The Holy Spirit in Acts

This year, Pentecost is on May 28–that’s just a couple of days away! A few weeks ago, we previewed the background of Pentecost and how it started after the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, Moses interceded on their behalf, and God’s covenant with them was renewed (Exodus 34:22). If you didn’t get a chance to read this post, I recommend taking the time to review it.

Jesus dominates the Gospels, but the Holy Spirit dominates the book of Acts. He unveils Himself as the comforter, helper, teacher, and miracle worker. Jesus knew that just as He had walked in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church must also be clothed with the Spirit. He told His disciples that they must wait in Jerusalem to be baptized in Holy Ghost power.

The purpose of the Holy Spirit was to give the disciples power to be witnesses of Christ throughout the earth. The word power here is dunamis, which means “miracle–working power” or “inherent strength or ability to perform effectively.” It is the living and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit which overflows and uses men and women to be powerful and skillful in word and deed.

As witnesses, the disciples could perform the miraculous and have the ability to live moral, clean lives. The signs and wonders would win others to Christ and give full assurance of the gospel message. The power of the Holy Spirit would also cause the new converts to endure and be strong in times of severe suffering and weaknesses.

In Acts 2:1 we have the feast of Pentecost, which is also known as the Feast of Weeks. There were three major feasts that were held in Jerusalem and attended by thousands of Jewish males annually: the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of First Fruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles. At these great Jewish feasts, as many as 180,000 men came to Jerusalem to worship.

It was during Pentecost that the 120 tarried in the upper room in Jerusalem for the enduement of the Holy Spirit that Christ had promised. The King James version of Acts 2:3 says, “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” and a great and mighty wind filled the room. As they began to speak with other tongues, a universal sign of the New Covenant was given. God had judged the Tower of Babel by confusing their tongues. At Pentecost, He brought unity through the speaking in tongues by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost marked a new beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit now abides in all Christians on a permanent basis as opposed to just visiting or empowering a select few.

The glory had fallen on the temple in Solomon’s day, and at Pentecost the glory fell upon the New Testament Church. John the Baptist had foretold this event when he said there would come one after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for one man (see Joel 2:28); it was meant for the entire Church. The gift of the Holy Spirit is as extensive as the gift of salvation. Not only is His infilling for the entire Body of Christ, but Scriptures bear out that there is more than one filling. Acts 4:8 and 31 says that both Peter and the others who had been in the upper room and were baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, were “filled” with the Holy Spirit. There is an initial baptism, and as the believers continue in Him, there are special fillings or anointings for special occasions.


When Peter stood up to preach, he was anointed for that occasion. When the disciples prayed and asked for boldness, they received an anointing for boldness. The three words that are the keys to the book of Acts include logos, which occurs 35 times in Acts and means “the Word of God”; onoma, which means “name” and is used to refer to the name of Jesus approximately 33 times in Acts; and pneuma, which means “breath,” “spirit,” or “soul” and is used 53 times in Acts to denote the Holy Spirit. These are also the keys which unlock the door to the power of God in our lives today.


Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. Peter had told them that the promise of the Holy Spirit was for those “whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). Ananias and Sapphira chose to disobey the Holy Spirit and lie to Him. Acts 5 shows us that the Holy Spirit has feelings, and, like Jesus, He is acquainted with grief (see Psalm 78:40; 95:10; Isaiah 53:3; 63:10; Micah 2:7).

The Holy Spirit has power and authority just as the Father and the Son have power and authority. He is to pervade our entire lives. Ananias and Sapphira tried to separate their spiritual life from their financial dealings. Lying to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God. Peter’s discerning of spirits, or word of knowledge, was also a manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.


The Holy Spirit revealed Himself as the Spirit of Wisdom in Acts 6:1–3. The Grecian and Hebrew Christians were at odds and the Holy Spirit gave wisdom to the disciples to resolve the situation. Guided by the Spirit, the disciples directed the church to elect seven men who were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to serve the people, thus putting an end to the conflict. Each time we see the Spirit’s wisdom in Acts 5 and 6, we also see an increase of the Word of God and its effect (see Acts 6:7).

The Holy Spirit aided these men in the time of trials and caused them to look to Christ instead of their circumstances. In Acts 7, Stephen rebuked his listeners for resisting the Holy Ghost. They responded by stoning him. But, being full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen looked up and saw Jesus. He became the first martyr, full of the Holy Spirit, with his last view on this earth of Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of the Father, waiting to receive him.


