Empowering of the Holy Spirit

Over the previous two weeks, we have been thinking together about the identity of God as Father and Son. We have seen, in Scripture, that the trinitarian existence of God is no new concept. Even the earliest of human religion recognized the single creator-God and the work of the Son. We saw that both the Father and the Son were God and did the same work throughout the Old Testament. The Father is the originator and the Son is revealer. The person of the Trinity who often goes unmentioned or untaught is the Holy Spirit. 

Talking about the work of the Holy Spirit is scary because we are immediately flooded with mental images of people yelling in incoherent and unrecognizable languages, being suddenly healed, falling over because they are slain in the spirit, and speaking personal messages from God as if they could somehow see the future or peer into the depths of another’s soul. We must seek to understand the Spirit if we desire to know God more fully as we are fully known by Him.

In our local church’s belief statement, we make these professions:

WE BELIEVE in the person of the Holy Spirit, Who came forth from the Father and the Son to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to regenerate, sanctify and empower for ministry all who believe in Christ. (John 14:16-17, 16:8-11; Romans 8:26)

WE BELIEVE the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Jesus Christ and that He is an abiding helper, teacher, and guide. (John 6:13, 14:16-17, 16:8-11; Romans 8:26)

WE BELIEVE in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit and in the exercise of all the Biblical gifts of the Spirit according to the instructions given to us in 1 Corinthians 12 – 14. (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40; Ephesians 4:7-13)

Who is the Holy Spirit? Why is it important that we not neglect the Spirit as we get to know more about God and as we know Him more?

1 Corinthians 12:1-14

Now concerning what comes from the Spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you used to be led off to the idols that could not speak. Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

to one is given a message of wisdom

through the Spirit,

to another, a message of knowledge

by the same Spirit,

to another, faith by the same Spirit,

to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

to another, the performing of miracles,

to another, prophecy,

to another, distinguishing between spirits,

to another, different kinds of languages,

to another, interpretation of languages.

But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.

For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many.

The Spirit’s work (v. 1-3)

The church in Corinth was, perhaps, the unhealthiest church that Paul needed to address, at least as we observe in the biblical letters. The people in the church at Corinth followed people rather than God (1:12) and the church was divided on the basis of the following of different personalities (1:11). They were not able to receive the mature things of the faith because they remained spiritual infants, not growing up (3:2). They were worse than non-believers morally (5:1). They boasted in their sin (5:6). They accepted wicked people into the local church (5:13). They were interested in selfish gain, even suing one another for profit instead of suffering all things for the sake of their brothers (6:7-8). They were trying to remain celibate and so driving themselves into temptation (7:1-4). Their knowledge made them arrogant (8:1-2). They argued about the practices of their public worship (11:16) and came together disputing for worse, not for better because they were inclined toward contentiousness (11:17). They disputed concerning spiritual gifts, especially about which gifts were more important and desirable (12-14).

Even though the church was so unhealthy, Paul greeted her as “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling,” and thanked God always “concerning [the Corinthian church] for the grace of God which was given [the church] in Christ Jesus” (1:2, 4). Despite here many problems, Paul recognized the people in Corinth as brothers and sisters in Christ. He recognized that their immaturity in the faith caused them to focus on things less than Christ and to misunderstand many things concerning Christ, especially concerning spiritual gifts. So our first challenge is to pursue maturity in the faith, not complaining about trivial things. Our second challenge is to understand that there are many unhealthy church bodies who belong to Christ, but whose immaturity in the faith draws them to appear to be very un-Christian. Thank the Lord that salvation is by grace alone. Thank Him for giving us the opportunity to speak His light and life as we follow Scripture’s instruction and example.

Now concerning what comes from the Spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you used to be led off to the idols that could not speak.

