Bible Study with Jairus – Acts 1
Different perspectives lead to different understandings
A fellow Christian once asked me how believers are able to effectively understand and interpret the teachings and lessons from the book of Acts. He wanted to know how believers from different churches and denominations can come to a similar conclusion as they read the text. My response was that we need to always look at things from a balanced perspective. Though the Bible is a book written in black and white, we cannot only focus on wordings while ignoring personal spiritual experiences and spiritual encounters. We also cannot ignore the importance of understanding the resurrected Jesus.
As believers, we must be mindful as we read the Bible, specifically, as we read the book of Acts. Due to the variety of denominations and beliefs, controversial issues such as: how we see God’s miracles, the angels, the resurrected Jesus and his manifestation, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, how we regard seen and unseen things, and how we balance Bible knowledge and spiritual experience can be very divisive amongst believers. Different perspectives result in different interpretations of the events in the book Acts and will lead readers to have different spiritual experiences.
Lack of spiritual understanding of the Word of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit in their works or ministries will cause believers if not careful, to end up just like the Pharisees who follow the law strictly because they have biblical knowledge of the scriptures without experience. Legalism can spiritually weaken the church over time. However, placing too much emphasis on spiritual experiences such as dreams, visions and encounters with angels without a focus on studying the Word, can lead believers to the opposite extreme of superstition. These are some of the dangers that those who seek only spiritual gifts in some Charismatic churches will face. These believers are spiritually immature, often lack a solid foundation in the Word of God and growth in the life of God. They are easily swayed by the wind of doctrines. One’s pursuit of a deeper relationship with Jesus will flourish by having a balance of the above.
In our Bible study meetings, I have shared with fellow believers, some of my personal experiences including multiple encounters with Jesus Christ, and seeing with the activities of angels in prophetic dreams. I think these experiences have helped me gain a better understanding of the Bible, and also have given me more insights into what is happening in the spiritual realm. These encounters have also enabled me to receive assistance and breakthroughs that I would not have received from the traditional Evangelical church that I came from. I also mentioned that some Charismatic churches go too far in their pursuit of this experience, which has led to not only superstition, but the followers experiencing slow growth in their spiritual lives. My conclusion is that while it is a remarkable blessing to have visions or dreams; to experience seeing angels, or miracles, we should not become preoccupied with them. We need to focus on being saved from both eternal perdition and the constant worries of our lives. We must seek Christ first and foremost for it is only those who call on the name of the Lord who shall be saved.
How to view the things seen and unseen
Acts 1 tells of the selection of an apostle to replace Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. The eleven disciples suggested two men, one named Joseph and the other Barsabbas (also called Justus and Matthias). Matthias was chosen through casting lots (Acts 1:15-26). Because there is no detailed introduction to these two men in the Bible, we don’t know much about them. Readers will no doubt be curious to know why Matthias was chosen and whether this was random or the result of casting lots.
Nothing happens by chance with God. In the above case, this also holds true. The Lord knows everyone’s hearts (Acts 1:24). God has complete control over everything. Jesus Christ while on earth said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father,” (Matthew 10:29). Based on evidence from human history, everything is under God’s control. Unfortunately, we do not always have this kind of perspective and recognition based on our own experiences. We choose to view things through our lens instead of through the Lord’s. To have the Lord’s perspective, we must be able to see the unseen.
With the knowledge of God’s omnipotence, we can conclude that He chose Matthias. Matthias would have been chosen no matter whether the people cast their lots or not. I can speculate jokingly that perhaps an angel was there to ensure that Matthias was chosen based on God’s plan. We cannot see the activities of angels unless we are gifted in seeing the spiritual realm. Angels truly exist in the spiritual world. They exist, regardless of us seeing them or their activities. Of course, our spiritual eyes must first be open to seeing these angels. This vision is one function of the prophetic giftings.
I heard someone once say, “If you truly know God, you will see God’s burning flames after every thorn bush.” If you do not know God, even if you see the burning thorn bush, it is only a thorn bush for you. To know God and His works, we must learn to see the unseen with our spiritual eyes. The records in the Bible are not just words in black and white; they are actual events that happened in both the physical world and the spiritual world. We often have more understanding of what is happening in the natural world than the spiritual world. This sometimes makes it feel difficult to connect the dots. That is why, to truly comprehend the meanings of the Bible, we must first understand what has occurred in the spiritual world.
