The Holy Spirit and…

Some final thoughts on the role of the Holy Spirit in Acts. I found a helpful observation in the little book ‘Engaging with the Holy Spirit’ by Graham Cole, which originally comes from Broughton Knox. In Luke-Acts, the expression filled with the Holy Spirit is almost always followed by or follows the conjunction ‘and’. For example In Acts 4:32 the believers are filled with the Holy Spirit AND continue to speak the word of God with boldness. Similarly the 7 men chosen to help the apostles in Acts 6 are to be full of the Holy Spirit AND wisdom, and one of these men, Stephen, is full of faith AND the Holy Spirit.

The ‘Holy Spirit and’ filling in Luke-Acts is not something we influence. As Graham Cole puts it “…there is no hint that to be so filled was an intentionally co-operative activity involving the persons concerned and the Spirit of God. Instead these intances of fullness – both Old Testament and New – appear to have been the sovereign work of the Spirit”

I also think the fact that the Holy Spirit is often linked with some other quality also points to the reality that you don’t see the Spirit himself as much as the effects of his work. So to be filled with the ‘Holy Spirit and wisdom’ is to be full of Holy Spirit inspired wisdom, and to be filled with the ‘Holy Spirit and speak the word of God Boldly’ is to speak the word of God with Holy Spirit inspired boldness. This fits with the prayers that the believers pray in Acts which are not for the Spirit explicitly but for boldness and perseverance.

Filled with the Spirit Language is only found in Luke-Acts in the New Testament with the exception of the command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians which seems to be a more congregational experience than in Acts.

In practice then, I think we shouldn’t just be searching and praying for the Spirit. We should be praying for and working towards the qualities that will help us serve Jesus and his mission, and as we do that God may graciously fill us with the Spirit and the ability to serve him.

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