Over and over, while I grew up, I was told the Holy Spirit was a gentleman. He wouldn’t force Himself upon you. He’d come only if you invited Him.
This may have been experience talking. I don’t remember the disciples “inviting” the Holy Spirit in Acts 2… but Jesus had promised He would come, so they were at least expecting Him, yes. Maybe being obedient to Jesus and waiting for Him was a form of invitation.
What happens in Acts 4?
The disciples have been persecuted and are praying…
“…And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”
And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
Huh. Was that an indirect or direct invitation?
They made requests of God… Did they know God would answer with another filling up of the Holy Spirit experience?
What about their specific requests?
Do “signs and wonders take place” ?
18 verses later… Acts 5:12
At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people…
Do we see “extend Your hand to heal” ?
And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and had them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were being healed.
Wow. And “speak Your word with all confidence”?
When the disciples are arrested and told to stop preaching in Jesus name, they deliver another power-packed mini-sermon instead.
But Peter and the apostles answered,
“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Facing arrest, beatings and imprisonment, the disciples throw down a pointed accusation and Scripture based conclusions.
And in case their own witness and the Scripture’s witness of events wasn’t enough… ‘and we’re backed by the Holy Spirit. He’s a witness too. God gives Him to those who obey Him. Is God’s Holy Spirit with you? Are you obeying God?’
That’s not literally what they said, no, but it could be implied.
Why? Why are they so bold?
You mean besides the experience they lived with Jesus and all the miracles taking place?
Yeah, because they had all that when Jesus was with them on earth, but then they chickened out when things got rough and ran away, ditching Jesus to save themselves.
You’re right. They did that. What’s the difference now?
They’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit? How does that make a difference?
I’m not quite sure, except to say Jesus said it would. Maybe there’s a surge of confidence that comes from knowing that God is not only with you or resting on you but actually in you. Maybe that confidence isn’t only yours. Maybe you get to catch a sense of God’s confidence and boldness because He’s helping you speak.
Think on this for a minute: God has no reason to be timid. There is nothing that threatens or worries Him. He is not unsure in any way. He is not hesitant. He is patient, perhaps so patient that we get impatient wondering if He’ll ever act, but He is not hesitant. He has no reason to second guess, no need to change course or re-direct. His nature cannot be unsure. When He speaks, what He says happens. Always.
While all that would make me suddenly bold, it does not make God bold. God has no need to be bold.
But thankfully He knows that we do have a need for boldness.
And so He grants our prayers for the gospel going forward, for miracles and boldness, by seeing that as an invitation to fill us with His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s presence will answer all those prayers.
One More Thing
Oh, and one more thing to encourage us. Peter said it. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit…”
Peter and the disciples were eye witnesses. In the Bible if there are two or three eye witnesses to an event that is enough to establish the facts. We may allow in our court systems today for the testimony of only one witness to be enough to put someone on trial or find them guilty or innocent, but God had it written into Scripture that matters needed to be established as true by more than one witness. Jesus Himself used this Scripture to answer questions on who He was. The Scriptures were one witness of who He was, God the Father audibly spoke for people to hear and gave testimony to who Jesus was, and the people themselves were witnesses because they could see the miraculous signs Jesus did (and those signs were another witness of who He was).
All this to say… we may not be eye witnesses of certain events, like the death and resurrection of Jesus, or the miracles that took place in Jerusalem, but the Scriptures are. Jesus is. God the Father is. And so is the Holy Spirit. He was there. The Holy Spirit saw it all. Every single miracle Jesus did, the Holy Spirit was an eye witness for.
And God is willing to put that eye witness inside of you.