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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the pentecostal gospel in a series entitled “Theology in brief”.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us. …” These words spoken by the Council of Jerusalem in making an important decision of the church in Acts 15:28 (NKJV) are a model for Christian living today. When Christians make important decisions, they should make them based, above all, on what seems good to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not a distant third in the Trinity. He is the One who was given specifically to the church when Jesus ascended into heaven. He is the other Helper that Jesus promised. Our relationship with him must be close and intense.
The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s guide.
“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, NIV).
The guidance of the Spirit is available to every believer. It is God’s desire that we can hear his voice. Then we can confidently say, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit.
The guidance of the Holy Spirit is available for big and small things, for expected or unexpected things, for long-standing difficulties and spontaneous needs. It is important that we live with spiritual ears attuned to his voice, that we “walk in the Spirit”. If we do, we will not only have positive direction, but protection from sin. “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, NKJV).
The Holy Spirit has appointments for believers.
Walt Hanson, a lay soul winner, said: “All Christians should start the day with a prayer for the Lord to lead us to someone in need of salvation – and then anticipate the appointments that the Holy Spirit will organize”.
The Holy Spirit is a Person.
It is reassuring to know that the Holy Spirit is not a mysterious force; He is a close Friend who will guide our lives along the right paths. He is “the Spirit himself” (Romans 8:16) – not “the Spirit himself” as in an earlier version.
The Holy Spirit is God, the Third Person of the Trinity.
There are many proofs that the Holy Spirit is God. He has the names and titles of divinity, the attributes of God, and does works that only God can do.
And He is expressly identified as God. An example will serve: What the Lord said in Isaiah 6:8-13 is attributed to the Holy Spirit in Acts 28:25-27.
The Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired of God. “Inspiration from God” is a Greek word, theopneustos, which literally means “inspired from God”. It is a special word, used nowhere else in Scripture, which emphasizes the work of the Breath or Wind of God, the Holy Spirit, in the production of the Bible.
The Holy Spirit empowered the fledgling Church.
When the physical presence of Jesus was gone, his people could become his body. Jesus said, “And I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another helper, that he may dwell with you forever” (John 14:16). Most scholars regard Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, as the anniversary of the Church.1
This other “Helper” is the Greek word paraclete meaning someone called to his side. It has come to mean help, support, even comforter.
All Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:9 makes it clear: “But you do not live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, if at least the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. All who have made Jesus Lord and Savior have the Spirit living within them.
There is a second distinct work of grace called the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus told his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The experience in the book of Acts has been variously described as being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (1:5), “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4), receiving “the gift of the Holy (2:38), and the Holy Spirit falling on them (10:44).
Baptism is a definite experience which is subsequent to salvation. This is clearly seen among Samaritan and Ephesian believers in Acts 8:14-17 and 19:1-6.
The first physical proof of Baptism is speaking in tongues.
We see this repeatedly in the book of Acts, first in 2:4. In Acts 10:45,46, Christians know that “the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles” because “they heard them speak in tongues and magnify God”.
But speaking in tongues is not enough. There is more to being filled with the Spirit than that.
Spirit-filled believers are empowered to serve more.
They are energized for global service, with an emphasis on witnessing (Acts 1:8).
But they are no better than Christians who are not filled with the Spirit. When a believer is filled, it just makes him stronger in the Lord. Being filled with the Spirit is not a matter of comparison with other believers – it is pride. It is about being all that one can be, with all available spiritual resources active in one’s life.
Throughout the Bible and the history of the Church, those who have received this experience have become more vigorous and efficient than they were before baptism.
Spirit-filled believers are empowered to overcome problems they could not overcome in their own strength.
My dad had been smoking since he was little. Over the years, he tried many times to quit…and always ended up going back to the old habit. Until something happens. Late one Sunday night while I was in college, Dad called to tell me he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. He never smoked again.
It was the power of the Holy Spirit that defeated the enemy that he could not defeat by himself.
The fullness of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time thing.
Pentecostals do not believe in “once filled, always filled”. Speaking in tongues once doesn’t always mean being filled.
Ephesians 5:18 literally means “Be filled” or “Continue to be filled with the Spirit.” It is an ongoing process. “The initial impetus comes from the Spirit,” says Assemblies of God scholar Anthony Palma, “but the responsibility to be continually filled with the Spirit rests with the Christian as he cooperates with the Spirit.”3
“Continuing to be filled” also implies that there is a measure of the presence of the Holy Spirit, based on our capacity (which is even more limited if there are many other things in our lives).
The gifts of the Spirit are for today.
Some people believe that the gifts of the Spirit were reserved only for the first century church. They base this on a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 13.
Samuel Chadwick, in The Way to Pentecost, said it well: “There is no reason why the gifts of the Spirit should be operational in one dispensation and not in another. They did not cease at the end of the apostolic era. They have manifested themselves in all periods of the Church.4
The fruits of the Spirit are active in varying degrees in the lives of all Christians.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23). The word “fruit” is here in the singular. The nine come as a package. These, together, are the true sign of spiritual maturity. It is up to each believer to cultivate them as he would cultivate a fruit-bearing vine, through a deep relationship with Jesus.
The Holy Spirit convicts of sin.
The role of the Spirit is major in all genuine revivals. “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8, NIV).
“Repentant tears,” said revivalist Brownlow North, “are the waters upon which the Spirit of God moves.”
The “unpardonable sin” is a sin against the Holy Spirit.
According to Mark 3:28-30, separation from God and rejection of Christ are so severe that the works of the Holy Spirit are attributed to the devil. “Truly I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and all blasphemies which they shall speak; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation, because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ ”
J. Oswald Sanders offers these important observations: “(1) It is a calculated sin, not one of impulse. (2) It is a sin of knowledge, not of ignorance, but a sin against spiritual knowledge and light (Hebrews 10:26-32). (3) This is not an isolated act but a habitual attitude. (4) It is a sin of the heart, not just of the intellect or the tongue. (5) It is a definitive sin – the complete rejection of Christ.5
The harsh term “blasphemy” indicates a willful and ungodly rejection of God’s saving power and grace.
As the late James Bridges said, “The ability to be concerned about whether or not someone has committed the unpardonable sin is a certain indicator that the person has not.”6
The Holy Spirit reveals and glorifies Jesus.
Perhaps no verse illustrates this better than Acts 4:13: “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John [newly Spirit-filled], and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
At the height of his ministry, Charles Spurgeon drew so many people to his church that tickets were required to enter. A man had traveled a great distance to find that there was no more room. A sympathetic church member gave the traveler his ticket.
“What did you think of my pastor?” the church member asked the visitor after the service.
“I haven’t seen your pastor,” the man replied.
The church member was somewhat disturbed by this until the man explained himself. “Although your pastor preached,” he said, “I only saw Jesus.
This is the primary role of the Holy Spirit…not to call attention to himself, but to glorify Jesus. The believer who seeks more of Jesus receives more of His Holy Spirit.
1 Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective, Stanley M. Horton, ed. (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 1994), p. 528.
2 Questions and Answers on the Holy Spirit, Hal Donaldson, Ken Horn and Ann Floyd, eds. (Springfield, MO: PE Books, 2001), p. 35.
3 “Keep On Being Filled,” Advance (February 1981), p. 26.
4 Samuel Chadwick, The Way to Pentecost (Fort Washington, Pa.: CLC Publications, 2000) p. 146,147.
5 Quoted in 50 Tough Questions, Hal Donaldson and Ken Horn, eds. (Springfield, MO: PE Books, 2002), p. 32.