Chapter 7: Dimensions of the Spirit

Luke mentions the Holy Spirit many times in his writings. Indeed, the Book of Acts is sometimes called the "gospel of the Spirit." As all Biblical writers, Luke connects the Holy Spirit with his purposes. We are interested in this chapter in discovering what dimensions of the Spirit's presence and work he emphasizes.

By the term "dimension" I mean the aspects of the Spirit's presence and work that the writer presents. For example, power to witness is a dimension. The term "dimension" is not a Biblical term, but it is one that is useful in describing the emphases of various authors.

As we consider dimensions of the Spirit, we are interested in at least these four questions: (1) Does Luke connect the Spirit with the impartation of new life? (2) Does Luke deal with the work of the Spirit in spiritual maturity? (3) Does Luke relate the Spirit to ministry or mission? (4) Is the Spirit in Luke connected with worship?

Given these interests, we might classify all the data under categories such as life, maturity, mission, and worship. However, we will not do so. One reason is that the various dimensions overlap. Some of the passages relate to more than one category. The second reason is that it is better to just follow the author's presentation without artificially trying to fit the data into the categories demanded by our interest. At the conclusion of our study of dimensions, I will summarize our findings in terms of these categories.

The Mission

Luke connects the Holy Spirit with the mission of the church. Jesus gave the Great Commission, and Luke marshals all the data that show how the disciples were empowered to fulfill the mission. Our study includes these topics: (1) Witnesses and (2) Attestation.


The terms mission and witnesses are complementary. The mission of the witnesses is to present Christ to the entire world. Witnesses include apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, and all disciples. What they do can be called missions.

Some writers hold that Luke highlights that disciples are to "be" witnesses. This suggests that the empowerment of the Spirit has to do with spiritual maturity and ethical concerns. Our view is that any experience with the Holy Spirit has an impact on spiritual life, but this is not the main intent of the passages listed here. The emphasis is on being empowered to witness.

Several passages stress that witnesses are to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. First, with regard to the saints before the ministry of Jesus, we have two verses that relate to John the Baptist. Luke tells us (Luke 1:15) that John the Baptist "will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb." Apparently, John was filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:41) when Elizabeth met with Mary.

Second, John was attested and empowered by the Spirit as the forerunner of Christ. In Luke 1:17, the angel of the Lord tells Zacharia that John will go "'in the spirit and power of Elijah.'" Elijah ministered in the power of the Spirit. So this phrase is another way of saying John would be empowered by the Spirit. His ministry would "'make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'"

Third, on Resurrection Sunday night, Jesus met with the disciples. It is my view that the comments Jesus made in Luke 24:44- were made that evening. Jesus pointed (verse 44) the disciples to the prophecies in the Law and the Prophets that must be fulfilled. This was the ultimate evidence. Also, the Scriptures would help them understand (verse 47) their commission to proclaim the gospel to the nations.

Then, Jesus said to His disciples (Luke 24:48-), "'You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'" To some degree, that very night, Jesus empowered the disciples, but the main outpouring would come at Pentecost.

Fourth, at Pentecost the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). As Jesus said to the disciples (Acts 1:8), "'you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.'" NAU The Book of Acts records the story of how this promise was fulfilled.

Our mission as disciples has not changed. We, too, are witnesses to the entire globe. Our task is to fulfill the Great Commission. The history of the spread of the gospel is still being written!


All that the Spirit does attests to the truth of Christianity, but in several cases attestation factor stands out. We have mentioned above the case of John the Baptist. In addition Jesus and the disciples were attested by the Spirit.

First, according to Peter (Acts 2:22) Jesus was "'a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him.'" Peter does not mention the Holy Spirit in this verse, but he does in Acts 10:38. There, Peter declares: "'You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

Second, the high priest and his associates put the apostles in jail because they taught in the name of Jesus. At a meeting with the Council, Peter and the apostles said to the high priest (Acts 5:28), "'We must obey God rather than men.'" Then, in Acts 5:32, they said: "'And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." The Holy Spirit was a witness. The disciples obeyed God by witnessing. Thus, the implication is that the Spirit empowered and attested the witnessing disciples.

