Jesus told His early followers that when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they would be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). That sounds noisy and disruptive. It sounds like something that would shake the world! Wherever the Spirit goes, He changes people into radicals. He gives them the power to preach boldly, heal sick people, even raise the dead.
Hundreds of years before the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the early church on the Day of Pentecost, the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, newly anointed as a priest, got a free preview of how God would send the Holy Spirit to empower His people.
The preview came in the form of a Technicolor-like vision that included a stormy wind; a cloud that glowed with fire; flashes of lightning; and strange, four-faced cherubim empowered by God’s divine energy.
What God was sharing with Ezekiel was the miracle of Pentecost, when God would clothe His people with power from on high. The early disciples would not only hear the sound of a rushing wind and see flames of fire descend on every believer’s head but also be infused with untamable qualities: supernatural strength, fierce courage, uncanny boldness, and an unusual ability to see into the invisible realm of God’s mysteries.
I am not suggesting that He brings disorder or chaos. God is not the author of confusion. But too often the American church has tried to confine the Holy Spirit, muzzle Him, constrain Him, or shoot Him with a tranquilizer gun so we can maintain control.
I fear that in some cases we have begged this wild Spirit of God to stay away from us so we can play our tame version of church without His unexpected interruptions. If we are honest, we will admit that the church has become so weak, timid, and compromised with the world that we do not even remotely resemble the powerful Christians in the first century who bravely preached the gospel, worked miracles, and even gave their lives in martyrdom to serve Christ.
Yet the promise remains for us: any Christian daring enough to invite the Spirit to empower him can experience all the manifestations of power that operated in the early church.