Not Just an Influence
Throughout much of history, the Holy Spirit was seen as basically a doctrine of the church. He was not seen as a person who was active in the life of the church. Today, there is a danger that the Holy Spirit may be seen as just an influence. We often hear people make such statements as, “The Holy Spirit is here!” If they really understood the Holy Spirit, they would know that the Holy Spirit is an ever-present personality and that it is the anointing of the Spirit that they sense at some times more than at other times. Many people confuse the anointing of the Spirit with the actual person of the Holy Spirit Himself. To them, the Holy Spirit is not a person, but just an influence that makes them feel a certain way or act in a particular way. Some people view the presence of the Holy Spirit as a mysterious or eerie feeling to be conjured up as in a séance. I have seen individuals with a distant gaze in their eyes and pious smiles on their faces as they pronounced, “The Holy Spirit told me…” The only problem is that many of these people do not have words and actions that align with the nature of God or His Holy Spirit. I even know of one man who read the verse in the Bible that says, if your hand offends you, you should cut it off; and, if your eye offends you, you should gouge it out; and claimed that the Holy Spirit told him to do exactly that. As a result, he butchered his own body trying to remove his offending members. His problem was that he didn’t know the personality of the Holy Spirit and was not able to tell whether it was really the Holy Spirit or a deceiving counterfeit.
Others speak of “getting it” when referring to receiving the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they are confusing receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit with receiving the Holy Spirit Himself and therefore use the term “it” instead of saying “Him.” But the true problem is that they do not comprehend that they have received a relationship with the person of God the Holy Spirit. Instead, they are settling for an experience or even an anointing rather than the abiding fellowship of God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit.
If we truly understood the Holy Spirit as He is portrayed in the scriptures, we would see Him as a person – not just an influence or doctrine. He is God with all the qualities and characteristics of the Father and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is not just an influence, an anointing, a power, a mystery, or an experience – He is a divine person to be loved, revered, and welcomed just as we would Jesus Himself. I once addressed a group of chaplains on the campus of one of America’s great secular universities. They didn’t understand why the Charismatic students on the campus were interested in the Holy Spirit. These men had not understood that the Holy Spirit is also a person – not a doctrine as they had learned in their seminary training. What’s more, they didn’t realize that they were invited to have a living relationship with Him.
Until we come to know the person and personality of the Holy Spirit, we are going to miss the most important factor that we have available to us in fulfilling our commission in the world today. Jesus saw our relationship with the Holy Spirit as so important that He warned us not to try to fulfill our function as witnesses to the world until we had received the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49) He also said that it was necessary that He Himself depart so that the Holy Spirit could come. (John 16:7)
One of the first truths that we need to realize about the person of the Holy Spirit is that He is equal and co-existing with the Father and Jesus. Jesus Himself told the original disciples to recognize Him as equal when baptizing new believers into the church. (Matthew 28:19) The Apostle Paul recognized the co-existing quality of the Holy Spirit when he addressed the Corinthian church. (II Corinthians 13:14) Even though we will come to know the Holy Spirit as a person and as a friend on an individual level, it is of ultimate importance that we never allow ourselves to see Him as any bit less than God Himself. He must always be reverenced, respected, and honored on an equal basis as God the Father or God the Son.
As a person, rather than a force or influence, the Holy Spirit is affected by the way we relate to Him and act toward Him. We can grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30) and resist Him (Acts 7:51). It is possible to quench His relationship with us. (I Thessalonians 5:17) Isaiah claims that our rebelliousness is vexing to the Holy Spirit. (verse 63:10) The history of the early church records that one couple attempted to lie to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:3) Jesus warned that some people can even blaspheme the Holy Spirit. (Mark 3:29) King David realized that his sins could separate him from the presence and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 51:11) But, above all the negative relationships that can develop, it is important to focus on the fact that we can develop a positive communion with Him. (II Corinthians 13:14)
The Bible gives us a number of descriptive terms to help us recognize how the Holy Spirit wants to relate to us and help us. He is called the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) and the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2). Isaiah listed the seven-fold nature of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Revelation 3:1 in his prophecy concerning how the Holy Spirit was to anoint Jesus. (Isaiah 11:2) Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth. (John 14:17) Paul similarly referred to Him as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. (Ephesians 1:17) This is an important characteristic because it determines that He will always relate to us truthfully and will demand the same from us. In a world with so much deception and lying, it is comforting to know that there is a Spirit of truth desiring fellowship with us. Jesus continued that this Spirit of truth would guide us into all truth. (John 16:13) This means that He will reveal to us the wonderful truths of God and that He will direct us as we enter into these revelations. This is a very encouraging assurance since truth without guidance can be dangerous. Just knowing truth is not enough; we must be expertly guided into how to relate to it and use it wisely. Perhaps that is why the Holy Spirit is also called a teacher (Luke 12:12) and a comforter (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit should be an ever-welcomed assistant in our lives in that He is our source of divine power (Acts 1:8) and guidance (Romans 8:14), plus the very one who establishes our relationship with God (Romans 8:15). Jesus saw the Holy Spirit as a necessity for the believer to the point that He said that it was better for Him (Jesus) to go away so that the Holy Spirit could come into His full place (John 16:7), resulting in the believers’ being able to do even greater works than Jesus Himself did (John 14:12).
If we were to begin to enumerate the functions of the Holy Spirit, we would find an almost limitless agenda. But let’s list just a few:
He is a creator. (Genesis 1:2)
He is the one who convicts. (John 16:7-8)
He is the seal of our redemption. (Ephesians 1:13)
He is our enabler. (Zechariah 4:6)
He is our comforter. (John 16:7)
He is our revealer of truth. (John 16:13)
He is a builder. (Ephesians 2:20-22)
He is our source of love. (Romans 5:5)
He is our source of joy. (Romans 14:17)
He is our judge or the one who reproves us. (John 16:8)
He is our earnest or the guarantee of our spiritual rights. (II Corinthians 1:22)
He is our prayer instructor. (Romans 8:26-28)
He is our link to divine knowledge. (I Corinthians 2:9-11)
He is the agent of our new birth. (John 3:5)
He is our source of quickening life. (Romans 8:9-11)
He is the inspirer of the scriptures. (II Peter 1:21)
He is the instructor of spiritual truths. (I Corinthians 2:13)
He is the one who indwells believers. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
He is our sanctifier. (I Peter 1:2)
He is our avenue to hope. (Galatians 5:5)
He is our link to the free gifts of God. (I Corinthians 2:12)
He is the one who changes us from glory to glory. (II Corinthians 3:18)
He is the one who provides access to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)
He is the one who calls men to Jesus. (Revelation 22:17)
He is the one who warns us of demonic deception. (I Timothy 4:1)
He is the one who helps us keep the things of God. (II Timothy 1:14)
He is the one who renews us. (Titus 3:5)
He is the one who confirms our witness. (Hebrews 2:4)
He is the one who gives us a foretaste of heaven. (Hebrews 6:4)
He is the one who empowers and enlightens our preaching. (I Peter 1:12)
He is our source of faith building. (Jude 20)
He is our source of protection. (Isaiah 59:19)
He is the one who communicates victory to the churches. (Revelation 2:7)
He is the one who eliminates doubt. (Acts 11:12)
He is the one who forewarns us. (Acts 20:23)
He is the one who forbids our wrong directions. (Acts 16:6)
He is the one who separates those chosen for divine service. (Acts 13:2)
One of the Holy Spirit’s major roles in the life of a believer is to enable him as a witness. (Acts 1:8) He works through several different means in order to fully make each person an adequate witness. One area in which the Holy Spirit empowers our witness is that He makes our lives more attractive to unbelievers through the fruit of the spirit. The Apostle Paul described two radically different lifestyles in the fifth chapter of Galatians. (verses 19-23) One he called the “works of the flesh”; the other he labeled as the “fruit of the spirit.” Even a quick look through these two lists of qualities will allow us to see the attractiveness of the spiritual life and the repulsiveness of the fleshly life. When an unbeliever sees a person living in love, joy, and peace rather than envy, strife, and malice, he is drawn to that person and wonders what his secret is to such a successful and productive life. Not far from my home in Indiana was a large apple tree. I drove past it on a regular basis and paid no attention to it; however, in the late summer and early fall of each year I suddenly began to take notice of that special tree. The reason that this tree had never caught my eye all year long but was now the focus of my attention was that it now had apples on it! Bearing fruit made that tree attractive to me; in the same manner, when your life begins to bear fruit, you will become attractive to the unbelievers around you.
