Wait for the promise of the Father." Those words were both a command and a promise. How the hearts of those first evangelists must have thrilled when Jesus said: "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." These men had been in the postgraduate course with our Lord as Teacher for forty days. He had been unfolding to them the great program of the future. They did not and could not at that time fully comprehend the meaning of His words, but true to His promise these and more than one hundred other disciples were embued with supernatural power. And what tremendous things they accomplished for God in the next few years.
Anxiety to Confidence
These were ordinary men and women by nature, but with the coming of the Spirit fear turned to courage and anxiety to confidence. The experience of that group is what every worker for God around the world needs and longs for.
The Holy Spirit took that group and first molded it into a community, then into an invincible force. The church is not just a society of culture; it is a fellowship of Spirit-empowered men and women. The disciples had not always been united. Far from it! But the coming of the Spirit made all the difference. We read: "With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33). And they "were of one heart and of one soul" (Acts 4:32). When they preached they not only set forth the historic facts of Christ's resurrection but they revealed that the resurrection was a real experience in their own lives. They, themselves, had died to sin and had been raised to a new life in Christ Jesus. When they preached they were not lecturing on world problems, they were setting forth a living Christ in all His majesty and power.
A Miraculous Ministry
The educated classes of that day spoke of them as "unlettered and ignorant men." That is to say, they held no academic degrees from the schools. But they had something no school of the world could give. These on whom the Spirit came moved into a miraculous ministry that compelled the world to listen. With confidence they could say to one who had been a cripple from birth: "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." Not only did he rise, he leaped up and "entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God" (Acts 3:6, 8). No wonder the people came together! This man was no stranger. He had been sitting there for years, begging. Now he was walking and radiantly happy. When we learned to walk it took us a long time. But here was a man who had never walked and in a few seconds he stands, walks, and leaps. Who gave him this power, this sense of balance, this overwhelming joy? The same Spirit that moved the preacher to command him in the name of Jesus to rise up, moved this man in a demonstration of the power of the living Lord.
Statistics Out of Date
The crowd demanded an answer, and the preachers were ready to give it. Again they turned the attention of the multitude to Jesus, who had been crucified and buried, but who had risen from the grave and was now at the right hand of God. Thus it was in the beginning of the apostolic church. It was a miracle-working ministry, and in just a few days their numbers had increased from 3,000 to 5,000, or was it 8,000? The book of Acts does not give much place to statistics. In fact, this is the last record we have of specific numbers. Converts were coming in so quickly they could not tabulate the results. When things are really moving statistics mean little, for they are out of date almost immediately. And things were surely moving in those days. It has been said: "The church was born in a storm, moved on in a cyclone, and swept the field like a tornado."
But those scenes are to be repeated in our own day. To speak about the Holy Spirit is not enough, we must receive Him. Are we preparing our hearts and our dear people in the churches to receive Him? Or are we secretly satisfied with ourselves and our accomplishments? Ponder these words: "The reason why there is so little of the Spirit of God manifested is that ministers learn to do without it."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 383.
Can we think of anything more tragic than for men who have been ordained to the ministry to be content to get along without the power and direction of the Holy Spirit? Plans and policies are good, but what we need is power—supernatural power, miracle-working power, power that will call the attention of the multitude to the message of God for these last days. We need the Holy Spirit in both the former and the latter rain; the first to bring our lives into conformity with God's holy will and the last to empower us for service.
Latter Rain Needed
Under a Spirit-filled ministry we will see towns and cities turning to God in repentance as they did in the days of the apostles. God is accomplishing wonderful things in some places of the world today, but what we are witnessing is largely the former rain. People are being convicted and converted. But as God's messengers we need the empowering latter rain for service.
When John the Baptist preached, multitudes responded. His was a message of repentance. It was the former rain preparing them for a greater experience to come. The Reformer himself was looking forward to the time when the One he was proclaiming would baptize His people with fire. Poor John never lived to see the fulfillment of that. But his disciples, Andrew and Peter, who were with him at the Jordan when he made that prediction, not only witnessed its fulfillment but they themselves became firebrands for God. Greater than the water baptism of repentance was their fire baptism of power.
God wants to make every herald of the Advent hope a firebrand. Nothing short of that will finish His work in the world. In this great hour this should be our constant prayer: "Baptize us, 0 Lord, in Thy Spirit. Empower us for Thy service and prepare Thy church for the greatest ingathering of souls in all history."
No greater blessing could ever come to a messenger of God than to be among those on whom the Spirit came.