Pastor Allan Burnett

Pastor Allan Burnett

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the early Church! 

I will not soon forget sitting in our Canada Day service this past July 1st. For those of you reading this that are not Canadian, this is the day set apart in Canada to celebrate and pray for our country. That day however, the Holy Spirit clearly also had something else He purposed to accomplish, as Pastor Cheryl paused at one point in the service and said she had a “Word of Knowledge.” A word of knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit, where He gives you information about someone or something that you wouldn’t otherwise know. That day, the word of knowledge was, that there was someone present who was experiencing excruciating back pain, and that God wanted to heal that person. Without fanfare or the majority of the people present even knowing who this message was for, He worked an incredible miracle for a lady that was present. Having spent significant time in the weeks leading up to that service in a wheelchair, this lady was miraculously healed in that moment by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As a result of her healing, she hasn’t been able to stop telling people what God did for her, and from her testimony, people have come to faith in Jesus.

As we continue our journey through the book of Acts, over and over again you see the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of believers in the early church. In Acts 1:8, Jesus had said to His disciples, just before He ascended into heaven,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

I don’t think we’d be mistreating this statement to paraphrase it, “I need you to tell people what I’ve done for them, but don’t attempt to do this in your own strength – do it in the power of the Holy Spirit.”   

In Acts 5:12-42 we come to a series of events in the ministry of the apostles, that demonstrate how the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work through them, caused many miracles to happen, that in turn brought many people to Jesus. From this passage, I want us to notice three things that caused the early church to GO! And to GROW!

1. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were an integral part of the life and growth of the early church. 
“The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people.” Acts 5:12.  

It’s quite interesting what the very next verse tells. Even though the disciples were highly respected and regarded by people that were witnessing the miracles, many dared not join them. Even though people were amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit through the disciples, and the message they were preaching, fear of the possible persecution they may experience by becoming Christ followers, kept them back. Even though we can’t even imagine the type of opposition the early church was facing, that fear still keeps people from surrendering to Jesus. “What will my family think,” or “what if I have to give up this relationship,” or “what if I love my friends?” It’s sad to think that many whose hearts were/are touched by the gospel message are kept back of following Jesus.  

The good news however, is that many were not dissuaded by the fear of persecution.
Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. Acts 5:14-17 

Some of you reading this message may be thinking, “That was the disciples, but I don’t think the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for us today.” There’s a lady who experienced a miraculous healing on Canada Day, when a gift of the Holy Spirit occurred, who may choose to differ with you on that. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were not for a particular time or people, in fact the era we’re living in is the result of a promise God made through the prophet Joel, hundreds of years before the time of Christ.   

I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. 
Your old men will dream dreams, 
and your young men will see visions. 
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants—men and women alike.

Joel 2:28,29  

God’s desire is that all who have called on the Name of Jesus will walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  Read that passage from Acts 1:8 again, and tell me what Jesus meant when He said that the empowering of the Holy Spirit was for the message to be taken to the ends of the earth? I haven’t seen the Apostle Peter in downtown Vancouver lately, but the work of spreading this message is for you and me, and the good news is, the same Holy Spirit is at work within you. 

2. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit pointed people to Jesus. 

I love observing that the disciples and the early believers didn’t take the glory. They knew that the work of the Holy Spirit in them was for one purpose only – to bring people to Jesus.    

The Holy Spirit working through the disciples stirred up quite a lot of attention. Peter never said, “Look what great things I’ve done for these people.” He always seized the opportunity to address the crowd, whether they be friendly or hostile, and boldly tell them, that there’s salvation in no other name, than the name of Jesus.

This is so well demonstrated when Peter and the others were arrested and jailed for the night as a result of their preaching. During the night, an angel of the Lord appeared, opened the gates of their cell, and led them out, right past the guards. Now, if you were in that situation, what would you do? I might have said, “I’ve tried Jerusalem, but they seem to be rather hostile here. Let’s try Judea or Samaria, and see if they’re open there. But that’s not what the disciples did. They went right back to the Temple, to Solomon’s Colonnade, and as the crowds began to gather, began sharing the gospel again. Part of the work of the Holy Spirit we see here, is a radical obedience in the lives of the believers. When the Holy Spirit empowers you, you will find a boldness coming on you to speak Jesus, even when it may cause some resistance.  

3. Persecution Came as a Result of the Work of the Holy Spirit.

It’s actually a comedic scene that took place when the next morning, the High Priest convened the high council. They sent someone to bring the disciples from the jail cell where they’d locked them up the night before, but they weren’t there. They found them right where they’d arrested them the day before, at the Temple, preaching to the people. That radical obedience of the disciples also caused some serious opposition. You may be saying, “Pastor Allan, are you telling me they got into trouble for doing the right thing?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, and it wasn’t just an idle threat they were given. Verse 40 says, “They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” They were whipped, probably with 39 lashes, and ordered to stop preaching about Jesus.  My favorite verses of all are verses 41,42: 

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. 

I want to conclude with an exhortation to you: Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to stir in you, and never stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.