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The Holy Spirit and the Ministry of the Disciples

He sent them out two by two, by James Tissot.

I am intrigued by the fact that these workers are completely unknown to us. Were they part of a larger group of disciples who had been following Jesus since John the Baptist’s imprisonment, or were they individuals who had been healed recently? Were members of the various religious parties or local officials among them? Were they all unmarried men, or could there have been married couples among them?

When the seventy-two return with joy, they tell Jesus that even the demons had submitted to them in Jesus’ name. The name of Jesus did and still does carry significant authority when used by Christians. Jesus states that he has given them authority to trample on snakes and scorpions in the wilderness and to overcome the power of their spiritual enemies (see Ephesians 6), and nothing will harm them. Indeed, he sees Satan falling like lightning during their mission. Yet, they should rejoice more over the fact that their names have been written in Heaven, in the book of salvation, than about their successes. Jesus, full of joy in the Holy Spirit, rejoices that God has gladly revealed these things to spiritual babes, or young children, while hiding them from the wise and learned of his day. The Father has committed everything to his Son, so that we cannot know God unless the Son reveals him to us! The disciples, through these missions, begin to realize that they might actually be able to do the same works of healing and deliverance that are the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. Indeed, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:12–13).

Instead of the Spirit being within a few leaders in the history of Israel, God wants his Spirit to be actively involved in the life of every member of his new people, the Church, the Body of Christ.

Yet, despite their early successes in preaching and healing, Jesus’ disciples misunderstand the reality of Jesus’ purpose in coming to die for the sins of the world, and they fail badly when he is arrested, tortured, and killed. They are slow to believe in his resurrection. They are unprepared to preach boldly or to fulfill their new callings without the earthly presence of their master and friend.

They need a new counselor, comforter, advocate, helper, and teacher resident within them. This Holy Spirit and his anointing are evident in the life and ministry of Jesus, but before his death, Jesus tells them: “Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Instead of the Spirit being within a few leaders in the history of Israel, God wants his Spirit to be actively involved in the life of every member of his new people, the Church, the Body of Christ. Before his ascension, Jesus tells his followers to wait in the city of Jerusalem, for they will soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit and receive the personal power of God for mission and ministry throughout the world.

The normal Christian life is a life of walking, empowerment, guidance, and provision by the Holy Spirit, with God’s generous gifts being used and his fruits growing within to bless others.

On the fiftieth day from his resurrection, coinciding with the Jewish festival of First Fruits, when the disciples are not only waiting in the upper room used for Jesus’ last supper but are also spiritually united, they hear and feel a violent wind blowing through the building, see what seems to be fire separating into little flames over each believer, and are simultaneously filled with the Holy Spirit. His presence is manifested as the Galilean disciples begin speaking in the dialects and languages of the gathered crowd, whose members come from many nations. When someone suggests that these disciples are drunk, Peter explains that it is not only too early in the day to be drinking but, in fact, the Galileans’ condition is a fulfillment of Joel 2:28–32, which prophecies that God will pour his Spirit on all people in the last days, resulting in prophecies, dreams, and visions. Many become believers that day, forming the nucleus of a new community described in Acts 2:42–48.

When Peter and John see the man who had been lame from birth at the temple gate, they tell him they have no money and command him “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). The man’s entrance into the temple courts causes such a reaction that Peter takes the opportunity to boldly preach about Jesus and his resurrection. Alarmed officials bring Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, who wants to find out “By what power or name did you do this?” (Acts 23). Luke tells us that Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit as he confidently answers this question. These disciples are clearly different after Pentecost! When the council members “say the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus. We should recognize that the patterns of ministry that the apostles and other disciples had learned during their approximately three years with the Lord, as well as their whole direction, outlook, and views about God and his relationship with humankind, had been transformed. They have certainly learned much by watching, hearing, interacting, and participating with Jesus, but now they are empowered by the Spirit. In a short time, the apostles are performing miraculous signs and wonders among God’s people near the temple (Acts 5:12). Even Peter’s shadow heals the sick. When a group of Spirit-filled “deacons” are chosen, Stephen and Philip do great wonders and signs. Opposition, from a group of Jews outside Palestine infuriated by Stephen’s message, leads to his early martyrdom.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2016

About the Author: Peter Ostrander, Ph.D. (Penn State University, 1970), taught physics at Penn State, Fayette for 33 years. In 1973 he made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit one year later during the charismatic renewal. He pursued studies at Trinity School for Ministry and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1986. For 21 years, he served St. George’s Episcopal Church in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania as their Vicar. Peter grew interested in healing ministry, joined the Order of Saint Luke, and started a chapter South of Pittsburgh. He presented workshops at regional meetings, then retired from Penn State and served 6 years as Director of Region 2, attended national meetings and wrote articles for Sharing Magazine. Because Peter wanted OSL to remain true to the Holy Scriptures and the example of the early Church, he wrote New Testament Healing (Xulon Press, 2011). Peter has also served as a board member for the Healing Center at Shrine Mont and has been active in healing at Servant Song Ministries, a retreat center in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

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