This we believe:
The Holy Spirit is the promised divine helper who proceeds from the Father and Son. The Spirit is God’s presence and power in the world and indwells believers. By the Holy Spirit, God inspired and illuminates the Scriptures; convicts and regenerates sinners; sanctifies, teaches, comforts, guides, and preserves believers and empowers them for service. Evidence of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life are faith in Christ, obedience to God, and the spiritual fruit of love.
The book of Acts, written by Luke, a Greek convert to Christ as well as an adept historian and much-loved doctor, may first seem to be just an interesting journal documenting the work of those first century apostles.
It is much more than that. Quite simply, Acts is a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, its story is ongoing. Written as a letter some two thousand years ago, Acts gives us amazing insights into apostolic times, introduced with the ascension of Jesus to heaven and the beginning of the church era with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
On that day, faithful men and women were suddenly transformed and empowered from on high. They boldly proclaimed their faith in different languages. The sick were healed. Thousands were baptized, and deceitful intent was revealed. Their new hope and resulting message simply centered on Jesus Christ as Lord. Thus dawned the church era as we understand it (Acts 1-2).
The first time we encounter the work of the Holy Spirit is in the opening verses of the Bible. We read in Genesis 1:2 that the “Spirit of God was moving. . . .”
Something powerful happened at creation, resulting in all we know and experience today. Out of what is not visible — by the power and word of God — time, matter, and space were brought into existence. “In the beginning [time] God created the heavens [space] and the earth [matter]” (v. 1).
Central to creation was the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
In the Scriptures we gain additional glimpses of the Holy Spirit in anointing and equipping faithful people throughout Old Testament history, especially in the priests and kingly leadership of ancient Israel. At a time of sore repentance and reconciliation, one of Israel’s greatest leaders, King David, cried out in prayer, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).
Confronted by his sin against the holiness of God, David knew what mattered most at that moment. From then on, we see a man further shaped into the righteousness and heart of God.
Perhaps the most intriguing account of the Holy Spirit was in the angel Gabriel’s extraordinary announcement to the young Jewish woman, Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Joseph, her betrothed, was similarly told the same: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).
Thus, the Holy Spirit, introduced to us at creation and existing outside time, space, and matter, entered the created and earthly — our domain framed by time, space, and matter. In the birth of Jesus Christ we witness the two natures of Divine and human united. In Christ alone we find heaven and earth intersecting!
No wonder Jesus often repeated during His ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17). And therein lies our hope: Jesus, via the transformational journey we experience today. This very Holy Spirit, given to those who believe, upon repentance and baptism, begins in earnest the work of the kingdom of God — that is, daily forming Christ in us.
In his letter to the faithful in Galatia, the apostle Paul expressed his desire for the Holy Spirit’s work: “until Christ is formed in you . . .” (Galatians 4:19).
The Holy Spirit illuminates, guides, leads, comforts, and teaches. He regenerates, prompts, discerns, and empowers. Thus, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s good work as the Master Potter is being wrought in each of our lives. As a result, the gifts, talents, and resources He’s given us are not for our own glory. Rather, in the context of living this dynamic within church community, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the benefit of everyone.
The special work of the Holy Spirit in Acts 10 perhaps illustrates, as well as anywhere, God’s reconciling work of heaven and earth as experienced in the lives of Peter and Cornelius. Peter was a Jew. Cornelius was a Roman, regarded by Jews as an unclean Gentile and therefore treated with contempt. Thus, the two contemporaries lived in a society that regarded them as totally irreconcilable. One represented the promises of God to His people, the other those excluded on the outside.
Peter and Cornelius separately experienced a vision from God. Both initially were perplexed, but expectant. When they met, Cornelius was overwhelmed and fell at Peter’s feet. But Peter instantly raised him up, being just a man like him.
Just like heaven and earth intersecting and uniting in Jesus because of the Holy Spirit, the reconciling work of the Spirit brought these two men, regarded as opposites in their society, to not only meet but also embrace each other as brothers. Where before there was division, now there was peace.
Prior to Christ’s coming, a vast chasm caused by evil and sin existed between heaven and earth. But Jesus, conceived of the Holy Spirit and formed in Mary’s womb, set in motion the bridging of that chasm.
What was beyond time, space, and matter entered in a visible way — the express image of the Father as seen and witnessed in Jesus Christ. Thus in Jesus and Jesus alone, we are reconciled to our heavenly Father.
The power and personal presence of God via the Holy Spirit reconciles us to God, and, importantly, to each other. The forming and gifting of the Holy Spirit then empowers and equips us in the context of community — the body of Christ.
The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to form in us the very image and stature of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For all humanity, this was typified in Peter and Cornelius’ experience. The irreconcilable became reconciled. The broken was healed. And the kingdom of God was established in the hearts of people. In the words of Scripture, we thus become a new creation, as Paul says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
To be Holy Spirit formed is to be part of the ongoing work of creation. Without the Spirit, we are subject to sin, decay, and death. But life in the Holy Spirit, as the Bible says, is righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17). May the good work of the Spirit continue to transform our lives until that day of resurrection and glory in the kingdom of God, for which all of creation yearns.
Although our names are written in the Book of Life right now, at the final day of glory, the story told in the book of Acts will also include our story of Spirit formation and reconciliation to God and to each other in its final chapter.
John Klassek serves as secretary of the International Ministerial Congress and lives in Northam, Western Australia. Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.