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In the last post I mentioned the ire of the Jewish leaders that Jesus would heal a man on the Sabbath. There is a similar story in John 5 where Jesus heals the man by the pool called Bethesda. Once the man was healed, Jesus didn’t just tell him to stand. He told him to get up, take up his mat and walk (5:8). The Jewish tradition specifically said carrying a mat on the Sabbath was “work” so they believed Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. Jesus told him to do something unnecessary to demonstrate his healing. He told him something that would provoke a bigger conversation about the nature of Jesus himself.

Here is Jesus defense of his actions,

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” – 5:16-18.

The Jews believed that God was at work every single day. He was at work in the birth of children. God was at work adding people to the covenant at circumcision. Circumcision was always done on the 8th day after birth even if it was a Sabbath and no one considered that action work. The point is this. God can work on the Sabbath and not break Sabbath. The command was given for them, not for God himself. You can see in these verses that they very quickly understood exactly what Jesus was saying – that he was equating himself with God so they tried to kill him, just like we saw in Mark in the previous post.

God never stops working, even after He gives them the scriptures. It isn’t one or the other. It is both.

What does this have to do with baptism and the Holy Spirit?

Everything.

When Jesus was baptized the Spirit came upon him. When Peter invited the people at Pentecost to respond to Jesus he told them to repent and be baptized in Acts 2. We have focused so much on getting that verbiage perfect (the meaning of eis, for instance) but often missed what he promised next. He told them not just what they should do but also what God would do – God would give them the gift of the Spirit and forgive their sins. To be fair, we catch the forgiveness of sins part but often neglect the gift of the Spirit part at least for us today. We relegate that to be a first century thing rather than a today thing. The problem with that view is that Peter specifically says this promise isn’t just for them but for generations to come and even for those who are far off. This wasn’t just a first century, one generation, promise.

The view many of us grew up hearing was that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were needed only for one generation in order to confirm the Gospel before the Bible was written and was given only by the apostolic laying on of hands. So when the apostles died so did the possibility of imparting the gifts. This view has been used not only to discredit miraculous gifts today but also the necessity of the indwelling of the Spirit today. But Peter isn’t talking about imparting miraculous gifts. Peter is talking about reception of the Spirit himself.

Here is my point – it is normative for the Spirit to be connected with baptism. Because that is the case, we can safely assume that every time someone is baptized, the Spirit is working. We saw it first with Jesus and then we see that same thing promised by Peter in Acts 2. I believe we can put the pieces of this view together in Peter and Paul’s letters and then connect that back to John 5 and God’s work.

Peter and Paul connect the resurrection of Jesus to the work of the Holy Spirit. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” – 1 Peter 3:18. We read something similar in Romans 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Jesus was raised back to life, from death and the grave, by the Holy Spirit.

Why is this significant? It is significant because Paul connects our baptism with Jesus’ resurrection. So the Spirit is at work in Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection is a parallel of Jesus’ so the Spirit is at work in our baptism. We see this in Romans 6 that in our baptism we re-enact Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. We are united with him in these things by being buried in the water where our old self dies and are raised in new life. If what happened to Jesus happens to us, paired with Peter’s promise of the Spirit at baptism in Acts 2, then the Spirit is at work every time someone is baptized into Christ. If that is true, then cessation of the work of the Spirit today is wrong.

The truth of the matter is that the Spirit is at work every single day in our lives in a very real way. Once we open ourselves up to that reality then we can become more and more in tune and aware of the Spirit’s working in our lives. We shouldn’t just wonder if it happens. We should expect it.

There is a series of stories in Mark 3 that was part of my change of heart and mind on the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath. The reaction of the Pharisees was not to recognize the prophesied work of the Spirit and the Messiah and praise God for it! No. Instead, the plotted to kill Jesus (Mark 3:6). A few verses later Jesus is challenged on his miracles. None of his opponents deny that Jesus did any of the miracles. That is undeniable. They know that no man of God, much less Messiah, would be a lawbreaker and breaking the Sabbath would certainly be breaking the Law (although Jesus didn’t really break the Sabbath). So they reasoned that Jesus’ power must come from somewhere else. Who else could grant power over the human body? Well, the demons sure seemed to be able to influence the human body and its wellness or illness. So they reason that Jesus is in league with the devil, with Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Mark 3:22) and they accuse him this.

