The scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit of God from cover to cover. In the Old Testament the word “spirit” occurs just over 200 times, mostly referring to the spirit of man. The Holy Spirit occurs 13 times as “Spirit of God,” and 14 times God says, “My Spirit” and a few times, “Holy Spirit,” “His Spirit,” etc. But when we enter the New Testament the word “spirit” occurs at an alarming rate: in the NIV, 370 times. This frequency is in less than a third of the volume of the Old Testament, and mostly referring to the Holy Spirit, or as the old KJV translates it 89 times: Holy Ghost.
I wonder if that word Ghost, which some consider an unfortunate translation, didn’t spook a lot of Christians into shying away from God’s Spirit. A.W. Tozer who wrote in the early 1900’s writes:
“One of the most telling blows which the enemy ever struck at the life of the church was to create in her a FEAR OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (emphasis mine). No one who mingles with Christians in these times will deny that such a fear exists. Few there are who without restraint will open their whole heart to the blessed Comforter. He has been so widely misunderstood that the very mention of His name in some circles is enough to frighten many people into resistance.”
“I think there can be no doubt that the need above all other needs in the church of Christ is at this moment the power of the Holy Spirit. More education, better organization, finer equipment, more advanced methods – all are unavailing. It is like bringing a better respirator after the patient is dead. Good as these are, they can never give life. It is the spirit that gives life. John 6:63. Good as they are they can never bring power. “Power belongs to God.” Psalm 62:11.”
In light of this missing power from God, we are tempted to fabricate power of our own. These fabrications may appeal to the flesh, but only the Holy Spirit has power to draw us to God and impact others with God’s presence. Jesus told the apostles, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” Acts 1:8. They waited in Jerusalem until that great day of Pentecost when God poured out His Spirit and the church was born. After proclaiming the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ to a huge crowd of Jews, Peter told them all to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then, notice, Peter said, The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God shall call. The church of Christ is a Spirit filled Church and a Spirit empowered church.
Has that promise ended? Has it ended? Are we left without God’s Spirit today? Some would argue that the completion of the scripture brought with it the cessation of the Holy Spirit’s power, or direct operation of the Holy Spirit, as it is defined. Let me sum up the argument. 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of the ceasing of prophecy, tongues and knowledge. Paul tells us, “When that which is perfect comes, that which is in part shall be done away.” Then a reference to James words, “the perfect law of liberty” and the argument goes, “that which is perfect has come in the completion of scripture, i.e. “the perfect law of liberty,” therefore that which is in part (Direct operation and power of the Holy Spirit in miracles) has been replaced by “that which is perfect, the completion of revelation of God’s word.” Thus the end of prophecy, tongues and miraculous knowledge has come and we no longer need the Holy Spirit’s power working in us except through the scriptures He inspired. I am oversimplifying here, but that is the gist of the argument. What we have left after the completion of revelation of God’s word, is the Bible, but without miraculous works that were needed to confirm the words of scripture, because that has been done already. Thus, the argument goes, the age of miracles, prophecy, tongues, knowledge and direct operation of the Holy Spirit in power has ceased. If this argument is true, we should no longer seek power from the Holy Spirit, but search the scriptures. It has all the power God allows for us today.
This view of the Holy Spirit’s work after the passing of the apostolic period is very wide spread. Yet, there have been many movements throughout Christian history that have viewed things otherwise. The modern Pentecostal movement is but the latest. Catholics throughout the centuries have claimed awakenings and miraculous events. In almost every denomination’s history there have been periods of eruptions of wonders with claims of God’s movement in healings or powerful unexplainable workings.
Indeed, even in our own restoration movement, the Cane Ridge Revival and many others at the turn of the 19th century came with some amazingly powerful expressions of God’s convicting power. Some of the stories sound like what happened to Saul when he pursued David and came to Samuel. If you remember in 1 Samuel 19, Saul had sent three groups of soldiers to capture David and each time the Spirit of God came upon them and they prophecied. Saul, finally came and the Spirit of God came upon Him too, and the Bible says, Saul walked along prophecying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his robes and also prophecied in Samuel’s presence. He lay that way all day and night.
David’s prayer in Psalm 51 has an interesting plea to God in it. Instead of fearing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, David begs God not to take the Holy Spirit from him.
David, the man after God’s own heart had the Holy Spirit of God upon him. We notice that his life was not one of perfection, but of faithfulness. The Spirit’s presence in his life was still powerful. Acts 2 tells us that God has poured out His Spirit on all flesh. Does this mean that no one before Acts 2 had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them? Or does this mean that God’s Holy Spirit was now poured out on all flesh so that every nation had access to the promised gift of God’s presence through His Spirit?
Suffice it to say, I’m convinced that God’s work on earth is still a work of His Spirit, through His word, in and with His people to build His church and save sinners from eternal death. God’s power is still at work in those God’s Spirit dwells within today. We need a fresh look into God’s revealed word on this. God’s people who seek first His kingdom and righteousness, need today, more than we can know, the power of God’s Spirit to help us live for Christ and to convict and convert lost sinners as we share the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaim God’s praises. God’s power is within us and His Holy Spirit indwells His people. Listen again to Romans 8:9-27. Do these words not apply to God’s people today? How about Eph. 1:13-20, or 2:19-22, or 3:14-21. Is the Holy Spirit’s power still with God’s people? If not, you might as well take some scissors and cut huge chunks out of the New Testament, because they don’t apply any more. God’s word makes this clear: BY GOD’S WORD, THROUGH GOD’S SPIRIT, IN AND WITH GOD’S PEOPLE, JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S SON BUILDS GOD’S CHURCH. I’m going to leave you with this and Lord willing, next week we will pick up and see more of what the Bible teaches us about God’s Holy Spirit upon God’s people.
Closing illustration: Basketball. Imagine two NBA teams are playing: The Devils and the Angels. For some reason the Angels invite you to come out on the court to receive the ball. Suddenly you’ve got the ball. What do you do? You look up and there under your goal is the best player on the Angels team, and he’s calling for you to pass him the ball. Do you try to drive in for the layup and hope for glory, or do you pass the ball to the sure shot? When you are on God’s team, He lets you play in the game, but He’s also there to make the score if you let go of the glory and give Him the ball.]]>