The Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts by Graham H. Twelftree

Luke, who allegedly wrote a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has more to say about the Spirit than any other biblical writer does. He portrays the Spirit as the activity and presence of God (Luke 4:18) but also as an impersonal force or power (Luke 5:17, Luke 8:46), and, for example, as “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7). In turn, for Luke, Jesus was a man primarily of the Spirit. And in becoming and being guided as followers of Jesus, experience of the Spirit was more important than texts, traditions, or the community.

Not surprisingly, then, the key turning points in Luke’s two-volume story are initiated by the Spirit, particularly Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:35), baptism (Luke 3:21-22), temptation (Luke 4:1-2), and the start of his ministry of speaking and healing (Luke 4:18). The beginning of Acts (Acts 2:4) and the story of the beginning of the mission to the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48) are also marked by experience of the Spirit.

Luke implies (Acts 9:1-25) and tells a number of stories of the coming of the Spirit (just one example, Acts 4:23-31). However, it is the story of Pentecost in Jerusalem that signals God’s eschatological (or final) salvation has arrived (Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:16-36). The Spirit was in a sense as important for the new age as the Law of Moses had been, because Luke describes the coming of the Spirit in a way that Philo describes the coming of the Law (see Philo, The Decalogue 32-33 and 46). Yet Luke sees the birth of the church taking place not when the Spirit appeared at Pentecost but when Jesus called his first disciples (Luke 6:13).

The Pentecost story, the high point of what Luke says about the Spirit, is the fulfillment of the promise of “the Father” for the followers of Jesus (Luke 24:49). Until this point, apart from Jesus (see Luke 3:22, Luke 4:1), very few people are filled with the Spirit. However, Luke emphasizes that the Spirit appeared to all the disciples (Acts 2:1-4) and that the story was a model for later Christians (Acts 2:38). Contemporary Pentecostals see the coming of the Spirit as a donum superadditum (“an additional gift”). However—though there are exceptions, especially through his models of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) and the Gentiles (Acts 10:43-48)—Luke portrays the coming of the Spirit not as subsequent to but part of the conversion-initiation experience. All his stories of the overpowering coming or filling of the Spirit involve some tangible expression, sometimes (but not always) including glossolalia, or speaking in tongues.

Phenomena credited to the Spirit (or to Spirit-inspired individuals) involve not only proclamation (Luke 4:14-15, Acts 2:14) but also, for example, joy (Luke 10:21), visions (Acts 2:17, Acts 7:55-56), guidance (Acts 8:29, Acts 11:12), and miracles (Luke 7:21-22, Acts 3:1-10, Acts 10:38). Luke makes the point that the Spirit’s empowerment is for mission, not political ends (Acts 1:6-8). He also shows that the ideal Christian community arises out of the common experience of the Spirit (Acts 2). Thus, for Luke, while the resurrection may be the key event in the life of Jesus, the coming and experience of the Spirit is fundamental for the new people of God.

Graham H. Twelftree, "Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts", n.p. [cited 23 Sep 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.com/en/passages/related-articles/holy-spirit-in-luke-acts

Contributors

Graham H. Twelftree

Graham H. Twelftree
Professor, Regent University

Graham H. Twelftree is distinguished professor of New Testament, School of Divinity, Regent University, Virginia Beach. Among other books, he has written People of the Spirit: Exploring Luke’s View of the Church (SPCK and Baker Academic, 2009). He is a member of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and the editorial board of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus.

Associated with a deity; exhibiting religious importance; set apart from ordinary (i.e. "profane") things.

The textual tradition of two New Testament books, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, which scholars consider to have the same author or origin; Luke-Acts may even constitute a two-part work chronicling the life and works of Jesus and the subsequent organizing done by his apostles.

Changing one's beliefs and self-identity from one religion to another.

A more accurate name for the Ten Commandments, literally translated as the ten words (deka = ten, logos = words).

Concerned with the future final events of the world.

A gospel is an account that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The laws of the Pentateuch (Torah), delivered to the Israelites by Yahweh through Moses on Mount Sinai; "Law of Moses" can also refer to the Torah as a whole, including both the laws and the narratives.

Service or a religious vocation to help others.

A program of good works—or the calling to such a program—performed by a person or organization.

A Jewish philosopher who lived from roughly 20 B.C.E. to 50 C.E. whose writings bridge Greek culture and Jewish thought.

The promise made by Yahweh to the ancestors in Genesis, including the promise of offspring, land, and blessing. Eventually the covenant becomes the essential part of this promise.

Luke 4:18

18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery ... View more

Luke 5:17

Jesus Heals a Paralytic
17One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee an ... View more

Luke 8:46

46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.”

Acts 16:7

7When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them;

Luke 1:35

35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; h ... View more

Luke 3:21-22

The Baptism of Jesus
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,22and the Holy Spirit ... View more

Luke 4:1-2

The Temptation of Jesus
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,2where for forty days he was tempt ... View more

Luke 4:18

18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery ... View more

Acts 2:4

4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Acts 10:44-48

Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit
44While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.45The circumcised believers who had come wit ... View more

Acts 9:1-25

The Conversion of Saul
1Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest2and asked him for letters ... View more

Acts 4:23-31

The Believers Pray for Boldness
23After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.24Whe ... View more

Acts 1:4-8

4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from ... View more

Acts 2:16-36

16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:17‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your son ... View more

Luke 6:13

13And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:

Luke 24:49

49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 3:22

22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 4:1

The Temptation of Jesus
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,

Acts 2:1-4

The Coming of the Holy Spirit
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rus ... View more

Acts 2:38

38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of ... View more

Acts 2:38

38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of ... View more

Acts 10:43-48

43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit
44While P ... View more

Luke 4:14-15

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the sur ... View more

Acts 2:14

Peter Addresses the Crowd
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be k ... View more

Luke 10:21

Jesus Rejoices
21At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these thi ... View more

Acts 2:17

17‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men ... View more

Acts 7:55-56

55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.56“Look,” he said, “I see the heave ... View more

Acts 8:29

29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.”

Acts 11:12

12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house.

Luke 7:21-22

21Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind.22And he answered them, “Go and tell ... View more

Acts 3:1-10

Peter Heals a Crippled Beggar
1One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o'clock in the afternoon.2And a man lame from ... View more

Acts 10:38

38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God ... View more

Acts 1:6-8

The Ascension of Jesus
6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”7He replied, “It is ... View more

Acts 2

The Coming of the Holy Spirit
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rus ... View more

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.