This past Sunday I started teaching a new series called, “Baggage: Learning to Let Go.” We’re spending the month of March exploring how God frees us from our past as well as discussing how important it is to work through things that we carry around with us. Our first talk basically covered how the hurts from our past can affect the way we view people and the way we view God.
As I was preparing for the first message, I was struck by something I read in the book of Acts. When Peter spoke in Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3:11-26), he mentions “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” and that “the time for restoring” will come in the future when Christ returns (Acts 3:20-21). Besides a great place to insert a discussion about the already and not yet of the kingdom of God, I find an important concept here related to the Holy Spirit regarding the “presence of the Lord.” I think it has some connection to what we’re talking about in our series too (letting go of baggage).
Luke connects “refreshment” to the “presence of the Lord.” I’ve attended worship gatherings in a lot of different traditions as I’ve had the opportunity to speak all over the denominational map. One of the significant experiences that seems more “normative” in charismatic worship is being refreshed. For lack of better words, when God’s presence comes during those gatherings, people are refreshed. They leave gatherings joyful and peaceful and ready to live out the victory that Christ appropriated at the cross.
This has everything to do with the Holy Spirit.
And it’s not just during corporate worship gatherings. I’ve done quite a bit of pastoral counseling and have sensed or seen the presence of God come into those meetings whereby people are refreshed.
The phrase “times of refreshing” (kairoi anapsyxe?s) is interesting. There are no other verbal parallels found in the NT and the closest we get to having that concept repeated is found in the LXX (Exodus 8:15). Some scholars suggest that the refreshment that Luke is referring to is something connected to the future Messianic age when the kingdom of God is consummated (think Revelation 20). This isn’t very convincing. As David G. Peterson writes,
“… the argument in vv. 19–21 is cumulative, implying that these seasons of refreshment occur in an intervening period, before Christ’s return and the consummation of God’s plan in a renewed creation. Even now, those who turn to him for forgiveness may enjoy in advance some of the blessings associated with the coming era. Perhaps these times of refreshment are more specifically ‘moments of relief during the time men spend in waiting for that blessed day’. A comparison with Peter’s promises in 2:38 suggests that the Holy Spirit may be the one who brings this refreshment. Peter may be describing the subjective effect of the gift of the Spirit for believers, whose presence anticipates and guarantees the full inheritance God promises his children (cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:14).” (The Acts of the Apostles, 180-81)
I would take it one step further than Peterson. I don’t think the Holy Spirit may be the one who brings the refreshment. I would argue that he is. It seems to be the most natural exegetical and theological conclusion to the question. After all, the Holy Spirit is the representative of God here on earth that was sent after Christ ascended, who is at the right hand of the Father.
So when we are in the midst of worship (think broadly here), those “times of refreshing” that we encounter are experienced by way of the Spirit, the seal for our redemption (Eph. 4:30).
What do you think? Been refreshed lately? Share your story!