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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Acts 1:13-24 - Preparing for the Coming of the Spirit

Luke mentions several people who were involved in the preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. They were the eleven apostles, the women who had been with them during the years of Jesus’ public ministry, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus (whether two, three of four of them we cannot say).

We know that great preparations have to be made for great State occasions such as the arrival of a foreign monarch or president. Usually the people chosen for the preparations have ideal qualifications for the task. The same is true for those who prepared for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. What were their qualifications?

One essential qualification for real preparation was that they had received the forgiveness of their sins. At some stage in their lives, they had received pardon from Jesus. Some of them had received it several years before, others such as the brothers of Jesus had been forgiven for a few days, at some occasion after his resurrection from the dead. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, refers to the meeting that Jesus had with his brother James. We are not told how the other brothers were converted.

It is impossible for unforgiven sinners to prepare for the coming of the Spirit. In Jerusalem at that time, many religious sinners were there to celebrate the annual feast of Pentecost. No doubt, they engaged in preparation. Their actions would have the authority of the religious leaders, and perhaps these pilgrims imagined that their preparation was adequate. It could not have been because, although some of them were to receive blessing on the Day of Pentecost after listening to the sermon of Peter, forgiveness is an essential feature of true preparation.

A second essential qualification for some of them was that they had received restoration from Jesus because of their failures. The apostles had failed as forgiven followers of Jesus when they denied him at the time of his arrest. Their failure at the moment was only the climax of a long list of other failings of which they had been guilty – for example, failure to listen even to the teachings of Jesus, never mind his strong warnings, had been a recent, prominent feature of their outlook. Nevertheless, each of them had been restored personally by Jesus. Some had enjoyed a profound personal meeting with Jesus in order to be restored (such as Peter), others had received restoration in a corporate way when Jesus bestowed his peace upon them.

Some of those who were involved in the preparation process had also spent time listening to Jesus as he instructed them in the things of the kingdom of God during the forty days after his resurrection, and no doubt they had passed on his teachings to the others. They came to the task of preparation informed as to the intentions of Jesus. Ignorance does not help a person prepare for a visitation from God. An uninformed person may get blessing after the divine arrival, but that person cannot prepare for the coming in a spiritual manner.

In addition, as we consider the people in this group, we can note that they were a surprisingly mixed set of individuals. The only organisation in which they could be together was an organisation based on divine grace. Each one of them was a miracle of grace, but the group together was also a miracle of grace. This original group was a picture of all subsequent gatherings of Christians. The true church is always a diverse set of people who are brought together only by the grace of God. It is only such a church that can anticipate blessing from God.

So we can say that qualifications for involvement in this kind of preparation can be summarised in three short prayers: Lord, forgive my sins; Lord, restore me to my place; Lord, instruct me in your ways. We need this threefold qualification in any preparation for meeting with God.

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