Session 4: Grasping the Acts of the Spirit

➡ Average Reading Time: 14 minutes

Session 4: Grasping the Acts of the SpiritWhen you finish this session you should be able to:

  • Understand the Spirit as a down payment
  • Comprehend the Spirit as the continuator
  • Recognize the story in the Book of Acts
  • Explain the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts
  • Distinguish the gift of the Holy Spirit
  • Be aware of the gifts (gracelets) of the Spirit
  • Grapple with the fruit of the Spirit
  • Understand the figures of speech for the Holy Spirit
  • Understand the additional Acts of the Spirit

Where We Are Going

Metaphors of Scripture
The Spirit as Down Payment
The Spirit as the Continuator
First Fruits
The Story in the Book of Acts
The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts
The Gifts (Gracelets) of the Spirit
The Fruit of the Spirit
The Figures of Speech for the Holy Spirit
The Understand the Additional Acts of the Spirit

Session Preview

In this session, we will help you begin the process of understanding the Spirit as a down payment. Second, we will view the Spirit as the Continuator. Third, we will help you recognize the Story in the Book of Acts. Then, we will explain the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. Next, we will distinguish the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Then, we will help you comprehend the difference between the gift of the Spirit and the gracelets of the Spirit. Next, we will help you grapple with the fruit of the Spirit as being one fruit, not nine different fruits. Next, we ill help you comprehend the figures of speech for the Spirit. Finally, we will help you understand the additional material about the acts of the Spirit in the book of Acts.

Metaphors of Scripture

As with the rest of Scripture, pictures, in this case, metaphors, are used to help us understand who the Spirit is. The metaphors of down payment, firstfruits, and seal are prominent explanations of the work of the Spirit in the creation of the believer’s new life and in the creation of the church as the expression of that new life.

The Spirit as Down Payment

This metaphor occurs in 2 Corinthians 1.21-22; 5.5, and Ephesians 1.14. Only Paul uses this metaphor and it is only used for the Spirit. In the Greek commercial culture, it was the first installment of a total amount. This down payment guaranteed the fulfillment of the contract. This metaphor serves to help the believer that the Spirit is a now but not yet reality. We have the Spirit now, but we do not have all of the Spirit that we will receive when this age to come is complete. The down payment of the Spirit is evidence that the future has come into the present and that the future is guaranteed to be realized in full measure.


Paul uses this metaphor in Romans 8.23. The first cluster of grain is God’s pledge to us of the final harvest. Again the Spirit is seen as a guarantee that the future is now but not yet.


This metaphor is also used three times for the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 1.21-22, Ephesians 1.13 and 4.30. In the ancient world, a seal was an impression stamped in wax which ensured ownership and protection. The use of the metaphor suggests that God has marked by the Spirit believers as his own.
These metaphors are starting points for us to begin to understand the meaning of the Spirit in our lives. The Spirit is the fulfillment of the future in the present and essentially is the continuator of the ministry of Jesus in the world.

The Spirit as the Continuator

In the opening verses of Acts, Luke says that in his first book (Luke) he dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. The implication seems clear that in his second book (Acts) that he planned to tell the story of the continuation of the works of Jesus through the acts of the Holy Spirit.

For Luke, the coming of the Holy Spirit was to empower the disciples to continue the ministry of Jesus. This same idea is found in the Gospel of John.

In the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit is referred to as “the Counselor” (John 14.16). The Greek word behind our English word is paracletos and is defined as comforter, helper, advocate, counselor. Translations have helped us settle on one label for the Holy Spirit in this passage, usually counselor. However, the work of the Paraclete may be better expressed by using the word Continuator. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to continue the work of Jesus in the world.

This is certainly demonstrated by Luke in Acts. There are four areas in the ministry of Jesus that we discussed previously (demon, disease, nature, and death). In Acts, Luke records the ministry of the disciples in three of these four areas: demon, disease, and death. It is a striking fact that the words used to describe these miracles are very similar and sometimes the same as the words used in the recording of the miracles at the hand of Jesus. We will look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts below.

Our purpose here is to introduce you to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
He is the person you received when you accepted Jesus into your life. We will begin by looking at an overview of the Kingdom of God, then the idea of the Gift of the Spirit, next, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, finally the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts

Why did the early church grow as it did? Is there any pattern to show us how God acted to grow his church? Could the continuation of the works of Jesus through the Spirit play a part? Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions.

