The Holy Spirit (Who is a “He,” not an “it”) is an eternal presence throughout the Bible and human history. If you are a Christian, it is only because of His work in your life.
The whole concept of what we know as “spirit”originated with the Old Testament and the Jews. In Abraham’s day the people worshiped “gods”who were basically totem statues or good luck charms. When Abraham got his revelation of the true God, an important distinction was that Abraham’s God didn’t have a physical form. He couldn’t be reduced to an image. That was a very radical idea! So to describe Him, the used the only word they had for something that you couldn’t see, but you could see its movement and influence. That word was ruach, which meant “wind”or “breath.” In the New Testament, the equivalent Greek word is pneuma. In English, we use the words “ghost” (which is German in origin) or “spirit” (which originates in Latin). I personally prefer the latter term, as the word “ghost” carries a “spooky” connotation to some people. The branch of theology dedicated to studying the Holy Spirit is called Pneumatology.
Before we proceed, I would like for us to look back at a previous statement from Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 12, verses 23 and 24:
Jesus replied, Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels a plentiful harvest of new lives.
And from the Amplified Bible:
And Jesus answered them, The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified and exalted. I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; it never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest.
I don’t believe Jesus wasted words. If He is going to use the analogy of a seed germinating to illustrate what He would do on the cross, there would have to be a logical progression to that. Keep that in mind as we enter this portion of our study.
Jesus has died, He has risen from the dead and He is about to go back to Heaven. He has given them the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. But when we put this with it, we see that He is emphasizing Don’t do it yet. Wait until the Holy Spirit has empowered you. You cant do this on your own. They had tried it, and they wound up denying Jesus and running away in fear. He knew that they would not be in any condition to carry on His work in their own power. They would need supernatural empowerment to do it.
We see this come to fruition in Acts chapter two, which is a very familiar passage to most of us:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. (Acts 2:1-11 ESV) “
This was a harvest festival known as shavout, or Pentecost, which means “weeks.” It is set up to be seven weeks after the beginning of Passover. If you would like to study the background you can find it in Leviticus 23:15-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-10. Pentecost was one of three Pilgrim Festivals celebrated by the Jews, the other two being Passover itself, and the Feast of Tabernacles. By timing it this way, the Holy Spirit saw to it that an international assembly would be there to witness this event¹.
Pentecost is, and don’t miss this, where we first see the kernel of wheat that fell to the ground come to fruition. This is what is generally recognized to be the beginning of the New Covenant, the birthday of the church.
Now Full Gospel/Pentecostal/Charismatic believers have a special connection to this. That is because we believe that what the church experienced on the Day of Pentecost is still available to all believers today. We believe in this experience, called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The term “baptism” is a very important one to Christians. It comes from the Greek word baptizo which means “to dip or immerse.” It also carries the connotation that the one being baptized takes on the character of the element he or she is being baptized into, like a piece of cloth being dipped into a dying solution. Hebrews 6:1-2 gives us some further insight:
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Notice that one of the foundational doctrines of Christianity is baptisms, and how the word is plural. There are, in fact, three baptisms for Christians:
The baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). This happens at salvation (Galatians 3:27), and is the “one baptism” described in Ephesians 4:5).
Water baptism (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38;Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). It represents inner cleansing (Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 10:22) and spiritual rebirth (John 3:5).
The baptism by Jesus into the Holy Spirit, which is the supernatural empowering to operate in the spiritual power and authority Jesus did. It can happen at salvation (Acts 9:17-18; 10:44-48), but generally occurs later (Acts 2:38-39; 19:1-7).This is an empowering, as Jesus said, to be His witnesses in the earth. Let’s look back at verse 4:
And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages (or other tongues),as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
This experience has truly revolutionized my life, and the lives of countless believers around the world. I am honored to share it with you.