What Jesus says next is stunning,

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” – Mark 3:23-30

I certainly don’t want to be guilty of an eternal sin. It sure seems to me that the eternal sin Jesus is talking about here is witnessing the very work of the Holy Spirit and attributing it to another power, even the devil himself. Now, I cannot ever remember attributing something that I thought was holy and right to the devil. But, if the Holy Spirit was actively involved in the world and even in my life, and I didn’t care to notice it or even flat out denied that reality, I was not far from what Jesus was talking about here. Imagine that the Holy Spirit is working today while the very people of God are saying not only that it doesn’t happen but that it is false teaching to say that it does. In all of our “play it safe” theological reasoning this one didn’t work out very well. In my mind, the conservative view on this would be to affirm the operation of the Spirit because it is affirming what the Bible directly teaches. Our arguments to the contrary have typically been reactionary to disprove the theology of others rather than from anything directly taught in the text itself.

I would much rather attribute things to the Spirit and be wrong about it in the end than fail to attribute things to the Spirit that the Spirit never did and be wrong about it in the end. The reason itself may not be the most compelling reasoning every constructed (although it was for me) but the consequence of being wrong on this matter was too great for me to ignore. This was one more brick out of the wall.

What were some of the compelling reasons you have adjusted your view on the Holy Spirit over the years?

Marvin Phillips was a common man lifted mightily by God to reach deeply into the recesses of the human heart.  He had a way…did he not…of connecting with every level and caliber of people.  And was that not the identical trek of Jesus?  Yes, it is the Suffering Servant who influenced this man to imagine reaching to the entire world.

I had the incredible fortune of getting to walk beside Marvin on all kinds of paths.  We laughed an awful lot…and often we wept.  He tried to teach me to keep smiling.  And, wasn’t Marvin the master of that?  He lit up every room.  I watched him bring abundant joy to large crowds when, all the while, he was dealing with constantly harsh criticism.  This is one of the things that made Marvin…well…Marvin.  He understood the normal sufferings of the common man and woman.  Indeed, God used this friend of ours for he was a very humble man.

While he was often found to be on center-stage, at times with some famous and influential people, Marvin’s heart was never distracted from rooting for the sufferer in the audience.  He had learned something from God and was destined, insistently so, to forward the Good News!  This friend of ours may have been a Master Speaker, but such skill came about only because he was first a Master Learner.  Marvin walked with a listening ear toward the Spirit of God.

This great man of giantastic ability will live in perpetuation even though his body now rests for a bit.  He lit our spirits and taught us to expect to soar with hope and joy and love.  If his words weren’t enough, his smile created a contagion of magnificent impact.  What made him tick?  What was it that caused him to be as magic among us?  It seems simple to me.  Marvin Phillips never forgot that he was a sinner like all of the rest of us who caught a glimpse of grace and mercy…and his heart was so flooded by this marvel that he could not help but tell every person, every church, and every nation that crossed his path.

Marvin was never about Marvin.  No he was obsessed with two overriding goals: Giving glory to God and cheering you and me onward.  Thank.  You.  Friend.

The more you study the Bible the more your views will change. It is inevitable and it is good. Somehow change has become a byword in our fellowship especially in two areas: worship practices and our view on the Holy Spirit.

I grew up like many people in my fellowship, believing the Holy Spirit had little to nothing to do with my life. The work of the Spirit was complete as soon as the last word of Revelation was penned. The work of the Spirit was confined to the inspiration of the scriptures and little more as far as our lives today were concerned and I believed that to be true and argued vigorously with others that was the case. The perfect in 1 Cor 13:13 was the Bible so that when the perfect, the Bible, was complete there was no more need for the gifts of the Spirit outlined in 1 Cor 12-13.

In many ways my argument was more of an anti-other-group argument more than a biblical argument. That doesn’t mean my argument didn’t come from the Bible. It did. It came from texts cobbled together to fit a structure that already existed in my mind. I had the blueprint and the Bible contained the material I needed to construct my house of cards. My theology was a reactionary theology rather than biblical theology. I knew the other guys (Pentecostals in this case) were wrong and so there must be another way to explain the verses that would otherwise prove them right and me wrong. With enough muscle and the right shovel I could be sure to win the day. So I had to find a way to make sense of those verses even if that meant ignoring context, biblical languages, etc. It was a classic case of eisegesis, although I wasn’t aware of that word at that time that is what it was – reading my biases and preconceived ideas and even conclusions back into the text, overriding the meaning of scripture and bending the text to my view rather than digging into the text and allowing it muscle me around to hear what it wanted to say and me bending my view to it.