I worked one summer as a front desk clerk in Yosemite National Park – a job that came with some rather unusual items on the job description. One was to help calm down and re-assign any guests who experienced unexpected guests in their rooms – bears! On one particular day, there was an exceptionally heavy load of new guests checking in at the same time we seemed to have an incredible number of bears also trying to check into the rooms. Our lobby soon began to overflow as we became more and more backlogged because of the disruption of the bears prowling around the facility. Before long, our guests were standing outside the front door and eventually the line stretched across the parking lot to the shade of the Douglas firs on the other side of the pavement. When one lady finally made her way to the front of the line, she smiled at me and asked, “How do you do that?” I was ready to hold up the room assignment card and show her how I filled in all the blanks and then assigned the room; but I realized that she must be inquiring about something more substantial that how to complete the form, so I asked, “How do I do what?” Her reply was, “Keep smiling in the midst of all this.” My response was that it was because I had joy as a manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in my life. I did not have to witness to her – I was a witness because the fruit of the Spirit was showing effortlessly through my life.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit empowers our witness in that He gives believers supernatural abilities that draw the unbelievers’ attention. The people who totally ignore you will suddenly begin to listen and respond when you lay your hands on them and deliver them from their sicknesses. First Corinthians chapter twelve enumerates nine supernatural enduements that the believer can receive from the Holy Spirit. Many of the gifts are described in action as we read the story of the early church. (Hebrews 2:4) Acts chapter two tells how three thousand people were converted when they heard the disciples speaking supernaturally in languages that they had not learned. In Acts chapter three, the response multiplies to five thousand when Peter and John ministered healing to a lame man. The story continues to unfold with other miraculous healings (Acts 5:16), a woman raised from the dead (Acts 9:40), and a man supernaturally preserved after what should have been a deadly snakebite (Acts 28:4). In each case, the unbelievers were irresistibly drawn to Jesus when they witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit through the believers.
The Holy Spirit also empowers believers in their witness through their words. The very choice of what words are to be said (Matthew 10:19-20) and the boldness to speak them out (Acts 4:31) come from the Holy Spirit Himself. In addition ,the very direction of where to be and what to do when you get there is an important factor in the believer’s power to witness through the Holy Spirit. (Acts 11:12, Romans 15:19)
The Holy Spirit bears all the qualities and characteristics of deity; He is God! (I John 5:7) He is omnipotent. (Zechariah 4:6) He is omniscient. (I Corinthians 2:10) He is omnipresent. (Psalm 139:7-10) He is eternal. (Hebrews 9:14) This means that God Himself is living with and in us when we come to know the Holy Spirit. We are not feeling just an influence or having an experience; we are entering into a personal relationship with God Himself. Through knowing the Holy Spirit, we come to prove wrong the Babylonian astrologers who said that the spirit of God does not dwell with men. (Daniel 2:11)
Throughout the Old Testament period, men knew the Holy Spirit in a limited way. They would experience His presence and anointing on special occasions and then the Holy Spirit’s presence would depart from them. (Numbers 11:25; Judges 3:9-10, 6:34, 11:29, 15:14; I Samuel 16:13) Samson was a great example of this pattern of living. He would receive a visitation of the Spirit of God for specific functions in his struggle against the enemies of God and Israel; yet, as soon as the conflict was over, he would return to his natural, carnal lifestyle. The book of Judges describes the Holy Spirit almost as a yo-yo bouncing up and down upon the man Samson. (verses 13:25, 14:6, 19, 15:14) Between these visitations of the divine Spirit, Samson’s life showed no qualities of a spiritual nature at all; he was just as likely to be found in bed with a harlot as to be about anything else. (verse 16:1) This picture changes in the New Testament. First, we find that the Holy Spirit came to Jesus in a new dimension which none of the Old Testament saints experienced. John testified that he saw the Holy Spirit rest and remain upon Jesus. (John 1:32-33) The key thought here is that the Holy Spirit remained upon Jesus. He did not just appear for a short visit and then depart, as had been the Old Testament pattern. John further testified that the impartation of the Holy Spirit to Jesus was without measure. (John 3:34) This means that the totality of the Holy Spirit was with our Lord. He did not just receive the power of the Holy Spirit or the wisdom of the Spirit or any other quality or a few gifts from the Holy Spirit; He received the totality of who the Holy Spirit is and what He possesses – Jesus received the Holy Spirit Himself!
Actually, the Holy Spirit had been involved in the earthly life of Jesus from before His birth. It was the Holy Spirit who overshadowed the Virgin Mary to cause her to conceive through the divine seed of God. (Matthew 1:20) As a child, Jesus grew spiritually strong. (Luke 2:40) But it was at the Jordan River where He came strongly under the direction of the Holy Spirit and was led – or as Mark describes the event, was driven – into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:1, Mark 1:12) There, He fasted forty days and then confronted the devil himself nose-to-nose and won. The scriptures record that after this experience, Jesus returned to civilization in an even greater relationship with the Holy Spirit; He was empowered by the Spirit. (Luke 4:14) In His very first sermon, Jesus testified that the power of His ministry was in the relationship He had with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:18-19) This statement was in accordance with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the life of the coming Messiah. (Isaiah 11:2, 61:1) He confirmed that the source of His ability to do miraculous acts was the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 12:28) Many times we have been of the opinion that it was Jesus’ divine nature that enabled Him to do such works; yet, a careful study of the scriptures will reveal that Jesus actually emptied Himself of His divine nature during His thirty-three-year sojourn here on Planet Earth. (Philippians 2:5-8) John also tells us that Jesus was originally with God the Father in heaven as the Logos, but that He became flesh to dwell among men – not as God, but as flesh or totally human. (John 1:14) It was the presence of the Holy Spirit with Him that made Him different. The Holy Spirit worked through Jesus right up through the end of His earthly ministry (Acts 10:38), at the resurrection (Romans 8:11), and even until the day in which He was taken up (Acts 1:2). Jesus promised that the relationship that He had with the Holy Spirit was something that He would share with His disciples. (John 14:16-17) He even commanded that His disciples not try to minister until they had received that relationship. (Luke 24:29) Jesus took the last occasion with the disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion to emphasize how important it was that they receive the Holy Spirit and to explain how He would work for and through the believers. (John 14:15 – 16:15) Jesus also took the last minutes He had with the disciples, just before His ascension, to again emphasize to the disciples their need for the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-5, 8)
In our spiritual lives, just as in Jesus’ earthly life, we have differing levels of relationships with the Holy Spirit. At the time we become believers, we receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus described this to Nicodemus who came secretly to Jesus at night to ask Him about entering the kingdom of Heaven. (John 3:5-8) Paul furthered this discussion with the statement that we are not associated with Christ unless we have received the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:9) In an illustration of this level of relationship with the Holy Spirit, Paul used the figure of drinking in the Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:13) Jesus characterized this relationship as a breath when He ministered to His disciples during that last forty days of fellowship prior to his return to the Father. (John 20:22) This experience of receiving the Holy Spirit through the breath of Jesus was God’s deliberate attempt to show us the parallel between the infusion of life at the spiritual rebirth and the original infusion of life when God the Father breathed into the lifeless model of man He had fashioned from the dust of the earth. (Genesis 2:7) Both of these illustrations set the stage for an understanding of the next level of relationship we are to enter into with the Holy Spirit: a drink is to be contrasted with the gushing of rivers and a breath is to be compared to a rushing mighty wind. Jesus Himself told us that the Spirit that we received as a drink could, and should, erupt out of us as rivers of living water. (John 7:38-39)
Acts records for us how that simple breath of the Holy Spirit became a gale-force blast on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4) This intensified relationship with the Holy Spirit was called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist prophesied it. (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:15, 26, 33) Certainly, the disciples anticipated this baptism in the Holy Spirit every day during their three years with Jesus. They did, indeed, experience the supernatural on a regular basis as they lived and traveled with the Master. They saw multitudes fed with only a handful of fish and bread (Matthew 14:20), they witnessed innumerable healings (Matthew 4:23) and deliverances (Mark 1:27), they drank of wine that had been transformed from clear water (John 2:9), they marveled as storms at sea quieted at His command (Mark 4:39), they trembled as Jesus walked on water and even invited them to join Him (Matthew 14:28), they had even seen the dead raised to life again (Luke 11:44); but they never experienced the fulfillment of the promise to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Yet, when God’s appointed day arrived, a phenomenal outpouring of the Holy Spirit revolutionized their whole lives. The wonderful thing about this experience is that it transformed them into radically different people. The men who only a few days before cowardly denied knowing Jesus (Mark 14:72) and forsook Him and hid behind locked doors rather than risk being accused with Him (Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50, John 20:19) suddenly became fearless defenders of the faith (Acts 5:27-32). The total lives of the believers were revolutionized by this new relationship with the Holy Spirit. They became intensely interested in studying the Bible (Acts 2:42), they loved the fellowship of believers (Acts 2:46), they began to manifest supernatural signs and wonders (Acts 2:43), they were filled with joy (Acts 2:46), they had a great devotion to prayer and worship (Acts 2:47), they became soul winners (Acts 2:47), and they generously shared with those in need (Acts 2:41-47). This dramatic transforming experience came time and time again in the life of the early church. (Acts 4:31; 8:14-17; 9:17; 10:44-47; 19:1-6) In each case, the people were equally transformed and renewed. Paul indicated that the key to his ministry was his relationship with the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:19, I Corinthians 2:4, I Thessalonians 1:5)
There was never any indication that this powerful relationship with the Spirit of God was limited to just the New Testament era. In fact, the scriptures clearly state that this promise is to anyone who will receive it. (Acts 2:39) The scriptures give us some definite instructions as to how to enter into this deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit.