When Paul gets to chapter 12, he has already addressed many of the disputes in the Corinthian church. In this section, he is addressing the dispute concerning spiritual gifts. The Corinthian church was drawn to the charismatic gift of tongues because that gift elevated the person speaking in tongues rather than Christ (14:4). Paul begins this section of corrective instruction by reminding the Corinthian church of the human condition, then he will explain the basic work of the Holy Spirit followed by application concerning the gifts given by the Holy Spirit. We will follow Paul’s order, here, by beginning with the nature of humankind.

He writes that when the people of Corinth were pagans, they used to be led off to the idols that could not speak. Paul uses this language purposefully. Before the people of God in the Corinthian church were called to be saints, they were being led into idolatry. At the beginning of his letter, Paul thanked God for God’s grace, which was given in Christ Jesus (1:4). He thanks God because the people of God were enriched in Christ (1:5) as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in them (1:6). Notice the language. Paul identifies the people as passive recipients of God’s grace and enrichment and the testimony of Christ being confirmed in them. The testimony was not theirs and they did not actively pursue or obtain the grace of God. Christ would confirm the people to the end (1:8). God is the faithful one, and it was through God alone that the people were called into fellowship with Jesus Christ (1:9).

Paul was very clear about this. Those in the darkness are being led in darkness. Those who are in Christ are saved by God’s grace alone and are preserved in Christ alone to the end. People, by nature, are unable to lead themselves to where they want to go. You know this because you already haven’t been able to keep your New Year’s resolution. People are totally and essentially depraved and Paul is reminding his audience of that fact, declared in 1 Corinthians 1 and restated in this paraphrase at the beginning of chapter 12. This, according to Paul, is the spiritual milk intended for infants (3:2). This is the basic truth concerning our very existence. Yet, this is the very truth that so many spend their whole lives struggling with or against. So many churches are in this vicious cycle where they never graduate from formula and eat solid food. Churches don’t really have plans to mature new believers into eating solid food. Let us not get stuck. Let us grow into maturity and effectively disciple others into maturity with us. There is so much more waiting for us to understand as we grow more mature in the faith and as we continue to grow in Christ. The doctrines of grace, as we call them, are only the start- spiritual milk.

Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, because we are led and because we are unable to lead ourselves by our very nature in the created order, Paul informs that we can only declare Jesus as Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit, not according to our own will or muster. There are two explicit truths here. Those who deny Christ or leave the faith were never ‘saved’ because their conversion was not by the Spirit of God. Because we are led, it is the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) who first does this effectual work in our hearts so that we are able to hear the invitation of Christ and so that we do respond and are preserved to the end. No one can genuinely declare Jesus as Lord of their lives without the Holy Spirit first regenerating their hearts. The Holy Spirit, explicitly, is the one who does this work. God the Father is originator. God the Son is the revealer. God the Holy Spirit does the effectual work.

He is the one regenerating our hearts, drawing us to Christ according to the predestination of the Father. He is the one who transforms and sanctifies by working the words of Christ in our lives. He is the one who actively guides the people of God. He is the one who grants understanding of what is revealed or taught (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit was not created by the Father but comes forth from the Father and the Son to supply and sustain the effectual work of the Godhead (John 14:26). This work is one work and not one operation is done independently of the others. The Godhead is perfectly unified in His work. What the Spirit does can also be described as the work of Christ and of the Father. What Christ does is also the work of the Spirit and the Father. What the Father does is also the work of Christ and the Spirit. This work is eternal in its nature because God is eternal in His nature. The Spirit is doing this work from before the foundation of the world just as Christ and the Father have been working from before the foundation of the world. Though, now, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer (John 14:17). The Spirit will continue His effectual work forever in the future. The Holy Spirit is awesome! Why do we spend so little time thinking upon the amazing work of the Holy Spirit?