Here was my preconceived conclusion, my bias, the Holy Spirit no longer operated in any meaningful way today. The Spirit told us everything that needs to be said in the Bible, via inspiration, and so the Spirit’s work is done. The Spirit has no meaningful relationship with us in this day and age. All we need is the Bible. Period. Anyone who taught otherwise was wrong and maybe even a false teacher.

Now, in a sense, part of what I just said is true. All we need is the Bible. Irony of ironies…what unraveled my view on the Spirit was the very Bible that was supposed to show me that the Spirit no longer operated in our lives today. The more I studied and the more I came to understand what the Holy Spirit inspired in the words of scripture, which had authority over my life and doctrine, were telling me that if the Spirit doesn’t operate today then I am in a heap of trouble. It was my conservatism (that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God no matter what anyone else tells you on a matter) that lead me to change my view on the Spirit because I was accepting what the Bible had to say on this in spite of what my tradition was saying to me in those days.

Coming to understand the Spirit as active today did not necessitate embracing miraculous gifts like they had in the first century. This was the assumption I came to the discussion with and since I thought that was indensible I thought I had an open and shut case against the work of the Spirit. It was the Bible that began to show me that the Spirit had far more work to do that enable people to do the gifts we see in the New Testament. In fact, the most vital work the Spirit does has nothing to do with those things. So what I had set out to prove or disprove wasn’t even the right conversation from the start once I understood the work of the Spirit had more to it than miraculous gifts.

Here were some key verses for me changing my mind on the Spirit.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” – Rom 8:1-2

If the Spirit isn’t working today I have no means to be set free from the law of sin and death. I am stuck. Someone might say the Bible is the law of the Spirit but notice it is the Spirit who is identified as the one who gives us life. Without the Spirit’s work we are dead.

Then Paul writes,

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” – Rom 8:5-6

I believe living in accordance with the Bible is to live in accordance with the Spirit but Paul didn’t say it that way. He said those who live in accordance with the Spirit are connected with the very desires of the Spirit himself. I see no way that can occur without the activity of the Spirit, today, in some way. Then Paul writes that this mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Paul is directly saying that our mind can be governed and must be governed by the Holy Spirit. Sounds like work to me…it sounds like the necessary work of the Spirit in the life of the believer that without we are in a mess. I want that and I saw no way to think I would be okay without the Spirit doing that with me today.

I will get to other passages outside Romans 8 in a moment but I want to stick with Paul’s line of thinking for one more comment,

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” – Romans 8:9-14

As Christians we live in the realm of the Spirit. That sounds difficult, impossible even, if the Spirit is distant and has no function in the world today. I certainly want to belong to Christ and in verse 9 Paul says directly we can’t without the Spirit. Then notice verses 10-14 where Paul directly says the Spirit does specific actions: “The Spirit gives life…”, “The Spirit…will also give life to your mortal bodies…”, “those who are led by the Spirit.” These are all necessary actions of the Spirit across all generations.

It sounded to me like without the Spirit’s work in my life I was dead, not raised, and was in a heap of trouble but with the Spirit at work, today, these things were just as true in my life today as they were in the first century.

The last verse in Romans 8 that taught me the Spirit is very much at work today was verse 26 where the Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what we ought to pray for. How is that cessation of the Spirit’s activity?

What I began to realize was that in my quest to understand things in absolute terms I had reject things I could only know in part. Well, to be truthful although I couldn’t see it at the time, I had actually been picking and choosing which things I was comfortable knowing with what I thought was absolute knowledge and those things that I was uncomfortable with. The Spirit landed firmly in the arena of uncomfortability whereas things like the Father and the Son never registered. How could I understand the Father in absolute terms or with absolute knowledge and yet I hadn’t rejected God’s work in the world! How strange.

I found help in Galatians, Ephesians and in 1 Corinthians. My biggest reactions had been against visible miraculous manifestations of the Spirit (as they had in the first century – speaking in tongues, prophesy, etc) and against the Spirit speaking to people in ways other than the Bible. I began to see that neither of those things had to be necessary in order for the Spirit to still be at work today. More on that later but my point here is, that what I had been rejecting went too far, and left no room for the Spirit’s work in any meaningful way in my life apart from the Word of God. Yet, the very words the Spirit inspired were pointing me to the very reality of the Spirit’s ever present work in our world today, that is, if I am to take the Bible seriously.

