In their daily life, Christians encounter very many situations and issues that warrant a lot of evaluation and analysis, especially if it relates to the doctrines we practice, those of the people around us or even those we have learnt while growing up. It is therefore imperative that we be able to discern what is right just like the Bible says in John 8:32, while at the same time being sensitive to the opinions of others around us as Christianity requires. This helps as to build character, which is very essential for the Christian faith.
The Book of Acts: Background History
The book of Acts is the forty fourth book in the Bible, and the fifth in the New Testament. It contains most of the works of Paul and Peter, the disciples of Jesus. The book of Acts does not give us the name of the author, but research gathered on the early church as well as the contents of the book itself points to Luke as the author. Though Luke might be the author since most early manuals suggest that the book of Acts is ‘according to Luke’, some other people, like Cadbury 1955, 209-264, however tend to disagree citing that in some occasions Paul was not with Luke but his works are still recorded.
There are many varying suggestions on the time setting of Acts. One of the suggestions is that Acts is set in around A.D. 59 since the narration of Paul’s works ends abruptly when he is imprisoned. Another suggestion is that Acts was written around A.D. 70 since if the books of the New Testament are in chronological order, then Acts comes after Mark, which is believed to be the first gospel written. This is however discounted by the fact that Luke may have used Mark’s notes when he was in Rome, before Mark finalized on his own book (Harrison 1975, 240). The purpose for writing Acts must have been purposely to put emphasis on the relationship between the gospel preached by Paul and that of Jesus Christ. Luke seems to have admired Paul’s qualities and his struggle in spreading the gospel in the largely-gentile Rome, additionally, he may have wanted to try and show the gentiles that they were welcome to adopt Christianity.
This essay seeks to explore the various aspects surrounding the Holy Spirit. It seeks to explain what the Holy Spirit is, how He is activated, how He works, how He is manifested to the believers, and what He is all about. This essay also seeks to enlighten us on the interactions of the Holy Spirit in the early church as well as how to create platforms for interaction with the Holy Spirit in our daily Christian life.
The Holy Spirit in the book of Acts
The Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Holy Ghost, is God’s working Force (Ernst 1971, 23). When God was creating the universe in Genesis 1: 1-31, His Spirit was causing things to happen as He spoke them. The Holy Spirit is also the avenue for instruction and engagement into the spiritual realm (Marshall 1980, 23), since Jesus in Acts 1:2 commands the disciples via the Holy Spirit, and also in Acts 4: 31, the disciples receive the Holy Spirit after praying.
Ways of Conferring the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is shown in very many scenarios in the bible and especially in the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit comes to us through several ways, all of which are unique to the situation. The first way that we receive the Holy Spirit is by anointing. The bible says in Acts 10:38 that Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. In the Present church Scenario, anointing oil used for consecration is often used to impart the Holy Spirit in a person (Harrison 1975, 117). Another way of imparting the Holy Spirit is by Prayer as we have earlier on explored through Acts 4:31. Moreover, the Spirit can be imparted through laying of hands as the bible says in Acts 8:17. The other way of conferring the Holy Spirit is via confession and Baptism as seen in Acts 2:38 when he tells the gentiles to repent and be baptized so that they can receive the Holy Spirit. However, receiving of the Holy Spirit may precede baptism as seen in Acts 10: 44-48. There are many more ways of receiving the Holy Spirit and they are unique in their own light. This is because there is no specific methodology for a person to engage with the spiritual realm (Bruce 1988, 13), and also the fact that we are all subject to receiving the Holy Ghost, whether we are believers or non-believers.
How the Holy Spirit Works
The Holy Spirit works in several ways, but the most common are miraculous happenings. In many situations in the early church, whenever the disciples called upon the move of the Holy Spirit, a miraculous incident would occur. We can view a few examples from Acts 6:8-10 in Stephen’s case, and in Acts 8:6 in the case of Philip. In the present church, the Holy Spirit also works by miraculous happenings of various kinds (Harrison 1975, 199). For the Holy Spirit to work there needs to be a connection between the spiritual and physical realms, mostly through prayers and supplication, as seen in Acts 1:14. This means that prayers for sanctification, adoration and exaltation should be said, and the Holy Spirit should be invoked through humbled pleas.
Manifestations of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit has several ways of being manifested, both presently and also in the early church. In the early church, the first manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the disciples on the day of Pentecost was through a mighty, roaring wind (Acts 2:2). The second sign for the reflection of the Holy Spirit was fire on their heads (Acts 2:3), and then the third one was that they started speaking in strange tongues (Acts 2:4). Out of these three, the most common manifestation since the day of Pentecost is speaking in tongues (Gasque 1970, 134). In the early church, the crowd that witnessed the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the disciples thought that they were drunk. In the present day however, speaking in tongues is a common way of the Holy Spirit being manifested in Christianity.