The Book of Acts can be broken up into six sections. Each of the sections takes us a step further, from Jerusalem toward Rome, in fulfillment of Acts 1.8. The Spirit’s ministry starts in Jerusalem, moves to Judea and Samaria, among Gentiles, then to Asia, Europe, and finally to Rome.

The book of Acts records a story of the people of God empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring the rule of God into Satan’s domain. Luke, often called the theologian of the Holy Spirit in the Second Testament, wanted his readership then, and now, to understand that it is the empowering Spirit of God who is the one who moves the church beyond its own boundaries to risk doing and becoming what God desires. The Holy Spirit is the grid on which one must hang his or her understanding of the Book of Acts.

The Acts of the Holy Spirit

Let’s look now to the text of Acts and see if Luke has not left us a pattern to observe how the Spirit of God acts. The book of Acts demonstrates that the ministry of the ecclesiae was empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Acts Chapter 1 begins by showing Acts to be a companion volume to the Gospel of Luke. In Luke’s first volume he dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. Luke was now going to continue the story of Jesus doing and teaching in Acts as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1.5). The disciples still have somewhat misread him concerning the kingdom as Acts 1.6-7 shows. The key to the progress of Acts is 1.8. Then Jesus went away with the promise of his return.

The rest of chapter 1 is Luke’s way of contrasting the unempowered group before Pentecost with the empowered group after Pentecost. This group in chapter 1 is still doing things according to the First Testament pattern. As an example, in their choice of one to take the place of Judas, they cast lots, recalling the First Testament’s Urim and Thummim with which God’s will was decided. However, after the Spirit comes, when someone needs to be chosen, none of this occurs (see Acts 6.1-6).

Chapter 2 begins with the coming of the Spirit. In order to show the work of the Holy Spirit in Acts, we will look at ten different ways in which the Spirit continued the ministry of Jesus along with the results in that ministry.

1 Speaking Gifts

Speaking gifts occur 4 times.
Speaking Gifts

2 Visions

Visions are recorded 4 times.

3.Power Encounter

There is one recorded between Paul and Elymas at Act 13.4-12. The result, the proconsul believed.

4. Dead Raised

There are 2 resuscitations recorded.
Dead Raised

5. Miracles (specific)

Miracles occur 6 times in Acts.
Miracles (specific)

6. Healing (specific)

Healings are 7 recorded in Acts.
Healing (specific)

7. Laying on Hands

Laying on Hands occurs 4 times.
Laying on Hands

8. Sense Phenomena

Sense Phenomena occurs 3 times.
Sense Phenomena

9. Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders occur 9 times. They are the most frequent. Luke defines them for us at Acts 2.22 where he says that they are the things which Jesus did when with the disciples. This would at least include healing, expelling of demons, miracles with nature, with food, raising the dead, being transported from one place to another.
Signs and Wonders

10. Angelic Visitation

Angelic Visitations are recorded 3 times.
In relation to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Acts, there are 14 times in which signs and wonders occur, preaching occurs, then church growth occurs. The following chart provides the location of these occurrences.
Angelic Visitation

Here are two possible conclusions:

  1. There seems to be a direct relationship between the ministry of the Spirit, in what has been called signs and wonders, along with preaching and the growth of the church in Acts.
  2. There is no indication in Scripture that the ministry of the Spirit as demonstrated in Acts has ceased. He still today wants to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

The Gift of the Spirit is seen as the fulfillment of the promise (Gal. 3.14). In the First Testament, the prophets frequently referred to a day when the Spirit would be given (Isa. 44.3; Ezek. 36.26-27; 37.14; 39.29). Such prophecies in the First Testament look forward to the salvation which the Messiah would bring. From a First Testament perspective, the promise of the Spirit is a future (eschatological) promise, and is one of the blessings of the establishing of the Rule of God on earth. For Paul in the Second Testament, this promise had occurred (Gal. 3.2-3; 4.6; 5.25).

It is because the Spirit dwells in us and because we rely on the Spirit rather than the flesh that we have the hope of divine vindication at the future Day of Judgment (Gal. 5.5).

There is a difference between the language of the Gift of the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. When you refer to the Gift of the Holy Spirit, it begs the question, when do you receive this gift? The common language for that reception is called Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is not my concern to provide a comprehensive study of this idea, but only introduce you to the concept known as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Depending on who you are talking to when you use this phrase, you will either receive an extreme amount of heat or if you are fortunate some light.