I learned in Ephesians 1 that when someone becomes a Christian they are marked with a seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). That certainly seems like a universal promise and has nothing to do with miraculous gifts that I had been taught to reject. I saw in Eph 2:18 that it is by the Spirit that we have access to the Father. This would make sense given what we covered in Romans 8:26 but I knew I wanted access to the Father and that sure seemed to be the Spirit’s work, today. I learned in Ephesians 4 that it is the Spirit who brings unity to God’s people. That doesn’t sound like the Spirit is no longer at work either. I certainly wanted the Spirit to do that, maybe I shouldn’t just want the Spirit to do these things, rather I should expect the Spirit to do these things!

On and on the list could go but it was the Bible itself that undermined my idea that the Spirit’s work was complete when the last word of the Bible was penned. The door was cracked open. There was so much more to see once I got my foot in the door! More on that later.

What has been your experience in our biblical view on the Holy Spirit in Churches of Christ? What have you found refreshing? What have you found challenging? Has your view changed over time? Why or why not?

As a part of this month’s focus on the Holy Spirit, I’m working on a couple different opportunities for dialogue and conversation about our hymnological and musical experience in Churches of Christ with regard to the subject of and person o f the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead, the Trinity.

If you would be so kind, take a moment and fill out this short poll so we can have some information from you to help us as we anticipate this conversation.

Thanks!

https://goo.gl/forms/2G7xoEzcaUpueFKJ2

The Holy Spirit may be like slick okra – we are afraid to take in anything that we don’t have control over!  Even to the most intellectual and sharpest among us the Holy Spirit is a mystery.  In the words of Jesus he operates like the wind (John 3:8) coming and going as he likes.  In spite of his mysterious existence, he is real. But, I am convinced, he is only real to those who experience him.

It was Jesus who said, “It is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7).  Why? Because, “I will send the Holy Spirit to you” (John 16:7).  Jesus was bound by his physical presence with the disciples, but the Holy Spirit is not so bound.  He dwells in all the earth. Peter quoted the prophet Joel in Acts 2 saying, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28-29). There are no physical limitations on the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

We should be challenged when we read the book of Acts by asking, “Is this a book of exceptions or examples?” (Rick Atchley, May 3, 2013) The Holy Spirit was active among the people of God then, what about now?  Paul was clear, “His Spirit HIMSELF testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).  Those who were to be chosen to serve in Acts 6 were to be “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3).  No doubt they visibly demonstrated the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).  Acts 13 records the Holy Spirit speaking to the worshipers in Antioch saying, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (13:2).  Barnabas and Saul were “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit…” (13:4).  The Holy Spirit remained active in the ministry of Paul and his companions as you can see from Acts 16:6-10. He wants to be active in our ministry also.

I asked in a Bible class, “Would you believe me if I told you that God called me to preach?”  One brother was quick to speak and said, “NO! I wouldn’t believe you.”  I have met some who have said that God was “dealing with me for years before I decided to surrender to his will.” Others have said, “God spoke to me and said…”  Language that conveys that God is working  in our life or ministry, apart from the Bible, is met with skepticism in many circles.  Sad.

Why not open yourself up to the Holy Spirit rather than resist (Acts 7:51), grieve (Ephesians 4:30) or quench (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Him? Why not “fan into flame” this great gift of God? (2 Timothy 1:6-8) Then, watch out!

 

Whether in person or online in social media God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are involved in our conversations with other Christians. In Acts 8, when Jesus confronts Saul on the road to Damascus, he tells Saul that Saul’s persecution of the church was actually a persecution of Jesus himself, “Why do you persecute me?” Three chapters earlier in Acts 5 we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. In Peter’s conversation with each of them he points out that their lying to the church was actually a lie to God (5:4) and a testing of the Holy Spirit himself (5:9).

We enter into so many conversations without the slightest thought about the role of the Trinity in our conversation. As Spirit-filled people who talk with other Spirit-filled people we must remember that we, together, are God’s temple as the Spirit dwells in us (plural). This should change the way we talk and type. It should change the tone of our words. Our mistreating of other Christians is a mistreatment of the Spirit who is in each and every one of us.