We receive gifts to participate in God’s eternal work (v. 4-10)

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial…

Our gifts are given for the glory of the Father, in the exaltation of the Son, and by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul recognizes that there are different gifts. Different people will have different gifts and be involved in different ministries of the church. Not everyone will look the same or be the same or do the same specific work. There is only one God who receives all glory.
No matter our gifts, the maker desires that we use them for His purposes and glory and for the common good. It is not that difficult to figure out how the Spirit has gifted us. We ask, what are we good at? What are we passionate about? What is our vision? What sort of dream has the Spirit given us? We receive gifts, passions, skills, insight, and wisdom so that each person might, by the power and gifting of God’s Spirit, produce what is beneficial.

Every member of Christ is a contributor in Christ’s body. We are gifted in order to perform particular functions and so that we might produce what is beneficial to the body- to the glory of the Father by the exaltation of Christ in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We are not saved by grace to sit idly by. Those who are regenerated by the Spirit become contributing members of Christ’s body according to the gifting to produce what is beneficial.

This is what it means for the Holy Spirit to be on display among us. The members of Christ’s body are working together, each according to his or her gifting, and producing what is beneficial. What are your gifts and what are you doing? Don’t waste your time only filling a seat. Christ’s body is living and moving and active and producing what is beneficial through every active member.

We receive gifts according to the will of the Spirit (v. 11-14)

But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.

For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many.

The movement of the Holy Spirit is not about us doing everything we want to do or about others doing exactly what we think they ought to be doing. The Spirit does not gift according to our wills, but according to His own will. If I had my way, I would be sitting at a computer, working regular hours, developing graphics for video games and movies. The Holy Spirit gifted me according to His will for my service in the body of Christ. We are simply to serve according to our gifts. We cannot be guilty of doing something “because someone has to do it.” We cannot be guilty of expecting others to do the whole work of ministry on our behalf. We cannot be guilty of expecting others to do things our way. In our pride, we often try to do things that are outside of our range of gifts. The Spirit has gifted each of us according to His will and according to the role He has for us in the body of Christ. We make a big deal out of trying to figure out what gifts we have. It is not so complicated. What do you like doing? What are you good at? What are you interested in?

We are interwoven members of Christ’s body just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one essence in three persons. As the body of Christ, we are the image of God. As the church, we are God’s image of Himself in His creation for His glory alone. We are a living parable of the Godhead. Why do we need to function in community? Because our God is perfect unity in the community of the Godhead. We cannot be the image of God or dwell in the glory of God alone without functioning as a healthy active member of Christ’s body. This is what being filled with and led by the Spirit looks like according to God’s own word.

Being filled with the Spirit is not about us getting something or drawing attention to ourselves at all. It is about serving the glory of God through the exaltation of Christ in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. This is why young people need this genuine Gospel straight from the text of Scripture. Our highest aim is our happiness and our satisfaction. For the few who go to church, we are guilty of going to church to be gratified in some way. My generation is in desperate need to hear the true Gospel and to hear that our purpose is grander than we have heard or imagined!

This is the purpose for which God created us in the beginning, to be His body. This truth is going to have huge implications for the way we think about sexuality, gender, marriage, family, and the way that we address sin in the world. So, this truth will be important for us to keep in mind as we continue walking through our local church’s belief statement.

WE BELIEVE in the person of the Holy Spirit, Who came forth from the Father and the Son to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to regenerate, sanctify and empower for ministry all who believe in Christ. (John 14:16-17, 16:8-11; Romans 8:26)

WE BELIEVE the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Jesus Christ and that He is an abiding helper, teacher, and guide. (John 6:13, 14:16-17, 16:8-11; Romans 8:26)

WE BELIEVE in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit and in the exercise of all the Biblical gifts of the Spirit according to the instructions given to us in 1 Corinthians 12 – 14. (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40; Ephesians 4:7-13)

Let us, the body of Christ, honor the effectual work of the Spirit. Let us actively participate and contribute according to the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and trust in the Spirit’s regenerative work as we long to see others come to Christ. Let us remember that we needed the Spirit’s regeneration before we were able to accept the words of Christ. We were not designed to only fill a seat. God reveals what He wants us to do in service to Him by the giving of spiritual gifts. That is both humbling and empowering for the people of God.

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