The Pledge to the Twelve Apostles

Continued Excerpts from the book Truly the Signs of an Apostle (available

It is important to remember in any discussion of the Twelve Apostles that they were a unique group.The Twelve are a singular corps of disciples with a defined role, not only when the Lord chose them, but also in a special promise that He made to them.

Luke points out that the Lord Jesus gave instructions to his Apostles “whom he had chosen” referring to The Twelve. Acts 1:1-8 makes this clear. Luke asserts and records that Jesus met privately with His Apostles. He commanded them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father. The promise referred to  was the  empowering  presence of  the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 4-5,8.) This promise of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to The Twelve is repeated elsewhere in the Scripture. (See Luke 24:49, John 14:15-18, 25-26)

There were three basic reasons that the Lord tells His Twelve that He was sending the Holy Spirit.

Reason #1: The Holy Spirit Would Be Jesus’ Comforting Presence

We will look at John 14:15-18 first.

There are two Greek words commonly translated “another” in the New Testament. One means another of a different kind, the other means another of the same kind. The Greek word for “another” in this passage (verse 16)  is the word that means another of the same kind, meaning of the same kind as the Lord Jesus.

Bear in mind that Jesus has just told them that He was going away. But He would see to it that His Father would send another of the same kind as He to be with them. This Comforter is further identified as a Presence whose character is truth and Who would be “in” them in a way that, at the time of that writing, they were not currently experiencing.

Apparently, this powerful presence was at that time “with” them but not “in” them. The Lord Jesus may even have been referring to Himself as currently dwelling with them and would be in them in the Person of the Spirit! So the promised Holy Spirit, the Comforter, would be a replacement for Jesus after His departure. This idea is reinforced in Jesus’ statement in verse 18 where he says, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

Reason #2: The Holy Spirit Would Be Jesus’ Conduit of Truth

In addition to being a comforting presence to them, this Comforter, identified as the Holy Spirit, would instruct The Twelve and bring to their recollection everything that the Savior had said to them when He taught them during His earthly ministry. The fact that this promise is specifically to the Twelve Apostles is obvious in that only those who had been taught by Jesus on this earth could be reminded of what they had previously been taught! Those closest to Him during His earthly teaching ministry were these Twelve. Their limited memories were insufficient to recall all that the Lord had taught them. Therefore, the Lord promises a “Comforter” who will be with them in His stead and bring what He taught them to their remembrance. Note John 14:25-26.

Later in John chapter 16:12-15, the Lord Jesus tells them that this Holy Spirit that they would later encounter would be a continuing conduit of truth from Him.

A primary purpose of this apostolic anointing by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was to initiate a continuing ministry of interaction between the Savior and The Twelve through the Spirit. In addition to being a comforting presence to The Twelve, the Comforter would remind them what the Lord Jesus had already taught and would continue to teach through Him.

Reason #3: The Holy Spirit Would Enable an Empowered Witness to The World

The Lord Jesus Christ promised The Twelve that they would receive a special anointing of power from Him. The Father had promised that a special demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power would be manifested in their lives. Jesus pledged that He would implement this promise. (Luke 24:49)

In the context of Luke 24:33ff, it is clear that the Savior is speaking primarily to His specially chosen Twelve. Two disciples were met by the Lord on a lonely road. The resurrected Lord  revealed Himself to them and they reported, in turn, to a gathering of the eleven Apostles (verse 33) and “those who were with them.” We are not told who these others were. The primary relevance of the passage in this discussion is that the Apostles as the designated group were there. Thomas, apparently, was the only one missing on this particular occasion (John 20:24). The command is clear. The Lord Jesus instructs His Apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait there for the power that was going to be given them.

So it is obvious that the Lord Jesus made a promise to the Apostles that they were to go to Jerusalem and wait there for the Holy Spirit to “come upon them”. After this event, they would be empowered to be special witnesses unto the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

This special endowment of power through, by and of the Holy Spirit is referred to in various ways in the Scripture. Sometimes it is referred to as the Holy Spirit “falling upon” someone as it is used in Acts 8:16. Sometimes it is called the “baptism” or “immersion” into the Holy Spirit  as in Acts 11:16.

The language and context used in the above passages make it clear that the Apostles were to go to Jerusalem where they would experience a unique empowerment by the Spirit of God.

This promise made to The Twelve is not about the indwelling regeneration of the Holy Spirit that comes when anyone believes (being born again). Nor is this the filling of the Spirit that is supposed to be true of every believer resulting in spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). This was a promise made to the Apostles, in particular, to equip them for their upcoming ministry to the world. Was this promise ever kept to them? Absolutely!

(c) 2011 by Frank I. Snyder in Truly the Signs of an Apostle

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