The most obvious way to enter into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit is to simply ask. (Luke 11:13) Some people expect God to give them gifts without their anticipating them; occasionally this does happen, but the biblical pattern is that we should ask for what we want from God. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us to intensely desire the benefits of this deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:31, 14:1) In the asking, we should ask with simple trust and confidence just like we would ask our earthly parents for our daily needs. (Luke 11:11-13) We should receive without fear. (II Timothy 1:7) We should receive in faith. (Galatians 3:2) We should receive through prayer. (Jude 20) We should receive with love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3) We can receive through the laying on of hands. (Deuteronomy 34:8-9, Acts 9:17, I Timothy 4:14, II Timothy 1:6) We can receive a new relationship with the Holy Spirit by learning the truth about spiritual things. (I Corinthians 12:1) We must also activate the gifts by beginning to function in them by faith. (I Timothy 4:14) The one thing to remember about the baptism in the Holy Spirit is that, similar to the baptism in water, the recipient must willingly submit to the baptizer (Jesus) to be submerged in the Holy Spirit and to be filled with His presence. (Acts 1:5)
Living in this deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit opens up many new spiritual dimensions to us. One of these is the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Paul enumerated in I Corinthians chapter twelve. I personally prefer to call these our tools of ministry. Just as a carpenter needs his hammer and a plumber needs his wrench, we must have the gifts – or tools – of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the tasks that Christ left us to do:
1) Evangelize and disciple the world (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-20)
2) Be His representatives during His absence. (Luke 19:13)
These supernatural tools include the word of knowledge, which is the ability to know by revelation things that we do not naturally know; the word of wisdom, which is the revelatory gift of understanding what future effects will result from present actions; the discerning of spirits, which is the supernatural ability to understand the force – human, divine, or demonic – motivating people in their actions; the gifts of healing, which has to do with supernaturally setting people free from sicknesses, diseases, and injuries; the gift of faith, which is a supernatural ability to believe God to intervene on our behalf; the working of miracles, which in the original Greek language meant the “demonstration of power” and is the showing forth of God’s supernatural forces; the gift of speaking in tongues, which is the supernatural ability to speak in a language unknown to the speaker; the gift of interpretation of tongues, which is the supernatural ability to give the meaning to a message spoken by another in an unknown tongue; and the gift of prophecy, which is the supernatural ability to speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort without having planned the message. These various gifts are distributed to the variety of individuals in the Body of Christ so that they can make their best contribution to the total operation of the church. Just as we would not give a word processor to the carpenter and a hammer to the secretary, the Holy Spirit in His wisdom gives each person the gift that he needs most to fulfill the job he is to complete in the church. When each person finds his proper place and uses his proper tool, the church as a whole grows and prospers. (I Corinthians 12:7, 11)
More important than the gifts are the motives through which the gifts are operated. Both the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter addressed this issue. (Romans 12:4-21, I Peter 4:10-11) In a word, Paul summarized the proper motivation as love. (I Corinthians 12:31-14:1) In another place, Paul described love as walking or living in the Spirit (Galatians 5:6-18), and he continued to give a multifaceted description of the fruit of such a spiritual walk or life (Galatians 5:22-23).
This relationship with the Holy Spirit as a person and a helper, not just an influence or an anointing, gives the believer a fresh level of victory in his Christian life that can never be obtained otherwise. Even the great Apostle Paul described his Christian life as marked by one defeat after another until he moved into this new fellowship with the divine Comforter. (Romans 7:14-25) When he allowed the Holy Spirit to become an integral part of his life, he entered into victory in his Christian life. (Romans 8:1-17, 26-28)
The Spirit-filled Life
John the Baptist prophesied that the gift of the Holy Spirit would fill and energize our lives. His promise was repeated by each of the gospel writers and even Jesus Himself after His resurrection. (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5) The dramatic fulfillment of this promise is described in the story of the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two; however, it did not end with one supernatural visitation from the Holy Spirit. As we continue to read Dr. Luke’s account of the early days of the church, we see continual references to the coming of the Holy Spirit. In chapter four, we see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the believers as they gathered for prayer after their first encounter with persecution because of their new faith. (Acts 4:31) This group of believers most certainly included many more than the original one hundred twenty who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. Unquestionably, it included many of the three thousand converts from the Day of Pentecost and the vast numbers who had been added to the church each subsequent day. (Acts 2:41, 47) In Acts 8:17, we find the report of the great visitation of the Holy Spirit among the converts in Samaria – a community of half-breeds who were disdained by the full-blooded Jews of Jerusalem because they were the product of intermarriages with the enemy during the gentile occupation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Acts 9:17 chronicles Paul’s receiving of the Holy Spirit, and Acts 10:44 recounts the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first gentile converts in Cornelius’ home. In Acts 19:6, we find the interesting story of the disciples in Ephesus who had never even heard of the Holy Spirit until Paul visited them and laid hands on them to receive the fullness of the Spirit.
In each of these cases, it is immediately apparent that the coming of the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from salvation. The believers in the Upper Room had been followers of Christ during His earthly ministry and had certainly received Him as their Lord, else they would not have gathered in Jerusalem after His death. The believers described in chapter four were converted on the Day of Pentecost and during the following days of evangelism in Jerusalem. Paul was unquestionably converted on the road to Damascus. The members of Cornelius’ household were apparently already sincerely religious folk and most likely fully accepted the gospel message as Peter ministered to them. Even though the disciples at Ephesus were originally baptized under John the Baptist’s ministry and knew little of the fulfillment of the prophetic message they had heard him preach, they had to have been believers – either from their previous experience or from the present ministry from Paul – before the apostle would consent to baptize them.
