10 January 2021: The Gift of the Father

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
10 January 2021

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

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Welcome

Testimony from Hebridean Revival

“The Holy Spirit was not only encouraging people to pray; He also prepared Duncan Campbell. The Missioner wrote sometime later: ‘After spending seventeen years in a barren wilderness, baffled and frustrated in Christian work and witness, I suddenly came to realise that God had made provision for clean hands and a pure heart. And on my face in my own study at five o’clock in the morning I came to know the recovering power of the blood of Christ… I know that in some small measure – the revival in Skye and later in Lewis, must be related to the experience of that morning.

What was it that led me into this full realisation of glorious deliverance in the Holy Ghost? I answer in one word, a baptism from God. Explain it as you will, it was a baptism from God. That experience was in my case preceded by a spiritual hunger, a longing for God to do something.’ This was the Baptism of Fire that has prepared many leaders for revival. Holiness is always a vital part of revival as can be seen from … the members of the Barvas church.”

Worship

Word

Reading: Acts 1:1-11;

On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

Acts 1:4

Introduction

When my younger brother and myself were around 10 and 11 years of age, my Dad promised us that if we learned to swim he would buy us a small rowing boat. Well, the following summer a great thing happened and Conwy Council paid for a Summer Play Leader to run a Summer Holiday Play Scheme in the local park. Part of that included going swimming every Friday morning at Bangor Swimming Pool and yes we eventually learned to swim. The years went by and no boat which we kept reminding our Dad about as he was one who would keep to what he had promised.

What happened to put him off buying us that boat was that the son of a local fisherman tragically drowned in the Conwy river. Tony used to win all the boat races in the Annual Conwy Regatta for his age range and was a strong swimmer and yet the currents in the river were too strong for him. The whole town of Conwy and the school he attended were absolutely devastated as he was well liked by everyone.

Why am I telling you this? Well, we can make a promise with all good intentions, and meaning it with every fibre of our being to fulfil it. Yet human weakness or unforeseen circumstances occur which can even make it impossible for us to keep our promise. But not God because when He makes a promise He will definitely fulfil it as He is the Eternal Sovereign Lord who knows the end from the beginning and everything that happens in-between. It was in the heart of God, from before time began, to pour out His Spirit on all peoples on earth and such was included in the promise of blessing to Abram which we will look at later.

The Promise of the Father – The Holy Spirit

It doesn’t take long to discover what the promise of the Father was, so if we had read the end of Luke’s Gospel, for example, we would have picked it up from:

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high”; the promise of power from on high which is a promise of sending the Holy Spirit.

Luke 24:49

“The Spirit is the foretaste of the kingdom and the empowerment to prepare a people for it”

Craig Keener

The promise of the Father is alluded to many times in Acts and refers to various promises made but we will concentrate on those relating to the promise of the Spirit such as:

Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Acts 2:33

Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.

Acts 2:38-39


This promise is referred to in Peter’s first sermon when he begins to explain to the people what this strange phenomena is that they are witnessing and that some think is explained by Jesus’ disciples having had too much alcohol:

Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’

Acts 2:13

When the Spirit is on the move, it is so very important not to jump to hasty conclusions and write something off as not of God. We need to be discerning and in a continuous prayerful attitude, ensuring that we don’t grieve or quench the Spirit and look at what is the fruit being produced. We need to listen to the explanations of those who claim to have been touched by the Spirit, which is what Peter does here to the listening crowd, a number of whom are confused, even badly mistaken about this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He explains to these people about the promises of God, and its fruit and that ‘this is that’ which the Lord has promised through the prophets quoting from the book of Joel 2:28-32:

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy … And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Acts 2:17-18, 21

He could also have brought in the well-known verses from Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

and

till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, the fertile field seems like a forest

Isaiah 32:15

and

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

“although this faith appears to be new, it is rooted in the divine promises of old, an important idea to the ancients who desired their religions to be time-tested”

Ben Witherington

“The link between the Spirit and promise is frequent in the NT (e.g. John 14:16-17,26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15; Eph. 1:13)”

F F Bruce

So the purpose and plan of God from long ago was to pour out His Holy Spirit on His people, that His people be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). Here we see the beginning of that plan being fulfilled and the realisation that God’s purposes can only progress as His people are enabled by the power of the Spirit.

