Inclusivity of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of inclusivity, gathering from all nations and every walk of life those to be filled with prophetic power. This is explicit in the volume of Luke-Acts.

The Spirit of inclusivity poured out

On the day of Pentecost following the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the praying disciples. The sound of a violent wind and the 120 declaring the praises of God in tongues draws a crowd of the curious.

The listeners—Jews from many nations—declare, “‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’” (Acts 2:7b-8 NIV)

The people ask, “What does this mean?” (v. 12).

Inspired by the Spirit, Peter preaches an explanation, quoting the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants [doulos], both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’”
–Acts 2:17-18 NIV

All people. Sons, daughters. Prophesying. Young men. Visions. Old men. Dreams. Servants (slaves, bondslaves). Prophesying. All these are signs of the new age of the Spirit’s inclusivity.

We first see Luke’s theme of Spirit-filled prophetic inclusivity in his gospel.

Zechariah: An old man who sees a vision

Zechariah was an old man (Lk 1:7). During the course of his priestly duties, he is called to burn incense in the temple (1:9).

An angel appears to him, delivering a message that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who was barren, would have a son. They must name him John. John will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in the womb, and he will be a prophet preparing the way of the Lord (1:11-17,76).

The vision leaves Zechariah unable to speak (1:22).

Mary: A young woman bondslave

Gabriel, the angel who appeared to Zechariah, next visits a young woman in Nazareth. Gabriel declares that Mary will give birth to a boy named Jesus, who “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:26-32).

Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (1:34)

Gabriel answers, “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’” (v. 35) He reveals that her relative Elizabeth is presently with child (v. 36).

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answers. “May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38). The Greek word for “servant,” doulē, is the same used in Acts 2:18.

Elizabeth: An old woman who prophesies

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”
–Luke 1:39-42 NIV

At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy (1:42-45). The unborn John is filled with the Spirit also, leaping in her womb for joy (v. 44).

Mary: A young woman who prophesies

Mary is likewise filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy of her Son’s prophetic destiny (1:46-55).

Zechariah: An old man who prophesies

When his son is born, Zechariah is asked what the child should be named. When he writes “John,” his tongue is loosed, and he begins to speak, praising God and prophesying (1:62-79).

Simeon: An old bondslave who prophesies

After the days of purification, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord.

An old man named Simeon, righteous and devout, has been told “by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Lk 2:26).

27 Moved by the Spirit, [Simeon] went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant [doulos] in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
–Luke 2:27-32 NIV

This old bondslave prophesied to Mary and then looked forward to being dismissed, the prophetic promise of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled.

Anna: An old woman prophetess

Also in the Temple, the aged prophetess Anna approaches Jesus’ parents and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).

John: A young prophet

Next we see John the Baptist as a young man, beginning his prophetic ministry: “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 1:80; 3:2-3).

Jesus: A prophet who includes the outcasts

Jesus, “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19) regularly fellowships with those that the religious leaders of his day consider “sinners” (5:29).

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.
2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
–Luke 15:1-2 NIV

In response, Jesus tells parables about God rejoicing over the lost being found and included in the fold.

Martin William Mittelstadt, summarizing Murray Dempter’s focus, states:

[T]he Lukan Jesus exemplifies social concern as he encounters the burning moral issues of his day—the treatment of aliens, the exploitation of women, the economic exploitation of the oppressed, underemployment and unemployment, and the dignity of children. Similarly, Spirit baptism enables the charismatic community to break down walls of partition between men and women, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, and even demarcations of religious backgrounds within the Christian community itself.
[Martin William Mittelstadt, Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2010), 117.]

The early Church grows through Spirit-inspired inclusivity

In the book of Acts, Luke reports inclusivity in the prophetic life of the Spirit among God’s people:

  • The Hebraic/Hellenistic problem of feeding widows is solved by appointing those “full of the Spirit and wisdom” to oversee fair distribution of food (Acts 6:1-5).
  • A new mission is established to the Samaritans with the preaching of the Gospel and the baptism in the Spirit (8:4-25).
  • Philip ministers to the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-40).
  • God pours the Spirit out upon the Gentiles at an Italian’s home, thus opening Jewish table fellowship to the Gentiles (10:24-11:18).
  • A Gentile ministry team is formed after deliberation about how best to instruct them (15:1-33).
  • Philip has four daughters who prophesy (21:8-9).

Jesus preached a gospel open to all who will come. The Holy Spirit ratified His message and empowered the disciples to reach out in new ways to all peoples. Mittelstadt says that “Luke presents the alternative way of peace, a message of radical love based on God’s desire for communities built upon human inclusivity” (124).

Jesus said:

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
–John 10:16 NIV

Are you filled with the Spirit of God as on the day of Pentecost? If not, ask Jesus to baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13). Then leave the ninety-nine to find the one who is lost and rejected. Include them in God’s love. This is the gospel we are commanded to share with everyone.

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