Study 2 WAITING FOR THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 1:4-5
These verses record the final great command that the risen Lord gave to His first followers. He had commissioned them to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19); but now, just before His ascension, He told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised”, which He had often spoken about. We must understand clearly what He was referring to, and how the promise of the Father related not only to them but to us:-
1. WHAT WAS THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER?
It was the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the Godhead - one with the Father and the Son. Before Pentecost He was working in the world and in the lives of God’s people. In the Old Testament we have instances of His coming upon men to empower them for special service: Bezaleel (Exodus 31:3); Eldad and Medad (Numbers 11:26); Gideon (Judges 6:34); Samson (Judges 14:19). Thus far, however, He had not come to abide with all God’s people. The promise of the Father was the promise that the Holy Spirit would come at Pentecost to do a distinctive work in the lives of all Christians; it was a promise relating to this period of time in which we are living, the Dispensation of the Spirit, the Church Age.
- 1. It was given through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32).
- 2. It was proclaimed by John the Baptist (John 1:29-34).
- 3. It was referred to by the Lord Himself (John 7:37-39; John 14:16-17; John 15:26; John 16:6-7 and 13-14; and Acts 1:8.
- 4. It was anticipated by the Lord after the Resurrection (John 20:22).
- 5. It was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4).
The promise of the Father, then, was the promise that at Pentecost the Holy Spirit would come in a special way to do a three-fold work in the lives of all God’s children. These three ministries of the Holy Spirit would only come into operation at and after Pentecost and throughout the whole of this dispensation. What are these ministries?
- 1. He would come to BAPTISE them all. John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptise His people with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). Jesus told His people they would be “baptised with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). The doctrinal explanation of this baptism of the Spirit can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. At Pentecost, when the Spirit came and filled the 120, they were up until then isolated units, but He united them into the body of Christ. Pentecost marked the formation of the Church, the body of Christ. All our forefathers were baptised into Moses and in the sea once (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). That was never repeated. Similarly, the baptism of the Spirit was historical and collective, not to be repeated. By the baptism of the Spirit every Christian has been placed into the body of Christ.
- 2. He would come to LIVE WITHIN them all. Notice in John 14:16-17 the words of Jesus which pointed forward to their fulfilment in Acts 2:4, when the Holy Spirit, who had been with them, would from thereon be in them - “for he lives with you and will be in you.” The distinctive mark of a Christian is that he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and it is true of every Christian from the moment of believing on Christ, as these references show: John 7:39; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:8-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.
- 3. He would come to EMPOWER them all. In other words, Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8 were fulfilled in the experience of these first disciples in Acts 2:4! - and we only have to read through the Book of Acts to see how wonderfully these early Christians were empowered when the Holy Spirit clothed them.
2. WHY DID THEY HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE PROMISE?
They had to wait for God’s time, in accordance with Leviticus 23:15-17. No doubt the waiting time was a time of heart-searching and of earnest prayer (Luke 11:13) - but in God’s calendar Pentecost had to come fifty days after the resurrection of Christ. They had to wait, in fulfilment of the Lord’s promise.
3. DO WE HAVE TO WAIT?
- 1. We DO NOT have to wait for the Holy Spirit to baptise us into the body of Christ. What is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:13 has already taken place. This becomes a reality at the moment of conversion. Every believer is already baptised into the body of Christ. There is, therefore, no command in scripture to seek the baptism of the Spirit.
- 2. We DO or MAY have to wait for the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, to fill and possess us. He indwells us (1 Corinthians 6:19), and He waits to fill us (Ephesians 5:18); but He can only fill and possess us if we do not grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30), or quench Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
- 3. We DO have to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower us for special service. We do not wait for Him but on Him, in order that He may fill us with His power and make our service for Him effective (1 Corinthians 2:4).
We must rejoice that the promise of the Father has been fulfilled and that the Holy Spirit has been given without limit (John 3:34); that as believers we have been baptised into His body, the Church; and that we are members one of another. Let us give Him the right of way in our lives and be utterly dependent on Him to fill us with Himself and use us for His glory.