What does a Holy Spirit empowered Christian look like?
Jesus promises to empower us to be His witnesses:
In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit we will be His Witnesses. In Luke 12:12 and Luke 21:5 He gives us confidence that He will give us the very words we need to be an effective Witness
We should expect the Holy Spirit to fill us with wisdom, power, and everything we need to fulfill the ministry of Jesus in our lives.
Acts 1:8 (ESV) — 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Luke 12:12 (ESV) — 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Luke 21:15 (ESV) — 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
The Apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit:
Acts 4:33 (ESV) — 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
In Acts chapters 6 and 7 we learn about a man named Stephen who was not one of the 12 apostles but was empowered by the Spirit to be a witness in very similar fashion.
How was Stephen’s character and ministry described?
Stephen was described as: having the face like an angel (Acts 6:15) Full of Grace (Acts 6:8), Good repute (Acts 6:3), Full of the spirit (Acts 6:3,5,10, and 7:55), full of wisdom (Acts 6:3,10), full of power (Acts 6:8), Performed great wonders and signs (Acts 6:8)
He was also:
Commissioned by apostles (Acts 6:6), Chosen by ALL the disciples at the time and recognized by them as someone of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom. (Acts 6:3) Spoke with Spirit-inspired speech (Acts 6:10; 7:1-53), Extended forgiveness to his enemies (Acts 7:60)
Acts 6:15 (ESV) — 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 6:3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
Acts 6:5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 6:10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
Acts 7:60 (ESV) — 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 6:55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Stephen was yet another example a disciple of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit that begins to resemble the ministry of Jesus. (Luke 2:40, 52; 24:19; Acts 2:22)
Luke 2:40 (ESV) — 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Luke 2:52 (ESV) — 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke 24:19 (ESV) — 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
Acts 2:22 (ESV) — 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
In some christian circles you may hear the term “Spirit-filled Christian” What this term is referring to is a Christian who has clear evidence of this Holy Spirit’s power in their life, specifically with the focus on power to be witnesses of Jesus. This is also referred to as being “baptized with the Spirit”. Regardless of what you call it, when we talk about being “spirit-filled” we focus, rightfully so, on having the evidence of gifts of the Spirit e.g. prophesy, tongues, discerning of Spirits, words of Wisdom, Words of knowledge, etc. (see:1corinthians 12:4-11). These “charismatic gifts” are seen flourishing in the first century Apostles and in this account of Stephen. It is right to desire these gifts today, train others in them, and cultivate them in our own life. However, There is one element that the Holy Spirit empowers us in that goes largely unnoticed in the discussion of being “Spirit-filled”. Before we go there lets look at Stephen again.
Acts 7:54–60 (ESV) — 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Certainly, as we discussed before, in Stephen’s ministry see him operating in great miracles, prophetic preaching, and witnessing with great power. Stephen was the first recorded Christian Martyr. In these last moments of his life, he gives us a key into the Spirit-filled life. Stephen was pursued by a visibly enraged mob that eventually throw stones at him and kill him. The key verse here is Acts 7:55. We see that the Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus known as Stephen who gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Think about this, Instead of running in fear from the enraged enemy, who was set on killing him, Stephen, “full of the Spirit” gazes directly into heaven and sees God. The key element here is this:
A Spirit-filled Christian is empowered to see what God sees when no one else would or could.
As we dive deeper into this passage it paints a beautiful picture of Stephen in his final days. Most illustrations of Stephen’s stoning have him gazing upward with an escapist expression on his face as a mob seething with anger throngs about him. This portrayal of Stephen paints a picture as if God gave him this vision of God’s glory in order to help him dissociate from the moment.
This Greek noun (used here) translated as heaven denotes the supernatural dwelling place of God and other heavenly beings. In a number of languages precisely the same term is used to designate both ‘sky’ and ‘heaven’ (as the abode of God).
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 3). New York: United Bible Societies.
It is clear here the translation of ‘heaven’ is not Stephen is looking UPWARD to the sky, but rather looking INTO heaven (as the abode of God). Instead of visualizing Stephen looking upward to God praying for an escape hatch, I picture Stephen, by the power of the Spirit seeing his murderers through the eyes of God like transparency overlay of heaven superimposed on the angry mob. I see Him getting a window into Immanuel, “God with us”. I see Stephen by the power of the Spirit, looking back not for revenge, or escape, but looking directly into the eyes of those who held the very stones that ended his life and feeling the compassion of God supernaturally fill his heart. This is why Stephen was able to say with conviction, “Lord, God do not hold this sin against them.” This is an act of forgiveness only explained by the Holy Spirit filling a willing heart, to see God.
Jesus, as a man, full of the Spirit knew that He needed to see the Father, to act like the Father. Stephen saw God, when no one else could.
John 5:19 (ESV) — 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
- David prayed to look at the Lord all the days of his life. What kind of prayer is that? To ask to look at the Lord! Some would say- just do it. But David knew it took the power of God to “Gaze” at the Lord.
Psalm 27:4 (ESV) — 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
Our responsibility is to fill our minds with the truth of God’s personality—to gaze upon Him as David did. God’s promise in return is to supernaturally change our emotions. This is the kingdom of God’s division of labor. We change our minds, and God changes our hearts, and our eyes.