What was the role of the Holy Spirit in the early church?


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The Holy Spirit had a huge role in the growth of the early church. During His earthy ministry, Jesus taught the disciples to pray for the gift of the Spirit (Luke 11:13). The Lord revealed future events (Matt. 24) and promised that more light would come through the Holy Spirit who was to guide the disciples into all truth (John 16:13).

After the resurrection

On the night following the resurrection, Christ “breathed on them” and declared, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). From that day on (Acts 1:2), the Spirit worked as counselor to the church leaders and the believers.

Before His ascension, Jesus promised His disciples, “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

At Pentecost

Jesus’ promise of the Holy Ghost was fulfilled in the form of the “early or former rain” and the disciples “were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

The disciples entered into the experience of the ancient prophets. They started speaking in tongues and preached words that were not their own, but rather inspired (2 Peter 1:21). A little later, the believers also were again “filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). And they performed supernatural acts of healing and raising the dead (Acts 5:12).

More Spirit anointment

The Lord continued to bless His church even after Pentecost with further anointment of the Spirit in times of special need. In fact, the primary giving of the Spirit had prepared them for future outpourings. From that time on, the apostles spoke the gospel whenever and wherever they found a chance, refusing to be subject to fear and threats.

The church also saw a revelation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of the seven deacons who were “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). And one of the most prominent among them Stephen was  “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” (v. 5). The seven deacons were to minister material blessings while the twelve disciples were to minister the spiritual blessings taken from the Word of God.

The growth of the church

As church grew, the Spirit continued to guide in such situations as the ordination of Paul (Acts 9:17), in the welcoming of Gentiles into the church (Acts 10:44–47), in the parting of Barnabas and Paul for missionary work (Acts 13:2–4), in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:28), and in Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 16:6, 7).

Thus, the ministry of the Holy Spirit brought unity to God’s work. And the church continued to grow. The book of Acts presents merely a partial account of the work of the Holy Spirit through the disciples and their followers during the early church.

Before the second coming

At the end of time and just before Jesus comes again, the Lord prophesied through the prophet Joel saying,“Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month” ( ch. 2:23). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the end of time in the form of the “latter rain” will be even greater than what took place in the “former rain” during the early church. And by the Spirit’s power, the gospel will reach the whole world.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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