Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Messianic Age is the Age of the Holy Spirit: Fourteen Spirit Saturated Themes of the Christian Life
Does the Holy Spirit do anything now except what the Word does? Do we get help, any kind or in any way, from God except what we get by studying the Bible? ... Does God answer our prayers by saying, 'Study the Bible?" - James A. Harding (1902)
I am continually amazed at the number of "baptized" believers who are as yet unconvinced that God's Holy Spirit dwells within them and among God's people. I am continually amazed at the number of "baptized" believers who argue that God's Holy Spirit does not actually do anything in this world except through the "written word" ... i.e. the Bible. These disciples speak of the sufficiency of the word yet I wonder if what they do when the word points to the sufficiency and power of God's Holy Spirit? The Bible is not a person within the Trinity.
Fourteen Spirit themes in the Messianic Age
According to the Word there are many activities of the Christian and the Gathered People that are empowered by the Holy Spirit himself - the third person of the Trinity. It is quite clear in any reading of the Scriptures that believers actually need the Holy Spirit in and among them.
1) Baptism. "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Cor 12.13). "He saved us ... through the water of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3.5). The Holy Spirit is the active agent in our baptism. The Holy Spirit is the one who imparts the new life of Christ to us. It is the Holy Spirit who becomes the bond uniting the baptized with Christ and with other Christians. Baptism is the work of God's Spirit.
2) Sanctification. "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6.11). As the Holy Spirit, his work is to make us holy, to sanctify us (2 Thess 2.13; 1 Pet 1.2). What the Holy Spirit begins in his work in baptism is carried on by the Holy Spirit throughout our lives.
3) Christian Growth. "By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ..." (Gal 5.22). The fruit of the Christian life are the product of the Holy Spirit.
4) Love. "[B]ecause God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom 5.5; cf. Gal 5.22). The Holy Spirit is agent of bringing love to humans. The Spirit is the Spirit of God (Rom 8.9) and God is love (1 Jn 4.16), therefore there is a close connection to be expected between the Holy Spirit and love. Love is the acid test of discipleship and the greatest of all Spiritual gifts (1 Cor 13.13). Where the Holy Spirit is ... there is love.
5) Joy. "in spite of persecution you received the the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit" (1 Thes 1.6). The Holy Spirit "inspires" or yields "fruit" in the lives of God's children. Joy, along with love, is a "mark" of the kingdom of God (Rom 14.17).
6) Morality. The Holy Spirit is the basis of Christian ethical conduct (1 Cor 6.9-20; Rom 8.1-7)
7) Service & Obedience to God. "we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit" (Rom 7.6). All Christian service is done in the Holy Spirit and is made possible by that same Spirit.
8) Worship. Christian worship is done by and in the Holy Spirit (Jn 4.23-24). Paul declares we "worship by the Spirit of God" (Phil 3.3). We offer "Spiritual sacrifices" to God (1 Pt 2.5) and specific "acts" are even offered "in the Spirit" or "with the Spirit" (1 Cor 14.15; on singing Eph 5.18-19).
9) Prayer. Prayer is offered to God "in the Spirit" (Eph 6.18; Jude 20). This is not praying "in the New Testament." The presence of the Holy Spirit makes possible the tender address to the Creator God, "Abba, Father" (Gal 4.6). And the Holy Spirit intercedes when "we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom 8.26).
10) Preaching. In one of the few places where the words "Spirit," "word" and "only" come together in the Bible it does not say the Spirit words only through the word - just the opposite! "because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit ..." (1 Thes 1.5). The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets (1 Pt 1.11) and the Gospel that is his sword (Eph 6.17).
11) Leadership and Ministry. The Holy Spirit qualifies and calls persons for leadership in the NT (Acts 20.28; 1 Cor 12.4, 28).
12) Guarding the Truth. The indwelling Holy Spirit makes possible the defense of the apostolic teaching. "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in you" (NIV).
13) Endurance of Suffering. It is by the Holy Spirit that Christians are able to meed persecution and suffering (1 Pt 4.14).
The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts
The brief survey above demonstrates just how significant the Holy Spirit is in the age of the Messiah. We live in the Age of the Spirit. I want to further demonstrate how "active" the Holy Spirit is in the life of the church by listing every occurrence of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. Sometimes Luke's second book is called "The Acts of the Apostles" but most scholars suggest that it is more properly titled "The Acts of the Holy Spirit." Surely they are not far from the mark. Please note just how often the Spirit is designated the agent, the doer, the mover, the originator, etc ... and how often this is "beyond the sacred page."