The Chinese enjoy eating sea cucumber. Sea cucumbers are considered to be a high-class food with high nutritional value. Dried sea cucumber, which we usually purchase at Costco, is extremely hard, almost as hard as rock. This should not be eaten right away. Preparation of this includes softening them in water for a few days before they are cooked. Sadly, many people read the Bible as if it were dried sea cucumber. They are aware of its nutritional value but are unable to chew and digest it. This is why we need the help from the Holy Spirit, just as water softens dried sea cucumber. The spiritual water softens the words of the Bible so that readers can properly digest and understand them. The Bible teachers used by the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible must do the same thing. A good teacher will spend a few hours explaining just a few sentences in the Bible using various quotes and examples. His purpose is to rightly handle the word of truth or make the Word more digestible to the listeners (2Tim 2:15).
We must diligently pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten us and help us understand the meaning of the Bible and know what is happening in the spiritual realm. This procedure is similar to the previous paragraph’s discussion of soaking dried sea cucumber in water. We are not to change God’s words, but with the enrichment of the Holy Spirit’s water ingest them.
How we perceive angels
Our natural eyes cannot always see God or angels, but God and angels do exist. Many Christians in traditional churches do not deny the existence of God and angels, but they ignore the existence of angels and never discuss them. Some Charismatic churches often discuss angels, while Christians from traditional churches respond by saying, “we cannot worship angels” (Rev 19:12) and never revisit this issue. I received salvation from a traditional Evangelical church that rarely mentioned angels when I was there. Although we acknowledged angels in the Bible, we didn’t discuss or see angels in modern church activities.
In contrast, angels and their work, are always discussed in churches where the prophetic gifts are available and readily manifested. Prophets who have received the gift to see into the spiritual realm are often known as Seers. They can see spiritual things and activities, such as God and angels. That is why Seers are always willing to share what they see regarding any angel encounters. An American prophetess Kat Kerr who is a Seer once explained that the Bible tells us not to worship angels, but gives no command to avoid communication with them (Rev 19:10). She went on to say that she saw in the spirit, that God sent many angels to work with various people. Unfortunately, they did not know how to release God’s words in asking the angels for help, so the angels were left with nothing to do.
I am not suggesting that believers can give angels orders. I do, however, want to propose that angels do respond to the words of God declared by us to cooperate with us. If Kat Kerr is indeed correct, it behooves us to think about it. Why not enlist the assistance and cooperation of angels in our spiritual battles and our service to God? We are all fellow servants of Christ, and so we can serve God together. Angels, on the other hand, are ministering spirits sent out by God to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14).
I have never seen angels with my natural eyes, nor have I ever seen angels in a vision during the day. However, in 2017 I attended a special meeting held by a Jewish Christian Church near my home. While there, a woman approached me and prophesied that God would bless me with prophetic gifts which would allow me to see angels and understand other people’s tongues. This would be given to me to know what God is speaking through people when I visit other churches to minister. Not long after that event, I began to see angels’ activities in my dreams regularly. For example, I saw a huge angel, using an extremely long stick swaying from the sky to the earth to stir, and then I saw waves of the sea, buildings collapsing, and people fleeing. I heard a voice from the spirit say that this stirring was to shake people’s hearts and cause them to repent. I still await the second part of that prophesy to interpret the tongues of others.
Angels and their activities play a crucial role in the Bible. We must understand that while we do not worship angels, it is permissible and acceptable to admit our need to understand their activities, and even cooperate with them in serving God. We do not need, however, to place too much emphasis on them. It is exciting to be able to see angels and their activities. People in the Charismatic churches often tell stories about angels appearing and dropping feathers in their gatherings. Perhaps, this story is true, but putting too much emphasis on it is not good. I once attended a Charismatic conference where I met a participant who showed me a feather without speaking a word. I surmise he wanted me to see that the feather was from an angel. My thought though, was that the feather came from someone’s coat. With this experience, it is obvious that this kind of attitude towards angels does exist in some churches.
How to perceive the Holy Spirit and baptism of the Holy Spirit
How believers perceive the Holy Spirit and baptism of the Holy Spirit is very diverse as well. On the surface, the disciples appear to work for God, but in reality, it is the Holy Spirit who works for God through His disciples. The Book of Acts could easily be renamed, “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Before Jesus’ crucifiction, He commanded the disciples not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father. He also promised that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4).
