Because the early church consisted of people who were all of one heart, the Holy Spirit was poured out and thousands were converted in a day. That power is lacking today yet we are told that it will happen again and with even greater power than before. So, why has this not happened already?
There are conditions to receiving the Holy Spirit empowered thereby. Only those who meet those conditions will receive it. At that time the church will be united and move forward as one unit to finish God’s work.
In Acts 2:1 we are told: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Then we read in Acts 2:42: “… they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Verse 44: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” Verses 46 and 47: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 4:32: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul … .”
These verses describe the attitude of the early Christians towards each other. Let’s look at some of the conditions that must be met to enable God’s faithful ones to be “with one accord.”
In Acts 5:31 the apostles proclaimed the exaltation of Christ by saying, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” But notice the very next verse: “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to them who obey Him” (verse 32).
Obedience to the word of God is a condition of receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said in John 14:15, 16, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.”
John 14:17 says, “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” It was not just that the Holy Spirit was with them. The Holy Spirit was in them. When that happens, the power of God is revealed through that person and can speak through human agents.
In Testimonies, vol. 6, 140, Ellen White wrote, “Obedience to every word of God is another condition of success.” If we are not obedient, we are not going to have the Holy Spirit in us. That does not mean the Holy Spirit will not be pleading with us. It is one thing to have the Holy Spirit pleading with you, and it is another thing to have the Holy Spirit inside and speaking through you.
The statement continues, “Victories are not gained by ceremonies or display, but by simple obedience to the highest General, the Lord God of heaven. He who trusts in this Leader will never know defeat. Defeat comes in depending on human methods, human inventions, and placing the divine secondary. Obedience was the lesson that the Captain of the Lord’s host sought to teach the vast armies of Israel—obedience in things in which they could see no success. When there is obedience to the voice of our Leader, Christ will conduct His battles in ways that will surprise the greatest powers of earth.” Ibid.
When there is obedience, Christ will conduct His battle—the battle between righteousness and evil that is going on all over the world.
We have no idea what this might be, but we can be sure that it will surprise the greatest powers of earth. However, in order for Christ to conduct the battle on behalf of His people, there has to be obedience. That was the lesson Christ sought to teach the vast armies of Israel. It was a hard lesson for them to learn.
The first king of Israel, Saul, did learn the lesson but too late to save himself. Saul’s disobedience to a direct command provoked a stern rebuke from Samuel. “Then Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king’ ” (I Samuel 15:22).
Deliberate disobedience is called rebellion. No one in rebellion to the truths they know will receive the Holy Spirit unless and until they come into harmony with the will of the Lord.
Being obedient to God often brings great trials to many people. Many have lost their jobs. Others have lost a spouse or become estranged from their parents or their children because of their choice to obey the Lord. Jesus recognized that obedience was difficult. In Matthew 10:32–34, He said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father … .’ ”
When two opinions clash there is controversy. The most difficult kind of persecution to endure is that which involves trouble in your own family.
We cannot receive the Holy Spirit unless we are obedient. Jesus said in verse 37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
While on this planet we have yet many trials to meet. “ ‘… We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God’ ” (Acts 14:22). “We are to find our strength just where the early disciples found their strength: ‘These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.’ ‘And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul’ (Acts 1:14; 4:31, 32).” Testimonies, vol. 6, 140.
Believers in the Christian church are more closely related to their church family than they are to their blood family. The Lord has made provision so that everyone in His church should be part of a transformed body. It is within this body of believers that they are strengthened in their spiritual journey.
“Christ has made provision that His church shall be a transformed body, illumined with the light of heaven, possessing the glory of Immanuel. It is His purpose that every Christian shall be surrounded with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 19. If we are obedient and receive the Holy Spirit, we will have light and peace. It will be a joy to be part of this closely united spiritual family.
“For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). The church is the body of Christ. To be a member of His body means you are one with Him. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church, all were motivated by the same spirit. (See Ephesians 4:4.)
