As I look at this passage, there are two things I notice. First, the filling of the Spirit was not a one time thing. Instead, time and again, the Spirit filled God’s people. We see it in this chapter, and we see it in the subsequent chapters throughout the book of Acts.
Second, for what purpose did the Spirit fill his people? In this chapter, I see two main purposes. Power and boldness.
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard Peter speak, it says,
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (13)
Think about this for a moment. In arresting Peter and John, throwing them in prison for the night, and then dragging them out for questioning in front of them, the religious elite, they probably expected Peter and John to be intimidated. Yet, the two apostles stood there boldly proclaiming Jesus to them, quoting scripture, and making the stunning statement that,
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (12)
Here were these ordinary fishermen, uneducated, and yet speaking with great boldness and power that could not be quelled or denied.
And because the Sanhedrin could neither explain away the resurrection of Jesus (even they didn’t believe their own story that they had tried to spread through the soldiers), nor the healing of the man they had passed by for roughly 30 years at the temple gate, they couldn’t say anything to them.
Finally, after withdrawing and discussing the matter, they tried once again to intimidate Peter and John, warning them never to teach in the name of Jesus.
But once again, Peter and John refused to be intimidated, saying,
Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. (19-20)
After further warnings from the Sanhedrin, they returned to their fellow Christians, and together they prayed that God would continue to fill them with boldness and with power that the people might know that Jesus was the Messiah.
When they had done so,
…the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (31)
What can we get from this? Two things. If we are ever to make a difference in this world for Christ, we need his Spirit within us. Through him, and the power and boldness he gives us, though we may be ordinary people, God can do great things through us.
How often, though, do we lack that power and boldness in our lives? I know I do. Too often, I lack confidence because of who I am, with all my weaknesses and limitations.
And that’s why I, and all of us for that matter, need to be constantly filled and refilled with the Spirit. As one person put it, we are vessels of the Spirit, but we are leaky vessels. We can get tired. We can get distracted. We can get discouraged. So day by day, moment by moment, we need his filling in our lives to do his work.
Holy Spirit, I need you. So fill me this day and every day. Fill me with the power and boldness to do the work you’ve called me to that I may touch this world which needs you so desperately. In Jesus name, amen.