Before Jesus ascended to his Father, he charged his apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of his Father. His word ignited anticipation in their hearts, for they were told to wait for power from on high (Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-14). For the 120 disciples gathering in the temple and the upper room, this waiting was filled with prayer and praise for they were waiting for the promise of the Father. The promise would be the Messiah’s gift, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and power from on high. All these refer to the same gift of the Father through the Messiah to witness for Jesus.
The witness begins in Jerusalem with the apostles, but reaches beyond Jerusalem and their time to the end of the earth and the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. In a later sermon the apostle Peter called this eschatological act of God the restoring of all things (Acts 3:17-21). God’s promise of the complete restoration of the kingdom would take place upon the return of Christ from heaven. Jesus clarified this for them before he ascended to heaven to pour out the promise of the Holy Spirit. He said that it was not for them to know the times or seasons the Father has fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:6-7; see also Matthew 24:36). Thus the church waits for the future hope of the restoration of all things; but now can enjoy refreshing times from the Lord.
Waiting for Christ’s return is different than waiting for the Holy Spirit. When I was a young boy, I saw my neighbor Steve sitting on the edge of his driveway – just sitting. So I walked down the street and asked Steve, “What are you doing sitting here on the edge of your drive way?” He answered: “I am patiently waiting for my dad to return from the store with my new bicycle.” I could see the sweet anticipation in his eyes. There is something sweet about the anticipation of a promise and certain hope. But suppose his dad returned without the bike with the explanation: “You misunderstood me, son. I promised you I will get a bike one day soon.” Momentarily disappointed, Steve would no longer wait by sitting on the edge of his driveway. Steve would go about his play without a bike — sometimes pestering his father; until one day his father surprised him with a brand new bike.
Jesus had taught his disciples to pester the heavenly Father in pray for the Holy Spirit with the confidence that their Father in heaven loved them and was willing to give His good gifts to his children.” (See Luke 11:1-13). Thus, there is something sweet and very spiritual about waiting with anticipation and persistence, expressing our hope in prayer. Indeed, a study of scripture reveals that from Abraham to the Psalmists to Simeon whose eyes were finally allowed to view the baby King Jesus, and to the 120 disciples waiting in prayer in the upper room; waiting upon the Lord is the way of faith and the way of the Lord with his people (See Hebrews 11 and read the Psalms).
Once the Lord poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon Pentecost, all other examples in Acts of the Lord’s gift occur in the context of conversion or petitioning the Lord for additional help for the mission (Acts 2 [Jews], 4 [prayer meeting], 8 [Samaritans], 10-11 [Cornelius’ household, 13 [prayer meeting], and 19 [disciples of John the Baptist]). Yet there are thought provoking distinctions in the instances of conversion. Consequently, some build their theology of the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon such distinctions as waiting, the laying on of hands, the sign of speaking in tongues, and the uniqueness of the Apostles’ powers. Surely these distinctions have meaning, but the thread of continuity is the sovereign grace of God who has at last poured out what we see and hear, times of refreshing from the Lord. In time we should discuss these distinctions, but for now let there be much rejoicing as seen and heard among the early Christians (Acts 11:23, describing when Barnabas came to the new Gentile Christians of Antioch, he was glad because he saw evidence of God’s grace).
Through the Holy Spirit I have enjoyed fullness in Christ; but that does not mean I have exhausted the immense significance of Christ and the riches of his glory meant for me. So I pray for enlightenment and I thirst and pray for the Holy Spirit, so that I might drink, be filled, be refreshed, and make progress (1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 1:15-22). The Holy Spirit is not an “it” gift, but a “person” gift. Indeed, the nature of the gift and fellowship of the Holy Spirit is personal, sovereign, dynamic and full of potential. I picture my neighbor Steve again, waiting for the promised bike. Suppose the promise had been more like the Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar (1997). Jim Carrey played the role of a lawyer and father who always promised his son that he would spend time with him, but he did not keep his promises. The movie was funny, and touching, because we identify with how special positive parental fellowship is. Divine fellowship and help, fulfilled in our calling, is the essence of God’s gift of power on Pentecost and subsequent fillings (See Acts 4 and Ephesians 5:18).
The promise of times of refreshing from the Lord is broad to include the church’s potential and full enjoyment of the blessings of God through His appointed one, Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, after persecution was initiated against the church upon two of its apostles, Peter and John, the church was in great need of refreshment from the Lord (Acts 3 and 4). So they gathered, prayed and praised the Lord in the face of persecution against the Lord and His anointed one. They asked for a refreshment of His power from on high and this is what they received. They did not wait very long for evidence of the Lord’s refreshment of power, but any time spent gathered in prayer to the Lord is waiting upon the Lord (See also Acts 13:1-3). Mediate upon what Jesus taught his disciples through the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). If the church fails in this kind of waiting, seeking refreshment in earnest and persevering prayer; then how can she honestly claim she is waiting for her Lord and the restoration of the all things pertaining to the kingdom of God?