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You Shall Receive Power
By David A. DePra
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power. But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:4-8)
It is probably accurate to say that most Christians define their Christianity based on what they have to GIVE to God. We think about our service, our works, and our spiritual growth. But while those things are not to be disdained in their proper place, they are NOT the means. They are the RESULTS.
The results of what? Well, according to Jesus, the results of having RECEIVED something from God.
A person is not born again – not a Christian – because they have something to give. They are born again because they have RECEIVED something – something eternal with which they were NOT born. Everything else in the Christian life is the RESULT of having received it.
Jesus told the disciples that day on the Mount of Olives, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." He did not mention a thing about them having something to give to God. No. They were to RECEIVE. Unless we have received POWER from outside of ourselves – POWER we weren’t born with – little else is possible in the Christian life.
The word Jesus used for POWER was, "dunamus," which basically means, "ability." Jesus was telling them that there would COME UPON THEM – from the outside – POWER. But POWER, or ability, for what? Jesus told them directly, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to BE MY WITNESSES."
First of all, can we see that Jesus wasn’t really talking about receiving mere salvation? No. They were already saved. He said POWER – not salvation. But this does not mean that we need to make anything about what they received that day secondary, or separate, from salvation. For they could not have received the Holy Spirit the way they did that day unless they were saved. And we can be sure that God wants all of us to receive exactly the same thing.
Jesus was telling them that the Holy Spirit was going to come upon them, and the result would be that they would receive power – power to BE witnesses. But note that this was not power to witness – merely to preach or share Christ. This was power to BE or BECOME a living witness.
What does it mean to BE a witness to Christ? It means that there is something in you which points to HIM. It means that you have received something – a power – which is living in you, and through you, which points to Jesus Christ.
Didn’t Jesus say that when the Holy Spirit would come, that, "He would testify of Me?" Didn’t He say the Holy Spirit would glorify HIM? Sure. So that’s what the Holy Spirit does in and through us. That is what a WITNESS TO JESUS does!
To BE a witness to Jesus Christ means that you are defined by your relationship to HIM. Sure, it means that people see your good works, and all those kinds of things. All of that is included. But not so YOU can be admired as a great Christian. No. Our lives won’t shout, "Look what a wonderful witness I am for Jesus Christ!" Rather, we will proclaim, "Look what a wonderful Savior He is."
Once we understand this, we can see that a witness unto Christ is defined by their WORSHIP and DEVOTION to the Person of Christ. A witness will manifest a DEPENDENCE upon God, and a living FAITH in Christ. At the root, to BE A WITNESS of Jesus Christ means that your life is stamped with His name. To use the vernacular, your life has Jesus’ name written all over it.
As stated, none of this is possible unless we have RECEIVED something from above. Human effort, talents, gifts, and brains can DO things for God. But only if we have received something of God can we BECOME something in Christ. Only if we receive the Holy Spirit can be actually BECOME a witness unto Christ.
The Witness of God
Becoming a witness unto Christ is the result of receiving the witness of God within – the Holy Spirit. John writes this in his first epistle:
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:9-11)
If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, and have received the Holy Spirit, you already have the witness of God IN YOU. The witness of God is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) Jesus is at home in you, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why you can become a witness to Him – and the only reason why it is possible. You can become a witness unto Christ only because He is in you. It is simply a matter of His life coming to a greater manifestation.
The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, is the POWER by which this happens. The Holy Spirit is going to be in the process of doing whatever is necessary to make you a living witness unto Christ. He is going to be in the process of bringing out what God has already put in you – the witness of God.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
Pentecost was the day when the Holy Spirit first came and dwelt in human beings. Of course, the Holy Spirit had been with people before. There had been many VISITATIONS of the Holy Spirit. But not like this. No. This was NEW. This was not a VISITATION, but a permanent HABITATION. It was something which had NEVER happened before.
This is clearly seen in Jesus’ own words:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7)
This passage, along with many others where Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit WILL COME, or WILL BE SENT, prove that the Holy Spirit wasn’t yet given the way He would be. Indeed, John says this directly:
He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:38-39)
There is no question that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that happened on that Pentecost was something that had never happened before. That day heaven opened and pierced this realm. Now, things were different, and would never again be the same.
As stated, the fundamental difference between what happened on that day, and what had happened before that has already been mentioned. It is the difference between VISITATION and HABITATION. On that day of Pentecost, we do not read of merely a VISITATION. We read of a HABITATION – one that would be forever.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)
Do we see something here? The Holy Spirit had been WITH them – and WITH people of the Old Testament. But now He would be IN THEM. There is a difference. Indeed, rather than a VISITATION from the Holy Spirit, there would now be a HABITATION – one which was permanent and forever.
