rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgIn Acts 1:5, Jesus promises,  “We will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Please note that He said baptized with, not baptized in. What’s the difference? When one is baptized in the Holy Spirit, one simply experiences it, but when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit, one is given special powers and expected to use them. If one doesn’t understand and believe in the Holy Spirit, one will not welcome it, and generally one does not receive it. 

Acts 1:2 says Jesus gave the Apostles instruction through the power of the Holy Spirit — instructions for the maintenance and increase of the church — needed now more critically than ever — because we have strayed so far away we now limit the Holy Spirit’s power to be effective in drawing people to church.

The book of Acts is the second chapter of Luke’s continuing story. The first chapter is Luke’s gospel about Jesus’ earthly life. In Acts, he tells the story of the actions of the Apostles and the birth of the Christian Church. Both stories are in the form of letters written to Luke’s mentee Theophilus.

But the story of the Acts is still being written and it is up to us to tell how it will end.

We are to continue working and building the Church where Jesus left off at His death, remembering always that Christ is not the Savior who was but the Savior who is. 

Chapters 1 and 2 of Acts tell us how, through the Holy Spirit, the Church is empowered to finish Christ’s work. To do this, the Holy Spirit must be welcome; it is commonly called “the comforter.” This is a term taken from the days of Wycliff, from the Latin word “fortis,” meaning to be brave. “The comforter” the Holy Spirit is the one who fills us with courage and strength to be brave in building Christ’s Church. It’s hard to draw a line between the courageous work of the Holy Spirit and the courageous work of the risen Christ.

We must welcome the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has always existed but it wasn’t until Pentecost that we were able to tap into it. Like atomic power, which, too, has always existed but it wasn’t until the 1940s that mankind tapped into it.

The Holy Spirit is our friend and it was sent to help us be Christ’s witnesses. Our witness was meant to operate in ever-expanding concentric circles, starting first in Jerusalem, then to Judea, to Samaria (a semi-Jewish state) and on out into the entire world and even into today.

A witness of the Holy Spirit is a genuine observer of the truth. He or she can say, “I know this is true.”  In American courts we don’t allow any form of third-party testimony. Legally, for a testimony to be allowed, there must be personal experience. A witness may not say, “I think so.” A witness must say, “I know so.” Jesus asks: Today, have you seen the Holy Spirit? If so, is it welcome in your church?

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or e-mail

There are four founding principles and 10 characteristics of a healthy church. The four principles are: teaching, prayer, fellowship and eating together. The 10 characteristics are:

1 A learning church: listening to the teachings of the Apostles and growing in wisdom and grace.

2 A church of fellowship: true togetherness, a band of sisters and brothers.

3 A praying church: always going before God in prayer before going out into the world.

4 A reverent church: worshipping and living in reverence, both in the church and in the world, as if both are the temple of the living God.

5 A church where things happen: Signs and wonders are seen and people expect through prayer for things to change.

6 A sharing church: ­intensely feeling responsible for the welfare of each member, a people who cannot stand to have too much, while others have to little.

7 A worshipping church: people never forgetting to visit God’s House, a place where God’s Spirit moves in the worshipping

8 A happy church: full of
people with “glad and sincere hearts.”

9 A church whose people others cannot help liking: good people who are not only likeable but also winsome, possessing a quality that makes others want to follow them to church. 

10 A Holy spirit-filled church: obeying the Word of God, serving and advancing the purity, power and passion of Jesus Christ, while captivating and empowering God’s community.”