AUGUST 1, 2006
In the prophet Micah's work is a question appearing in chapter two verse seven. That question is absolutely the number one question for the modern church. It supersedes all other considerations; it makes mute all theological discussions and doctrinal issues; it stands hovering like a cloud over every Christian institution whether it is evangelistic, missionary or educational. This giant question mark elicits an answer from every person who enters the portals of an established congregation and every participant in any religious discussion group or fellowship. Without equivocation, this question is so important that no other words, works or activity may continue until it is truthfully answered. It excuses no one; it forgives no hesitancy; it probes the deepest arenas of body ministry and begs to be answered before another step is taken in the kingdom.
'Is the Spirit of the Lord restricted?'
Micah's question stopped the mouths of false prophets and traditionalists, both of which relied falsely upon a source outside the Spirit. The question drove like a stake into the heart of an unbelieving people. Micah had every right to pose this polemic to a people who had lost all sense of direction, having dismissed their behavior as embracing nationalism and rationalism. Micah rose to re-assert the supremacy of the Spirit and such must be done again.
Since the church has lost its model (though it claims to be New Testament), the Spirit deigns to raise one up. Somewhere, somehow a new thesis will be nailed to the unresponding sanctum. With it will be a descriptor identifying the early church as a Spirit-Church. Its members will all be baptized in Him and fire. Its gatherings will be multi-led with Holy Spirit directed scriptures coming from the congregants, Holy Spirit gifted music and worship coming from the congregates, Holy Spirit sanctioned testimony about what He has accomplished through them and with them in the past week. Holy Spirit led companions will be received openly, and communion will be participation with one another not a chaliced diadem raised in ornate cloister! The agenda will be a Holy Spirit agenda with great prophetic words and powerful Spirit direction. Prayer will be "in the Spirit" and the body will be built up in Holy Faith by the Spirit of Holiness. That is a New Testament early church. The five fold ministry will be servant to the Spirit first and the edifying of the body second. The gifting of the Spirit will be adjunct to the direction of the Spirit in the activities He directs.
If this is not true, then all the Scriptures about the Holy Spirit of God should be ripped from all the Bible's pages and the outrage of calling things as being "led by the Spirit" when they are not, would be ceased!
The church must hear the Spirit. The entire book of Revelation, sent to the saints and including all the things for the last days, was written "in the Spirit."
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day and I heard behind me A loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying…..The beginning treatise of Revelation dealt with the church and whether it would hearken to the Spirit. What does Rev. 2:7 have in common with 2:11,17, 24? What do these have in common with 3:6, 13 and 23?
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.Seven times (significant number) this question was asked. Repetition is always for emphasis. It is a form of conditioning. It is a propaganda tool. It is a didactic formula.
Who speaks to the churches? The Spirit does. To whom must the church hearken? The Spirit! The early church's distinguishing evidence was their reliance upon the Spirit. They did nothing apart from Him. They governed and gained through His direction. So powerful was their integration with the Spirit that Peter did not ask Ananias and Sapphira about lying to the church or the church leadership, No!, he said, "Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit?" Identity as the early church was predicated on their unity in the Spirit. That unity was expressed in Peter's statement and must again return to earth in the body of believers.
(Author's Note: Notice this discussion is not about speaking in tongues or a prayer language. Even though Southern Baptists have recently decreed that no one will be commissioned to serve in their foreign missionary work who manifests a prayer language. This treatise is about the direct and regular dependence on the Spirit in all things.)
It is the Spirit who bears witness, not the evangelistic enterprises of an enthusiastic group.
Without the Spirit there is no witness. I John 5:6 "And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth." Want a snapshot of Truth: then picture the Spirit. Want a cinematic study of Truth, then witness a body of believers totally given over to the Spirit in all things and it will become clear to the world that what they have reviewed as being the church isn't.
God's work has always depended on the Spirit both in the Old and New Testament.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private Interpretation for prophecy never came by the will of man, BUT HOLY MEN OF GOD spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.The inspiration, the utterance and the interpretation is all of the Spirit! This is a Holy Spirit enterprise, this New Testament church.
Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an Enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, 'The Spirit Who dwells in us YEARNS JEALOUSLY'?"Yearning Jealously" has become the central issue with the Holy Spirit and His relation to the Twenty-First Century church!
I recently heard a Baptist minister cry out in the pulpit, "My greatest desire is to see a sovereign work of the Spirit in this church. My prayer is for the Holy Spirit to take complete control." My inner man rose up and said, "Yes, Lord, give Him that request!" It would devastate the congregation; it would decimate most of the programs and seriously impair the mollified agenda of the leadership. His complete control, however, would do wonders for the public at large. It would mean that a Simon Peter would be the pastor, that a Stephen would rise up as deacon along with a Phillip. It would mean that some would die and others would fear joining. It would mean a huge decline in numbers before there could be a great manifestation of the prowess of the Spirit. It would mean the pastor would know where to stand so a crowd of over five-thousand could be gathered. Others in the church would know where to walk so their shadow could pass by those crying out. It would mean that miracles of healing and voices of great joy would be heard as bondage from enslaving chains were broken. It would mean prison doors would open and Spirit flight would take place among its membership. O' my Lord grant that prayer!
