Beyond Upper Room: Holy Spirit Empowerment:: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

The Promised Empowerment of the Holy Spirit

Matthew 16:13-19, John 16:5-15, Acts 1:1-11, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:44-49

Summary: The Second Chapter of Acts describes the birth of the church in accordance with the declaration of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 16:13-19). Acts shows the power and direction of the Holy Spirit in the work of the church beyond the day of Pentecost.

Every Bible-believing follower of Jesus Christ will confess, affirm, and proclaim that what happened to the one hundred and twenty followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost was an undeniable supernatural act of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the teaching and promise given by the Lord Jesus Christ prior to His ascension. He told His apostles that they would be empowered with the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth (John 16:5-15; Acts 1:8).

He taught that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of its sins, warn about the certainty of judgment, and be the unseen Presence Who would bring the teachings of Jesus to the remembrance of the apostles, provide them supernatural comfort for the troubles ahead, and give Jesus the glory and honor above all things in agreement with God the Father (1John 5:7).

The Day of Pentecost would be the day that all of the promises of Jesus came into place as part of His Sovereign plan conceived before the foundations of the world (John 1:1-14; Acts 1:5; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8; Ephesians 1:4; Colossians1:16-18).

However, the apostles and the others who joined them in the Upper Room had to wait for that promise to arrive. When you read the first chapter of Acts, it is sad to read that out of all the people whose lives were changed by Jesus over His time of ministry on Earth, there were only 120 true followers. We should not be surprised. Jesus knew the hearts of people. He knew who His true believers were, as well as those who would follow Him out of curiosity, a free meal, or to see some “sign” and nothing more (John 2:25, 6:22-40).

Judas Iscariot, who hanged himself for his betrayal of Christ, followed Him as a potential liberator from the cruel hand of Rome. After three years, nothing had penetrated the hard heart of Judas. He had been a fake, and as Jesus had described him, a “devil” and “the son of perdition” (John 6:70-71, 17:12; Acts 1:15-20).

Jesus’ compassion embraced every social and religious background (Matthew 9:35-36). For those whose hungry hearts and empty souls had at one time been fed with the gruel of the world, His words, miracles, teachings, and compassion now changed them forever. They had been given the Living Bread and gladly testified about Him for the rest of their lives.

His saving grace is available to anyone who comes to Him for true rest and peace (Matthew 11:28-30). All four Gospels testify of this love and mercy, but also what it meant to follow Him (Luke 14:25-33) as one of His disciples. Not everyone who heard Him was ready or willing to make such a commitment.

The Bible says that the true followers of the LORD would be measured as a remnant. Followers of Jesus Christ who are serious about their commitment have always been in the minority, and that is not going to change anytime soon (2 Timothy 3:1-8, 4:1-5; 1 John 2:19).

This is why we read of only these 120 dedicated disciples who waited for the arrival of the Holy Spirit in that room. They included the eleven remaining apostles; Mary, the mother of Jesus; His brothers and sisters (John 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:6-7), and likely the seventy additional disciples commissioned by Jesus to preach the Gospel (Luke 10:1-12), along with His friends from Bethany, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (John 11), and others known only to Him.

In waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit and that “Power from On High,” there were valuable lessons that they were learning, and they are of benefit to us as well in our walk with the LORD.

The first is the importance of prayer. It is the key to knowing and doing the will of the LORD and is a time for refreshment in our souls. Prayer is talking with God on a personal and intimate level and receiving His Divine assurance or impression of what we are to do for Him. Jesus is the model of prayer for us, and He demonstrated it continually before His disciples. If we say we follow Him, should we not imitate Him when it comes to conversing with our Father? If we do not spend time in prayer with the LORD, do not expect any work we try to do in His name to succeed or bear good fruit (John 15:5). You don’t drive a car with an empty gas tank, and you do not serve the LORD with a prayerless life. Neither one will get you anywhere.

The second lesson is the importance of fellowship and being among the brethren (Acts 1:14; Hebrews 11:25). The Christian life is not something that is meant to be done with a “go at it alone” mindset. We are all part of the body of Christ, interwoven with one another to perform and operate in specific ways that glorify Him and edify one another (Romans 14-15; 1 Corinthians 12). Jesus Christ is the Head of the body. Without Him, we are nothing more than grotesque corpses devoid of any purpose except to stink.

The third lesson in waiting is that God will put all things into place in His time as He deems fit, and we are not to get ahead of Him. He waited until the Jewish feast of “First Fruits” was to take place (Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 23:16), which symbolized the giving of the Law to the people of Israel and the biggest day of celebration in the Jewish year. Thousands of Jews from throughout the Roman Empire and beyond would be in Jerusalem for this feast. It would be on this special day that the True Harvest and the New Wine of the New Covenant would commence with the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the empowerment of Jesus’ followers to initiate the birth of the church.

Next, in Part 2, we will read in Acts 2 of the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the symbolism presented in wind, fire, and language.