Third, at Caesarea the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Gentiles. They began (Acts 10:46) "speaking with tongues and exalting God." According to Peter (Acts 10-47), this was sufficient evidence that they were eligible for water baptism. Later, at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:8), Peter said: "'And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us.'" The Gentiles were fully authenticated as disciples. This was a huge forward step in the mission of the church.


One of the key features in Luke-Acts is the work of the Spirit in revelation. This includes his activity in inspiring Scriptures as well as revealing knowledge to the disciples.


Luke presents the Spirit as the inspirer of Old Testament Scriptures. He is the revealer of truth. First, when the disciples were seeking to select a replacement for Judas, Peter cited Psalms 69:25 and 109:8. He said that the Scripture had to be fulfilled, "'which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas.'" The Holy Spirit spoke but it was through the mouth of David.

Second, a similar case arose when Peter and John were released from prison. They went "to their own" and reported what had happened. In my view "their own" included many disciples. The assembled believers cited Psalm 2:1-2. It was the Lord, they said (Acts 4:25), "'who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, 'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?'" Once again the Spirit speaks through the mouth of David.

Third, when Paul arrived in Rome, the leaders of the Jews came to the house where Paul was staying. Paul spoke to them about the kingdom of God and related matters. Some were being persuaded, but others would not believe. Because of their disagreement, they would leave. Just before they began leaving, Paul said (Acts 28:25), "'The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers.'" The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah with a message (Isaiah 6:9-10) to their ancestors. That message applied very well to Paul's audience. The Jews would hear but not understand; they would see but not perceive the truth. Their hearts were dull.

The early church witnesses stood firmly on the Old Testament Scriptures. No more Scripture is being written, but the Spirit still speaks. He illuminates the Word of God to our hearts. As Christ's witnesses today, like those in the early church, we must be grounded in the Word of God. Our mission depends on it.


The Spirit reveals knowledge to the disciples. Later, as we discuss Spirit-inspired speech and guidance, we will highlight other moments of revelation. Those cases, of course, could be included here in this category. To avoid repetition we will not do so. At this point we will present the following cases of the Spirit revealing knowledge.

First, three verses in succession mention the Holy Spirit in connection with Simeon. In Luke 2:25, the Holy Spirit "was upon" Simeon. Next, in Luke 2:26 we learn that it had been revealed to Simeon "by the Holy Spirit" that He would not see death before he had seen the "Lord's Christ." The Holy Spirit revealed a special and personal truth to Simeon. No doubt his heart was full of joy over this. Then, in Luke 2:27 Simeon "came in the Spirit into the temple." Simeon goes on to say (Luke 2:30), "'For my eyes have seen Thy salvation.'"

Second, in Luke 12:1-12 Jesus encourages the disciples to be bold witnesses in the face of persecution. As verse 11 says, the disciples will be brought before "the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities." When these courts charge the disciples with wrongdoing, the Holy Spirit will help them. Jesus says (verse 12), "'the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.'" The Spirit will reveal knowledge to the disciples.

Third, Ananias and Sapphira sold land, gave some of the proceeds to the church, and deceptively kept back part of the price. According to Peter, both Ananias (Acts 5:3) and Sapphira (Acts 5:9) lied to the Holy Spirit. Luke does not tell us how Peter knew this. It appears that the Spirit may have made this known to him. Some writers think that it may have been through a "word of knowledge." This may be so, but Luke does not use this term which is taken from Paul's writings.

Inspired Speech

The fulfillment of the mission of the church comes through both divine and human activity. The human activity is empowered by the Spirit. From the divine side, the Spirit inspires speech. From the human standpoint, the empowered witnesses, like Moses (Acts 7:22), were men of "power in words." With regard to inspired speech, Keener (p. 53) writes:

As many writers have shown, Luke emphasizes particularly the Spirit's role in various kinds of inspired speech (see Luke 1:15-17, 41-42, 67; 2:26; 12:12; Acts 1:2, 8; 2:4, 17; 4:8, 31; 5:32; 6:10; 7:51; 10:45-46; 11:28; 13:2, 4, 9; 20:23; 21:4, 11; compare 7:55; 8:29; 10:19, 38; 15:28; 16:6-9). There may be a few exceptions, for instance, the contrast between Spirit and fire in Luke 3:16, but the Spirit's prophetic activity is his activity most often emphasized in Luke and Acts.

