Immediately upon receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, the first church was able to make great advances with regards to the preaching of the Gospel. Signs and wonders followed the disciples just as Jesus had promised (Mark 16:15-18). We have already noted the effects of this power on the Day of Pentecost, in this study we will take a brief look at some remarkable events listed in the Acts of the Apostles.
Peter and John
Fear of the religious leaders had obviously disappeared from the believers at Jerusalem since receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for in Acts 3:1-10 we find Peter and John going to the Temple at the hour of prayer. This boldness could have only come from the Spirit of God. As they entered the gate of the Temple, a lame beggar asked them for some money, but Peter replied, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). The man was instantly healed and went “into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8). This powerful healing caused a crowd to gather around Peter and John, who used the situation to preach about the saving power of the risen Lord Jesus (Acts 3:11-26).
Though the religious leaders threatened, beat, and imprisoned the believers for preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ, they continued to do so (Acts 4:18). The same Peter, who through fear denied the Lord, now boldly declared himself to be a follower of the Christ they had crucified. The only thing that transformed him was the power of the Spirit. He, along with the other disciples, became zealous in telling others about the Saviour.
Ananias and Sapphira
Too often, within some circles of the church, receiving the Holy Spirit is simply show and entertainment. People so easily disregarded the fact that they are dealing with the ‘Holy’ Spirit. This was true regarding Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). They appeared to have little respect for God or His word, for they must have heard the same teaching as the other believers (Acts 2:42). They chose to lie to the Holy Spirit even after being warned by Peter. “Satan filled” their “heart to lie to the Holy Ghost” (Acts 5:3), therefore the Holy Spirit had to take action against them, if He had no done so this sin would have destroyed the church at its roots.
Chapter 6 of Acts introduces us to Stephen who was “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (:3), and “full of faith and power” who did “great wonders and miracles among the people” (:8). Stephen, though only a deacon, was used mightily by the Holy Spirit. He preached the word of God fearlessly even in the face of death. This fact must have angered Satan, for he inspired the religious leaders to arrest and kill Stephen (Acts 7).
Another deacon, Philip, was also a Spirit-filled preacher of the Gospel (Acts 8). He not only preached, but performed miracles, and cast out devils. One of the notable manifestations of the Holy Spirit in his life was when he was transported from Gaza to Azotus (Acts 8:39-40) after preaching to and baptising the Ethiopian eunuch.
Simon the Magician
When Philip invited the apostles to Samaria, to lay hands on the new believers so that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17), Simon, who had not given up his witchcraft, said he was willing to buy this spiritual power from Peter (8:9-11, 13, 18-19). Peter said to him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:20-23). We do not know if he did repent (:24).
Saul of Tarsus, who became known as Paul, was a persecutor of Christians until he met the Lord on the Damascus Road (Acts 8:1; 9:1-22). He was blinded by the heavenly vision, but was healed three days later as Ananias laid his hands upon him. At the same time he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Ananias said to him, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:17). So Paul was transformed by Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. He became the greatest of missionary the world has known. He, by the inspiration of the Spirit, wrote many letters that have become the source of much of the church’s teaching.
In Acts chapter 10 we read of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. He was a very religious man who reverenced the God of the Jews. He gave gifts to the Jews and spent much time in prayer. In a vision, an angel told him to send for the apostle Peter (Acts 10:1-7). The Holy Spirit was also speaking to Peter about those who were coming to visit him, of their request, and commanded that he should go with them (Acts 10:9-20). Peter taught Cornelius and his household about salvation through Christ. While he was doing so, they were baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44). Peter knew it was real because they began to speak in tongues (Acts 10:45-46). This is sometimes known as the Gentile Pentecost. Now the Holy Spirit’s ministry was for all people … “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 10:45).
There are other mighty outpourings of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts (see chapter 19 for instance), but we have noted that the early church experienced great moves of the Spirit. Such manifestations continued throughout the first century, but as with all of God’s gifts to the church, man either legalised the ministry of the Spirit, rejected it, or abused it. We need His ministry today!