This condition could not have been reached while the disciples of Jesus were striving for the highest place. They had to get over the idea of making themselves the center. Whenever people strive for the highest position, conflict results. That was the situation the whole time Jesus was on earth. The disciples were in strife and contention over who was going to have the highest position and be the greatest. In Matthew 18 it is recorded that they boldly came to Jesus wondering who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“Notice that it was after the disciples had come into perfect unity, when they were no longer striving for the highest place, that the Spirit was poured out. They were of one accord. All differences had been put away. And the testimony borne of them after the Spirit had been given is the same. Mark the word: ‘The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul’ (Acts 4:32).” Testimonies, vol. 8, 20.
To the church in the future, Ellen White wrote, “The solemn, important hours intervening between us and the judgment are not to be employed in warfare with believers; this is Satan’s work; he began it in heaven, and he has with unabated energy kept it up ever since his fall.” General Conference Daily Bulletin, 1893, 168.
Warfare with fellow believers is one of the principle ways that we can lose the presence of the Holy Spirit and become separated from God. We then wonder why we have such spiritual darkness and trouble in the church. “God does not separate from His people, but His people separate themselves from God by their own course of action. And I know of no sins greater in the sight of God than those of cherishing jealousy and hatred toward brethren, and turning the weapons of warfare against them.” Ibid.
There is no greater sin than jealousy and hatred and turning weapons of warfare against others in the church, or, in other words, infighting! People claim to be God’s children but in reality, they are helping the devil. In the same General Conference Daily Bulletin, it says, “I point my brethren to Calvary. I ask you, What is the price of man? It is the only begotten Son of the infinite God. It is the price of all the heavenly treasures.
“Evil is ever warring against good. And since we know that the conflict with the prince of darkness is constant, and must be severe, let us be united in the warfare.
“Cease to war against those of your own faith. Let no one help Satan in his work.” Ibid., 169.
Church history indicates that evidently that was a problem in 1893, in 1888, in 1901 and also in 1903. It was also a problem in the church in 1905, 1906, 1907 and in 1922. Many dates of more recent origin could be quoted for incidents I have seen myself.
Fighting each other and sending out evil reports against one another is also rampant among historic Adventists and has been for twenty-five years. Then people wonder why the power of God is missing from our midst!
Separate From Evil
To receive the Holy Spirit we must separate from evil. The Holy Spirit will not inhabit where evil exists. The apostles were of one accord, but they were not of one accord in sin. They were of one accord in righteousness. It is not enough to be in accord with our brethren if that accord is not based on righteousness.
“A passive piety will not answer for this time; let the passiveness be manifested where it is needed, in patience, kindness, and forbearance. But we must bear a decided message of warning to the world. The Prince of Peace thus proclaimed His work, ‘I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword’ (Matthew 10:34). Evil must be assailed; falsehood and error must be made to appear in their true character; sin must be denounced; …” Ibid. [Emphasis author’s.]
When the apostles received the Holy Spirit, they denounced sin. Peter said, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree” (Acts 5:30). With holy boldness Peter dealt with the issue. His rebuke was not taken lightly and the people were so angry with him that they beat him and wanted to kill him right then.
“Evil must be assailed; falsehood and error must be made to appear in their true character; sin must be denounced … .” My dear friends, there are many Christian churches today, where the pastors are afraid to renounce sin for fear that they will lose a large share of their members if certain sins are denounced so they remain quiet on those issues. To do this is at the peril of failing to receive the Holy Spirit.
Ellen White wrote, “Evil must be assailed; falsehood and error must be made to appear in their true character; sin must be denounced; and the testimony of every believer in the truth must be as one. All your little differences which arouse the combative spirit among brethren, are devices of Satan to divert minds from the great and fearful issue before us.” Ibid., 169. [Emphasis added.]
When the Holy Spirit was poured out in the early church it was poured out on people who were obedient. They were not afraid to denounce and condemn sin. They had opened their hearts and come into a spiritual condition to receive it, and the result was that the whole multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.
We want to see that happen again. They were not just individual units, like we see in churches all over today. They were one, filled with the same spirit moving forward in a unified and harmonious way. “The Spirit of Christ made them one. This is the fruit of abiding in Christ. But if dissension, envy, jealousy, and strife are the fruit we bear, it is not possible that we are abiding in Christ.” Ibid. [Emphasis author’s.]