We are commissioned to spread the gospel, but not all speech is a direct proclamation. Witnesses are empowered to speak in all situations to meet the need. In some case the empowered speech may be considered to be preaching or witnessing or both. Sometimes praise is involved as well. We will consider inspired speech under the headings (1) prophecy, (2) speaking in tongues, and (3) other speech.


Many have written that Luke presents the Old Testament Spirit of Prophecy in the New Testament. They broaden the term to include all that the Spirit does in Luke and Acts. Luke does not use this name for the Spirit. He does, however, emphasize prophecy.

First, Zacharias was the father of John the Baptist. When John was born, Zacharias "was filled [eplesthe] with the Spirit and prophesied." His prophecy (Luke 1:68-79) is known as a hymn named Benedictus. The name is from the translation of the first word of the song in the Vulgate. The Benedictus has two parts: The first part (Luke 1:68-75) describes the role of the Messiah, Israel's deliverer. It is taken from several Old Testament passages. The second part (Luke 1:76-79) reveals the ministry of John the forerunner.

Second, when Joseph and Mary presented Christ in the temple, Simeon (Luke 2:28) "took Him into his arms, and blessed God." This moment was no doubt the greatest in His life. He was holding the Savior of the world in his arms. Allthough Luke does not say that he prophesied, he uttered what may be called prophetic praise. The six poetic lines in this prophecy are called the Nunc Dimittis from the first two words in the Latin translation. Lenski (p. 148) writes: "They constitute a psalmlike adoration of praise to God for what he is doing for Simeon on the basis of what he did for the whole world."

In addition, Simeon spoke (Luke 2:34) a special prophetic word to Mary. As Horton (81) says, "He also foretold the heartbreak that would come to Mary (fulfilled at the cross). Simeon declared, "'Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.'" An element of revelation is included in Simeon's declaration.

Third, when Peter explained what happened on the Day of Pentecost, He quoted Joel. One result of the Spirit's outpouring will be prophetic speech. Peter said, "'your sons and daughters will prophesy.'" Although Joel does not say so, Peter adds (verse 18) that God's bondslaves will prophesy (Acts 2:17-18). Prophecy includes messages to God (praise) as well as messages to men. Clearly, Peter saw speaking in tongues as a form of prophecy. The Spirit would be poured out upon all flesh, so that all can prophesy.

Fourth, on one occasion, some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. According to Luke (Acts 11:28), one of the prophets by the name of Agabus stood up and "began to indicate by [dia] the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world." The Greek preposition dia can mean either by or through. The important point is that Agabus was under the inspiration of the Spirit as he spoke. This was prophecy in the sense of predicting the future. The Spirit revealed to him what would happen.

Fifth, when Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, he and his group arrived in Caesarea. They stayed in the home of Philip the evangelist. Philip was one of the seven men chosen to serve the church (Acts 6:5) in Jerusalem. Philip had four unmarried daughters (Acts 21:9) who prophesied. As Joel had predicted, the Spirit would come upon women, as well as men, and they would prophesy.

Sixth, a prophet from Judea named Agabus came down from Judea to Caesarea with a prophecy from the Holy Spirit. Agabus took Paul's belt and bound his own hands and feet. He said (Acts 21:11): "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" NAU According to Bruce (p. 425), "the action was as much part of the prophecy as the spoken words; both together communicated the powerful and self-fulfilling word of God." The revelation to Agabus was from the Spirit.

Speaking in Tongues

In the Book of Acts, there are three times that the disciples spoke in tongues. First, with regard to Pentecost, Luke writes ( Acts 2:4), "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." NAU The people in the audience (Acts 2:6) heard the disciples speaking in their own languages. They said (Acts 2:11) "'we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.'"