The other pattern that is consistent among these experiences is that each is accompanied by some supernatural sign. In the Upper Room, they all supernaturally spoke in languages they had not learned. The persecuted believers in the prayer huddle began to preach the gospel boldly – perhaps they had supernatural languages, but for sure they used their native language with a new anointing. The gentile converts in Cornelius’ courtyard all spoke with unknown tongues as did the disciples in Ephesus. In Samaria, something supernatural happened to the people when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Although the scriptures do not tell us exactly what it was, we know that it was something different from healings, deliverances from demonic power, and manifestations of divine joy. All these things had happened in the ministry of Philip who first brought the gospel to the city. (Acts 8:6-8) Although Simon the Magician had witnessed all these miraculous moves of God and had been impressed by them enough to become a Christian (Acts 8:13), he was not overwhelmed to the point that he was willing to offer money to receive the ability to make them happen. (Acts 8:18) Something else – something dramatic – occurred when the people were filled with the Spirit – something so out of the ordinary that he felt he must have the power to recreate it in his magic show! Most Bible scholars, even the very liberal ones, concede that this supernatural manifestation must have been the speaking in unknown tongues. In the case of Saul of Tarsus, we have no record that he spoke in tongues on the day Ananias laid hands on him; however, we know from his own testimony that he consistently manifested this supernatural enduement in his own personal life. (I Corinthians 14:18)
The conclusion we can draw from this survey of the historical record is that, in half of the incidents recorded in Acts (Pentecost, Cornelius’ household, Ephesus), there is a definite record that the believers immediately spoke in tongues when they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In two of the remaining three incidents (Samaria and Paul), it is likely that they also spoke with tongues as a result of receiving the Holy Spirit into their lives. The one remaining account (the persecuted believers) leaves no reason to doubt that they might also have received this supernatural gift. As a result, we should anticipate that believers who truly receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit should also manifest this divine gift of speaking in unknown tongues.
Why does God use such an unusual manifestation as speaking in unknown tongues to confirm the presence of His Holy Spirit in the lives of His followers? The answer is possibly in the fact that the tongue is the one element of creation over which man seems powerless. The Apostle James gave us a vivid description:
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:2-8)
When we allow the Holy Spirit to control our tongues to the point that we speak supernaturally under His inspiration, we have finally come under His complete control!
Using this new Spirit-inspired language brings many benefits into the life of the believer. First of all, it serves as a new and effective way to communicate to God in prayer or praise. (I Corinthians 14:2, 14-16, 28) It is important to note that Paul specifically said that he willed – or determined – to pray with the Spirit (in tongues) and that he willed – or determined – to also pray with the mind (in his understanding). The point is that it is vitally important to pray in the Spirit because the Holy Spirit helps us when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for. Since He is God, He knows the mind of God and, therefore, prays according to the very will and nature of God. When He prays for and through us, we have no doubt that things are going to work out perfectly for us. (Romans 8:26-28) On the other hand, Paul insists that he is going to continue to pray prayers which he intellectually constructs because it is in this deliberate formulation of prayers that we train ourselves to think and speak in accordance with the mind, will, and Word of God. It is just as essential for believers to develop a prayer life in our known language as it is for us to develop the practice of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in our prayer. I often say that we must be careful not to put our prayers on “autopilot.”
Speaking in tongues is also important in the life of a believer in that it can also be a sign to unbelievers. (I Corinthians 14:22) This was the supernatural manifestation we read about in Acts 2:8-11 when the disciples spoke the wonderful things of God in at least sixteen languages which they had never learned. This same miraculous gift has been repeated throughout church history in the lives of such missionaries as the sixteenth-century Catholic pioneer Francis Xavier who is credited with winning thousands of souls in India, China, and Japan when he preached to them in their native languages without having learned them. Even in my own life, I’ve seen this miraculous gift in demonstration on several occasions. When a group of English-speaking missionaries from the US and Canada were doing house-to-house visitation in the Dominican Republic, we had national Christians who knew only a very limited amount of English introduce us to the families. When a sick baby in one of the homes was handed to a lady on our team, she began to pray fluent Spanish – although she didn’t know a word of the language. After the prayer, it was impossible to explain to the people why none of us could communicate with them in their language. On another occasion, I took a young man, who was still undecided about the gospel I had been sharing with him, to a prayer meeting. During the prayer time, the gentleman seated beside my friend began to pray in tongues. When my friend turned to me and commented that the gentleman must be Italian, I explained that I knew the man and was certain that he was not Italian. My friend explained that his grandparents were from Italy and that he recognized Italian when it was being spoken. When he insisted that the gentleman was speaking in Italian, I explained about the miracle of speaking in tongues. This encounter was enough to convince him that God is real, and he accepted the Lord as his Savior that very day!
The next purpose for speaking in tongues is to deliver a divine message to the church. Such messages must always be interpreted so that the people can understand the communication. (I Corinthians 14:13, 27) Although I have encountered this phenomenon many times, one dramatic example stands out. I was leading the service in my home church one Sunday morning when a lady from the congregation rose and gave a message in an unknown language. As she spoke, I asked the Lord to give me the supernatural ability to translate the word so that the people could understand. As soon as she finished, words began to flow out of my spirit and up through my mouth. The next day, one of my students asked me if I knew what had happened in the service the previous day. I explained that it was the gift of tongues with the companion gift of interpreting tongues; then I added that he certainly knew what had happened since we had already discussed I Corinthians in class. He then said that I must not realize what had actually happened in that service. Curious about what I must have missed, I asked him to explain. After reminding me that, as a native of India, he spoke Hindi fluently, he explained that the lady had given a message in the Hindi language and I had given the word-for-word translation into English – without either one of us knowing a word of Hindi!
Speaking in Tongues
A friend of mine had become very interested in the baptism in the Holy Spirit. For several weeks, we had Bible study sessions together, and I tried to help her understand what the Holy Spirit baptism is and how to receive it. I was shocked, to say the least, when she came to me one day and said that she had decided to have nothing else to do with this subject “because tongues divide churches.” What was the problem? Somewhere she had encountered what might be called the “blabtism.” This experience had driven her away from the real baptism.
The dictionary defines “blab” as:
1) to reveal indiscreetly and thoughtlessly,
2) to talk or chatter indiscreetly and thoughtlessly,
3) idle, indiscreet chattering, and
4) a person who blabs.
These definitions sound very much like the biblical description of speaking in tongues when not motivated by love and wisdom:
1) a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal (I Corinthians 13:1),
2) making noise (I Corinthians 14:7-8), and
3) speaking to the air. (I Corinthians 14:9).
The point here is not that we should stop speaking in tongues or that we should try to stop others from speaking. (I Corinthians 14:39) The Bible clearly states that it would be good if each Christian were a tongues speaker. (I Corinthians 14:39) Rather, the point is that the gifts must be ministered in love. Love does not behave itself unseemly (I Corinthians 13:5) and never fails. (I Corinthians 13:8) However, without the ingredient of love, the gifts are likely to behave themselves unseemly and to fail. (I Corinthian 13:1) Without the ingredient of wisdom, they are likely to make others think that Spirit-filled people are crazy. (I Corinthians 14:23)
In seeking to fully understand and be able to explain that tongues is not blab, I received a clear word from the Lord while getting rid of my morning breath. While pushing my tongue to the side so I could reach my back molars, the following explanation came rolling into my spirit:
“Allow us to introduce ourselves; we are Tongues. It’s not necessary that you know us by our complete names. Some people call us Glossolalia, but it’s okay for you to just call us the Unknown Tongues. We’re sure that a friend of ours, the Apostle Paul, has mentioned us to you. Check back into some of his letters if you aren’t sure what he said. (I Corinthians 12-14, Romans 8:26, Ephesians 5:18,19, I Timothy 1:6) We’re also acquainted with some other friends of yours: Jesus Christ (Mark 16:17,18); the apostles, Mary (Jesus’ mother), and about a hundred more of the apostles’ friends (Acts 1:12-15, 2:1-4); Cornelius and his friends and relatives (Acts 10:24, 44-47); the disciples of Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7); and the Apostle Jude (Jude 20).
“We are here to help you. There are three ways we can effectively help you in your Christian life:
1) Between you and God – We provide a prayer and praise language to God that comes from the Holy Spirit and your spirit. There are times when you don’t know how to pray. This is when we are most useful. (Romans 8:26-27) Since this prayer and praise language is between you and God, there is no need that you speak it out loud to disturb or interrupt the church service. (I Corinthians 14:1-19) However, there are times when you will need our help to speak loudly and clearly in the church service. These times are when we are helping you minister to other people. It is necessary that you have the understanding of a mature person to know all about this. (I Corinthians 14:20)
2) Sometimes we tongues can be signs to unbelievers by helping you speak in a language you have never learned but the unbeliever knows. By this, they will know about the power of God and will accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. (Mark 16:17-18; Acts 2:5-12; I Corinthians 14:22)
3) Sometimes you may have a message that you should give to the believers. If this is the case, either you or someone else will have an interpretation as to what that message means. (I Corinthians 14:26-33) At other times you may use us tongues as a way of praying for the needs of Christians. This need not be spoken aloud for it is between you and God even if the prayer is for someone else.