This was all unto the purpose of making Christians into living WITNESSES unto Christ. A mere VISITATION could never do that. Only a HABITATION could do this – could dwell in God’s people and begin to push from within them to the outward, and manifest the life and power of the resurrected Son of God through flesh and blood human beings.
The Feast of Pentecost in the OT
Everyone of the OT holy days stands for a spiritual reality which was eventually fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Such is the case with Pentecost. So it is profitable to look at the OT holy day. It gives us some insight as to the real meaning of the spiritual reality.
And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits unto the LORD. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savor unto the LORD. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the LORD with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: you shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (Lev 23:15-21)
Pentecost ended the barley harvest which began at the Passover season. But more importantly, it began the WHEAT harvest. This is important because each of the harvest seasons of the Old Testament, as do the Holy Days, are typical of God’s redemptive plan. The wheat harvest, which began on Pentecost, and ended on the Feast of Trumpets, corresponds exactly to the church age. The church age is the REAL wheat harvest – and is likened to such all through the New Testament.
Pentecost typified the church age in many ways. In addition to it being the season of the wheat harvest, a special offering was made that day, in addition to the daily burnt offering. The main offering of Pentecost was the special cereal offering consisting of "two loaves of bread." (Lev 23:17)
These two loaves were unique, as offerings go. They were presented as a wave offering on behalf of all the people. But they were not allowed to be placed on the altar. Why? Because the two loaves were baked with LEAVEN. Leaven, of course, most often stands for sin. Herein we begin to discern the meaning of these two loaves.
The two LEAVENED loaves offered at Pentecost represented Jew and Gentile – the leaven symbolizing the fact that no one, Jew or Gentile, would ever be free from the possibility of sin during the church age. The two loaves pointed toward the church age, when the Gentiles would join the Jews in the things of God. Up to this point in history, the Truth of God was not generally offered to Gentiles. Gentiles COULD enter into the covenant by being circumcised, etc. But as far as NATIONS go, God had chosen only Israel. The Gentiles had access only through them. The two loaves – one representing Jews and the other Gentiles – show that God always intended to open up the gospel for all people. By the LEAVENED bread, God adds the fact that both Jew and Gentile will be redeemed sinners, who are never, in this life, free from the possibility of sin.
In the upper room, Pentecost had FULLY come. Everything embodied in Pentecost would now begin to unfold. The spiritual "wheat harvest" of souls – both Jew and Gentile – would begin on this day of Pentecost, progressively take place during the church age, and end on the spiritual feast of Trumpets, when Christ returns. This would correspond exactly to the wheat harvest season of the OT. Incidentally, there was a fruit harvest still yet to come! But Pentecost – the wheat harvest -- would begin with those in the upper room that day, and spread to the ends of the earth during the church age.
Wind and Fire
As the disciples were gathered together in that upper room, Luke records that, "there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind." Note that there was not a wind blowing through the room, but the SOUND of a rushing mighty wind. And it was a sound FROM HEAVEN. Thus, the disciples heard this sound – that of a great wind – but did not actually feel anything.
What is this telling us? Throughout the New Testament, the word for SPIRIT is the same word as WIND or air. This is no accident. For Jesus told Nicodemus, "Marvel not that I said to you, that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. You must be born again. The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell where it comes from, and where it goes. So is every one that is born of the Spirit. " (John 3:6-8)
Jesus is speaking of ANOTHER REALM – the realm of, or kingdom of, GOD. He is saying that from the perspective of THIS realm, the realm of the Spirit can be likened to the wind. There is no way to put boundaries or limits on it. There is no way to completely identify where it is, or where it is going. The realm of the Spirit is not the fleshly or physical realm. No. It is completely other than that. Just like the wind, it is UNSEEN, yet always moving. God’s realm is right here, now, and ever present. You may be in a fleshly body, but if you are born of God, you are IN the realm of the Spirit – that is – you are OF IT. You have access to it, and it has access to you.
That day of Pentecost, the heavens opened, and the realm of God pierced this realm of darkness. The Spirit of God rushed into this realm. Power really DID come upon those disciples – the power of God’s Spirit invaded – and the sound of the Holy Spirit was like that of a mighty wind.