The issue is raised at to whether "the mighty deeds of God" represent praise or proclamation. Actually, there is very little difference between these two views. Praise is addressed to God, while proclamation is addressed to man. However, praise can serve as proclamation, and proclamation can serve as praise. You cannot praise God for His great deeds without spreading the knowledge of those deeds. In addition any true proclamation of God's great deeds will exalt His name. The utterances of the disciples were, in any case, a powerful witness.

Second, at Caesarea, the Spirit was poured out upon the Gentiles. The result (Acts 10:46) was that the people were speaking in tongues and exalting God. As far as we know, the tongues in this case were unknown to both the speakers and the audience. No doubt, they exalted God with these unknown languages, but they also exalted God in their own known language. Great praise was evoked by the outpouring of the Spirit. Once again the result was a powerful witness.

The inspired speech of the Gentiles attested to the fact that God had accepted them. The evidence of speaking was especially convincing. According to Lampe (p. 75), "there would be nothing less than a direct descent of the Spirit, producing the unmistakable external sign of ‘speaking with tongues'." Similarly, Horton (p. 157) writes, "Obviously, speaking in tongues was the convincing evidence here. And in a day when some think, hope, believe, and then wonder whether they have the baptism in the Spirit, perhaps a convincing evidence is still needed."

Third, when the Holy Spirit came on the disciples at Ephesus, they "began speaking in tongues and prophesying." When they spoke in tongues and prophesied, they gave a powerful witness to their conversion and allegiance to Christ. Luke does not say what the content of the prophesying was. However, it seems likely that this was praise to God. Their inspired speaking bore witness to the presence and power of God.

The emphasis of these three passages is that the disciples spoke prophetically. This prophetic speech involves witness and praise. Speaking in tongues is a form of prophesy. It can be a form of praise as well. Thus praise is involved in Luke's treatment of the Spirit, but he does not link the Spirit to spiritual songs and worship as Paul does in Ephesians 5:18-20.

Other Inspired Speech

Not all Spirit-inspired speech is identified by Luke as either prophecy or speaking in tongues. Neither does all inpired speech foretell the future. Here, we will examine cases of inspired speech not included in these categories.

First, Mary came to visit Elizabeth and greeted her. When Elizabeth heard the greeting, she was filled with the spirit (Luke 1:41-45) and delivered a message. She blessed Mary and the fruit of her womb. Then, she called Mary the "mother of our Lord." Luke does not tell us how Elizabeth knew this. This knowledge went far beyond anything the angel Gabriel had told Zacharias six months earlier. Unless Mary told Elizabeth the news during her greeting, the information did not come from Mary. The impression we have from the text is that the Spirit revealed the information to Elizabeth.

Second, in Acts 1:2, Luke tells us that Jesus "had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen." During His entire earthly ministry, Jesus was empowered by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism and continued to rest upon throughout His ministry. Now, Luke assures us that during the days between His resurrection and His ascension, He ministered in the power of the Spirit.

Third, the rulers and elders were upset (Acts 4:2) because the apostles were "proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead." The occasion of the preaching was the healing of the lame man. So, the rulers and elders inquired (Acts 4:7), "'By what power, or in what name, have you done this?'" As Peter understood the question, it had to do with the miracle that had occurred. Now, Luke (Acts 4:8) tells us that "Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit," answered them. The man was healed by the name of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, when Peter and John met with the disciples, the disciples prayed for strength to speak the Word of God with confidence. Also, includes their expression of faith that God would extend His hand to heal and works signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. Luke then declares (Acts 4:31), "And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness."

Fifth, in spite of opposition, the disciples boldly witnessed. While summing up the progress of the church, Luke states (Acts 4:33), "And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all." NAU Here, Luke does not mention the Spirit, but the connection is common in Luke.

