From the Obscure to the Obvious - The Role Of The Holy Spirit In The Early And Modern Church
March 1, 2016

C. R. Oliver

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March 1, 20160

From the Obscure to the Obvious
The Role Of The Holy Spirit In The Early And Modern Church

This month's newsletter actually began with a quest to know when the early church was born. Was it when they could no longer integrate into the Temple organization? Was it an upper room declaration of such phenomenal extraordinaire that they were forever thrust into existence? Was it first an obscure entity birthed in the heart and ministry of Jesus and manifested through Him as a visible fellowship between Him and His disciples? Did it begin when Jesus spoke to Peter?
Matthew 16:17-20
17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
Perhaps it began as a "tabernacle of the congregation" in the wilderness of Sinai and later manifested itself as the Temple of Solomon.
Numbers 1:1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting,

mowed` (mo-ade'); or moed` (mo-ade'); or (feminine) mow` adah (2 Chron 8:13) (mo- aw-daw'); from OT:3259; properly, an appointment, i.e. a fixed time or season; specifically, a festival; conventionally a year; by implication, an assembly (as convened for a definite purpose); technically the congregation; by extension, the place of meeting; also a signal (as appointed beforehand):
KJV - appointed (sign, time), (place of, solemn) assembly, congregation, (set, solemn) feast, (appointed, due) season, solemn (-ity), synagogue, (set) time (appointed).
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek- Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
When Solomon spread his hands out toward heaven, while kneeling at the Temple dedication, did he birth the church? After all, when He finished, the fire fell and a cloud filled the edifice.
2 Chronicles 6:19-21
Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You: 20 that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. 21 And may You hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.
Were these places of worship predecessors of the early church or just pictures of the future? Just how far back can one look for evidence of the church emergent? I think it interesting that Stephen, the first Christian martyr, went as far back as Abraham and then cited Moses and the "church in the wilderness" and ended with Solomon's Temple in his message. His conclusion was "the church incorporated the faith of Abraham," the "hearing from God" of Moses, the Presence of God as in the Temple, but not the rapaciousness of the three. No Ishmael, no golden calf and no contradiction of terms against holiness and that of carrying out sacrifices need be tolerated.
Acts 7:48-53
48 "However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
49'Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the LORD,
Or what is the place of My rest?
50 Has My hand not made all these things?'"
51 (Israel Resists the Holy Spirit)
"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it."
Notice who they resisted-the Holy Spirit.
The hearers reacted exactly as their forefathers and revealed the heart of the "stoners."
Thus, the church was shown to be "different" than those regaled in their religion.

It is the same today!

Paul stepped back further in history than Stephen in Acts 17, beginning with creation. While presenting at Mars Hill, he went back to the purposeful intentions of the Maker. God had the church in mind when He formed man.
Acts 17:22-31
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:


Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.
The church is not a philosophic station for indoctrination, as proven by Paul at Athens. Born in the heart of God, the church was His intention all along. His walk with Adam testified of a fellowship with man. Later, the tabernacle was a picture, as well as the Temple, as a place to meet God on His terms. Both of them pointed to Jesus and the knowledge that He was to be the cornerstone of an approachable God. The brazen serpent, the rent veil, the cross and the empty grave were alike. The Divine purpose, all along, was to have a people of faith, who listened to Him and followed His instructions and who would fellowship with those who did the same.

The church was not born in the upper room, it was born before the foundation of the world. However, it was separated and sanctified in the upper room. For a while its Jewish constituents maintained their Temple membership, but it soon became obvious they could not with conscience continue. Not only did the established authorities disdain them, God's people felt more and more out of step with them. Confrontations arose and slowly the early church became a greater entity than the Temple. The addition of three thousand and then five thousand, plus myriads of priests and Jewish and Gentile converts, caused the church to outnumber the Temple goers. The "people of God" were no longer represented by the Temple's High Priest or its Levitical structure, but rather by those who identified with Jesus, His miracle power working in His saints along with the Gospel of grace flowing out of born again hearts (who were filled with the Holy Spirit) these became God's spokespersons.

Those who are characterized by the same elements are still the true spokespersons for God today!

New definitions characterized the early church which made it distinct. They were believers in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Notice please the great emphasis on being "filled with the Spirit." Soon the "filling," just like in the day of Pentecost, would begin to be the hallmark of the believer. There were no "believers" who were not filled with the Spirit and none who did not speak in other tongues. There were no exceptions, "They all spoke with other tongues." Miracles and signs and wonders characterized their ministry. There was no place where they ministered that these signs and wonders failed to appear and do "their work."

Listening only to the Spirit was universal. Every apostles, every disciple, every believer hearkened to only the leadership of the Spirit. There was no activity in the early church which lacked this quality. To be an "early church-er" required this mainstay. They fellowshipped without barriers and each considered the needs of the other as they followed the Spirit. This is why Peter dealt with Ananias.
Acts 5:3 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?"
The church was so identified with the Holy Spirit that to address one was to address the other!

Tell me, oh modern religionist, what characterizes the church today? Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking with other tongues optional? Is listening to the Spirit the prime mover of all activities and the director of all engagements by pulpit and pew? What miracles, signs and wonders characterize the scene when they assemble, as well as minister, during the week? When one speaks to your church is it the same as addressing the Holy Spirit? Could Ananias blend nicely unchallenged in your fellowship?

Well then, I suppose ole Vance Havner was right when he spoke at First Baptist in the l950's and stood in the pulpit and said, "I see this congregation could be in perfect fellowship with the early church--provided they backslid profusely."

