This is the second of a three-part series about experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit for life and ministry, aka baptism and filling of the Spirit, from a fresh perspective. View Part 1
Foolishly, without really thinking it all through, I decided to run a marathon – 26.2 miles. Not that I hadn’t been running, just the year before I had completed a half marathon. For a full marathon, however, the training and preparation increase exponentially. Your body runs out of fuel. You deplete your resources. You need to reload not only before and after running, but during the race. You don’t just drink and eat, but also consume “Gu Energy Gel,” five or six little packets.
Despite careful planning and lots of water, food and Gu, my body hit the wall at mile 20. My legs felt like cement. Still six miles! Despite my body’s rebellion, somehow I made it across the finish line. (Never again!)
People quip that the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon. I certainly agree! It’s not just the body, however, that gets depleted and weary, it’s the soul. If we are going to keep running, to persevere, we need fuel. We need power. We need spiritual Gu.
Think of Jesus. He needed power to live and minister, to advance His Father’s kingdom. He knew we would need that same power to carry on his work. Jesus modeled this empowered life and he specifically instructed us about how to experience it ourselves. Not for just a fleeting moment but for daily life.
God Empowers 72 Elders
Previously, we looked at Numbers 11:11-30 when the Lord helped Moses by raising up others to share the ministry load. The Lord gave the Elders some of the Spirit that was upon Moses (v.25). Notice that the Spirit’s “resting upon” them was not about salvation or sanctification. It was clearly about power to lead. Moses whines:
“I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me …” Numbers 11:14-15a
The Lord responds:
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied…. Numbers 11:25
No, this is not about the Spirit bringing salvation or sanctification; these were already Elders of the people of God. This was about “powering-up” to lead.
Jesus Models “Powering-Up”
Quietly Jesus entered the pages of history through the incarnation. However, he didn’t “hit the ground running.” He didn’t even start his public ministry until age 30. A key event initiated his ministry: baptism with water and the Spirit.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. Luke 3:21-22
Was Jesus without the Holy Spirit prior to baptism? Most Christians would resist saying that Jesus was ever without the Spirit of God. After all, he was born of the Spirit. The angel clearly told Mary:
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
If Jesus was never without the Spirit, why did he need the Spirit to descend on him? The answer is “powering-up.” Before the Spirit descended, Jesus walked with the Father, but he didn’t perform miracles. (Scripture records no miracles prior to this baptism.)
After Jesus’ baptism, the language and ministry of power, anointing and authority moved to the forefront:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit … Luke 4:14
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” Luke 4:18a
They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. Luke 4:32
Observe the similarity between the Spirit’s work on the Elders of Israel in Numbers 11 and on Jesus. When Jesus was baptized with the Spirit, it was not about salvation, but about power and authority. It was not about sanctification. His baptism was about empowerment for kingdom life and ministry. Here was the plan to power-up. (Notice that Jesus did not speak in tongues).
Empowering the Twelve and the Seventy-Two:
If this was Jesus’ plan for empowerment, shouldn’t we expect to see it in the lives of the apostles? This is exactly what we do see, but in two different ways. First, we see Jesus give them power and authority while he is still with them physically. In the middle of his ministry, after he has been modeling kingdom ministry, he decides it is the twelve apostles turn.
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Luke 9: 1-2
Anointed with kingdom power and authority, the Twelve begin to minister as Jesus did. But this kind of empowerment was not meant simply for the Twelve, Jesus has plans to expand his ministry. In the very next chapter, we read that he expands his circle of empowered disciples to a very interesting number, seventy-two.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10: 1
We know this “appointing” process was about anointing and empowerment because Jesus would later say to the seventy-two:
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10: 19-20.
Incredibly, we see the story of Moses and the seventy-two elders, as a foreshadowing of the empowerment by Jesus of his seventy-two disciples. However, this was Jesus way of empowerment while he was walking physically with his disciples. We will see how he had a slightly different plan after his resurrection and ascension.
Empowerment at Pentecost:
Look at the Pentecost event when the disciples were baptized in the Spirit. Compare this to Jesus’ baptism. Did the disciples lack the Spirit before Pentecost (Acts 2)?
A story from John 20 answers this question directly. This event took place post-resurrection of Jesus, but prior to his ascension (and Pentecost). This is a resurrection appearance by Christ. He appears to the apostles and says:
“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-22
Before Pentecost the disciples were already Christ-followers and had received the Spirit of God. For them, Pentecost was not about salvation. It was not their initial receiving of the Spirit. It was about power. In fact, as Jesus expressed it …
“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.” Luke 24:49 (See also Acts 1:8)
To summarize, we have uncovered Jesus’ plan to empower his followers as consistent with his own empowerment and have seen its roots in Old Testament events. The two primary works of the Spirit are:
- Salvation and the beginning of the sanctification process.
- Power and authority for life and ministry
We see these two primary works modeled (foreshadowed) in the Old Testament and then again in the life and ministry of both Jesus and the first apostles and disciples. If we accept this as a model, it presents some challenges and implications for us. First, in many evangelical circles, “baptism in the Holy Spirit” is understood as happening at the point of conversion. Therefore it is not something pursued or even really discussed. This position seems profoundly unsupported through scripture. Secondly, in many Pentecostal circles, “tongues” is seen as THE SIGN of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We can conclude in a similar way that this position is not supported in scripture.
This model then would have significant implications for how we not only understand Jesus’ plan of empowerment, but how we pursue and live out His baptism in the Spirit in our lives and churches. In the next article, we will look at the implications this Empowerment Plan had for the early church and discuss some of the ways we can live this plan out in our contemporary context today. Finally, how can we take some of the spiritual Gu packets? How do we power-up today?