11. The Holy Spirit
How was the end of Jesus' ministry connected to the coming of the Holy Spirit?
When and how did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit?
- Jesus began to explain to his disciples at his last supper with them about what was next in store for them, the gift of the Holy Spirit that they would soon be receiving. They, of course, had no real understanding at this point that he was no longer going to be with them, that they were now going to have to take his ministry forward without him. They would be without him--but they would not be alone. They would have the Holy Spirit there to guide and strengthen them in this work.
- Read John 14:15-17, 25-26 and 16:4-15
- What did Jesus tell his disciples are the different things that the Holy Spirit was going to do?
- When, according to the gospelwriter John, did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit? Read John 20:19-22
How is the Church the most important work of the Holy Spirit?
- Read John 20:19-22. According to the gospelwriter John, they received it on the evening of the first day of his resurrection--as Jesus breathed on them the very powers of the Holy Spirit.
- But according to the gospelwriter Luke, it did not come until later, some 7 weeks or 49 days later (on Pentecost Sunday).
- Read Luke 24:49-53. On the day of his ascension into heaven (the 40th and final day of his resurrection--and 10 days before the Jewish feast day of Pentecost) he instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had been "clothed with power from on high."
- Read Acts 1:1-5. The Book of Acts is also written by Luke and is a continuation of his gospel. He begins the Book of Acts by repeating some of what he had reported in the last part of his gospel.
- Read Acts 2--the entire chapter. This is the famous story of Pentecost. Luke explains how the Holy Spirit came as a mighty wind, it caused them to talk in foreign tongues so that people from all kinds of foreign countries could understand their preaching. Peter explains how this event, which must have looked and sounded wierd was actually a fulfillment of ancient prophecy (Joel 2:28-32).
- Indeed on Pentecost the Holy Spirit truly began his work: Peter and the disciples preached not only fearlessly, but powerfully. And the Holy Spirit convicted many people of their sins--so that they repented and were saved: brought into the new covenant fellowship with God. So many people that day received the power of the Holy Spirit.
How are the people's spiritual gifts vital to the unity of the Church?
- The Holy Spirit thus had the task of creating the new covenant fellowship--the new church of Jesus Christ. The foundations of new church were laid out in the hearts of the people through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit's main work was thus to ensure the continuation of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on earth through the building up of the church. The church was not (and never has been) the work of human designers or visionaries. It was (and always will be) the work of God through the Holy Spirit.
What, to Paul, are indeed the real signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in someone?
- Because so very often (in fact most of the time) the receiving of this power from on high, this Holy Spirit, was accompanied in the early church by people "speaking in tongues," many people today (Pentecostals or Charismatics) insist that a person must speak in tongues as proof of having truly received the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Read 1st Corinthians 12
- This question must have arisen early in the church because even Paul had to write a long letter to the church in Corinth, Greece which included his opinion on this matter. Paul's opinion was that there are many different gifts by the Holy Spirit, which includes the speaking in tongues, and that all these different gifts are equally important in building up the whole body of Christ, the church.
- Read 1st Corinthians 13.
- This passage is read frequently at weddings. Paul is speaking beautifully about love. But he is not talking about romantic love, or the love between a man and a woman. He is talking about the kind of love that ought to unite all people to each other and to God--in caring service and obedience to each other.
- What Paul is saying at this point is that it doesn't matter how talented you are, how well you perform good deeds, or how much you exceed religious expectations with your piety. If a deep, self-sacrificing love is not behind these deeds--then they are all worthless. The gifts you bring to the minstry of Jesus Christ are of no interest to Christ.
- Read 1st Corinthians 14.
- So he returns to this question of gifts, especially the gift of tongues. His point is that if this gift does nothing to help build up an unbeliever in the wisdom of God, then this gift is worthless. Indeed all gifts mean nothing unless they are worked together in an orderly manner--as the Holy Spirit himself is orderly.
- He concludes (vs. 39-40): "Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way"
- Read Galatians 5:13-26.
- Again--to Paul, the fruits of the Spirit are the outflow of love, such that brings us together in a wonderful harmony that unites us in a oneness with Christ.
- Our own human works can't improve on that. In fact they can't even come close to matching that. In fact they most always will merely act as an obstacle to the work of the Spirit--for in many ways they are naturally at war with each other: our worldly nature (the "flesh") and God's Spirit.!
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Miles H. Hodges - 2002