James 3:16, 17 speaks of the same principle: “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
The message coming from many different authors is that if we have envy or strife among us, we cannot receive the Holy Spirit. There are always going to be two groups. Ellen White addresses one group and then the other. To those who have never had the converting experience that comes from above but they are still in the church, she wrote, “If those who have had great light have not corresponding faith and obedience, they soon become leavened with the prevailing apostasy; another spirit controls them.” Ibid.
Notice, these people are not controlled by the Holy Spirit. “While they have been exalted to heaven in point of opportunities and privileges, they are in a worse condition than the most zealous advocates of error.” Ibid.
That is an awful statement. God is in the business of bringing a people into spiritual harmony and unity so that they will be as one. Remember, Paul said in Galatians 3:28 that there is no bond or free, there is no male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus. Paul said in Romans 12:5: “… so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”
When the Holy Spirit was poured out, the disciples saw that the prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah had been literally fulfilled. They had a faith and assurance in what they read but had never understood before. They now understood that the divine teacher that they had been with was everything that He claimed to be.
When Jesus was here in the flesh, He appeared as a human being, and the great mass of mankind, even the disciples did not fully comprehend who He was.
“They realized that although He was clothed with humanity, He was of divine origin.” The Review and Herald, June 18, 1895. Then they expressed to the people with burning zeal what they now understood.
Notice how Peter expressed what he believed on the Day of Pentecost: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear … ‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call’ ” (Acts 2:32–39).
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. … So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (verses 42–47).
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:32).
On the night that He was crucified, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). That prediction was fulfilled shortly after Pentecost. Not only did they do the works of Christ, they did those greater works through the power of the Holy Spirit. That same experience that happened after Pentecost is going to happen again with greater power in the last days than it happened then.
“Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth there will be, among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” The Great Controversy, 464.
If we are to have that experience again, we are going to have to get ready. The disciples had to get ready. Jesus founded a kingdom that was based on a principle that is far different from that on which all the kingdoms of this world are based. After His ascension the disciples began to recognize that they had to take this gospel message to the whole world. They knew they had to do something; so they began to go to each other and pray.
“After Christ’s ascension, the disciples were gathered together in one place to make humble supplication to God. And after ten days of heart searching and self-examination, the way was prepared for the Holy Spirit to enter the cleansed, consecrated soul temples.” The Review and Herald, June 10, 1902.
Like the disciples we also must be prepared for the Holy Spirit to enter us and fill us with light, and give us that same kind of power. Such preparation takes obedience and cooperation.
After the heart searching and self-examination, “Every heart was filled with the Spirit, as though God desired to show His people that it was His prerogative to bless them with the choicest of heaven’s blessings. What was the result?—Thousands were converted in a day. The sword of the Spirit flashed right and left. Newly edged with power, it pierced even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow. The idolatry that had been mingled with the worship of the people was overthrown. New territory was added to the kingdom of God. Places that had been barren and desolate sounded forth His praises. Believers, reconverted, born again, were a living power for God. A new song was put in their mouths, even praise to the Most High. Controlled by the Spirit, they saw Christ in their brethren. One interest prevailed. One subject of emulation swallowed up all others—to be like Christ, to do the works of Christ.” Ibid.
Are we preparing day by day to have that experience again? “The mighty power of the Holy Spirit works an entire transformation in the character of the human agent, making him a new creature in Christ Jesus. When a man is filled with the Spirit, the more severely he is tested and tried, the more clearly he proves that he is a representative of Christ.” Ibid.
“The peace that dwells in the soul is seen on the countenance. The words and actions express the love of the Saviour. There is no striving for the highest place. Self is renounced. The name of Jesus is written on all that is said and done.” Ibid.
Remember, we will not be filled with the Spirit until we have made the necessary preparation. The Bible says that the people took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. To be a Christian means to be Christ-like. How many people are there who are like Christ?
The real question I must ask myself if I want to be part of such a demonstration of primitive godliness that has not been seen in this world since the time of the apostles is, Is my character in harmony with my profession?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.