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How did the 12 apostles change from men who ran for their lives when their Master was arrested (Mark 14:50) to giants in faith, willing to die for their Lord and Savior? The great miracles that took place on the Feast of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2, gives us the answer.
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples, “… you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Acts chapter 2 tells us this occurred 10 days later on the Feast of Pentecost. After receiving God’s Spirit the Apostles changed from self-centered individuals to men of deep faith and conviction.
Jesus explained both God the Father and He would dwell in the hearts of believers: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). Then He goes on in verse 26 to explain how God’s Holy Spirit will assist them: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, [which] the Father will send in My name…will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
In the Apostle Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, God inspired him to instruct, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [or forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). To repent means to stop sinning and in faith surrender to God’s will and purpose. It involves a complete change of life and priorities, as we obediently obey God.
Acts 5:32 explicitly tells us God gives His Holy Spirit “to those who obey Him.” Obedience cannot earn God’s Spirit, but it is not given unless we are striving to obey God. When Simon the sorcerer, who had managed to get baptized, offered to buy the Holy Spirit (his devious heart was set on power rather than on obeying God), Peter strongly rebuked him (Acts 8:19-22).
The sacred ceremony of baptism, is followed by the laying on of hands, which must take place for us to receive the Holy Spirit. As mentioned in the following article the laying on of hands is listed as one of the foundational doctrines of the Church, along with repentance, faith and baptism (Hebrews 6:1-2). In Acts 8:17 we read, “Then they [Peter and John] laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (This was the power Simon coveted.)
We show our love to God by our obedience. In Jesus’ final instructions before He was crucified, He said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). He followed this with: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). He then continued, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
Jesus was not requiring anything of us He did not do Himself: “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do” (John 14:31). Just as Jesus showed His love for the Father by obeying the Father’s commands, so too do we strive to follow Jesus’ example.
We obey God not to earn our salvation, which is impossible, but rather as part of genuine love for God the Father and Jesus Christ. Obedience is not saying, “I’m earning my salvation by my works.” Rather, it is saying, “I love God, and my obedience is the proof!” Godly love is more than an emotion. It involves active obedience.
It was God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the New Testament Church on Pentecost that made it possible for all Christians to show our loving obedience to Him. People from various lands were able to hear the Apostles’ words in their own native languages (Acts 2:8), when God gave Peter the gift of inspired preaching (Acts 2:14-40), and three thousand people were baptized as a result.
Miracles continued during the following days. A man, who has been lame for over 40 years, was healed (Acts 4:22). The early chapters of Acts show inspired preaching, conversions of more thousands (Acts 4:4) and even more dramatic miracles (Acts 5:14-16). And for us today, the greatest of miracles from the Holy Spirit is to be led to true faith and willing obedience, being changed from the inside out into the kind of people God wants us to be.
This year the annual Holy Day of Pentecost will be observed on Sunday, May 28.
Beyond Today Magazine (May-June 2016)