Peter was first filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. I see some unique areas where Peter fundamentally changed when he was filled with the Holy Spirit. I see these as marks that I can look for as I seek for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Peter had divine authority to boldly stand against the Christian religious system
Peter was bold by nature. He was quick to ask Jesus if he too could walk on water. He was quick to respond to Jesus’ questions, and drew his sword to defend Jesus.But there was a difference between Peter’s human boldness before the day of Pentecost and the divine authority in him after the day of Pentecost. Human boldness will wilt based on circumstances. But divine authority even disregards human religiosity.
It is one thing to stand up against the spirit of the world in non-Christians, but another thing altogether to stand up against the spirit of the world in religious Christians. The Holy Spirit gave Peter the boldness to speak up against the religious leaders who clung to the Mosaic law (Acts 4:5-12). In his very first sermon, he told the crowd:you nailed [Jesus] to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death(Acts 2:22-23). Imagine calling out your listeners as murderers. Peter was unafraid to speak out for truth; he was only interested in pleasing God. Peter had seen this true spiritual authority in Jesus (Matthew 7:28-29). So when Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was filled with the same Spirit of boldness that Jesus had.What linked Peter and John with Jesus was the confidence with which they boldly stood against the religious leaders(Acts 4:13). Jesus’ disciples were truly following in His footsteps.
That said, there can be a lot of foolishness by people who think they are standing up for Jesus in misplaced zeal. The authenticity of our zeal must be proven by the following other marks that should also accompany it.
- Peter was UNITED with the disciples
Just two months prior, all the disciples were seeking to be the greatest (Luke 22:24). The poison of self-seeking sneaks even into our desires to follow God (Exodus 28:38). If we want to attack the root of pride and selfishness, we need the Holy Spirit. Jesus helps us attacks the root of sin by immersing us in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:10-12).
When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit however, they were different. Even though Peterspoke, he stood with the others (Acts 2:14).Then, after Peter’s sermon resulted in thousands repenting and being baptized, he lived life together with the others disciples (Acts 2:42- 47).In the first healing post-Pentecost, Peter walked WITH John (Acts 3:1).Peter, the brash and borderline-militant one walked with John, the quieter and even touchy-feely one (leaning on Jesus’ breast at the last supper). Filled with the Holy Spirit, they were united in purpose to glorify Jesus.
This is drastically different from life under the Old Covenantand its lone prophets. Now, the Holy Spirit’s ministry invariably had two or more disciples walking together. Jesus promised to be present wherejusttwo or three were gathered (Matthew 18:20). This was the kind of ministry ordained by Jesus (Matthew 10), and exemplified in the lives of Peter, John, Paul, etc. Even after Paul’s split with Barnabas (Acts 15:39-40), we see him choosing another godly brother Silas to work with.
When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, He comes to UNITE us with those who are also one with Him. God doesn’t want individuals; He wants work through a united body of people in Christ. Unity among His disciples was Jesus’ biggest burden in His prayer to the Father in John 17. And decades later, John longs for fellowship with other believers (1 John 1:3-4).Increasing unity in the local church despite varied personalities is a clear proof of the work of the Holy Spirit!
- Peter receives gifts of the Spirit
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled all 120 who were praying together, and they all received the gift of the Holy Spirit to speak in other languages. And we see that the apostles received the gift to heal the sick, perform miracles, and raise the dead.But the supernatural is also fertile ground for the devil to counterfeit and confuse people. But we were clearly promised several gifts, so we must continue to seek for true supernatural works of God. And here are a couple of questions that can easily separate the true from the counterfeit:
a) Is it used to bless others and bring others to the Lord?
In Acts 2:5-11, we read that the gift of tongues was used to communicate the “mighty deeds of God” (v 11) to the various cultures that were present there. And this resulted in the 3,000 souls repenting of their sins and turning to God (v 41). Then in Acts 3, we read about the lame man who was able to walk by the power of the Name of Jesus. But the miracle was not to glorify Peter – 5,000 men ended up believing the message that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Acts 4:2-4). In Acts 9:36-42, we read that Peter raised a lady named Tabitha from the dead. But here too, the impact was many believed in the Lord in that city (v 42).
So a distinctive of the gifts of the Holy Spirit it that there must be a distinct turning to the Lord (repentance). The gifts of the Spirit are to be used ONLY to draw people back to God and His love. If that doesn’t happen, it is useless.
b) Do I stand to gain personally (especially monetarily) from the gift?
The gifts of the Spirit are not for us to become rich, impress others, or build empires for ourselves. I disregard a lot of Christian miracles because there is so much abuse of money and earthly honor in it.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 is clear that we can have a myriad of fantastic gifts and unbelievable acts of sacrifice, but it will all be absolutely worthless if it does not come from a heart that truly loves the Lord, and if it does not provoke a love for God among others as well.So we must continuously judge ourselves with brutal honesty, in our desire to seek for any and all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit!Then, we can rest knowing that God will give according to His discretion and plan for our lives.
- There is a clear and immediate focus on holiness
Peter had failed Jesus more than any of the other disciples. But after he was filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to be a doorkeeper of the early church, holiness was paramount.Peter’s first exhortation in his sermon was to repent (Acts 2:37-40). He kept stressing (v4) this over and over again: We are living in a perverse and wicked and unholy generation. And we need to be saved from it – and the answer is Jesus Christ.
This is the mark of people filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a longing for increasing holiness –in themselves first but also all around them. I find this to be a very effective test to discern a true moving of the Holy Spirit from counterfeits. A true moving of the Holy Spirit will always be accompanied by a pulsing irresistible desire for holiness.Where the longing to turn from sin is absent, I reject all claims of Holy Spirit revival.
This longing for holiness works in us individually but also in the church. The church is the Bride of Christ being prepared in perfect purity for the greatest of weddings. And the Holy Spirit, who is preparing the Bride, is deeply grieved when it is tainted with sin.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)tells us just how seriously God takes sin in the church.It is God’s mercy that many have lied in the church over the years and escaped harsh punishment. But we know that sin in the church is serious, because we see how seriously God took sin when establishing His church at the start.
It is important to recognize that the first death in the New Covenant church was NOT through persecution and martyrdom by evil people (Stephen). It was punishment by God against the sin of hypocrisy (Ananias & Sapphira). This is telling of judgement that begins IN the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). God is interested first and foremost in keeping His own house pure. So His disciples are most interested in making sure that their own bodies and their own churches are kept pure from sin. The church may face death through persecution from the world. But the church should never lose its own primary focus on holiness within.