This chapter is sometimes said to record the birthday of the church. When the followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit, the church came into being. They were being led into their ministry to the world – to share the good news and to demonstrate the kingdom of God to anyone who would listen.
As people flocked to them – people of “every nation under heaven” – the church was beginning the process of reversing the curse at the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11. Instead of the confusing of language and the scattering of people across the earth, the language barrier was broken and people from different lands and languages and races were brought together as one.
It’s a beautiful picture. True unity – which our broken world so seems to crave right now – can only happen in the church of Jesus Christ.
And the Holy Spirit came like the wind (John 3:8). It filled the house where the disciples were sitting. And then it appeared like fire. And the disciples themselves were filled with the Holy Spirit.
They were mocked, of course. The world always mocks. Was this a 9 a.m. wine party? Were these people “filled” with alcohol? But this was not so. The apostle Paul maybe had this in mind when he wrote, “And do not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
The power of wine rests in its ability to soften the hard edge of our reason. It makes it so we feel free to loosen our grip on the things that weigh on our minds and cause us to worry. The power of wine is that those things, temporarily, no longer control us. Being full of wine is to be free – or at least to feel free – of our burdens.
I suppose that’s why it sometimes is said alcohol sales rise during times of national stress – like a recession. We drink our way to freedom, for a moment anyway.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is a wonderful, mysterious thing. The skeptics at Pentecost couldn’t quite figure it out. These believers must have been out of their minds. Something must have been driving this strange behavior. “The wind blows where it wishes,” Jesus had said.
While wine deadens our intellect and dampens our knowledge, the Holy Spirit does the opposite. While wine eventually strips us of our purpose, the Holy Spirit thrusts us into God’s purposes. We can be filled with either one – wine or the Spirit.
The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit as they lived in obedience to the words of Christ. He said “wait,” and they waited. And they were filled as they lived in prayer. And they were filled because it was the will of God.
We can be filled with the Holy Spirit. And we can quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Perhaps we should start with obedience and prayer. And perhaps we should be sensitive to the slightest movements of the Spirit.
Sometimes, I think I think too much. Thinking is good. I believe God ordained thinking. But my thinking too much is sometimes an excuse for not doing what I know the Holy Spirit is calling me to do. “I need to think about it,” I might say. Or, worse, “I need to pray about it.” I can use prayer to put a damper on the breath of the Spirit in my life.
Prayer is good. But when the Spirit moves, we must go. So I’m resolving to be more sensitive to what I sense the Spirit doing in my life. I won’t stop praying. I will pray more. And as I hear from the Spirit, I will resolve to do.
A question for your day: How has the Holy Spirit been moving in your life this week?