Have You Heard About the Holy Spirit?
The story of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Jerusalem Church (Acts 2:1-11) so dominates today’s liturgy that one can easily forget that there are other stories of the descent of the Spirit in Acts. For example, Acts 10 records the Spirit’s initial descent on non-Jews. Also belonging to this group of Pentecost stories is Luke’s account of the twelve believers at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7).
Luke tells us that when Paul arrived at Ephesus he found twelve believers who had been baptized into John’s baptism. Something about these people led Paul to ask, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” Wow! What a shocking question. Even more shocking was their reply. “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit”. The story concludes with Paul instructing and baptizing them, after which the Spirit descends upon them causing them to prophesy and speak in tongues.
“We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit”. Can you believe this reply? Some observers on this incident refer to these believers as living “behind the spiritual times.” God’s spirit had been poured out the church and they were totally unaware. I can’t help speculating: just what was it about these first-century believers that led Paul to suspect that their lives were divorced of the Spirit? Was it something they said or did?
Unfortunately Luke doesn’t tell us. Nevertheless, today is Pentecost 2017 and the people of concern are no longer them but us. If Paul walked into our church would he make the same observation about us? Despite the tremendous energy Christians around the world will pour into today’s celebrations of Pentecost, the sad reality is that too many of us still live, as the believers at Ephesus did, as if we have never even heard of the Holy Spirit. If you suspect that we’re among them then use today’s observances to get on the right track.