Vignettes Of The Holy Spirit’s Ministry In Acts

The Acts of the Apostles 13 – 28.

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles principally focuses on the gospel message’s outcome as enunciated by the Apostles, from Jerusalem to continental Europe (c.f., Acts 1:7-8). However, the work of the promised Holy Spirit proliferates throughout Luke’s narrative. As the 3rd Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is also the Giver of life and the One who renews by enabling us to respond to the Son as we follow Him (1Peter 3:18; John 6:63). And since all Scripture is inspired by God (2Tim 3:16-17; 2Peter 1:20-21), it would not be unusual for the Holy Spirit to occasionally resort to Scripture as His reference (Acts 1:16; Acts 28:25; c.f., Luke 46-49) since He is also intimately involved in all that God is doing in our world.

The commissioning of Barnabas and Saul, through the prophets and teachers at Antioch’s multicultural congregation, was initiated by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-4), thereby triggering the pair’s first missionary journey to Asia Minor. It is characteristically clear that God Himself was the driving force behind the fulfilment of His redemptive missionary endeavours (i.e., Luke 24:46-49); notwithstanding the involvement of human agencies in organising these evangelistic activities. At every singular turn of the salvation story of mankind, God took the initiative, and He will continue to do so due to His love for man till His returns again (John 3:16). These episodes are invariably accompanied by His dedicated power displayed through His Holy Spirit (c.f., Acts 13:5-12; Acts 14:8-18; Acts16:16-18), where, for instance, the reality of His promptings are clearly brought home to us in the incident with Ananias and Sapphira. We are warned that His Spirit is not to be trifled with as He disciplines, by bringing to light hidden sins (Acts 4:32-5:11). As believers, we possess the innate capacity as spiritual beings to identify with the nuances of how God communicates through His Holy Spirit when we are paying attention to His attempts at doing so.

The Holy Spirit initially guided the apostles to reach out to the Jews with the gospel, but when they rejected it, the time was ripe to deliver it to the Gentiles (Acts 13:44-47). The Gentiles responded with overwhelming joy, and filled with the Holy Spirit, they glorified the word of God (Acts 13:48-52). Despite their persecution, the joy of the Spirit transcends any circumstances, implying an inward strengthening in their relationship with their beloved Lord, thereby enabling them to gain an eternal perspective beyond their personal circumstances in embracing a faith charged with eternal values (c.f., Neh 8:10; John 17:13; John 15:1-11). Hence, it is not unusual for God to redirect those who are serving Him wholeheartedly, as Paul and Timothy discovered: instead of travelling east towards Mysia and Bithynia and possibly into Eastern Asia, they were sent to Troas, on the coast, and following a vision, towards Macedonia in Europe (Acts 16:1-10). The interesting detail is that Paul was proactive in seeking ‘open doors’ for his missionary journeys, where his own plans were subject to the will of God when he was redirected.

One of the hallmarks of the Holy Spirit’s work is His typical gracious unifying trait that He instils in His people, in terms of consistently operating within the will of God: e.g., by giving the leaders of the mother church in Jerusalem a united mind to wisely incorporate new Gentile believers into the mainly Jewish Christian community, and to have Priscilla and Aquila further instruct Apollos in The Way (Acts 15:1-29; Acts 18:24-19:10). Paul’s arrival at Ephesus proved a turning point for the believers, as they were eventually established in their newfound faith in Christ, bringing them into the fold of the church. Trusting the Spirit of God often requires us to follow Him without completely comprehending His purpose or end-result, as Paul did in his farewell to the Ephesus church (Acts 20:17-31). On hindsight, Paul did not fully grasp the fatality of his journey back to Jerusalem despite the veiled warnings (c.f., Acts 20:23). He was only glad to obey the Holy Spirit. Being led by Him does not exclude the possibility of encountering difficulties or uncertainty, or even death, but whatever we may face in obeying, we are assured of God’s commitment to closely walk through the circumstances with us (Ps 23:4-6; c.f., Neh 8:10). Faith involves trusting God based on reasons provided by our knowing God; it is based on our knowledge of God, which is quite different from blind submission. Invariably, faith is never blind!