Weekly Meditation - 4th June 2017

Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23 or 7:37-39

If we read only the lectionary passage in 1st Corinthians, at first glance we might well think that the Holy Spirit is just a commodity, holy stuff that God uses to work within his people. There are indeed so-called 'Christian' cults who teach just that. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, maintain that “holy spirit” is a force like electricity.

Even in this passage, though, a closer reading will reveal that the Holy Spirit is a Person within the Godhead.  Writing about the 'spiritual gifts' (see 1 Corinthians 12:1), Paul states that although there are many different gifts, 'the same God works all of them in all men' (12:4-6).  The gifts of the Spirit are interchangeably ascribed to both God and to the Spirit (12:7-9). His main point in this passage is that the Christian body of believers is a 'unit' (12:12), each member is baptised by 'one Spirit' and all receive the 'one Spirit to drink' (12:12-13). In this way the unity within the Godhead is mirrored in the Church.

The coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesuswas the factor whichgave birth to the Church and transformed the individual members (Acts 2:1-4). Already amazed and encouraged by the knowledge of the resurrection, the disciples received from the Spirit the abilities they needed to evangelise the world with the message that 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' (Acts 2:21).  This is demonstrated spectacularly in Peter who, prior to his receiving the Spirit, could scarcely say a sensible word in a crisis. He almost always said the wrong thing, or spoke out of turn (see Matthew 16:22; 17:4). At Pentecost, however, when people 'made fun' of the disciples for speaking in tongues, accusing them of being drunk (Acts 2:13), Peter stood and addressed the huge crowd that had gathered.

He spoke articulately and with great passion. His speech was relevant - addressing the current situation; direct - challenging the hearers; scriptural - drawing on significant Old Testament passages; Christological -  relating the scriptures unequivocally to Christ. Three thousand converts were the result (2:41). Peter set the standard for First Century Christians with their urgent message.

Jesus’ words during an earlier Feast of Tabernacles had anticipated this event and the future work of the Spirit among his followers. Standing in the Temple courts, Jesus said in a loud voice, 'if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink' (John 7:37). He made the startling statement that 'anyone who believes in me ... streams of living water will flow from within him' (7:38).  In referring to the Spirit in this way, Jesus showed that – inspired and filled with the Spirit – his disciples would reach out to others with their message. The infilling of the Spirit is not for selfish gratification, not a matter of pride or personal achievement. The Spirit is a gift – not deserved or earned – and His presence within us is to enable the life-giving message of Christ – 'streams of living water'  – to flow from us.

This action of the Spirit was something new. During Jesus’ lifetime 'the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified' (John 7:39). There is nothing new about the Spirit himself, however. He has been a person of the Godhead from eternity. He was present before the creation (see Genesis 1:2; it was by the Spirit that all was created (Psalm 104:24, 30)).  The same life-giving work is now carried out by the same Spirit, within all who acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord and God.

Written by Susan Thorne