It becomes immediately apparent that the pastor's prayer was for the Spirit to take control along denominational and theological lines. It begs Micah to rise again! It begs a confrontation with mighty Stephen, who was "irresistible" because of the Spirit as he ministered to the spiritually void Temple community. It begs him to once again cry out at the apex of his message: "YOU do always resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:8-7:51, 55)." His is the tantamount message to the church of today!
How can congregations and ministries continue without the Holy Spirit? They cannot, for the only true ministry is THROUGH the Holy Ghost. It is the Jesus way. Hebrews declared, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14-15)." The same author tells the believer not to neglect the Spirit (Hebrews 2:1-4). Paul added, "That good thing which was committed to you, KEEP by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (2 Timothy 1:14)."
Jesus, after the resurrection, commanded His disciples only through the Spirit. After a brief introduction, Luke declared, "Until the day in which He was taken up, after HE THROUGH the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen."
Luke's Jesus was baptized in the Spirit at the river Jordan, led by the Spirit into temptation where the Spirit supplied all the answers to the devil's leading questions. Luke's Jesus was led by the Spirit to Galilee where He spoke by the Spirit from Isaiah and affirmed it in Luke 4:18. Jesus so angered the religious community they wanted to kill him after the first Holy Spirit message.
Jesus ministered only through the Spirit. He imparted His baptism to the disciples and they ministered under that anointing, BUT He commanded them that even though they had practiced in healing the sick, raising the dead and preaching the kingdom, they were to WAIT for their own anointing. This is the Spirit I am talking about, and this is the only criteria for a New Testament baptized body.
Nowhere in the New Testament is there one action, one move or one activity apart from the Spirit. Paul cried out, "Do not quench the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:16-22)." His every treatise lent itself to magnifying the work of the Spirit in His life and ministry. "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance (I Thessalonians 1:5)." Ephesians 2:18, 19-22 "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the father…in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Galatians 5:18-25 "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." (See also: Galatians 5:5-6; 4:6-7; 3:5-6.)
Paul's every message and every journey was Spirit determined. "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the SAME IMAGE from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)." "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and have all been made to DRINK INTO ONE SPIRIT (I Corinthians 12:12-13)." "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (I Corinthians 12:3-11)."
Paul's Romans passages ooze with Spirit dependence. "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26,7)." THIS is praying in the Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (Romans 8:14, leaves the inverse as a caution)." "Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness (Romans 1:1-4)." It is baptism in the Spirit of Holiness that creates a Holy people.
Paul did things in the Spirit and was led by the Spirit in such a way that causes one to doubt the modern church even understands what it is to "walk in the Spirit." His Ephesians' prayer was all about the Spirit. "I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (3:14-21)."
Paul purposed in the Spirit. "Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21)." Purposing things in the Spirit is unheard of in modern times, but Paul excelled in knowing things in the Holy Ghost. It was said of him that "he was compelled by the Spirit." "When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ." (How is this unlike associative committee decisions to 'knock on doors?")
Paul understood it was the Spirit who opened doors and closed them. "Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them (Acts 16:16-7)."
Paul was chosen by the Spirit and knew that the power of witness was only through Him. His fiery accusations came through the Spirit, "Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, 'O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord (Acts 13:9-11)?" Try those words on the chairman of the finance committee.
Paul's ministry began and ended in the Spirit. Reflecting their complete dependence on the leadership of the Spirit, the early church laid hands on no one outside that realm. "As they ministered to the Lord (note to whom ministry was directed-a rarity these days) and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them (Act 13:2-4)." This is a better calling than "the committee has decided." "So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia." (The expected result under such sending is different than the lottery approach of most churches.)
Chart the course of the early church and realize that the upper room did something to them that changed their lives forever. That something was so powerful that they gauged all converts by it. When they went where new work was underway, they knew it was the result of the Spirit because they oft would say, "Have they not received the Holy Spirit, even as we?" The "even as we" meant something different than what is contrived as being baptized in the Spirit today.
Daily revelation was by the Spirit. Agabus stood up and "showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:28)." O' to hear prophecy by the Spirit, with Spirit assurance and Spirit conclusions.
All revelation came through the Spirit. Simon's roof vision of Cornelius' men ended with "The Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them (Acts 10:19-20).'" This was followed by, "At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. THEN THE SPIRIT told me to go with them, doubting nothing (Acts11:11-12)." That testimony would go well in any church, if it could be given in just any church.
It was the angel of the Lord who appeared to Phillip to join the Ethiopian, but it was the Spirit who directed him. "Then the Spirit said to Phillip, 'Go near and overtake this chariot.'" (The Spirit doesn't ask the impossible, and His results are always long term. [Ethiopia sustained until recently that witness.] Everyone wants a thrilling ride to Azotus without obedience to the Spirit…it just won't happen [Acts 8:39]!)
"Then he answered and spake unto me, saying This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."The Holy Spirit is our comforter; let Him comfort. He is our guide; let Him guide. He is our teacher; let Him teach. He is our reprover; Let Him reprove. He is our intercessor; Let Him intercede. He is our helper; Let Him help. He is our sanctifier; Let Him sanctify. He is our sealer; Let Him seal.
UNTIL NEXT MONTH,
Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.
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