” The fact that believers would be the recipients God’s Spirit was pretty much understood from the previous prophecy (Joel was written to God’s people) and the current situation (120 of the disciples were gathered together), but the fact that so many Jews from other nations, as well as “proselytes” (i.e., Gentiles), were also part of God’s “pouring out” was possibly unsettling to the locally (and loyally) established Jew. So the phrase helped pave the way that God was doing something more than Jewish now; and no doubt more than Gentilish. He was doing something Christian!

Q: Did the ones who thought the disciples were drunk hear them in their own languages, or in jibberish? Did God keep some from understanding?

A: Plain and simple, we don’t know because the text doesn’t say. My opinion is that they heard them plain and simple in their own language, just as all the others; these however, didn’t believe, whereas others did. Why did they, even in the face of the clearly miraculous, reject the sign and message? We must be careful here not to blame God for their refusal to accept. This was a punishment because of their rejection, not the cause of it. God had predicted that much of Israel would “hear and not listen, see and not perceive” (Matt. 13:14), precisely because they rejected him. In other words, initial rejection led to further rejection. I think this is one of the times in which this comes to pass.

Q: Why don’t we see these symbols representing the presence of God, or the Holy Spirit, in our age?

A: Not sure. Remember, what they heard and saw was something like wind and as fire, so let’s not let the symbols become more important than the substance. What matters most is what you referenced — God’s presence and power. If those are evident, even without the symbols, I’m good with that!

If what you’re really wondering is why don’t we see more of the substance these days, now that’s another question! And a different post.

Q: How can we discern between the leading of the Holy Spirit vs. our emotions?

A: Ah, the question of the decade! For the sake of clarity, brevity, and simplicity, let me offer 5 things to help. 1) If it’s directly commanded or prohibited in the Bible, consider it the Holy Spirit’s leading. I like how an older man put this to me as a Jr. higher when he said one day, “Don’t question in the dark what God has clearly shown in the light.” 2) If it isn’t directly commanded or prohibited, is it beneficial? If so, chances are God’s Spirit is in it. If it’s not, count it as a surge of emo. 3) If the jury is still out on the beneficial aspect, find out if the leading lingers. God’s Spirit leads consistently, and one way he communicates is through the way God has made us, gifted us, and shaped us. So our leanings and passions play a part in this, and if you have consistent leanings and passions in given directions, that’s a good sign God is giving you the green light. 4) Is  this an enticement or an entrustment? Everything we involve ourselves in falls into one of these categories. So stack up the pro’s and con’s; look at the assets and liabilities. If the mental spread sheet is tilted heavily towards enticement, it’s probably more of a fleshly distraction than the Spirit’s leading. 5) Live in freedom, not doubt. Even with #4 in mind, also remember that God has given us all things freely to enjoy, and in many areas it’s not a matter of finding God’s will or leading, but rather simply doing it. Learn to live life from the angle that activity is better than passivity, and doing better than watching. You will no doubt accomplish more of God’s will by simply pursuing opportunities in freedom than analyzing every possibility out of fear.

Q: Why was it so important for Jesus to leave before the Holy Spirit could come?

A: There really is no textually clear answer here. While we know he had to, we are never explicitly told why. Could they not both exist on the earth at the same time? Perhaps some understanding lay in knowing that this was the plan of God the Father. So in one sense you could say Jesus had to because it was God’s plan. After all, he always perfectly obeyed God his Father, so from that angle he had to leave.  Additionally, since the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from God the Father and God the Son, perhaps that could not have happened until God the Son returned to heaven with God the Father. Furthermore, it was the role of God the Son to purchase with his own blood those whom the Father would save, be raised from death, and then ascend as victor over sin, death, and the grave, later to descend and rule. Perhaps if he doesn’t ascend from earth, but rather remains on earth, his return later to earth becomes more symbolic than reality? Again, these are just thoughts. Love the question, but a concrete answer for this one is difficult.

Q: Do you think that tongues are relevant in respect to the Holy Spirit guiding and cleansing our words, especially since Christ said it’s what comes out of our mouth that defiles us?

A: No. No where in the Scriptures is it ever stated or implied that the gift of tongues is used to help keep our mouths from sin. I would say this is a stretch, and could turn the spiritual gifts, which are primarily meant to edify and build up others, into a selfish possession that we think is meant to help us. No doubt we benefit when God uses us via the spiritual gifts he has given us through the Holy Spirit; but the main reason he does so is to build up the body of Christ. Gifts, even tongues, are about others, not me.

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