One cannot help but remember that when God created Adam He BREATHED into him the breath of life! This was God once again breathing into humankind the breath of life – the life of the HOLY SPIRIT. This time it was the life of a brand new creation and a brand new birth. This was the life of God through His Son Jesus Christ, being given to believers through the ministering agency of the Holy Spirit.
The SOUND from heaven that was heard that day, like a mighty wind, was signaling that God was once again BREATHING into His people the breath of HIS LIFE. Not just breathing ON them. Again – this was no mere VISITATION. It was a permanent HABITATION. The sound was an indication that the realm of God had invaded the realm of darkness.
But there was more than just a SOUND that day, wasn’t there? There was also a visible SIGN – that of, "tongues like as of fire whichsat upon each of them." Again – note that the tongues were not actual fire. They were, "like as of fire," that is, this was the appearance of them which sat upon each of those present that day.
So we have TWO manifestations of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that day. First, that of the SOUND of a mighty wind. This was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But second, we have the appearance of tongues of fire. This was the, "baptism of fire."
What is God getting at in manifesting the Holy Spirit in this way? Well, John the Baptist helps us here. He prophesied what happened on Pentecost. He said that Jesus Himself would be the one who would baptize us in the Holy Spirit AND fire. And he told us what the purpose would be:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matt. 3:11-12)
Here, in this prophecy, we see both WIND or SPIRIT, and FIRE, don’t we? Sure. John speaks of Jesus baptizing us, "with the Holy Spirit and fire" But then he elaborates. He tells us how Jesus will do this, and the effects of it.
John describes this baptism and it’s work by using the picture of a threshing floor. He says that in this baptism, Jesus can be pictured as having a, "willowing fork in His hand." This fork, in the processing of the wheat, was used to throw up the trodden grain, so that it would separate from the chaff in the wind. The wheat would be gathered into the barns. But the chaff would be burned.
Immediately we remember that Pentecost actually began the wheat harvest! John uses the SAME picture. But John is telling us the REAL MEANING – the spiritual meaning in the plan of God. He is telling us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of separating the wheat from the chaff. The wheat will remain. The chaff will be burned.
Now, don’t think of the wheat as the good guys, and the chaff as the bad guys. No. Both the wheat and the chaff are part of the same wheat crop – each wheat stalk has chaff. Do you see what is being pictured here? Not, "good guys vs. bad guys," but the good vs. the useless in EACH ONE OF US. Both wheat and chaff are in each ONE of us! The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of separating wheat from chaff in each ONE of us as individuals.
Sure. As the ongoing process of separating the wheat from the chaff continues in each one of us, the wheat remains and the chaff is burned – assuming we are walking in faith and obedience. And what emerges is a WITNESS unto Christ. We become conformed to Christ and point to Him with our lives.
The Holy Spirit will purge you and I. On the one hand, we have the aspect of the Holy Spirit which BUILDS US UP in Christ. We receive eternal life, the gifts, and all the other benefits of the Spirit of God. But then there is the other aspect: The TEARING DOWN of all that is not of Christ. The burning up of it.
This should not be surprising. For we all START OUT as someone who is not compatible with the Holy Spirit. So once we are baptized in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will begin a, "harvest process," which will separate the wheat and chaff in each one of us. The Holy Spirit will build us up in Christ, but also, as the result of that building up, will separate and BURN UP all that cannot remain if we are to get far in God’s plan for us.
The entry of the Holy Spirit into this realm began a harvesting. The Holy Spirit divides and separates that which is OF GOD, from that which is NOT. That which is of God remains and is built up. That which isn’t is, as it were, burned up – discarded forever as chaff.
On that day of Pentecost, God saw to it that the baptism of the Holy Spirit carried with it the SOUND of wind, and the APPEARANCE of fire. Wind invades, rushes in, and separates the wheat from the chaff. The fire burns up the chaff, and sets us free of it. It makes us pure.
The Holy Spirit does HOLY things. The word, "holy," means, "to separate for God’s use." It also means, "to purify and make complete." Just as wheat must first be purged and purified to be useful, so the Holy Spirit is doing a work in each believer so that the person might be set free to worship and experience God.
Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit we RECEIVE power to walk with God through this process. It is POWER to become sons of God. (see John 1:12) It is what the Holy Spirit is seeking to do in each one of us.
The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that we might BECOME witnesses unto Jesus Christ. And once we are becoming that, all of the good works, service, and spiritual gifts, and all else, will fall into place as the outcome of this power living in and through us. *
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