“As we become better acquainted, you will understand more of our operation and purpose. We have just one request – remember that we’re only tools and ask no esteem for ourselves, only for the master builder – Jesus Christ.”
I have learned from many experiences that God is very eager for believers to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. He knows how important these gifts are and wants His children to have them. One young man, after talking with me, was so concerned that I was in error over this Holy Ghost doctrine that he went home to pray for me. Down on his knees, he began to intercede that I would find the truth and be released from error. The major problem he encountered was that he could not say the word “error” because his own language had been changed to unknown tongues by that point. Another friend of mine received the baptism in the Holy Spirit while driving down a steep and winding mountain road. He was so overjoyed with his experience that he threw his hands into the air and began to praise God in his new language. Only God could have gotten his car safely down that twisty mountain road!
One of my favorite stories on this topic has to do with one of my close college friends who had been raised in a Full Gospel church and was very desirous of receiving this Pentecostal baptism. In fact, it had been thirteen years that he had been praying for this blessing. One afternoon, a fellow student whom he was trying to lead to salvation confronted him with the question, “How do you know that it will really work?” His answer was, “You have to accept it by faith.” Just then, the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart, “Yes, and that’s how you have to receive my baptism – by faith.” The “better idea” light bulb suddenly flashed on inside his spirit and he understood why he had been hindered for so many years. That evening, he released his faith and was inundated by the most spectacular flood of the Holy Spirit I have ever witnessed. For the next two days, he could not talk on the phone, answer a question in class, or order a meal in the campus cafeteria. He literally found it impossible to force himself to speak English. I guess it was all the praise that had been pent up inside him for more than a dozen years that suddenly came rushing out!
I have found that living in the dimension of the Holy Spirit is an absolute “must” for a victorious Christian life. Time after time, it has been the Holy Ghost factor that has given me the winning edge. Once I was invited by a well-known evangelist to serve as his youth director. For a kid just out of college, this was a real honor and an open door for a great ministry. But something inside – the Holy Spirit – said, “Wait two weeks.” So I asked for two weeks to pray before I made the decision. During those two weeks, the man was caught in adultery with a lady in Canada. Like dominos, other cases of adultery began to pop up all across the country. How wonderful it was that I was able to save my reputation by not becoming a part of such an organization! In other cases, the Holy Spirit has spoken through other individuals via the gifts of the word of knowledge or the word of wisdom to help me know how to direct my life. While working one summer in Yosemite National Park, I was approached for a full-time position. It was an absolute dream come true: living and ministering full-time in one of nature’s wonderlands. It was toward the end of the summer and I had to make a decision quickly as to whether I should accept the offer or return for my last semester of seminary. It was then that I met a minister who was vacationing in the park. Because of his unusual ministry of looking at individuals and giving them Bible verses that are God’s directions or encouragements for them at the moment, some of the local believers coerced him to minister to them in a home fellowship. As we entered the park ranger’s living room, I wound up seated next to the minister. He turned to me and said, “Young man, you have a decision to make within the next ten days. Don’t you?” I replied in the affirmative and he responded that God would speak to me through Isaiah 30:20. Then he went on with the meeting. Flipping my Bible open, I found the indicated verse and read, Thine eyes shall see thy teachers. Instantly I knew that I was not able to complete my studies by correspondence as I had considered because I had to be in class to see the teachers.
On another occasion, I was visiting a church in Wrightsville Beach, NC. As I walked in the door, I was welcomed by one of the ushers who grabbed me in a “Pentecostal bear hug” of a greeting. Since he was a very tall and rotund man, when he pulled me to himself, he actually picked me up off the floor. There I hung – suspended between heaven and earth – when suddenly the anointing of the Holy Spirit fell upon this man. He began to dance and spin in the Holy Spirit. As I was being whirled about in midair by this total stranger, he began to tell me my life story. He proclaimed that I was to go around the world to teach the gospel. My ears really perked up at that because I had never been out of the country except short excursions into Canada and Mexico! Since that time, I have literally traveled the globe to hold national teaching sessions to help establish the local believers in their Christian faith.
Probably the most dramatic experience of the supernatural guidance through the Holy Spirit came on another of North Carolina’s Atlantic Coast beaches. I had organized a retreat for Christian student groups from several North Carolina campuses. The retreat weekend was planned as a teaching conference, yet a number of the participants wanted to use the time to do beach evangelism. Tension began to rise as the students began to split into two camps – those who wanted to evangelize and those who wanted to be taught. Sensing the turmoil in the air, I picked the top leaders of each group – three from each side. Leading them to an attic room in the ocean-side house we had rented for the weekend, I said, “We’re going to the Upper Room until the Holy Ghost falls like He did on Pentecost.” After a short season of prayer, one young man began to prophesy. After a few sentences, he abruptly stopped in mid-sentence. Across the room another young man picked up the message, finished the sentence, and added several more lines. But he, too, stopped in mid-sentence. Again, the message was picked up without missing a word and completed by another of the participants in our prayer group. He too stopped in mid-sentence. Again and again this happened until everyone in the room had taken part in the prophetic word. One prophecy, spoken by seven of us – bouncing back and forth between leaders of two opposing sides of the argument – confirmed that the original plan for a training conference was God’s plan for our weekend. The group was brought into harmony and given excellent direction through the Holy Spirit’s gifts. To confirm the word, a rainstorm blew in that evening and drenched the coastline for our entire stay. No beach ministry could have occurred after all!
Falling in the Spirit
The question often arises as to why some people fall when they are prayed for and others do not. Another aspect of this issue is whether those people who fall receive more spiritual blessings or are healed more readily than those who remain standing when they are prayed for.
First of all, it would be good to be very frank about falling. Some people fall because they are pushed! Others simply lie down! It is true that some ministers, possibly in an over-zealous attempt to see results in the lives of the people to whom they are ministering, do exert force when they lay hands on people. This pushing and shoving can result in getting the subject off balance, resulting in his falling down. Every minister should be cautious not to use physical force to push people over. If it doesn’t happen in the spirit, there is no benefit in forcing it in the physical realm. In addition to the hypocrisy of trying to substitute carnal force for spiritual impartation, such a minister can be setting himself up for a legal suit! I am aware of at least one occasion in which a ministry was sued for four million dollars and eventually paid an eighty-thousand-dollar judgment over an injury a woman sustained when she was pushed down. I also have a friend who was seriously injured by a minister who violently struck her on the head when praying for a brain tumor.
However, I would be quick to add that just because a minister pushes the person during the prayer is no reason to discredit what God may be doing. I remember the first time I was ever “slain in the Spirit.” It was a definite case of being pushed down. Lying on the floor, I evaluated the experience and decided that, since I had been pushed, there was nothing spiritual going on. I decided to stand up and be done with the thing! To my surprise, my legs were “rubber,” and it was impossible for me to get up! At that point, I decided that, push or no push, I had certainly entered into a spiritual experience; so I just rested on the floor and soaked in the spiritual renewal. Several other times when I have received very anointed ministry, the person praying for me pushed me down. The vision, the healing, the refreshing was just as real regardless of being pushed or not. One gentleman I know did what he called a “courtesy fall” when the evangelist pushed him; however, he received a tremendous healing from diabetes.
It is also true that some people just lie down when they are prayed for. I assume that they think that is what they are supposed to do. They have seen everyone else fall down and they don’t want to look less spiritual than the others, so they fall too. Again, I wouldn’t want to discredit anything that happens in the spiritual realm when these people are lying on the floor. What God does is His business, and it is totally independent of the position we are in when we receive it. The scriptures do teach us that God looks at the heart, not the outward expression. (I Samuel 16:7) Standing, sitting, lying down, kneeling – it’s all the same to God as long as the heart is bowed! I would make one note of caution at this point: beware of putting emphasis on the falling down at the expense of receiving something from God. I remember watching a young girl who had come to the altar for salvation one night; she was carefully led through the sinner’s prayer and was gloriously saved. After the prayer, she was asked if anyone had ever presented the plan of salvation to her before and whether she had ever received Jesus into her heart prior to that night. Her negative response literally made cold chills run down my spine because I had watched that same girl come to the same altar time after time over the past several weeks. Each time, she was ministered to by the laying on of hands followed by her falling to the floor. The horror was that she had never met Jesus – just the church carpet!