Fruit of the Holy Spirit
Though the book of Acts extensively covers the works of the Holy Spirit, it is much later we get knowledge of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, through Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, in Galatians 5:22-23. The fruit of the Holy Spirit are said to be love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. These are the characteristics that encompass a person who is filled with the Holy Ghost, and it is therefore immensely important for these aspects to show in a believer living in the Spirit, as Galatians 5:25 says.
Gift of the Holy Spirit
Like the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are clarified much later in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth in 1st Corinthians 12: 4-12. Paul says that these gifts are diverse, but they are all of the same Spirit, just like several parts attached onto the same body. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are said to be healing, miraculous deeds, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, wisdom, faith, knowledge, a spirit of discernment, and prophecy. These gifts are given to believers for their benefit towards spreading the gospel (1st Cor 12:7), confessing Christ (1st Cor 12:3) and as a link to the body of Christ regardless of who they are (1st Cor 12:13).
The Holy Spirit and Christian Living
The scripture in many places informs us that the Holy Spirit dwells within us (Bruce 1988, 45). In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he says in 1st Cor 6:19 that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and therefore our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. 1st John 3: 24 also goes ahead to prove the same. There is a direct connection between repentance and baptism of the Holy Spirit or the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is to say that the Holy Spirit dwells in a believer who is pure, for even the Bible says that God is Holy and cannot associate with uncleanness, and therefore we can interpret that since the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, it needs to dwell in Purity. We can also say that the gift of the Holy Spirit can be interpreted to mean that: in one scenario the spirit is the gift, while in the other the spirit endows the believer with a certain attribute he did not have before. We can therefore realize that even if we do not have the special attributes, the Holy Spirit does dwell inside the righteous believer.
Another aspect is that the Holy Spirit acts as our seal before God (Fitzmyer 1998, 45). The bible says in Ephesians 1: 13-14 says that we are sealed in God through the Holy Spirit, who is a pledge for our inheritance. This means that the Holy Spirit makes us appear Authentic before God, it gives us a right to ownership to the kingdom of God, and it provides us security under God’s grace and mercies. A believer who has the Holy Spirit is therefore assured of an inheritance of the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit also acts as our earnest or pledge in our hearts according to 2nd Cor 1:21-22. This means that we gain value before the eyes of God when we receive the Holy Spirit. Another meaning is that we gain sustenance in the faith by reason of possessing the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Spirit Speaks in Apostles and other Church ministers as seen in Acts 8: 29 and guides their decisions (Acts 15:28), and thus we should be implored as believers to believe in our prophets so that we may prosper as we decipher from 2nd Chronicles 20:20.
The Holy Spirit in the book of Acts guides and inspires most of the deeds of the apostles that we find there. Some scholars have even suggested that a more befitting name for this book cold be ‘The Acts of The Holy Spirit’ (Ernst 1971, 6). Though the Holy Spirit is responsible for bringing good into our lives, we can not dispute however, that people who have tried to test, oppose or lie to the Holy Spirit usually receive dire consequences, as attested to in Acts 5:1-11 in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, and Acts 19: 5-6 in the case of king Herod. We should depend on Gods promise that the Holy Spirit is abundant to all and He shall pour it out on all people and nations, thus making it possible for young men to see visions and old men to have dreams (Acts 2:17-18).
Bruce, F. F. Commentary on Acts. Grand Rapids, Mississippi: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988.
Cadbury, Henry J. The Book of Acts in a Historical Aspect. New York: Harper Publishers, 1955.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday Publishers, 1998.
Gasque, Ward W. and Ralph, Martin P. (Eds.) Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Grand Rapids, Mississippi: Eerdmans Publishing, 1970.
Ernst, H. The Works and Actions of the Apostles. Philadelphia: Westminster Publishing, 1971.
Harrison, E. The Book of Acts: The Rapidly Expanding Church. Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1975.
Marshall, I. Howard. The Deeds and Actions of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, Mississippi: Eerdmans Publishing, 1980.
 Cadbury, Henry J. The Book of Acts Historically. (New York: Harper Publishers, 1955), 209-264.
 Harrison, Everett F. The Book of Acts: The Rapidly Expanding Church. (Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1975), 240.
 Haenchen, Ernst. The Acts of the Apostles. (Philadelphia: Westminster Publishing, 1971), 23.
 Marshall, I. Howard. The Acts of the Apostles. (Grand Rapids, Mississippi: Eerdmans Publishing, 1980), 23.
 Harrison, Everett F. The Book of Acts: The Rapidly Expanding Church. (Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1975), 117.
 Bruce, F. F. Commentary on Acts. (Grand Rapids, Mississippi: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), 13.
 Harrison, Everett F. The Book of Acts: The Rapidly Expanding Church. (Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1975), 199.
 Gasque, Ward W. and Ralph, Martin P. (Eds.) Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays (Grand Rapids, Mississippi: Eerdmans Publishing, 1970), 134.
 Bruce, F. F. Commentary on Acts. (Grand Rapids, Mississippi: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), 45.
 Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation Anchor Bible. (New York: Doubleday Publishers, 1998), 45.
 Haenchen, Ernst. The Acts of the Apostles. (Philadelphia: Westminster Publishing, 1971), 6.