Sixth, the context of Acts 5:32 shows that men were telling the apostles not to speak and teach in the name of Jesus. However, the apostles had been ordered and empowered to be witnesses. They had to obey God. Peter then said (Acts 5:32), "'And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.'" The point is that the disciples obeyed by witnessing. Not only were the apostles witnesses, but also the Holy Spirit was a witness also. The Spirit witnessed through the apostles whom He empowered.

Seventh, the members of the Synagogue of the Freedman (Acts 6:9) were a powerful group of opponents to Stephen, but Luke says (6:10), "they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking." Stephen spoke with great prophetic wisdom. Here, wisdom and the Spirit are connected. The implication is that the wisdom was from the Spirit of God.

Eighth, in Acts 7:55-56 Luke reports that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. While he was full of the Spirit, he described what he saw. He said, "'Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" This was inspired speech based on what he supernaturally saw.

Ninth, when Paul was in Salamis, he was opposed by Elymas the magician. According to Luke (Acts 13:9), "Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on" Elymas and spoke to him. Paul condemned Elymas and appealed to him to change his ways. He went on to say that the "hand of the Lord" was upon Elymas and that he would be blind and not see the sun for a time. A mist and a darkness fell upon Elymas, and he was afflicted with this blindness. Luke does not say whether or not Elymas later repented.

Tenth, Apollos was in Ephesus teaching. Luke says (Acts 18:25): "This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John." The phrase "fervent in spirit" can be taken to mean the spirit of Apollos, the Holy Spirit, or the spirit of Apollos inspired by the Holy Spirit. In my view the latter is the preferred rendering. Apollos was a strong witness and preacher of the gospel.


In a few cases Luke speaks about the giving and receiving of the Spirit without explicitly talking about speech. John the Baptist says that Jesus will baptize in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16), but he does not talk about speech. When the prophecy was fullfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:4), they did speak! Similarly, Peter does not mention speech (Acts 2:38) with regard to the promised reception of the Spirit.

At Samaria (Acts 8:17), the disciples "were receiving" the Spirit. Luke does not report any speech, but he does say that Simon "saw" that the Spirit was bestowed. Many believe that what he saw was inspired speech, perhaps speaking in tongues. Ananias prayed (Acts 9:17) that Paul might be "filled with the Holy Spirit." Luke does not report any inspired comments by Paul at this time. Neither does he say whether or not Paul was immediately filled with the Spirit. In Acts 13:52 the disciples "were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." Inspired speech is not explicitly included, but the joy was very likely expressed.

Also, Luke sometimes talks about being "full" of the Spirit without mentioning speech. These cases include Jesus in Luke 4:1, the seven selected leaders in Acts 6:3-5, and Barnabas in 11:24. Being full of the Spirit is a state or condition. One can be full of the Spirit without being engaged in any specific activity such as speaking.


A very dominant emphasis in Luke is on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This was true both before and after Pentecost. Sometimes that guidance included a revelation from the Spirit about relevant circumstances. Today, witnesses are to be guided by the Spirit. We are led of the Spirit. May we always be sensitive to His leadership!

Spiritual Guidelines

The Spirit guided the early church with regard to decisions affecting spiritual life. The apostles, elders, and the whole church sent a letter from the Jerusalem Council to the church in Antioch. The letter (Acts 10:28) declares: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:" NAU Luke does not tell us how the Spirit made His wisdom known to the church. We simply know that He did. Led by the Spirit, the church had made the decision that circumcision would not be required.

Selection of Leaders

Luke describes the role of the Holy Spirit in selecting and appointing leaders. First, in Acts 13:2 Luke says, "While they [the prophets and teachers] were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" Because the Holy Spirit had called Barnabas and Saul, the prophets and teachers were to set them apart. Luke does not tell us exactly how the Holy Spirit spoke. We can only surmise that He spoke to the prophets who were with Barnabas and Saul. It may be that spoke through one of them with a prophetic word.

Second, during his farewell speech at Ephesus, Paul tells the elders that the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28) "has made you overseers." Whatever human process was involved in their rising to leadership, the real appointment was made by the Spirit. They were chosen to shepherd the church of God. The Spirit obviously led in the selection of the overseers.