Philip was also full of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8). He ministered to the Samaritans and a tremendous revival occurred when Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit. The word here for receive is lambano, which indicates that as the disciples laid hands upon them, one–by–one they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

This filling of the Holy Spirit was such an outward manifestation, that, Simon, a new convert who recently had been a part of the occult, wanted to buy the power to pray for people to receive the Holy Spirit. Philip was then led by the Spirit to minister to an Ethiopian eunuch. After baptizing the eunuch, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away” (Acts 8:39) and he was later found at Azotus and in various other cities.

There are various works of the Spirit here. We see men filled with the Spirit. We see men directed of the Holy Spirit. Phillip was caught away by the Spirit in much the same way Ezekiel was. The Holy Spirit is ever the same in the Old and New Testaments.

In Chapter 9, we have evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit drawing Paul and sending an unknown believer to him—not from Jerusalem or one of the original apostles, but Ananias who was responsive to His voice. Ananias laid hands on Paul and he was filled with the Spirit. We know certainly that Paul spoke in tongues because later he says, “I thank my God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18).

Again, we see the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals and throughout the churches in Acts 9. The Church walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit and was multiplied. Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is life and multiplication. The more the Spirit is poured out, the more life, blessing, and multiplication there is.


The outpouring of the Holy Spirit changed the direction of the Church. He broke down the walls of prejudice and brought unity in the book of Acts. The Samaritans, whom the Jews considered less than dirt, received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Jews viewed the Gentiles as dogs, but God sent Peter to preach the Gospel to them and the Holy Spirit baptized them in His power. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles was God’s seal that they had already believed in Christ.


In Acts 11 a prophet is moved by the Holy Spirit to prophesy things to come. In Acts 13, we see more of the fulfillment of Jesus’s command that they would be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Here, the Spirit separates Barnabas and Saul for the work that He called them to do, and they were sent forth in Holy Ghost power.


Although He is often symbolized as a dove, the Holy Spirit can also bring judgment. On the island of Cyprus, a sorcerer tried to withstand Paul, but filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul spoke words of judgment against him.

We also see a fresh filling of joy which accompanies the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. Of course, one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. How beautifully the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are shown in this book. In the Jerusalem Council, we see the Holy Spirit bearing witness and the council receiving the direction of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s word of wisdom through Peter and James brought the believers into one accord (see Acts 15:8–9,12–29). Of course, the Spirit’s presence in their midst was sufficient for any problem and they were willing to give him credit for it.

In Acts 16, we see the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit in Paul. His tour goes through Galatia to Troas. The Spirit not only led him, but He also stopped Him when he was going in the wrong direction (see 16:6–7). God directs His children. Being led by the Spirit of God is a charismatic mark of the Spirit–filled believer.


The power of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts comes when it is needed. In Acts 19:6, we have the third occasion when tongues was specifically mentioned in the book of Acts. This occurred 20 years after Pentecost. The speaking in tongues and prophesying in Acts 19 were outward evidences of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. These visible signs were just as important then as with the 12 disciples and other believers on the day of Pentecost. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we see an outpouring of the Word in Acts 19:10 (KJV), “. . . so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” In Acts 19:20, we see a revival broke out: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” Special miracles began to come to pass. It seems that more and more people were responding directly to the Holy Spirit. As a result, more and more miracles were coming to pass.


We can be led by the Holy Spirit, and we can also be bound by Him. The Holy Spirit brings boldness and victory, but we have to become His willing prisoners. We have to accept the boundaries and constraints He sets forth because they are necessary for His purposes. We know this from Acts 16:6–8.

As Paul made his journey to Jerusalem, he went in the Spirit (see Acts 20:22). He wanted to go to Rome and then to Spain. He went to Rome in chains as a prisoner, but more than that, he was a prisoner of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moved upon people to warn him about going to Jerusalem (see Acts 21:4,10–11). If Paul had gone to Jerusalem, ignoring all these warnings, the Judaizers would have taken his arrest as a judgment of God. This would have certainly brought great confusion to the Church. But the Spirit bore witness to Paul and the Gospel he preached through this Spirit manifestation.

The Spirit is the protector and unquestionably the guide of the Church. The book of Acts shows us that all believers are to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, empowered by Him, taught to be His disciples, and directed and constrained by Him. Every believer is to be a witness by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the picture of the Church in the book of Acts.

Next Monday, I’ll be answering some questions about being filled in the Spirit and praying in tongues.