- The Spirit comes upon people, including (and especially) the primary association with baptism.
- The Spirit fills people, usually in the context of inspired (prophetic) speech
- The Spirit leads/guides people, including passages which use the specific phrase “in the Spirit”
Today I am exploring the last of the three principal themes involving the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts, listed above.
Guided/Led by the Spirit (“in the Spirit”)
This theme is already set in the portion of the Infancy Narrative involving Simeon, who, like John and his parents (Zechariah/Elizabeth) are transitional figures in the Gospel—representing the end of the old covenant and the beginning of the new. In Lk 2:27, it is said that Simeon “came into the Temple in the Spirit [e)n tw=| pneu/mati]”—this presumably indicates a state of inspiration (cf. vv. 25-26 and the oracles in vv. 29-32, 34-35), but also that he was led into the Temple at just the right moment to encounter the child Jesus. This idea is expressed much more clearly in the case of Jesus himself, at the beginning of his ministry. Previously, I have noted the precise way the references to the Spirit help to structure the narrative in chapters 3-4:
- Lk 3:22—The Holy Spirit came down upon [e)pi/] him (Baptism/Anointing)
- Lk 4:18—The Spirit of the Lord is upon [e)pi/] him (Anointing)
Note especially the three central references to Jesus being led by the Spirit:
- “full of the holy Spirit he turned back…” (v. 1a)
- “and he was led [h&geto] in the Spirit [e)n tw=| pneu/mati] in the desolate (land)” (v. 1b)
- “he turned back in the power of the Spirit…” (v. 14)
Clearly, the Spirit is understood as guiding and directing Jesus’ steps. Elsewhere in the Gospel, the Spirit’s guidance is related to inspired speech (proclamation), in two respects:
- The source of inspiration (“in the Spirit”):
“In that same hour, he [i.e. Jesus] lept for joy [i.e. rejoiced] in the [holy] Spirit and said…” (Lk 10:21)
- Inspiration as teaching:
(Jesus to his disciples): “…for (the) holy Spirit will teach you in that hour the (thing)s which it is necessary for you to say” (Lk 12:12)
These principal aspects of the Spirit’s guiding power continue, being developed in the book of Acts:
- Acts 1:2—Jesus gave commands/instruction to his disciples through the Holy Spirit before he was taken up into heaven
- Acts 2:4—The disciples speak in “other tongues” as the Spirit gave to them the ability to speak forth; this prefigures the believers fulfilling a role similar to the inspired Prophets of old (cf. Acts 1:16; 4:8, 25, 31; 11:28; 21:11; 28:25, etc). Speaking in foreign tongues also symbolizes the mission of the disciples out into the wider Greco-Roman (Gentile) world.
- The Spirit gives direct communication to the disciples/apostles, especially in regard to the mission to the Gentiles—Acts 8:29; 10:44; 11:12; 13:2; 15:28
- Acts 8:29ff—The Spirit guides and directs Philip in his missionary travels:
—”And the Spirit said to Philip…” (v. 29), directing him to the Ethiopian official
—”And when they stepped up out of the water, (the) Spirit of the Lord snatched (up) Philip and the (Ethiopian) chamber-official did not see him any longer” (v. 39)
- Acts 13:2ff—The Spirit similarly provides guidance to Paul (and Barnabas, etc) throughout his journeys, cf. especially Acts 13:4; 16:6-7; 19:21; 20:22-23; 21:4, 11.
- As a related (secondary) theme, we should mention references to the Spirit in the specific context of persecution or opposition, etc, to the disciples’ preaching and missionary work—Acts 4:31; 5:3, 9; 6:10; 7:51; 8:18ff; 13:9; cf. Luke 12:10-12.
In regard to these references, it is worth noting that the role of the Spirit takes on even greater prominence in the so-called “Western” version of the book of Acts, which I will discuss in the next daily note.