Aside from the pushing and lying down business, there are genuine experiences when people encounter God in such an overpowering way that their physical bodies are not able to remain in control. Several such experiences are recorded in the Bible. One Old Testament example is found in Daniel 10:8 where the prophet was visited by an angel after twenty-one days of fasting and prayer. Daniel writes of his experience, There remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. He goes on in the next verse to say that it was as if he were in a deep sleep while hearing the angel’s message. A New Testament example could be found in the encounter of John the Revelator with the risen Christ on the Isle of Patmos in which he fell as dead at the feet of the Lord. (Revelation 1:17) These two examples show us that the experience of “being slain in the Spirit” or “falling under the power” is not a light matter. It is a biblical experience, but it isn’t an experience that should be expected every time we come for prayer. The times it happened in the Bible were very powerful occurrences when the spirit realm invaded the physical realm so overwhelmingly that the earthly could not bear up under the pressing in of the heavenly.
Maturing Christians should be in the process of being changed daily from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18) and ever increasing in their spiritual capacity (Romans 1:17). Therefore, it would seem that the maturation process would bring a person to the place where he is not so unaccustomed to or ill prepared for spiritual encounters that he is overpowered by every spiritual visitation. In other words, a maturing Christian should find that being “slain in the Spirit” should occur only when he has extraordinary encounters with the Almighty rather than everytime he receives prayer.
One other caution that I would like to extend at this point would be to be aware that some falling is the result of demonic, rather than divine, activity. I have seen several instances where the demon inside a person made the person fall to the floor in an attempt to avoid being cast out. The evil spirit knew that the minister would go on to the next person as soon as the candidate fell down. Therefore, he made the person fall down quickly so that the minister would move away from him without detecting the demon inside of him. Two points should be remembered here: learn to rely on the gift of discerning of spirits at all times, and never confuse falling to the floor with receiving ministry. Just because the person falls to the floor does not mean that he has gotten what he needs from God; stay with him and minister to him on the floor just like you would if he were standing up!
My personal conclusion concerning spiritual manifestations is that I am not impressed by falling under the anointing unless you can also stand up with anointing for Jesus; nor am I excited by speaking in tongues unless you can also talk boldly about Jesus in your known language; I’m not interested in those people who lay hands on the sick unless they can also extend a helping hand to a hurting brother; and I have no attraction to folks who shake under the power of the Spirit unless they can also shake their neighborhood with the power of the Spirit. Quite honestly, I really don’t believe that God is very impressed either.
The Necessity of Living in the Spirit
In John 16:7, Jesus said that it was expedient for us that He should go away because, unless He left, the Holy Spirit could not come. What is this advantage that Jesus spoke of concerning having the Holy Spirit in our lives?
The first thing that Jesus said was that He would reprove us, a term which literally means to cross-examine. (John 16:8) Cross-examination is when the attorney for the prosecution questions the witness that the attorney for the defense has just examined. Even though the questions are to the same person and about the same event, they are posed in such a way as to elicit an entirely different set of answers and cause the jury to look at the issue from a whole new light. This is like what Jesus did when He wrote in the sand as the woman was being tried for adultery. (John 8:6-7) This is also what the Holy Spirit does in our lives on a regular basis when He helps us realize the sins that we have masked over in our own evaluation of our actions and attitudes.
Manifesting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives makes our lives attractive to others in the same way that the production of fruit on a tree catches our attention. Just as the real purpose of natural fruit is to carry seed, (Genesis 1:12), so it is in the spirit realm: when our lives produce the fruit of the Spirit, the seed of the gospel (Luke 8:11) can be transferred to those who take a taste of that fruit.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives also produces assurance in our prayers and decisions (Romans 8:26-28), boldness in our faith and witness (Acts 4:31), guidance (John 16:13), and supernatural revelation (Ephesians 1:16-23; I Corinthians 1:9-10, 2:9-10). He also works in our lives to reveal Jesus (John 15:26, 14:6, 8:32) and to bring glory to Him (John 16:14), and to manifest the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:5). He proves that the kingdom of God is inside us (Romans 14:17) and that we have been adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:16). He helps overcome our inadequacies when we pray (Romans 8:26) and builds us up in our faith life (I Corinthians 14:4, Jude 20). His most significant role is to produce in us the power to be witnesses (Acts 1:8) through manifesting the supernatural power of God (I Corinthians 12:8-10, Mark 16:17-18) and the supernatural character of God (Galatians 5:22-23) through our human vessels (II Corinthians 4:7).
It has been commented that the Pentecostals may have overdone what others have left undone; but at the same time, we must recognize that the only thing that God cannot redeem is nothing. If we do nothing, we have failed by default already. If we try to move in the Spirit and err through overzealousness, we are at least in motion so that there is a possibility of the Lord’s directing and guiding our progress.
I remember a little gray-haired man I once met in Madras (now Chennai), India. He had come there for an evangelism conference where he first learned about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This little man had spent many years trying to witness in his little Hindu village but had not yet won his first convert. After having moved into a new dimension of spiritual authority when he was filled with the Spirit at the conference, he returned to his home with a renewed confidence and faith. Upon his arrival, he met an old woman who had been gored by a water buffalo. Even though she was twisted and crippled from the attack, the evangelist asked if he could pray for her in the name of Jesus. She agreed, and he laid his hands on her and spoke with a boldness unlike anything he had ever experienced before – and he experienced results which he had never experienced before: her twisted body instantly straightened up! That day, he learned why Jesus had said that believers should treat the power of the Holy Spirit like the old American Express credit card commercial admonishes us, “Don’t leave home without it!” (Luke 24:49)
The book of Romans is actually the closest thing to a systematic theology that we have in the New Testament. Because Paul wrote it to a church that he had never visited and to a congregation of folks whom he did not know, he was not able to address very specific issues. Instead, he gave them a thorough explanation of the gospel in general. The progression of the book is that chapters one through five set the theological stage for salvation, chapter six gives the salvation experience, chapter seven describes post-salvation existence lived in human power, chapter eight gives his victorious answer through the Spirit, and chapters nine through sixteen give practical application of Christian life.
Paul’s emphasis in chapter seven is on the word “I” – his personal effort to achieve godly goals. The conclusion is that it is impossible to do so. He ends chapter seven in defeat but moves into chapter eight with great victory. The key to this dramatic shift is that in chapter eight he moved into the realm of walking in the spirit. Paul speaks of the spirit only four times in the first seven chapters of Romans, but twenty times in chapter eight alone. Since the original Greek texts contain no capital letters, the translators have made their own evaluations as to when to use “Spirit” (Holy Spirit) and when to write “spirit” (human spirit); therefore, it is sometimes difficult to clearly distinguish whether Paul actually meant the Holy Spirit or the human spirit in some of the verses. However, I like to think of how a tuning fork will automatically begin to vibrate in resonance when another tuning fork of the same pitch is sounded. If our human spirit is on the same “wavelength” with the Holy Spirit, they will both be “singing the same song” so it doesn’t really matter if the text is actually talking about the divine or the human spirit – they are both functioning alike.
If we determine to walk according to our spirit man which is enlightened by the Holy Spirit as opposed to our soulical man (the “I” in chapter seven) which is controlled by the physical world around us and our own mental evaluation of things, we will move into the same victory which Paul described in chapter eight verse six. Being directed by the Holy Spirit through our human spirit will bring us to a place of victory over the sinful nature that is inherent in our mortal existence. (Romans 8:1, Galatians 5:16) However, we must remember that it is our choice to live this way. Living and walking in the spirit is a lifestyle, not just an experience. We do not automatically fall into all these blessings simply because we accept Jesus into our lives. We must make a determinate decision to follow the guidance of the Spirit. (Proverbs 3:5-7, Galatians 5:16-25, Romans 8:14)
We have a job to do, but we can’t do it without the Holy Spirit. Although education, organization, and human talents are all beneficial, they cannot do the job. Like a carpenter without a hammer or a plumber without a wrench, we Christians will never complete the Great Commission which Jesus left with us if we do not have the Holy Spirit with us. (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:47-48, Acts 1:8) In the same way we use an extension cord to operate a power tool some distance from the wall outlet, we must learn to rely upon the Holy Spirit to extend the power of God from heaven into our present situation.
Will the Gifts Cease?
Many Christians believe and teach that the operation of the gifts of the Spirit is not for the present age. They base their teaching on Paul’s statement that prophecies will fail and tongues will cease (I Corinthians 13:8) when that perfect one is come. (I Corinthians 13:10) Their interpretation usually follows the logic that the “perfect” thing is the New Testament in that it was the completion of God’s Word and, therefore, the perfect or complete thing that had to come so that all partial knowledge would be done away. In considering such an argument, I cannot help imagining a group of church elders in the year 96 AD. They have gathered around a desperately ill Christian brother and are just ready to do as they have been accustomed to doing – to lay hands on the sick brother and see him miraculously healed. (Luke 16:18, James 5:14-15) Just as the head elder is opening his mouth to proclaim spiritual authority over the sickness (Matthew 10:1), a messenger bursts through the front door, panting with excitement. He interrupts the prayer session to announce that a parchment has just arrived from the last remaining apostle. John, who is exiled on the prison island of Patmos, has just managed to get the manuscript smuggled back to the believers on the mainland. The courier’s hand quivered with excitement as he extended the document to the head elder. With the arrival of the Apocalypse, the congregation erupted into immeasurable elation – all except the deathly ill young man. Why could not the envoy have been just a few minutes later? If only the arrival of that copy of the final segment of the canon had been delayed a few precious minutes, he could have been healed. Now, however, he was destined to continue his suffering and go to an early grave. He had been cheated out of years of life and destined to extensive pain by the untimely arrival of the book of Revelation! How absurd!! There is no reasonable logic to the idea that God would withhold His blessings from His Body simply because the New Testament had been completed.
I was once at a conference of a Christian ministry that taught that the operation of the gifts of the Spirit was a thing of the past and even believed that it was only through demonic counterfeits that such manifestations could occur in these modern times. I used this convention as an occasion to research their teachings on the subject. Since there was a very well stocked book table displayed at the conference, I decided to browse through this plethora of readily available resources to see exactly when and how these gifts came to an end. One book said that it was with the completion of the book of Revelation. Another source stated that the pivotal event was the death of the last apostle; that added a few years. The next resource I consulted suggested that the gifts terminated at the end of the first century; again, a few more years were added. Another book gave the date as the end of the second century; this time, the date was stretched by a hundred years. Another volume I checked painted with a broad brushstroke, giving a range of somewhere in the third or fourth century! I shook my head as I walked away from the book display thinking, “Well, if you don’t know when they stopped, how can you be sure that they really have passed away?” On the other hand, I could go through the annals of history and point to the operation of these gifts in every period of church history.
Those who oppose the present-day operation of the gifts say that these were just special impartations to give the church a “jump start” to get it going. In light of this explanation, I ask just one simple question which, although it seems too elementary for a theological discussion, addresses a major issue: “If it takes a locomotive to get a train started, won’t it also take a locomotive to get it to its destination?”
One last thought to consider on this point is that, if the completion of the New Testament terminates the operation of the gifts, will the gifts continue in operation among the people groups who do not yet have the New Testament in their native language? If so, then there are vast regions of our world where these charismatic gifts can still operate in validity. If this is the case, then God must be playing favorites by allowing some of His family to enjoy such wonderful blessings as healings and miracles while the rest of us are denied these benefits.
The Holy Spirit in the Home
We may often think that the gifts of the Spirit are for supernatural use in church services and are possibly restricted to the clergy only. However, God is interested in every area of our lives and is eager to be involved in any and every aspect. I believe that He wants us to learn to use the gifts of the Spirit in our daily lives as well as in our ministries. The passage in which the Apostle Paul instructs the Ephesian church about being filled with the Spirit leads directly into the section of his letter in which he teaches on the family. (Ephesians 5:9-10)
The Lord has used the word of knowledge many times to guide or protect me in my personal life. One such experience was after I had taken my wife on her first missionary trip. It had been a real struggle for her. On Mother’s Day, instead of being with our little two-year old toddler, I was dragging her through the orphan-laden streets of Calcutta, India. The next week was her birthday, but on that day she was not to have a cake with candles and a nice party. Instead, she would be stuck in the sand on a jungle road surrounded by wild boars and other Sri Lankan beasts. It seemed only fair that I reward her with at least one nicety from her first missionary trip. When I learned that one of my friends in Kandy had become involved in the trade of gemstones that are so splendid in Sri Lanka, I decided to arrange for her to have a nice sapphire necklace and ring as appreciation gifts for her endurance on the trip. They were beautiful, and she was more than pleased – until they turned up missing when we arrived home! I took the suitcase apart; I unfolded every item of clothing we had packed; I looked under every piece of furniture we had touched since returning home; I went through the trash can and kitchen garbage piece by piece; I even looked through the baby’s diaper pail, opening each disposal one by one! But still no necklace and ring! Where in the world could they be? For sure, I had “left no stone unturned.” Finally, the jet lag began to take its toll, and I stretched out on the sofa and succumbed to its forces. I had actually slept for only about five minutes when my mind was overtaken by a dream. In it, I saw the exact location of the missing jewelry. I leapt from the couch and began to look for my wife. Alas, she had left for the store; so, I began my nervous wait. Finally, she returned, and I met her at the door. She had barely made it across the threshold when I grabbed her purse and began to empty it. Almost too shocked to ask what was going on, she stood dumbfounded as I began to pull the lining out of the handbag. In the dream, I had seen the items inside the lining of the purse – and as I pursued my quest, I found them in the exact spot as in the dream! Apparently, she had dropped them in the side pocket of her purse for safekeeping during the airplane trip. A tiny hole had allowed them to fall into the inner folds of the purse. No one had seen it – except God, and He willingly shared His secret with His beloved children through the gift of a word of knowledge.
On another occasion, the angel of death was cheated of the prize of taking my life in an automobile accident because my mother was directed by a supernatural word of knowledge. She rescued me from the snare of the trap just as the spring was tripped and the jaws were ready to devour me. The miracle of it is that she was hundreds of miles away. Driving from Washington, DC, to Delaware during rush hour one Friday afternoon, I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic racing along at nearly sixty miles per hour. As the flow of traffic moved from the open terrain to the vicinity of Baltimore, we suddenly encountered the congestion of major city traffic trying to merge into the freeway as they too joined the urban exodus for the summer weekend. Suddenly, the snarl of traffic brought us to a total standstill. Within seconds, our break-neck pace was brought to an idle. That is, except for the car behind me, whose driver seemed to be oblivious to the traffic jam. Still charging forward at an excessive speed, the car plowed into my little burgundy Mustang. My car was slammed into the car ahead of me that was, in turn, smashed into the one in front of it. Sustaining the full impact of this four-car collision, my sporty little car was instantly transformed into a giant metal accordion. It became a truly “compact car.” I had to climb out the window to escape my prison of twisted metal and shattered glass. But through it all, I came out with only one minor injury – a cut under my chin that required five small stitches. But how was it that my mother figures into this rescue? In South Carolina, she suddenly was impressed to pray for me at the exact time of the accident! Dr. Lester Sumrall emphasized that the gifts of the Spirit are the weapons of our spiritual warfare; I was certainly glad that day that my mother was using the gift of the word of knowledge to fight the thief as he came to kill, steal, and destroy. (John 10:10)
I could go on and on, reciting stories such as the one of how the Lord woke me up early one morning and told me that that day was the day that a close family member was to come to Him. I convinced my wife to make a visit that day; and she did, indeed, lead her to the Lord – just days before she was admitted to the hospital with the disease which eventually took her life! Or the one about how the Lord showed me where to look for the evidence we needed to stop our son’s denials about his involvement with drugs. Or the one about how I returned the favor on my mother’s supernatural intercession for my life by praying for my son at the exact moment he was in what could have been a fatal automobile accident – I was not in church or even being “spiritual,” rather I was half a world away, snorkeling in a lagoon on an island in the South Pacific.
