Various books in the New Testament have various topics they dwelt on depending on the context. In the Acts of the Apostles, the discussions centers on the Holy Spirit. As it will be seen in this study, the book of Acts begins by pointing out the fact that Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit as a helper of the disciples. The prophecy was fulfilled during the Day of the Pentecost when disciples received it. This is portrayed when they began talking in tongues that no one could comprehend. This study also provides succinct description of the passages and verses where the phrase “The Holy Spirit” is mentioned in the book of Acts. Most importantly, the study will identify the significance of the Holy Spirit to the disciples after Jesus Christ left this world. It is apparently clear that the coming of the Holy Spirit was necessary given the magnitude of the times it is mentioned in the book of Acts.
The book of Acts provides a wide coverage on the works of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. It starts by explaining the ascension of Christ Jesus and his promise to the disciples that he would send them a help in the name of the Holy Spirit. It is during this time that the concept of the Holy Spirit is vividly brought into the limelight. It is in the book of Acts that we come across this concept of the Holy Spirit being tackled and experienced by the apostles. In the entire of the Old Testament of the Bible and the first gospel books of the New Testament, there is remarkably little or not at all any explanation given concerning the Holy Spirit.
After Jesus had ascended to heaven and left the disciples, it is for the first time we get an explanation that directly introduces the Holy Spirit and its manifestation in the lives of the apostles. The book having been written by Saint Luke is much more of a continuation of Luke’s Gospel and it covers less concerning the Acts of the Apostles as opposed to the title given (Kent & Homer, 1972). This book tends to pick up from Luke’s first gospel book and mainly tackles the issue of the Holy Spirit from the time the apostles were praying. This was during the day of Pentecost when they first experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and spoke in the tongues that were not known to them. From there, the more stories continue to unfold concerning the works of the Holy Spirit through the lives of the apostles.
The promise of the Holy Spirit
The first book of Luke mainly addresses the fact that Jesus was the sovereign king of the world and (the book) dwells much in handling the ministry of Jesus Christ. It gives an explanation on how Jesus mobilized his disciples to repentance and his teaching to the multitudes until the time He was betrayed and crucified on the cross. There is an exceptionally close linkage between the gospel book of Luke and the book of Acts. The book of Acts picks up from where the first book left, that is, at the crucifixion and death of Christ Jesus. It expounds more on the happenings after the resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent ascension to heaven. It then tackles the issue of the Holy Spirit and from there we see it giving an account of the spread of the gospel of Christ Jesus amongst the Jews and finally to the gentiles. Concisely, this book is a continuation of the chronology of the spread of the gospel of Christ Jesus from within Jerusalem to Rome and Greece. We see in this book that after being filled by the Holy Spirit the apostles and the disciples of Jesus gain much courage and strength and they embark on a serious mission of spreading this gospel fearlessly (Fitzmyer & Joseph, 1988).
In addition, there is a manifestation of the greater power of the Holy Spirit when He enables the apostles to perform mighty wonders and miracles through the healing of the sick and raising of the dead from death. Several passages within this book that have fully described the Holy Spirit, His power, and works through the apostles. This paper seeks to tackle some of this passages relating to the Holy Spirit and His manifestation in depth and addressing the author’s intent when writing such passages. The following are some of the passages and phrases selected for this paper in the analysis.
Looking at the first passage at the beginning of Acts when Jesus addresses his disciples after they had all gathered to listen to him, Jesus explains to them of the helper that He was going to send them as shown in Acts chapter 1 and explains to them how they will be baptized by the Holy Spirit.
“Acts 1:2 giving orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles
Acts 1:5 you indeed will be baptized with the Holy Spirit
Acts 1:8 you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you
Acts 1:16 the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold.”
The following verses in chapter 2 depicts how the apostles as they were praying were filled with the Holy Spirit and started speaking in the unknown tongues until people thought they were drunk with the wine. It is at this point that Peter comes out and explains to the people of what had happened to the apostles and how Jesus had promised them of the Holy Spirit before his ascension to heaven. The book shows that Peter was speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is the reason why he could relate all the prophecies in the Bible explaining the day of Pentecost when the chosen ones of the lord will be filled with the spirit of God.
“Acts 2:4 they all were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak.
Acts 2:4 in other tongues as the Spirit was enabling them to speak.
Acts 2:17 I will pour out from my spirit upon all flesh.
Acts 2:18 in those days I will pour out my spirit.
Acts 2:33 having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38 you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 4:8 Peter, having been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 4:25 said by the Holy Spirit from the mouth of your servant David.
Acts 4:31 they all were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke’s main intention of writing this particular passage was to show the exact importance of the Holy Spirit to the apostles as helper that Christ Jesus had promised his disciples (Harrison & Everett, 1975). Therefore, it implies that the disciples could not have endured after Jesus had left them. This called for the need to have a helper who could encourage them and provide strength to continue with the work that Christ had started. This is strongly depicted in Peter when after being filled with the Holy Spirit gained courage and started speaking with the help of the Holy Spirit who gave him confidence to speak. The author’s intention was to show helpful and powerful the Holy Spirit could be.
