The Promise of the Holy Spirit
In the first book, O (most excellent) Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The 2nd book in Luke’s series is addressed to a relatively unknown character named Theophilus. The name Theophilus is an interesting name as it means God (theo) lover (philus). It can also mean friend of God rather than lover. The word Philos on Greek is usually held to the idea of kinship or friendship. But who is this Theophilus that Luke is addressing?
Some have theorized that the man was fictitious, believing that Luke was writing to a group of God-fearing Gentiles. The Gentiles that worshiped with the Jews and joined their ranks were called God-fearers. This is seen in the book of acts numerous time.
They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” (Acts 10:22)
So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.” (Acts 13:16)
Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. (Acts 13:26)
And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. (Acts 17:4)
However, the term God-fearer may have been a term more used by Luke and Paul than the other leaders in the NT church. Luke is the only gospel writer that connects fear of God with Christianity.
Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” (Luke 7:16)
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. (Luke 18:2)
For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, (Luke 18:4)
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? (Luke 23:40)
Nevertheless, one might speculate if this Theophilus was not just a generic term that Luke concocted to make the book of Acts to appear to be sanctioned by Rome but actually function as a NT document.
The Coptic tradition teaches that Theophilus was an Alexandrian Jew. This would make sense since Alexandria was home to many Greek speaking Jews and was the home of the Septuagint translation. It was also the home of the world’s largest library and collection of religious texts. Luke also has the most polished Greek of the 4 gospels. However, the Alexandrian library was partially destroyed in 48 BCE by an Roman invasion. The invasion was the result of Jewish-Greek feuding and possible rebellion against Rome. By the time of Luke’s writing, it would be hard imagine a Greek speaking Jew still in Alexandria still being hailed as quasi-royalty (most excellent), unless Theophilus was partnered with the Roman government.
However, this leads us to a third possible identity for Theophilus, which is that he was a Roman official. Interestingly, it’s possible that the Coptic tradition could be correct as well as those who hold to a Roman identity. It’s completely possible that Theophilus was indeed high up in Roman ranks and could also be located in Alexandria. But this is all mere speculation.
In Luke’s 2nd literary work, he also mentions another transitional period of 40 days. The 40 day period is usually a period of trial and transition. Noah spent 40 days and nights in the ark as God was transitioning the globe. Elijah spent 40 days in the cave before passing his mantle onto Elisha. Jesus spent 40 days being tested and transformed in the wilderness. In all these cases, after the 40 day period is over, the protagonist if the story launches out revived, renewed, and off to face a new challenge or a changed environment. This was true also for the disciples. They were with Jesus for 40 days, being transformed so that they could receive the mantle from Jesus.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit was one that Jesus made to His disciples before He went to the cross. He told them that even after He was physically gone, He would send a helper that would be there to lead, guide and empower them to live out the Christian faith and do the work of spreading the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit is a means in which we can still feel God’s hand moving and speaking in our lives. It is the source in which we can experience God’s hand convicting us of sin, leading us to do follow after Him and grow deeper in our relationship with God.
This promise was about to change the entire life of Christianity and be the means in which the Church would be formed, leaders would be born and the Gospel would spread.
Jesus had commanded His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until this promise was fulfilled. He had great plans for them and it was there that He would form the first church and organized body of believers.
Today we have that same Holy Spirit living inside us that is always working to bring us back to Jesus Christ and fill our hearts will a deeper love for Him. The promise of a helper that would lead and guide us did not stop with the disciples and Jesus’s followers during this time. It extended towards all of Christianity and those who chose to give their lives over to Jesus Christ.
Allow for the Holy Spirit to be a continual source of hope and encouragement. Rest assured in the promises of Christ today and know that we are never alone and we have His continual presence leading and guiding us each every moment of our lives.
Featured image: “Pentecost” by Jan Joest (1505-1508)
Source: Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur http://www.bildindex.de/dokumente/html/obj20637905#
License: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.