The concept of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is presented in the four Gospels (Matt. 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33-34). Luke also uses the phrase in Acts 1.5 and 11.16. Jesus is the speaker at Acts 1.5, while Peter is quoting Jesus in Acts 11.16. In all these passages the term is baptize not baptism. It must be noted that the term baptism in the Holy Spirit is not the language of Scripture. As a matter of fact, the term baptism in the Holy Spirit never appears in Scripture.

There are two ways by which this gift is thought to be received. First, the gift is given subsequent to salvation. In some denominations, one must speak in tongues (a gift listed in 1 Cor. 12) as the initial evidence that the Gift of the Holy Spirit has been received. We must remember that the idea of a second work of the Spirit has its roots in the Wesley Revival and serves as the basic foundation for the teaching among modern Pentecostals who find their roots in Wesley.

It should be noted for clarity that the language filled with the Spirit in Acts 2 is identical to the language in Luke 1 and Acts 4.31. The conclusion you can draw is that subsequent is not a theological mindset, but is arrived at either because of our experience or the experiences of others. It is a good idea to allow Scripture to nudge our presuppositions toward a more theological mindset, as we consider any topic in Scripture. Subsequent does not seem to be in the mind or heart of God.

Second, the Gift of the Holy Spirit is given at conversion. In an article by Clark Pinnock in Perspectives on the New Pentecostalism edited by Russ Spittler, (186) he says, “Baptism is a flexible metaphor, not a technical term. Luke seems to regard it as synonymous with wholeness (Acts 2.4, cf 11.16). Therefore, so long as we recognize conversion as truly a baptism in the Spirit, there is no reason why we cannot use baptism to refer to subsequent fillings of the Spirit as well. This major experience or experiences ought not to be tied down in a tight second blessing schema, but should be seen as an actualization of what we have already received in the initial charismatic experience which is conversion.”

The focus of this statement suggests that conversion is the first baptism in the Spirit and that there are many baptisms that will follow. All of these continuing experiences are only an actualization of what was completely given at conversion. This understanding provides us with liberating knowledge: there are no second-class believers, some who have and some who have-not.
When you go shopping at a supermarket to buy food, there is often no difference in some of the foods available except for the label and price. The ingredients are the same and even the taste is the same. Some of us are given to purchasing only labels while others purchase content. Baptism in the Spirit is a label. In Fire and the Fireplace, Hummel says, “The Church often faces the problem of the medicine bottle and its label. It is possible for a person’s experience of God to be better than his doctrinal explanation of it. Unfortunately, the reverse can be true. Orthodox theology is often affirmed with little Christian character and service. Good medicine may be incorrectly labeled, while an accurate label can adorn an empty bottle” (185).

We spend far too much time debating over the phraseology of this gift and too little time reaping the benefits of the gift. We have to call this experience something and we have all sorts of Christianese at our disposal. We could call it baptism, infilling, empowerment, a special touch, being zapped, overwhelmed, or any number of other metaphors.

For Paul and Luke it seems clear that one baptism, many fillings is an adequate way to understand this gift. In the book of Acts, there is no one model for how an individual comes to fellowship with God through Jesus. There is no specific sequence of events lined out for everyone to follow. What one can say is that the Spirit blows where he desires. Russ Spittler says, “Completeness and not subsequence strikes me as a better category by which to understand the arrival of the Spirit in Acts.”[ref]Russell P. Spittler. Perspectives on the New Pentecostalism. 5.[/ref]

The good news is that you already have the Gift of the Holy Spirit if you have come to believe in Jesus and have accepted him into your life. From that point to the time you leave this world, you will be in the process of being saved according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 1.18. As that process continues you will be actualizing the blessings that God gave you once-for-all in Jesus at conversion. Some of those blessings are the gracelets (gifts) that we receive to give to others. So be ready at any moment for God to send you one of the gifts, within the gift, to open and share with another member of the body.

The Gifts (Gracelets) of the Spirit

How do we understand these gifts when the decisive character and function of each gift is not made clear in the passages where they are recorded? The Corinthians must have known what Paul was talking about when he listed these gifts. It is at this point that we bring our own experiences to bear on the text. While our experiences are our experiences, they must often be shaped by what Scripture teaches us. It is true that sometimes we are taught something and then we experience it. While other times we experience something and then we view the teaching of Scripture through that new lens. It might be well for us to remember that the experience of theology came before the writing of theology. Sometimes the writing was to enlighten the understanding of a correct experience, while at other times it was to correct a malfunctioning experience.