The working of the Holy Spirit
The next passage shows the working of the Holy Spirit within the assembly of the apostles and the church at large. We are told how Ananias and the wife cheated of the Holy Spirit and the repercussions that befall them (Haenchen, 1972). In addition, we come across Stephen who was full of the Holy Spirit and through the power of the Holy Spirit; he was able to persevere all the persecution meted against him even until he dies. The Holy Spirit became so powerful such that everyone who converted was prayed for to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is mention of a Philip and the way he was taken up by the Holy Spirit.
“Acts 5:3 why has Satan filled your heart that you lied to the Holy Spirit.
Acts 5:9 why was it agreed with you to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?
Acts 5:32 the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.
Acts 6:3 filled with the Spirit and wisdom
Acts 6:5 Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit
Acts 6:10 they were unable to stand up to the wisdom and the Spirit
Acts 7:51 you always indeed resist the Holy Spirit!
Acts 7:55 But being filled with the Holy Spirit
Acts 8:15 prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit
Acts 8:17 they were receiving the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:18 the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands,
Acts 8:19 the one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join this chariot.”
Acts 8:39 the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away.”
In this chapter, the intention of the author is clear where Holy Spirit becomes so powerful and proves out to be a real helper to apostles by increasing their level of faith and directing them in all they do. For instance, the Holy Spirit of the lord that directs Philip to join the chariot and finally snatch him away.
“Acts 9:17 you should regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 9:31 proceeding in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit,
Acts 10:19 the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.”
Acts 10:38 God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power,
Acts 10:44 the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were hearing the message.
Acts 10:45 the gift of the Holy Spirit had also been poured out upon the Gentiles.
Acts 10:47 who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did
Acts 11:12 the Spirit told me to go with them without hesitating
Acts 11:15 when I began to speak the Holy Spirit fell upon them
Acts 11:16 you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 11:24 he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and faith.
Acts 11:28 he foretold by the Spirit that a great famine would take place.”
In the succeeding chapters from 13 to 28, we see the Holy Spirit revealing messages to the saints and directing them in their entire endeavor and even help in the appointment of people to perform various tasks (Barrett, 1994). The apostles’ conduct is directed by the Holy Spirit and sometimes they prophesied under the influence of the Holy Spirit as shown in the selected scriptures below.
“ Acts 13:2 the Holy Spirit said, “Now then set aside for me Barnabas and Saul
Acts 13:4 these two having been sent by the Holy Spirit went down to Seleucia,
Acts 13:9 Saul, the one also called Paul, being filled with the Holy Spirit
Acts 13:52 the disciples were continually filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
Acts 15:8 bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit
Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us
Acts 16:6 they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit
Acts 16:7 the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them to do so.
Acts 19:2 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
Acts 19:2”But we have not even heard there is a Holy Spirit.”
Acts 19:6 the Holy Spirit came upon them,
Acts 20:22 having been bound by the Spirit I am going to Jerusalem,
Acts 20:23 the Holy Spirit is testifying to me in every city,
Acts 20:28 over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,
Acts 21:4 They kept telling Paul by the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.
Acts 21:11 The Holy Spirit says this:
Acts 28:25 well did the Holy Spirit speak through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers”
In the above passage, the Holy Spirit is depicted as real helper and capable of solving all the challenges the apostles were facing. In so many situations do we see the Holy Spirit intervening? In addition, the Holy Spirit is so much revered by all the apostles as well as the other brethren since He was the only helper that Christ Jesus had left to his disciples.
The book of Acts covers much relating to the power bestowed in the Holy Spirit. During the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ Jesus, all his disciples denied him, and they could not just endure the suffering yet they had to survive in such an environment of persecutions after Jesus had died. It was obvious that unless something was done, Jesus would not accomplish his mission of spreading the gospel. Most probably, the mission of evangelism would have ended immediately after the death of Christ Jesus (Johnson & Luke, 1992). Therefore, Christ Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a way of empowering his disciples and the apostles at large. This could guarantee the continuity of his gospel by to taking up his position of directing and strengthening the disciples.
Consequently, they would endure all the persecution and spread the gospel of Jesus. It is through the help of the Holy Spirit that we see the saints gaining strength and courage and enduring all forms of persecution meted against their lives. The Holy Spirit also leads the entire church and all their decisions were based on the directives from the Holy Spirit. In addition, the apostles gained courage after the day of Pentecost and started engaging in the performance of miracles and healing. Therefore, in my own opinion, the Holy Spirit was sent to the apostles to aid the spread of the gospel of Christ Jesus.
Barrett, C. K. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. ICC. New York, NY: T & T Clark, 1994.
Bruce, F. F. Commentary on the Book of Acts. NICNT. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and
Commentary. Anchor Bible. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1998.
Haenchen, Ernst. The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1971.
Harrison, Everett F. Acts: The Expanding Church. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1975.
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Acts of the Apostles. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992.
Kent, Homer A., Jr. Jerusalem to Rome: Studies in the Book of Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker,