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Acts 1:7-8 (NIV):

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Is the "power" mentioned in verse 8 intended only for the apostles in the first-century church or for Christians in all ages?

Of course the direct audience were the apostles and other disciples physically present at the moment Jesus uttered these words, but verse 8 makes a very important statement: " [...] and to the ends of the earth". Since there is no way the early church had enough time and resources to accomplish the logistical feat of witnessing in every corner of the planet (including the Americas, Asia, Africa, Oceania, etc.), this makes me think that the promise may include future Christians also. Is this the case?


Related: What is meant by “power” in the context of Acts 1:8?

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  • This is too broad (or too many questions asked) so I won’t be answering even though it’s a great question and very important. I might consider answering in part. Oct 26, 2020 at 4:19
  • You appear to have asked this question in numerous ways via numerous question on this site. What is it you still doubt/lack? Precisely what are you struggling with?
    – Dottard
    Jul 2, 2022 at 21:50
  • Referrant identification tag is wrong.
    – Michael16
    Jul 3, 2022 at 5:49

5 Answers 5

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This argument will be presented cumulatively.

The Promise is the Holy Spirit

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you can be read to mean:

  • The Father is sending you the Holy Spirit
  • One of the effects of receiving the Holy Spirit is you are given power (other effects include being led to truth, remembering what Jesus has taught, and so on, as described in the passion narrative of John)

This does not even require that the power one person receives from the Holy Spirit is identical to the power another person receives; this is a generic statement: the Holy Spirit brings power.

In this sense, then, Jesus is explaining what results from receiving the Holy Spirit. What is being promised is the Holy Spirit.

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11, not 11 squared

The immediate audience of this statement is the apostles. The antecedent of the 3rd person plural pronouns & verbs throughout verses 3-12 can be found in verse 2:

unto the apostles whom he had chosen

That Mary, other women, and Jesus' brothers were also present is not impossible, but it is unlikely; the text does not require that they were there until the upper room scene in verses 13-14. However, the group of 120 is not identified at all until the subsequent pericope, beginning in verse 15. They do not appear to be the focus of any of the prior verses.

Since Judas Iscariot is dead, there appear to be 11 members of the audience, not ~120 (I know 11 squared is 121, not 120, but Luke did say about 120 =))



Conclusion 1: although the immediate audience is the apostles, the truth stated here is generally applicable: the Holy Ghost brings power.

We can then restate the question as: to whom is the Holy Spirit promised?



The Laying on of Hands

The book of Acts teaches that the Holy Ghost is given by the laying on of hands (e.g. Acts 8:17-19), and that not just anyone has the authority to do this (see Acts 8:20). If the ability to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands could come through studying in a university, then Simon Magus' question actually looks pretty legitimate--he expects that his material goods can acquire this authority (like material goods can acquire a degree?). Simon Peter's condemnation, then, clearly indicates that this is an authority that worldly goods cannot acquire.

Who, in the present day, has the authority to give the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands, is probably a question better suited for Christianity Stack Exchange.

Independent of this question, it is clear from the New Testament that numerous Christians, not just the apostles, received blessings through the Holy Ghost.

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The Holy Ghost is not all or nothing

Multiple examples in the New Testament show that the blessings of the Holy Ghost are not all or nothing. Clearly something incremental was granted at Pentecost, yet the Holy Ghost was active prior to that time (e.g. Matt. 3:16, Matt. 16:17, Luke 24:31-32)

This incremental gift from God, often referred to as the baptism of the Holy Ghost is more immersive and came later, but the influence of the Holy Ghost was already present before Pentecost.

The New Testament does not suggest any prerequisite such as baptism or the laying on of hands, in order to be influenced by the Holy Ghost.



Conclusion 2: God gives power & blessings by degrees.

The Holy Spirit can presumably bless and give power to anyone who is open to it, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit--and the degree of power that comes from it--is a blessing that follows a clear order of operations.



Power vs. Authority

There may be value in offering a distinction between "power" & "authority".

  • A person with a driver's license and a car has both the power & the authority to drive a car
  • A person with a license but no car has the authority, but lacks the power to drive a car
  • A person with a car but no license has the power, but lacks the authority to drive a car

I see no basis in this text (or other texts) that one must have the authority to bestow the Holy Ghost in order to be given any power at all from the Holy Ghost. Indeed, Paul evinces a belief quite to the contrary. E.g.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal (1 Cor 12:7)

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? (1 Cor. 12:28-30)

If gifts of the Spirit are given to every man, but not every man is an apostle (or prophet, or teacher, etc.), then clearly one can be given power through the Spirit without being given all powers (and without holding a certain office).

