PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LVI
Israel as a nation, at the time of Jesus, was in disarray. The days of David and Solomon were long gone and the prophets envisioned another David who would resurrect Israel’s glory. And when Jesus appeared with a message that God’s Kingdom was on hand, the prediction of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 came alive in Jesus and John the Baptist. Then, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a baby donkey, like David did in his prime, there was great anticipation of a restored Israel (Mark 11:1-11). A week later, the Jewish leaders demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus (Mark 15:1-15; Luke 24:19-21). Jesus did come back from the dead, as He had promised, and He did spent forty days explaining the reason why He was sent into the world. Yet, all the disciples wanted to know was when they would be sitting on twelve thrones governing the twelve tribes of Israel (Acts 1:3-6; Matthew 19:28). It would be some time before Luke, and later John, would understand that the “Kingdom of Heaven” was in the human heart and also that the “Kingdom of Heaven” was and is not of this world (Luke 17:20-21; John 18:36).
JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES TO WAIT FOR THE POWER FROM ON HIGH
The Risen Lord had breathed His Spirit on his disciples before (John 20:22), but for a world outreach there had to be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all of Jesus’ follower. The anticipation of what the Spirit of God would entail could not have been in the grasp of the disciples, who were expecting an army from heaven to unseat the wrong Jewish leaders and the Romans. But instead, the Holy Spirit ignited the “spirit in man” that God had put there in the first place, and therefore thousands of people began to believe and follow the Son of God (Acts 1-2). The massive crowd became a threat to the Jewish and to the Roman leaders, and there also was a problem with sanitation and sustenance. Only, these converts in Jesus were not to remain in this world, but they were to be transferred into the “Kingdom of Heaven” as soon as Jesus would return with His angels; and the angels were to gather and move them up to be with Jesus. The disciples began to remember the words and the promise of Jesus:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened,and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will ourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and gat glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from one end of heavent to the other (Matthew 24:29-31).
“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if fit were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him” (John 14:1-7).
THE PROSPECT TO EVACUATE THE CHURCH FROM THE WORD WOULD BECOME A PRIORITY AND ENDED IN MISERY AND SUFFERING
Pentecost was a great day, thousands of human spirits were moved by the Holy Spirit to become followers of Jesus and good citizen that could hold jobs and relieve the unemployment and poverty problems and let their lights shine in their communities and glorified God. No, not at all! These converts were led to believe that Jesus was on his way back any day with his angels and scoop them up into heaven. Good things do lead to disaster when they are inappropriately applied and used. I have lived in several such countries where secular socialism took our home, land, business, and lives to enhance their pockets and their supporters until their confiscations could no longer support their lifestyles. The first Christians stopped working, sold their properties, and lived on anticipation and prayer. Imagine yourself being present in those days in Jerusalem and in Paul’ city of Thessalonika. Paul had his hands full correcting the problem:
Now when the people heard Peter’s sermon, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with may other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that da about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:37-47).
But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him (Jesus) those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus CHrist, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him, Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11)
Now concerning the coming of or Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? (II Thessalonians 2:1-5).
IN JERUSALEM IT WAS GAMALIEL WHO CALMED THE JEWISH LEADERS AGAINST THE CHRISTIANS
And when they had brought Peter and John, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in his name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teach of the law, held in honor by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men. For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out ot be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:27-42).
GAMALIEL’S PREDICTION WAS ON TARGET
Internal strife, lack of leadership, and hot heads, who expected God to back them when they faced the mob with their insight that insult their intelligence was tactless. A brilliant man like Stephen died prematurely at the hands of the mob that resulted in persecutions. Why do you think Jesus was silent?
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in numbers, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of he priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And the stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel (Acts 6:1-15).