Tuesday 25 July 2023


The Chapter is often glossed over, yet has profound teaching which we can now consider.

Jesus had been crucified and had risen, and then appeared to His Apostles in the Upper Room where He greeted them with the words, ‘peace be with you, receive the Holy Spirit’.  Whilst Jesus had breathed on them imparting the Holy Spirit, they were not then able to use it.

 Some years ago this country was changed from the use of coal gas to natural gas, and preparations were made by installing the necessary pipes across the nation so that we would be ready to receive the new gas in due course, but the power was not in place for use until the authorities turned on.  Thus the Apostles had the Holy Spirit, but not the power of the Spirit. 

 Jesus continued to spend six weeks teaching them, and giving guidance for them to continue His work after He had left them.  Now we come to the stage in our reading when He is about to ascend to His Father in heaven, and give the Apostles His final instructions.   

 The Apostles were told to stay in Jerusalem and wait.  Jesus pointed out they would have to wait for God to give them the gift that had always been promised.  John had baptised with water, but the time would come when they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit, but it was a case of waiting, this gift could not be accessed by them. They had to wait, for they couldn’t act effectively to accomplish what Jesus had wanted them to do without this work of the Holy Spirit within them.  All they could do was pray, which we later read they did.

 They could however wait with confidence, for this gift had been promised for Jesus in His ministry said they would be baptised with the Spirit.  The power the Apostles needed would come as a result of that baptism. which would be a special event in all history. 

 Throughout His ministry, Jesus laboured under a great disadvantage.  The heart of His message was the Kingdom of God, but those to whom He preached had a different understanding to what Jesus had.  The Jews were always conscious of the fact that they were God’s chosen people, which in their minds meant world domination.  But being a small country much like the size of Wales, they were overrun by several nations before Rome occupied their land.

 The Apostles saw Jesus as a means of getting rid of the Roman occupation forces and so restore the kingdom to Israel, forcing Jesus to tell them they had the wrong priorities.  He told them they would be baptised with the Spirit, which would enable them to be His witnesses first in Jerusalem, and then Judea, Samaria and ultimately the whole world. 

 Jesus then ascended into heaven and left them, but they did not just wait mindlessly doing nothing, they met in prayer and preparation for receiving what Jesus had promised.Imagine how the apostles felt as they waited. 

For three years they had been following the most unique person in all history. They had witnessed miracles, and heard wonderful teaching from the greatest of teachers. They had suffered the sorrow of seeing Him die. but had been re-vitalised by His return. This powerful figure around whom their lives had been built for so long, was now gone and they were alone.

 He had told them to go to Jerusalem and to wait.  But would they be able to cope without Him by their side?   Eventually after ten days the day dawned. What happened at Pentecost was a transforming event. On that day God came down in power, and changed the lives of them and so many others They were overwhelmed because God had taken over.  The Church carried on the life of Christ, and we see it was empowered to do so by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Let us apply the situation to ourselves.

 How would we react if we were one of the Apostles?  Waiting is against our culture.  We all have credit cards so that we can obtain things instantly for we view waiting as a nuisance.  Those of us in the older generation know the rewards of waiting, the saving up to get married, and looking forward to being able to buy what we wanted, which gave us a sense of achievement and joy.   Waiting however can be hard at times; waiting for the result of an examination; for the result of an operation; for news of a loved one.

 We have now no need however to wait for the Holy Spirit, it is freely available to all who choose to follow Jesus and make Him Lord of our lives. We receive the Holy Spirit when our faith comes alive, but there may be a period before we have the power of the Spirit.  If God makes us wait there must be a reason, so giving us time to meditate and seek His will for us. Just as the Apostles had to realise their dependence on Jesus, so we Christians need to realise we too need His power. 

 The Apostles received the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room, but they had to wait a further two months before the power came when they were baptised by the Spirit. 

 Following on from the events recorded in Acts, we find a confession of faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit happen together. Nowhere in the Bible is there a separation.   I believe this means that within Churches, we need to have a deeper understanding of baptism and confirmation.  Whilst I have often preached on baptism, I have never been at a service when this has been preached upon by others.

 Looking at the events recorded in Acts, the normal pattern to becoming a Christian, is that someone ‘repents, believes, is baptized, and then receives the Holy Spirit’.  This, however, is not a chronological order.  These are the essential components to becoming a Christian, but God can change the order in which they happen as was the case with Cornelius and the Ephesian believers.