The Holy Spirit is a promise from the Father. Jesus is the one who will baptize us in the Holy Spirit through the Father (John 14:26). Many Christians from traditional churches often quote the following two scriptures to criticize those who teach about the working of the Holy Spirit. John 15:26 says: The Spirit of truth will bear witness with Him. John 15:13-14 says: and declare what He has heard from Christ, and glorify Christ. These Christians ignore the different stages of work by the Holy Spirit, the Father, and Jesus Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is an essential part of God’s work on the earth today. Let me explain more in detail.
In the Old Testament, God the Father chose the Jews and prepared them to receive His Son who became a blessing to many nations (Gal 3:14). Satan’s main role in the Old Testament was to persecute and corrupt the Jews to prevent Jesus’ birth which would ultimately lead to His victorious death on the cross. Satan’s role during this timewas to prevent Jesus’ work of salvation. The Holy Spirit was poured out on believers after Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven. The Holy Spirit’s main role was to establish the church so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are represented by Abraham, Isaac, and the old servant. The old servant’s task was to find a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac, as directed by Abraham. Similarly, God has given the Holy Spirit the task of finding a wife for His Son. That is why Satan is so hostile to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s work in the New Testament church.
In three ways, Satan resisted the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To begin, Satan used the world to oppose the Father. The Apostle John said, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1John 2:15). To begin, Satan used the world to oppose God the Father. Satan uses the world’s temptations, busyness, and sin to entice and occupy many Christians, rendering them incapable of loving God the Father. Second, Satan worked hard to oppose Jesus’ works. 1 John 3:8, says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” This reflected Jesus is to abolish the devil’s works. Third, Satan made a concerted effort to use our flesh to oppose the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” God’s work of choosing and planning is complete, and Jesus Christ’s work of salvation is complete as well. The Holy Spirit must demonstrate this completed work in each follower. Satan can resist the work of the Holy Spirit by using lies and our flesh.
Satan spreads lies among Christians through whatever means he can. One lie, in particular, is that if we proclaim the Holy Spirit’s work, we will be exalting Him above Christ. That is Satan’s misinterpretation of the Bible. A Chinese Christian accused me of preaching the Holy Spirit while belittling Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit, I replied, is to exalt and glorify Christ. If you oppose my preaching of the Holy Spirit and do not accept the works of the Holy Spirit, you are opposing the Holy Spirit exalting and glorifying Christ within you. The Holy Spirit will never exalt Himself. The goal of preaching the work of the Holy Spirit is not to exalt and glorify Him above Christ, but to exalt the Holy Spirit so that the He can exalt Christ within us.
Even though the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each focus on different stages of the work, they are all working together. When we compare the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to a kite, they look like an upside-down kite. The Holy Spirit is the kite in the sky; the Son is the string that keeps the kite flying, and the Father is the man who holds the kite. Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Such a picture regarding the tree and wind is depicted in Jesus’s word above. This picture also applies to my illustration of a kite. Jesus Christ is behind the Holy Spirit, and God the Father is behind Jesus Christ. They are one. We should see the kite, the string, and the man holding the string.
We must be regenerated in the Holy Spirit and receive the Holy Spirit as our life (John 20:22). Many Christians do not object to this viewpoint, however they object that we must also be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). This latter experience allows us to gain a better understanding of those unseen things, as well as receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is not an experience that Christians usually gain when we are baptized in water. Rather, it is a second experience. Satan attempts to keep us from knowing this truth in the modern church while also triggering conflicts between those who accept and those who reject it. Christians, as a result of this divisiveness, are unable to become one.
One of the main reasons for church splits today, is whether or not to accept the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. We must be aware of Satan’s tricks and strategies, as he seeks to divide our beliefs in seeking and accepting the baptism of the Holy Spirit along with speaking in tongues. By being keenly aware of this, we can help to bring churches together while receiving power from the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit are the key aspects of the book of Acts. If you do not know the Holy Spirit and refuse to accept baptism in the Holy Spirit, you may have a hard time understanding and comprehending God’s words in Acts. At the very least, your perspectives will vary from those who have received the baptism of the Holy Spirt and had their spiritual gifts activated.