So before you go on that next online rant, or even one face-to-face, consider the presence of the Trinity in that moment and who it is who is actually involved in that interaction. When you stop and think about who is on the receiving end of your vitriol or aggravation it should help us to pause and convert our conversation to one that is more appropriate for such holy company.

God works through us.

It’s not that He can’t work in other ways; obviously He can and does. But because He believes in us — that astounding fact of scripture which simply cannot be denied or dismissed — He wants to work through us.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ~ Philippians 1:3-6

Can you conclude anything from this that there is a partnership in the gospel? That “he who began a good work in you” can be anyone other than God? So is this partnership just between Paul and the folks at Philippi?

(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), ~ Galatians 2:8

No! It’s God working through Peter to the circumcised and through Paul to the Gentiles! How does He do that?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

Is it just to Peter and Paul? Does He just makes work for us? No! It’s for all, and for every:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:8

Does He just give us the grace to prepare ourselves for the work? Not by a long shot! There are gifts attached to that grace:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ~ Romans 12:3-8

So He gives us specific gifts to prepare us for the work He has prepared for us to do. But prepared us in what way?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

He empowers us. The Spirit, the Lord, God. How much power are we talking about?

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-22

That’s a lot of power! Does He do it long-distance?

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ~ Colossians 1:24-29

No; from within! Christ in us. It’s His energy working powerfully within us. That makes us partners in the gospel with God, through Christ!

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20

How does Christ dwell in us? Through His Holy Spirit:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~ Romans 8:9-11

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

The Spirit of God! The Spirit of Christ! Without His Spirit within us, we have no hope of resurrection! We have no chance of escaping destruction! Without His Spirit, we have no way to partner with God in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

We can know scripture forward and backward and think we know everything it means, and if we do not have the Spirit dwelling within us, we are pointless and powerless in our attempts to minister. By the Spirit, God speaks through us:

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3

And the One who knows how best to prepare and empower each of us does so at His own discretion, not ours:

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Therefore we work for the common good, Paul says, in partnership with God to build His building, sow and water and tend His field:

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:9

So how do we respond to this offer of powerful, dwell-within partnership?

Do we say, “Well thanks, God, but I’ve got my Bible and I understand it completely and perfectly; that’s all I need and I don’t really want your help”?

Or, “I’m just not sure about all that miraculous stuff or being a part of that; it’s not that I believe You can’t do it, but it scares me a little bit and I’d rather just believe that You don’t work that way anymore because it’s too likely to be perceived as fake and I don’t want to have my credibility damaged”?

Perhaps just: “Oh, You don’t need me, Lord. Use my brother; he talks better than I do”?

Maybe: “I’m catching the next outbound boat for the other direction.”

Do any of those sound familiar?

Too familiar?

We have had an interesting relationship with the Spirit in Churches of Christ. In part this is one thing I love about our movement – there is no denominational hierarchy barking orders on what the official teaching of the church is supposed to be. On the other hand we somehow still have an unofficial official teaching on the Spirit over the years. In some corners of our movement one must have a certain view of the Spirit to be orthodox, to be a genuine Christian. I cannot help but think the Spirit does His work in spite of our misunderstandings and misapplications on this issue because the Spirit has been tasked with dispensing gracious gifts to an imperfect people since the beginning. Consider the first century church who the Holy Spirit enabled to prophesy and speak in tongues WHILE the ones with the gifts were misusing those gifts? You would think the Spirit would stop working in a moment like that and hang the first century tongue-speaker out to dry. The Spirit kept giving the gift even when people weren’t understanding it properly. I think the same is true today.

I would like to spend this month discussing the Holy Spirit. Part of what has spurred this on for me is the coming of Harbor (the Pepperdine Bible Lectures) in a couple of weeks where the theme will be “The Spirit-filled People of God.” Even if you can’t go make sure to catch the audio after the fact on itunes University! But I really want to tackle this for more practical reasons. Our people have a lot of questions about the Spirit and I would like for us to spend some time discussing the work of the Spirit in today’s church.

We can do better than reacting to other people’s theology. We can have a proactive, biblical view of the Spirit and a better understanding of how the Spirit operates today. It will take some effort to get there but it is worth the effort!

Welcome to April at Wineskins!