 It is because Acts and the New Testament do not give a chronology that has lead the overwhelming majority of Christians,over the Church’s history to feel that it is right to baptize the children of Christian parents.  However, it is the fact that, in Acts, it is the normal order that has also led some equally sincere and committed Christians to refuse to baptize anyone not old enough to decide for themselves.

 This is a very interesting subject upon whom we all have views, but as I am a guest preacher it would be discourteous of me to express either view

Most of us, I think, can agree on the first three components of the Acts formula, but how many of us feel comfortable in saying that we, personally, have received the Spirit?  Received, that is, in a way that we know it to be true.

God comes to us in different ways as we seek to serve Jesus.  There is the infilling of the Spirit, which is for all believers.  There is the anointing of the Spirit, which is given to those who will fulfil a certain task, such as is given by the Bishop to a priest, and then the power of the Holy Spirit, which is for us to minister for the Lord. 

 For some people there is indeed a dramatic experience such as Paul had on the Damascus Road, whilst for others there is a growing in grace. 

Charles and John Wesley, who are in our minds at this time, experienced the Holy Spirit in special ways, too. Both were ordained into the Church and ministered as such for some years, yet both had deep spiritual experiences which changed their lives in May 1738, and went on to do greater things as a result.  Charles wrote his most loved and famous hymns afterwards. Charles experienced a "strange palpitation of heart," and just a few days later John felt his heart "strangely warmed." From that time on, the Wesleys were used powerfully by God to spread the news of salvation.

We may take as an analogy two situations from life.  A man and woman may meet at a social occasion,and such is the chemistry between them, they fall in immediate love and marry soon after, which may or may not last.

.  Another couple may meet, find they enjoy being with each other, and gradually become totally dependent upon each other and spend the rest of their life together.  (They may even have a diamond wedding)

 Thousands attended the great Billy Graham Crusades in the 1960s/80s and were immediately affected by the atmosphere of massed choirs leading joyous praise with so many people, and hearing the preaching of the most successful preacher in all Church history.  They rushed forward to the altar call, committing their lives to the Lord, but on returning to their local parish Church found 1662 Matins with chants of canticles and indifferent preaching were disillusioned. Others just grow in grace to love the Lord. We each come as the Lord calls us, but should know when there was that moment we understood what the gospel was all about. For me, it was being at a Pentecostal meeting in Mombasa in Kenya when also I first heard one of the lovely hymns you are about to sing. 

 Jesus told the Apostles they were to be His witnesses and that duty has now been passed down to His Church and all its members.  The Church can be His witness by faithful preaching of Scripture, as all its Ministers vow to do at their ordination, and offer people a credible and united teaching.  Individual members can do so by their manner of living, reflecting the image of Christ rather than the ungracious kind we too often see.

When Pentecost came it was a transforming happening when God took over and filled all gathered with His power.  God came down in power and the lives of all present were for ever changed.  Our lives will be changed whe we have that same power

Continuing to think on the matter of baptism.

Baptisms within Churches,  (except Baptist) are usually for infants, and this has always been a problem for me.  I have read, listened and pondered hard, and cannot bring myself to accept the case for baptising infants indiscriminately. 

 As an Anglican priest I was morally required to do so, although I believe when the Church first decided to baptise infants, it was meant to be for the parents of worshipping members.  This can be deduced by the fact that the Canon relating to the subject states, parents and godparents must fulfil their responsibility to bring up the child within the Church, and by their own example. 

 Whatever the practice was in past years, it is now the common practice to accept anyone who requests, without any requirement other than being told to attend on the relevant date. 

 The Church of England liturgy in Baptismal services asks the parents and godparents, if they turn to Christ as Saviour and submit to Christ as Lord, and are allowed to affirm without question.  Similarly, they vow to bring up the child in the life and worship of the Church, but the falsity of this is shown by the fact that Church congregations do not reflect these promises.  Further, to state ‘this child who has been born again’ is theological nonsense.

 Even however in the case of parents who are Church members, I feel it is stretching Scripture’s teaching.   I cannot trace any instance in the Bible where the baptising of infants can be proved, but at least it shows some respect for the service.

 Baptism is a most sacred act.  Within Scriptural terms, a person is baptized when he/she realises their life can be different and better if Jesus Christ is part of it; they therefore repent of past failures; believe that by His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ became their Saviour, and they promise to follow His teaching for their future life.  How such can be fulfilled by people who never have any intention to attend worship, never read a Bible, never contribute anything in effort or finance to the Church, or really seek to know the Lord, I have yet to understand. 













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