According to Luke, both Jesus and the disciples are led by the Spirit in ministry. Several passages illustrate this truth.

First, in Luke 2:27, we read concerning Simeon, "And he came in [en] the Spirit into the temple. He came when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in accordance with the law. The word "by" is a translation of the Greek en. It can mean "in" or "by." Either way, the point is that he entered the temple under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit motivated and prompted his entry into the Temple.

Second, according to Luke 4:1, Jesus "was led around by the Spirit." The verb was led (egeto) is an imperfect passive tense and means that Jesus was continuously (or repeatedly) led. The leading of the Spirit was an ongoing experience for Jesus. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days and was led by the Spirit the entire time. As above, "by" the Spirit can be translated either "in" or "by" the Spirit. "By" the Spirit fits the context better, but in the end there is not much difference. Certainly, the impact of the Spirit upon Jesus was felt. He was empowered by the Spirit.

Third, when Philip was on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he encountered the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch. Luke says (Acts 8:29), "Then the Spirit said to Philip, "'Go up and join this chariot.'" A conversation between Philip and the eunuch ensued. As a result the Ethiopian was baptized. Now, Luke says (Acts 8:39), "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing." The snatching way was a very unusual occurrence.

Fourth, three verses have to do with how the Spirit led Peter with regard to his ministry to the Gentiles at Caesarea. Peter had a vision (Acts 10:9-16) concerning eating animals. A voice told Peter (Acts 10:15) "'What God has cleansed, not longer consider unholy.'" Then (Acts 10:19-20), "While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you. But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself.'" In Acts 11:12, when Peter was telling the story, he repeated what the Spirit said. He said, "'The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings.'"

Fifth, the apostle Paul and his companions were led of the Spirit. In Acts 13:4, Luke says, "So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus." Later (Acts16:6-7), Luke writes: "They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them." Thus, the Spirit not only guides people to certain places, but He also prevents them from going.

Sixth, Paul was on his third missionary journey. He ministered extensively in Ephesus. At this point Luke states (Acts 19:21): "Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, "'After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'" Many take the phrase "purposed in the spirit" to refer to Paul's own spirit. It can also be interpreted to mean "purposed in the Spirit." Very likely, Paul felt in his spirit that he was being led of the Spirit.


Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem, but the journey was not without danger. The role of the Spirit in warning him about these dangers is very interesting.

First, when Paul was in Miletus, on his way to Jerusalem, he called for the elders of the church in Ephesus He said to them (Acts 20:22-23): "And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me." The phrase "bound in spirit," I believe, refers to his human spirit inspired by the Spirit. Luke does not say exactly how the Spirit testifies to Paul, but two possibilities stand out. The Spirit may have spoken through others or He may have spoken by direct revelation to the mind of Paul.

Second, on his journey to Jerusalem Paul arrived in Tyre. Luke writes (Acts 21:4), "After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem." This seems to be in conflict with the fact that Paul felt bound in spirit or Spirit to go to Jerusalem. Various solutions to this problem have been proposed.

In my view Paul probably understands that the warning not to set foot in Jerusalem was conditional, not absolute. We could paraphrase the prohibition in this way: "Do not go to Jerusalem unless you are willing to endure the dangers and consequences that await you." Obviously, Paul knew the disciples did not want him to go. However, he not only was willing, but he also believed it was God's will for him to go.


What dimensions of the Spirit does Luke emphasize? Up to this point, we see that He connects the Spirit with the mission of the church, revelation, inspired speech, and guidance. The dimension of revelation stands out in many of the examples given under inspired speech and guidance.

As the story of the church unfolds, we gain a picture of empowered witnesses who are in very close relationship with the Spirit. The Spirit is conspicuously present in all that they do and say. He reveals, leads, guides, empowers their speech, and guides them in their mission. The picture is enriched by the dimensions presented in our next chapter.

George M. Flattery

For Further Study

Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975.
Horton, Stanley M. What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1976.
Keener, Craig S. Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.
Lampe, G. W. H. The Seal of the Spirit. London: SPCK, 1967.

© Copyright 2003. GMF.