1.2 "instructions through the Holy Spirit"
1.5 "baptized with/in the Holy Spirit"
1.8 "the Holy Spirit comes on you"
1.16 "which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago"
2.4 "filled with the Holy Spirit ... as the Holy Spirit enabled them"
2.17 "I will pour my Spirit on all people"
2.18 "pour out my Spirit"
2.33 "received from the Father the gift of the Holy Spirit"
2.38 "received the gift of the Holy Spirit"
4.8 "Peter filled with the Holy Spirit"
4.25 "spoke by the Holy Spirit"
4.31 "filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God"
5.3 "lied to the Holy Spirit"
5.9 "test the Spirit of the Lord"
6.3 "chose seven ... full of the Spirit and wisdom"
6.5 "full of faith and the Holy Spirit"
6.10 "the Spirit by whom he spoke"
7.51 "you resist the Holy Spirit"
7.55 "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit"
8.15 "that they might receive the Holy Spirit"
8.16 "because of the Holy Spirit"
8.17 "they received the Holy Spirit"
8.18 "the Spirit was given ... "
8.19 "they recieved the Holy Spirit"
8.29 "the Spirit told Philip, Go ... "
8.39 "the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip"
9.17 "filled with the Holy Spirit"
9.31 "strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit"
10.19 "the Spirit said to him, Simon ..."
10.38 "God anointed Jesus ... with the Holy Spirit and power"
10.44 "Holy Spirit came on all who heard"
10.45 "gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out"
10.47 "received the Holy Spirit as we have"
11.12 "the Spirit told me to have no hesitation"
11.15 "the Holy Spirit came on them as he had on us"
11.16 "baptized with the Holy Spirit"
11.24 "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit"
11.28 "Agabus stood up and predicted through the Spirit that a severe famine would spread"
13.2 "the Holy Spirit said, 'set apart for me ..."
13.4 "sent on their way by the Holy Spirit"
13.9 "Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit"
13.52 "the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit"
15.8 "he accepted them by giving them the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us"
15.28 "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us ..."
16.6 "having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word"
16.7 "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow it"
19.2 "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
19.6 "the Holy Spirit came on them"
20.22 "compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem"
20.23 "in every city the Holy Spirit warns me"
20.28 "which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers"
21.4 "through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go"
21.11 "The Holy Spirit says"
28.25 "the Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers"
I sandwiched the book of Acts between the thirteenth and fourteenth theme. I did this because we sometimes simply need to be overwhelmed by the testimony of the written word about the Spirit of God in our lives. To testify too, to say what Acts actually says is not an attack on the written word of God - it is simply to believe that word! I suggest that the reverse is actually an attack upon the apostolic word. The question in scripture is not can the Holy Spirit work "separate and apart from the word!" That is not the biblical question at all. The question is "does the word word separate from the Holy Spirit?" The difference is massive! So on to number 14 ...
14) Spiritual Power. The above themes may be summarized up in the thought that the Holy Spirit is the source of Spiritual strength for living the Christian life - the power to see it through (Eph 3.16,17). All these represent but the "first fruits" of the Spirit (Rom 8.23), for the power of the Spirit will result ultimately in the resurrection of our mortal bodies in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8.1). In the final analysis it is the Holy Spirit living in us that marks us as a Christian for without the Holy Spirit we cannot be God's (Rom 8.9). The great James A. Harding with whom we began this post has words of wisdom that state succinctly the truth on this matter ...
"Scripture does not teach that the Bible alone thoroughly furnishes the man of God for every good work, but that the Bible in addition to what had already been given does so ... I am as far as the East is from the West from believing neither God, Christ, nor the Holy Spirit can help us except by talking to us [in the word]." (1906)
We knew this truth over a century ago. We have forgotten it, perhaps, because we do not read the Bible enough to know. How ironic is that.
Open our eyes, O Glorious Father, as you did Elisha's servant, to know we are surrounded and engulfed by your gracious Presence. Grant us your Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may come to experience you and the hope to which you have called us. Grant us power through your Holy Spirit, in our inner being to walk as Jesus walked, to love as Jesus loved, and to bless the poor as Jesus did. Amen.