Indeed, the New Testament provides multiple examples of people who clearly had power and authority, but did not have apostolic authority--there were things they couldn't do (e.g. John the Baptist in Matt. 3:11, Philip in Acts 8:12-15).



Conclusion 3:

Is the promise of "power" in Acts 1:8 only for the apostles or for Christians in all ages?

Blessings & power from the Holy Ghost are available for all people in all ages. However, this does not mean all blessings & power given to the apostles are given to all people in all ages.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit requires authority; the specific authorities granted to the apostles (including the authority of the laying on of hands) were not promised to all people in all ages (as evidenced by righteous Christians in the New Testament who did not receive them).

Who held/holds this authority beyond the historical period covered by the text is not answered by this passage.



Appendix: The Ends of the Earth

One could look at the 1st century Christians and conclude that, under heavy persecution, they failed the in the great commission to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. However, I don't see it that way.

I argue in the parable of the farmer (parable, interpretation) that the apostles were commissioned to sprinkle the world with faith in Christ (but not necessarily to relay everything Jesus had ever taught or to answer every conceivable question), and in that mission they succeeded.

Although many (most) of the apostles would die martyr's deaths, they did not fail. Why?

Because Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude (and whoever wrote Hebrews) left a record of their testimonies of Christ, and the Bible has taken their testimonies to the ends of the earth, sprinkling the world with faith in Christ, as they were commissioned to do.

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  • I knew I should've waited until the last minute before awarding the bounty :-(. Great answer :-)
    – user38524
    Jul 9, 2022 at 3:54
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator thanks for the kind words. I knew I shouldn't have procrastinated =) - this was one I wanted to think about for a bit. Jul 9, 2022 at 3:56
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+50

As background to this answer, see this question, What is meant by “power” in the context of Acts 1:8?

We note several things about the Gift of the Holy Spirit bequeathed to the church by Jesus before He left:

  • The Holy Spirit is the source of the Christian's "power" ie, ability to live the Christian life, Rom 8:9.
  • The Holy Spirit is the source of knowledge and understanding about Jesus, John 16:12-15
  • The Holy Spirit is the source of supernatural ability or "spiritual gifts" in the church to empower people to do the work and mission of the church, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:12, John 7:37-39. See Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10, 11, 1 Tim 4:14, Ex 35:30-33, etc.
  • The church is said to "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 1:7.
  • The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts of sin and enable the preaching of humans to convert souls for the kingdom (Matt 29:19, 20), John 16:7-12, 14:17, 15:26.

... and much else.

In view of all this, I cannot see how the church or any Christian can function without the "power" miraculously provided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I believe that the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit bequeathed to the church by Jesus in Acts 1:8 will last as long as the church lasts, namely until Jesus returns.

ADDENDUM

This material is added at the behest of the OP.

  1. Who received power?

The group described in Acts 1 consisted of the following people, V13-15, among whom the apostles were a small minority:

  • the 11 disciples/apostles (soon to be augmented to 12 as per V21-26)
  • some women including Jesus' mother
  • many others making a total number of at least 120 people (it was from this group that the extra person was chosen to make up the number of 12)
  • The same or very similar group was present 10 days later at Pentecost because they continued in prayer and fasting. Acts 2:1, 4, 7 explicitly says that "all" these people were present at the time.
  1. What was the power? Acts 2, and subsequently, describes the effect of "all" these people receiving the Holy Spirit:
  • They spoke in languages, V4-13
  • Peter preached sermons that converted huge numbers, V14-40
  • sense of awe came over everyone, V43, 47
  • they became very generous and gracious, V44, 45
  • they performed miracles of healing, Acts 3
  • etc, etc, - see the rest of the book of Acts

Note that this power/ability of the Holy Spirit was given to many more than the apostles (Acts 5:12), both as documented above, and:

  • The multitude of believers were of "one heart and soul" - a miracle of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 3:32
  • Joseph the Levite from Cyprus called Barnabas also extremely generous, Acts 4:36
  • Stephen was also performing miracles and was NOT an apostle, Acts 6:8
  • Philip was also full of the Holy Spirit and performed miracles, Acts 8
  • Ananias was NOT an apostle but performed miracles, Acts 9:10-19
  • Saul/Paul was NOT present at Pentecost but was still designated an apostle and performed miracles
  • In Acts 10, Cornelius was given a vision from God
  • Later when the household of Cornelius started speaking in tongues and so were baptized, Acts 10:44-48
  • Agabus prophesied by the power of the Holy Spirit, Acts 11:28-30, 21:10-12
  • Philip had four daughters who prophesied, Acts 21:9
  • In 1 Cor 14:27-32 describes a church service where people speak in tongues and prophesy (in an orderly way) during a normal gathering people who were not present at Pentecost

Thus, again, the gift and power/ability of the Holy Spirit is promised to all believers in Christ as documented above and as explicitly stated in Rom 8:1-10.

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Acts 1:8 (NIV) you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes

What is the meaning of power ?

I don't know; let's see :

Micah 3:8 But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.

Since Micah is obviously a prophet, the power of prophecy is one possible meaning; another is being invested with divine authority (might) to judge sins and reprove (declare) transgressions; after all, it takes a certain stamina to stand bravely and uprightly in front of someone, and take them to task for their ill-doings.

Luke 1:17 And he [ John the Baptist ] shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Here, the power of preaching is meant, since it is not a trivial thing to be able to change people's hearts and minds, by convincing them to (successfully) repent of their sins.

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Here, God's creative power is intended, to fashion a human body without the aid or assistance of any seed, as with Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Acts 8:18-20 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying: Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him: Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Here, the power to give (rather than merely receive) God's Holy Spirit is being referenced.

Romans 1:3-4 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Here, the power of life over death is meant, since spirit is related to respiration, (physical) breath being one of the (main) elements of (biological) life.

Romans 15:18-19 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Here, the power to perform miracles is explicitly named, alongside the aforementioned power to preach the Gospel and (successfully) capture and convert one's audience.

1 Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

As before, the success of his mission among Gentiles and the Diaspora is attributed to divine intervention, the (humble) apostle of Christ, as Moses before him (Exodus 4:10), deeming his own eloquence insufficient of an explanation for the unexpected spread of the faith.

Ephesians 2:2 In time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

Here, the power of sin and temptation over our human weakness is being spoken of.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Here, courage is being contrasted with fear.


Is this “power” available for every Christian or was it just for the apostles ?

Were that the case, then why would anyone convert to Christianity in the first place ? For instance, if Christ alone would resurrect (by the power of the Spirit), and those believing in Him not, then why even bother joining His religion, if only a closed circle of select few are privy to the privileges it allegedly provides, as Paul himself argues in 1 Corinthians 15:12-23 ? Similarly for the other things mentioned above.

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This promise indeed will once again be seen in the coming age when Israel has been restored the Kingdom.

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Looking at the context of the passage we see that Jesus had been talking for 40 days to the disciples about the kingdom of God. They were wondering if at this time Jesus was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. This is their hope.

They did receive the spirit and did perform some miraculous acts for a while. Eventually they waned because Israel as a whole nation rejected their Messiah.

A lot of them tasted the gift of the Holy Spirit and the powers that are coming in the next age, when they will be plentiful once again.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age—Hebrews 6:5

Scripture can jump thousands of years from one verse to the next and I believe this to be the case as well.

One only has to look at the quote from Peter and Acts 2:16

Acts 2:16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

Joel 2:28 And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

Acts 2:18 Even on My menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:33 Exalted, then, to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Reading in Joel chapter 2 is where Peter quoted from. One can see that the Spirit is going to be poured out after many things happen first.

My people will never again be put to shame. 27Then you will know that I am present in Israel and that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other. My people will never again be put to shame. I Will Pour Out My Spirit (Acts 2:14–36)

and afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29Even on My menservants and maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

So in conclusion they only got a taste of the coming powers that will be plentiful in the next age.

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It looks very clear: To possess the Holy Spirit automatically or analytically implies to be invested with power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the question is whether the Holy Spirit is given only to the Apostles and their contemporary Christians or to all Christians of all ages to come?

But it is self evident that the second is true, for the Holy Spirit is given in the act of baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and since this baptism is for all times, then the power of the Holy Spirit is given also to all Christians of all ages baptized in the name of the Trinity.

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