How to understand the resurrected Christ
The topic in Acts1-8 is about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of Christ is in Acts 9-11. Many times the resurrected Christ appeared in front of disciples, but they seldom recognized Him. For example, Jesus walked with the disciples to Emmaus, but they did not recognize Him. After Jesus Christ was crucified and died, Peter and the other disciples went fishing. Jesus appeared to them, but they did not recognize Him either. Jesus stood on the shore, yet the disciples did not know that it was Him (John 21:4). When the resurrected Christ appears to us, He often changes His appearance, and often, we do not recognize Him. In saying this, Jesus may have appeared to you many times but because your eyes were not open, you did not recognize Him. Jesus is often hiding. He often hides among people and things. To see the resurrected Christ, our spiritual eyes must be open.
Jesus often appears to me in prophetic dreams, however, I find that I may not notice or recognize him. In my prophetic dreams, an elderly Chinese lady always appears to me. I was unaware she was a disguise for God in the beginning. Eventually, on the last day of 2017, she came to visit me and led me to heaven in a prophetic dream. I was initially hesitant to follow her because I was concerned about who she was. Finally, she overcame me with her power to take me to heaven, where she later transformed into the image of Jesus. I realized at that point that she was Jesus in disguise in my previous prophetic dreams. I recalled the details of my other prophetic dreams with her presence and started to pay attention to subsequent encounters realizing they were from God. Also, after these kinds of experiences, I have a better understanding of how to tell the difference between God’s manifestation and the fake ones from the evil spirits. This helps me know what is from God and what is not.
Christ often hides in a variety of people, things, and environments, requiring us to open our eyes to recognize Him. He may speak to you through various people or environments, but you may not recognize His voice. He may appear to you many times, but you may not recognize Him. We must learn to recognize the resurrected Christ to understand the Bible better as well. Our main goal as we read the book of Acts is to be able to recognize Jesus Christ in all situations.
How to look at miracles and visions and dreams
Miracles play an important role in the Bible. We must bear in mind that miracles still happen today, and God still uses visions and dreams to communicate with His children. Given that one-third of the contents of the Bible is about visions and dreams, we must never rule them out; though we must carefully examine them in all circumstances. Our different perspectives and understandings on miracles, visions, and dreams will lead to different interpretations of Acts as well.
How to strike a balance between knowledge and spiritual experience
The Chinese proverb “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books” can also be applied to our Bible reading habits, especially when it comes to the book of Acts. This Chinese proverb is trying to say we need more hands-on experiences than head knowledge. To me though, both reading ten thousand books and traveling ten thousand miles are valuable for a person to better understand the world. The implication is that we must have biblical knowledge while also having a spiritual experience. I was a member of the Evangelical church from the time I received salvation in 2002 until 2015. I rarely had visions and dreams. I was unaware of the prophetic gifts still available today and had not yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As a result my experience of seeing things in the spiritual realm was limited.
In 2015, I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to have dreams and visions. My prophetic gifts were activated from the Holy Spirit after the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I began to see into the spiritual realms. Many times in my prophetic dreams, I was taken to the third heaven to see heavenly activities or sometimes the second heaven to experience some spiritual battles. I was able to see some of the activities of God and the angels as well as activities of the demonic forces.
These encounters have helped me break free from the constraints of my thinking and gain a deeper understanding of the Bible through spiritual eyes. It also made me aware that spiritual warfare exists. My previous experience in the Evangelical church helped to establish solid Biblical knowledge which helped me not to get too caught up in being deceived or sidetracked. These spiritual experiences allowed my limited thinking to be opened as I gained a better understanding of the Bible and knew how to apply it in my life. The Bible knowledge and our personal spiritual experiences are two sides of the same coin. They are identical to our two feet. To walk further, we must strike a balance between the two.
An important verse in the book of Acts is “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). We must recognize miracles, dreams and visions, angels, and things in the spiritual realm; but we should always keep our focus on God and the salvation we have received in Jesus Christ. We must endeavor to be saved from eternal perdition, as well as from various temptations and snares of the world. By calling on the name of God, we will be saved from both the eternal perdition and anxiety of the world today. We need to continue to call on the name of the Lord after we have been saved, and we will experience various types of deliverance and salvation from anxiety, worries, and any other pains of life. The book of Acts is about the Holy Spirit and how we can be saved, and do great works for God through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we call upon the name of God, the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts to save us from going to hell and deliver us from evil and He will also empower us to do great things for God.