The word of wisdom is similar to the word of knowledge, but it involves supernatural foreknowledge concerning the future. My favorite story about this gift happened in the life of one of my students who also raised cattle on his farm in Colorado. One year, an extended drought had plagued the state to the extent that no cattle ranchers were buying cows to raise, knowing that the added expense of feeding and watering them rather than allowing them to graze on the open range would eat up any profit they might hope to make and actually take them into the “red” for the year. When my student was praying about how to best position himself in the questionable cattle market, the Lord brought a Bible verse concerning rain to his mind. The verse even mentioned a certain month in which rains would come. Accepting that insight as a direction from God, he stocked his farm with cattle and expected the drought to break in time for them to have sufficient food and water to fatten up in time for market. At exactly the time mentioned in the verse he had trusted in, the rains came! Because so many other farmers had limited their stock that year, he got top dollar for his cattle and made a great profit while most of his neighbors barely broke even!
Discerning of spirits is another area in which the Lord may speak to us in our everyday lives. I was cleaning a large attic room of a house that we had just purchased. The building was empty, and I was all alone as I swept away years of dust. Suddenly, I felt an evil presence as I worked my way across the middle of the hardwood floor. Clutching the broom a little tighter, I looked around to locate the source of this unwelcome invader. My attention was drawn upward to the light fixture directly above my head. I noticed immediately that there was a sort of secret cubbyhole above the light where a horizontal platform for mounting the fixture had been suspended from the slanted ceiling. After locating a chair, I climbed up to investigate that mysterious secret compartment. Inside, I found the most horrible cache of pornographic literature imaginable. After removing the literature, the demonic presence left the room. I can only imagine how tormented a family could have been had someone without a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit purchased that house and moved their children into that attic bedroom. Thank God that He gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit to us to use in our daily lives as well as in our church ministry.
When it comes to the gifts of power, it is difficult to carefully discern the dividing line between the various manifestations. In the gift of faith, God works on our behalf as a result of a supernatural ability to trust Him that He has placed inside of us. The working of miracles is when God supernaturally works through us to bring exponentially greater results when we exert our own human effort. Many times, it is difficult to determine unquestionably when our actions are the “step of faith” it takes to prove that we really believe in God’s promises and when those actions are the exertion of our human abilities which “prime the pump” for God’s miraculous intervention. When healings come, it is difficult to unequivocally distinguish if they are the result of faith, miracles, or the gifts of healing. The only thing that really matters is that we are convinced that God does want to work supernaturally in our personal lives. Let me share a few examples of how God’s supernatural intervention has come into our family’s finances when we dared to believe God’s promises and take action to demonstrate our trust in Him.
As newlyweds, my wife and I often struggled through on a shoestring budget. At one point, we were down to only five dollars in our checking account and no cash in our wallets. We sat in our living room one evening calculating how we would make it through to the next payday. It was the time of the month for the newspaper boy to come and collect his five-dollar charge, and we knew that he would probably be arriving soon to ask for that last bit out of our checking account. When the doorbell rang, my wife whispered, “Don’t answer it; it’s probably the paper boy.” I responded, “No, if we owe him, and we have it, I’m going to pay him.” To our surprise and relief, it was not the paperboy coming to drain our account; instead, it was a neighbor with tears in his eyes proclaiming, “Here, God spoke to me to bring you this!” As he handed us a thirty-dollar check, we all rejoiced because no one had any way of knowing about our personal need except that it had been revealed supernaturally.
Once we graduated from the “shoestring” budget to what you might consider a “bootlace” budget, the only thing that changed was the size of the miracles God continued to do in our lives. Several of the stories are recorded in the section on faith earlier in this book.
Concerning the inspirational gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues, it is always necessary to have godly words that fulfill the threefold functions of edification, exhortation, and comfort. (I Corinthians 14:3) I remember a conversation I had with Peggy before we were married. I had made a commitment of my love for her and devotion to her, but she had difficulty accepting it because previous boyfriends had made similar statements without heartfelt sincerity. Her response was, “Words are cheap,” to which I immediately replied, “Not my words.” It was a simple reply, but it was quickened by the Holy Spirit because it brought comfort to her, it strengthened our relationship, and it encouraged us to make the next step in our relationship – officially announcing our engagement.
It had been a long, exhausting night of counseling with a young couple who were bitterly enraged at each other. To hear her talk, it seemed that he was the worst husband to have ever walked the planet. Of course, hearing his side of the story would make you think that she was some sort of a she-devil and the very source of all their problems if not the root of evil altogether! What made it worse was that they were missionaries – God’s very mouthpieces in a pagan land! After several hours of listening to their inflamed accusations toward each other as all our futile attempts to counsel them fell on deaf ears, I suddenly turned to the husband and asked, “How much have you been praying in tongues lately?” He confessed that he had neglected his supernatural prayer language altogether for several months. I then turned to the wife and asked the same question. She also confessed to allowing the gift to lie dormant. We then laid hands on the couple and began to pray over them until they each broke forth in fluent heavenly languages. Before long, they were hugging and kissing as rivers of repentant tears poured from their eyes and rivers of Holy Ghost living water poured out of their innermost beings! Their lives, marriage, and ministries were renewed that night simply because they began to use the supernatural key to victory – their prayer languages.
At our house, we make a purposeful determination to pray in tongues on a daily basis because we believe the biblical promise that praying in the Spirit is the key to seeing that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:26-28) and that speaking in tongues strengthens us personally (I Corinthians 14:4) while building us up on our faith (Jude 20).
What Jesus Said about Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
Jesus called the baptism in the Holy Spirit the promise of the Father. (Acts 1:4) This promise had been given through the Old Testament prophet Joel (Joel 2:28) and was reconfirmed through John the Baptist who said that he could baptize with water but that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). Jesus guaranteed the promise. (John 14:16, 17) The baptism in the Holy Spirit was a promise given by the Father some eight hundred years before Jesus was born into the human family. That promise was still valid and waiting to be fulfilled in Jesus’ time. Acts chapter two tells of the fulfillment of this beautiful promise and extends that promise to anyone who will receive it. (Acts 2:39)
Jesus commanded His disciples to receive it. (Acts 1:4) If this baptism in the Holy Spirit was important enough to the apostles that Jesus would command them to receive it, the command is equally as strong for us. Paul expressed that this baptism is still a command of God when he penned the words of Ephesians 5:18, Be filled with the Spirit.
Jesus said that the baptism in the Holy Spirit gives us power to witness. (Acts 1:8) If you want to be a witness for Jesus, you must receive this baptism in the Holy Spirit. This power to witness can be seen in at least four areas:
1) The Holy Spirit gives us the words to say when we witness. (Luke 12:12)
2) The Holy Spirit gives us the boldness to be witnesses. (Acts 4:31)
3) The Holy Spirit empowers us to do miracles that testify of God’s love and power. (Luke 4:18)
4) The Holy Spirit enables us to live lives that exemplify Jesus. (Galatians 5:22, 23)
Jesus said that the world could not receive the Holy Spirit, but anyone who knows God is a candidate for this blessing. (John 14:17) If you have never asked Jesus into your heart, do it now. Let Him give you new life and make you ready to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (John 3:16, I Corinthians 5:17) If you have asked Jesus into your life and had your sins forgiven, you are ready to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said that you must ask the Heavenly Father for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He said that you should ask with the same amount of confidence that we ask our earthly fathers for gifts. (Luke 11:11-13) If you do this, you will receive!
Jesus said that a river of living water would spring from your inner being. (John 7:37-39) This river of living water brings with it a new tongue of praise and glory to God. In the Book of Acts, many experiences of the baptism of the Holy Spirit are recounted, and the consistent witness is that these believers spoke with other tongues. (Acts 2:4, 10:44-46, 19:6) You should remember that the believer has to speak as the Holy Spirit gives the utterance (Acts 2:4); so, when you feel that river of living water springing up within your spirit, do not be afraid to speak out the new language from the Holy Spirit. It may sound foolish at first (I Corinthians 14:2, 14), but it is God’s new gift to you – not something you have made up, or a trick of the devil.
If you ask your Heavenly Father for the gift He has promised to you, He will see that you receive it!
 Charisma News Service, February 7, 2002