While the interpretation must ultimately be grounded in the text of Scripture, the practice of biblical truths will often illuminate the meaning of some Scripture. Current manifestations of spiritual gifts, including their use and misuse, can aid our understanding of Paul’s teaching.[ref]Hummel, Fire in the Fireplace, 13).[/ref]

The following is a list of the Gifts (Gracelets) of the Spirit and their biblical address and listed in alphabetical order:

  • Administrations: 1 Cor. 12.28
  • Aid: Romans 12.6
  • Apostles: Eph. 4.11; 1 Cor. 12.28
  • Celibacy: 1 Cor. 7.7, 25–40
  • Discernings of Spirits: 1 Cor. 12.10
  • Evangelist: Eph. 4.11
  • Exhortation: Romans 12.8
  • Faith: 1 Cor. 12.9, 13.2
  • Gifts of Healings: 1 Cor. 12.9
  • Giving: Romans 12.6
  • Interpretation of Tongues: 1 Cor. 12.10
  • Knowledge, Issuance of: 1 Cor. 12.8
  • Mercy: Romans 12.6
  • Miracles, Effects of: 1 Cor 12.10, 29
  • Pastor-Teacher: Eph 4.11
  • Philanthropy: 1 Cor. 13.3
  • Prophecy: 1 Cor. 12.10, 12.28
  • Prophets: Eph 4.11, 1 Cor. 12.28
  • Service: Rom. 12.8
  • Teachers: Rom. 12.8, 1 Cor. 12.28
  • Tongues, Kinds of: 1 Cor. 12.10, 28
  • Wisdom, Utterance of: 1 Cor. 12.8

The Fruit of the Spirit

The word fruit as compared with works indicates that the issue in this matter is not what man can do, but what God grows in him. One can have a lifestyle dominated by the flesh. But one cannot grow his own fruit.
This is done by God and God alone. It is his job to cultivate his fruit in us. His fruit is the actions and attitudes of the Kingdom Age. This does not negate human responsibility. It only draws attention to who does the planting and by whose power growth occurs.

  • Love. The action of seeking the best and highest potential for others— even for those who seek the worst for us.
  • Joy. The delight that comes from experiencing God’s work in our lives that is not material.
  • Peace. The inward calm that everything is okay because God is in control.
  • Patience. The gentle tolerance of others. It is patience in dealing with people, not things and events.
  • Kindness. Treating others the way God treats us.
  • Goodness. Doing good deeds for those within the community of believers.
  • Faithfulness. Being reliable.
  • Gentleness. The balance between excessive anger and excessive patience. The quality of a person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.
  • Self-control. This is allowing the Spirit to help master your life rather than you trying to master your life. It is not getting control of yourself it is allowing the Spirit of God to control you.

Galatians 5.24 points to the crucifixion of this age’s habits. Verse 25 says, “Since (not if) we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit.” In Judaism “walk” was the common metaphor for a person’s whole way of life. Verse 26 tells us to watch out for the habits of this evil age while walking in the Spirit.
God’s desire is for us to stop acting as if we belong to this age (doing the works of the flesh), and start acting like the people he has made us to be (growing the fruit of the Spirit).

The Figures of Speech for the Holy Spirit

  1. Clothing (Luke 24.49)
  2. Deposit (2 Cor. 1.21; Eph. 1.13)
  3. Dove (Matt. 3.16)
  4. Fire (Acts 2.3)
  5. Oil (1 John 2.20)
  6. Seal (2 Cor. 1.21; Eph. 1.13)
  7. Water (John 4.14)
  8. Wind (John 3.8)

Additional Acts of the Spirit

In addition to the acts of the Spirit which we have rehearsed in Acts, here are some added things the Spirit does. The Spirit searches all things (1 Cor. 2.10), knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2.11), teaches the content of the gospel to believers (2 Cor. 2.13), dwells among or within believers (1 Cor. 3.16; Rom. 8.11; 2 Tim. 1.14), accomplishes all things (1 Cor. 12.11) gives life to those who believe (2 Cor. 3.16), cries out from our hearts (Gal. 4.6), leads us in the ways of God (Gal. 5.18; Rom. 8.14), bears witness with our own spirits (Rom. 8.16), has desires that are in opposition to the flesh (Gal. 5.17), helps us in our weakness (Rom 8.26), intercedes on our behalf (Rom. 8.26-27), works all things together for our ultimate good (Rom. 8.28), strengthens believers (Eph. 3.16), and is grieved by our sinfulness (Eph. 4.30) (Gordon Fee. Paul the Spirit and the People of God. 27.)

End of Sesssion

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)