“With enablement, the mission of preaching the kingdom and Jesus can proceed. Effective ministry requires God’s direction and enablement. The mission command provides the direction for the church and the Spirit gives the enablement … The gift of the Spirit … was the sign that the Messiah had come and the new era had begun (Luke 3:1-17)”

Darrell Bock

“The Spirit thus enables the witnesses to carry on Jesus’s mission after His ascension, just as Elisha carried on Elijah’s work after his ascension”

Craig Keener

“That Luke emphasizes the necessity of this empowerment both in his conclusion to his Gospel and in the introduction to Acts reveals how pivotal it is for Luke’s theology of the divine mission”

Craig Keener

Cf. Jesus and His public ministry and the Spirit’s anointing (Luke 3:22-23; 4:1; 10:38) and also the waiting period for both Jesus and the Church so the disciples were not to attempt their mission in their own strength cf. Martha doing things she thought she would do – only one thing needed and Mary chose what is better and it will not be taken away from her.. cf. only after prayer and fasting that Barnabas and Saul were sent out (Acts 13:2)

The Promise and the Blessing

We have referred in previous weeks to the ‘blessing’ of God promised to Abraham that would be a ‘blessing’ to the nations of the world in Genesis:

The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:1-13

The apostle Paul in Galatians equates this blessing to receiving the Holy Spirit:

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Gal 3:14

The blessing originally promised to Abraham is ultimately seen in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Again it’s not an ‘either or’ but an ‘and’ and ‘and’. We receive the promise of the Spirit through Christ Jesus, because of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father, from where He poured out the Holy Spirit upon His Church, those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13

And this blessing just continues on and on right on to glory,

The promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:14

And it continues for ever and ever,

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate, to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth.

John 14:16-17

Amen.

The Promise and God’s Faithfulness

The temptation is to think that when things are going wonderfully well, God is with us, and when things are going terribly badly, He has deserted us, and, in-between all this, He is here one day and gone the next. When we get to glory we will all be totally humbled, and we will bow before Him, amazed, overwhelmed and in awe of His remarkable faithfulness. The fact is that even when it seemed like God had deserted Israel He was actually discipling them and keeping His covenant. In the course of this study I discovered this verse from Haggai:

This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.

Haggai 2:5

Haggai was one of the post-exilic prophets who spoke the word of the Lord to a small and struggling community of Jews after their return from the Babylonian exile. Judah had been decimated and the people were trying to reconcile this with their faith in a God who was, is, and always will be, faithful. They were having to cope with hunger, inflation, drought, crop failure, injustice, and hostility from neighbours to mention a few of their daily difficulties and trials. God, through His prophet seeks to reassure them by appealing to His faithfulness in delivering them in the past from Egypt (and we can add from exile and cf. Jesus’ death and resurrection). God is faithful, victory certain, and the assurance “my Spirit remains with you.”

“As the God of the Bible was present and working in the days of Israel’s glory … so He was also at hand and active in her darkest days of trial, and it was the task of these post-exilic prophets to proclaim how that was so.”

Paul Achtemeier

The Lord requires, even demands, that we put Him first in our lives:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matt. 6:33

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.

Matthew 22:37-38

Anything less and we are not the only ones who lose out! Jesus trained and brought those early disciples to the place where He could pour out the Holy Spirit upon them.

Quote for the Week

“… the Spirit actualizes in believers’ lives … God’s reign”

Youngmo Cho – “Spirit and Kingdom”

Verse of the Week

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all). And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Romans 8:9-11 – NLT

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, despite all the pain, sadness, difficulties and trials of the past year; despite all the questions that remain unanswered; despite all the restrictions, we thank You for Your Presence with us. Lord we commit this New Year to You and ask that You take control and reveal Your glory and power.

Lord for all those who are grieving, mourning and suffering bring Your comfort and peace. Lord for all who are anxious about what this year will bring, give them the assurance of Your Presence. For those who don’t know You reveal Your Son Jesus Christ to them.

And Lord continue to build Your Church in this nation and in the nations of the world and let not the gates of hell prevail against it. We especially pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith in You and with the thought that there are many predicting that this will increase in 2021 come and give Your people boldness to continue to speak and witness and stand for justice, righteousness, and peace. Let them astound their oppressors with their testimony and let them overcome by the blood of the Lamb!

Lord we so long for You to move in power and bring healing so Lord heal our nation, pour out Your Spirit on this land in Jesus Christ, Amen!