Even God’s Enemies Encounter the Holy Sprit and Confess Christ

“I don’t need to go to church to worship Jesus.” I have heard this comment quite often throughout my life. I think I made this comment when I was much more immature in the faith. Biblically speaking, it’s technically a true statement. People can go into the woods, sit on a beach, go to a concert, read a good book, rest, or any number of other things and have a deep, spiritual experience—even encountering God’s Holy Spirit. I don’t see what that has to do with neglecting the gathering of believers. First, the purpose of doing church is not to have a worship or spiritual experience—but that’s a sermon for another time. Second, our experiences cannot determine our faith.

Let’s continue to follow David as he flees from Saul.

1 Samuel 19:18-24

Now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.

It was told Saul, saying, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.”

Then Saul sent messengers to take David, but when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing and presiding over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul; and they also prophesied.

When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. So Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he himself went to Ramah and came as far as the large well that is in Secu; and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And someone said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.”

He proceeded there to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah. He also stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

David goes to Samuel (v. 18)

Now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.

Saul is explicitly trying to kill David because he perceives David as a threat to his throne. David has become Saul’s new Goliath even though David only served God and Saul well. David escaped the assassins who were waiting for him outside his home. He flees to Samuel’s hometown, where he tells Samuel everything Saul is trying to do.

God used David to defeat Goliath. David tried pointing people to God, that they might recognize God and God’s salvation. The people only saw David. While many people loved David, Saul despised him because Saul was envious. When Saul finally recognized God, he defied God and God’s deliverance outright (18:28-29). David has been trying to persuade others to trust in God alone. He has been serving God and others according to his gifts through faith. Still, the king hates him and has made him an enemy of the state. He confides to God’s prophet, Samuel.

Persecution against those who try to honor God and preach the Gospel that exalts Christ and glorifies the Father is nothing new. Since I started my first pastorate, I have experienced the type of hatred David is here experiencing. Even this past week, I had a conversation with someone who was adding works to grace as the basis for salvation. Upon my showing from Scripture that salvation is by grace alone and God does all the work, the person resorted to calling me Satan and claiming I had the spirit of Jezebel. I wasn’t aware that I was leading people into idol worship, harassing those who preach God’s word, or putting preachers to death. That’s what Jezebel did. I simply want to have a Gospel conversation, and I guess some people hate that. I sympathize with David on that level. In the New Testament, the Pharisees will do the same thing to Jesus, claiming Jesus casts out demons by the ruler of demons (Matthew 9:34; 12:24). People from all spectrums hated and persecuted Christ. They will also hate and persecute those who follow Christ.

God’s enemies worship Him (v. 19-24)

It was told Saul, saying, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.”
Then Saul sent messengers to take David, but when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing and presiding over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul; and they also prophesied.
When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. So Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he himself went to Ramah and came as far as the large well that is in Secu; and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And someone said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.”
He proceeded there to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah. He also stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay down naked all that day and all that night.

Saul sent his assassins to take David. Each time, the Holy Spirit overcame them and caused them to worship with the assembly that was before Samuel. Finally, Saul went and the Holy spirit overcame overcame him as well—causing him to worship God with the other singing prophets (Cf. 10:6). In a move of irony, the Holy Spirit moved God’s enemies to have a sincere worship experience in order to safeguard David according to His own plan. The primary point of the text is—God safeguards His own work. David was to be established as Israel’s king to prepare Christ’s throne within His creation. The secondary point fo the text is—even God’s enemies can be moved by the Holy Spirit to worship when God decides to do so.

In fact, Scripture reveals that all people will bow before God and worship Christ as their king. We see this throughout the Bible, but I’ll mention Revelation 11:13 and Isaiah 45:22-25 particularly.

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel Will be justified and will glory (Isaiah 45:22-25).

There is a general invitation for all people over all the earth to turn to the only God. Even if people reject the invitation, everyone will bow and swear allegiance to Him. They will confess that righteousness and strength are found only in God. Those who are angry at God will be put to shame as they make this confession—as they worship. No matter their insufficiencies, God promises to justify His chosen people, the offspring of Israel—not all of Israel herself, but her offspring (those who are truly in Christ). Everyone, even God’s enemies, can have spiritual experiences, encounter the Holy Spirit, and confess Christ. Those are not special things. A faithless man can have an affair with a prostitute, refer to her as beautiful, and never know her. To define our Christianity by our experiences is prostitution. Only Christ’s chosen people will be justified. We cannot measure our salvation or relationship with Christ based on our spiritual experiences, encounters with the Holy Spirit, or mere confessions. Christ must actually save us if we are to be saved. That is why Christ taught, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:22). The idea that our experiences and words are no determiners of our being justified is a terrifying prospect for many. For others, it’s a comfort because God is saving His people by grace alone and not depending on their experiences, words, or mere confessions.

Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

We know the answer to the people’s questions at this juncture in the story. No, Saul is not among the prophets as a fellow prophet. He is God’s enemy. He stands against God’s plan. He does not honor God but himself. Yet, he looks very spiritual. Outward appearances, even being moved by the Holy Spirit and worshipping God, can seem religious. Really, they are common experience. Justification is the real treasure for the Christian.

If we feel persecuted because of our testimony about Jesus Christ and His work of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, we should be encouraged by this text. No matter what people try or how much we are hated because of the Gospel, God will safeguard and carry on His own work. If we have defined our Christianity by our experience, an encounter with the Holy Spirit, or our mere confession, we should think again upon the person and work of Christ and yearn to be justified rather than have another spiritual high. Worship cannot bring us to Christ or ready our hearts for Christ’s message. Christ justifies us sinners and our response is worship. Anyone can experience spirit-filled worship; only Christ’s people are actually justified by Christ.

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