How can there be worship when the church resembles the "den of thieves" like the Temple and not the river bank of a Lydia? How can there be fellowship without an occasional Agabus or someone with a prophetic ministry? Who wants to be where the Holy Ghost isn't? Why is there no testimony time of what God's power has wrought the previous week? Of what value is a speaker who cannot testify to miracles and Holy Spirit adventures in his or her faith? Where are the reports of exploits in prayer and the results of intercession's closet?

(The glorious, unspotted fellowship among those of no spot or wrinkle is indeed difficult to find.)

The book of Acts is mocked by those who say, "That passed away with the Disciples." "Those were special activities and workings to propel the early church. Those kinds of things aren't needed anymore." Perhaps these observations are better characterized by the visiting speaker of a local Baptist church who, from his wheelchair, challenged his audience with, "If God still heals, why hasn't He healed me ?"

The book of Acts stands like a huge sign post which points the way to the true church!

One is convinced of several premises when he or she reads the book of Acts. One sees the direct involvement of a Risen Savior (He appeared visibly to Saul of Tarsus and at other times through angels and even in trances as experienced by John on Patmos).

In the book of Acts, one sees the Disciples put into practice what they heard and encountered with Jesus (because He was baptized with the Holy Ghost and power and now so were they). They saw the "greater works" He spoke about (handkerchiefs and shadows). They followed the Spirit's direction as to where and to whom they witnessed (Paul was prohibited in Asia and directed to Macedonia and finally to Jerusalem/Rome). These early church folk recognized their fellowship was with those "baptized in the Spirit, speaking in other tongues (whether Jew or Gentile)."

Look now at a few Scriptures bearing these factors out.
For a while, the Disciples and early believers continued to go to the Temple (Where sacrifices continued) continuing in circumcision and the making of vows. Soon they became unwelcome and, according to Saul, persons to be eradicated.

Acts 2:46-47.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Then, as they intermingled with the religious Jews, they continued preaching and seeing converts. The Temple authorities moved against them, just as they did Jesus, and used the Romans to perpetuate their persecution.
Acts 4:1-4
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
Question: Try preaching just what I proposed in this epistle about the real church to the congregations of today and see what will be the result. It would surprise you how much disfavor would be displayed. Note, however, the reaction of Peter-it was to preach to the authorities.
Acts 4:8
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people!"
Notice the change in the saints; they wanted to intensify their witness.
Acts 4:29-31
9 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 5:29-30
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!"

Acts 5:42
42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
As the disciples and others preached, they noticed their theology was being corrected. Peter's sheet experience yielded a Cornelius. As he opened his heart to the Gentiles, they too were undeniably gifted with the Holy Spirit, "just as at the beginning." Acts 10:34-38 34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached- 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
Acts 10:44-48
4 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
(Notice the order; they were baptized after they received the Holy Spirit.)
Simon, while testifying to the saints in Jerusalem, phrased what happened in significant clothing.
He exclaimed the Gentiles received the Holy Ghost "JUST as WE Have (That meant an infilling with fire and speaking in tongues)."

Slowly, there was a shift in those stationed in Jerusalem. They began to oversee the work of the ministry, sending out Barnabus and sanctioning Paul.
Acts 13:2-3
The Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
How long has it been since the Holy Spirit has spoken at your church?

The Apostles at Jerusalem encouraged the saints to remain true to the Lord and be known for being "full of the Holy Spirit and faith." Inside the congregations, the gifts of the Spirit began working. The various offices of pastor, teacher and prophet came to fruition.

Note the following passage.
Acts 11:22-28
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
I set out the red portion to emphasize the role of a true prophet-his words came true. Lord, we need the Agabus ministry today more than ever. What passes as prophecy today is not in league with this early churchman. Notice that Agabus prophesied through the Holy Spirit. This is another major evidence that all the work of ministry and gifts are to be "through the Holy Ghost."

Everything associated with the early church was through the Spirit. Why is this so difficult today?

The "sent out ones" worked through the Spirit. They compromised at no point. Paul's encounter with Elymas is a great example.
Acts 13:9-11
Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you.
This kind of Spirit-discernment ought to be active in every congregation. It's the New Testament church we must emulate, not the competition down the street.

Everything was subject to the Holy Ghost. Even when the Jews began to persecute them, the scripture says :
Acts 13:52-14:1 the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Even when the doctrines of the Disciples was questioned and an illegitimate theology arose, it was the Holy Spirit filled brethren that cast it aside.
Acts 15:5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."
Such is what Terry Mize called the "carnal mind," which so often occupies the reasoning of religionists. He points out scripture, "the carnal mind is at enmity against God," and claims this often characterizes church leadership. Mize discovered that what his own home church told him about Scripture was diametrically opposed to what the Holy Spirit had revealed to him. There came a time when he had to abandon his ordaining fellowship in order to comply with the Word.
(So much for "church unity.")

Look what the Fathers said,
Acts 15:28-29
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
Oh, Think of it…if all church decisions "seemed good to the Holy Spirit."

Paul took this principle of Spirit reliance in all his activities and look at the results. We have his writings and his legacy of missionary evangelism the likes of which have rarely been emulated. The book of Acts literally chronicles his giant footsteps ordered by the Spirit.
Acts 16:6-10
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Spirit dependency produces a different missionary than a board appointment to a territory.

Spirit dependency produces a different result than can be achieved by man's reasoning.

Spirit dependency guarantees one's safety and success.

Spirit dependency produces a different kind of convert than can be achieved by indoctrinated proselytes.

Spirit dependency introduces the element of heaven to any earthly pursuit.
Sometimes the Spirit says "No," and the child of obedience seeks another path. Paul turned his path in a different direction and encountered a second "no." Oh, it's good to walk with the Holy Ghost. Outcomes are always positive with Him, even when the ship is wrecked and the adder bites.
(Author's Comment)
Now we are getting a true picture of the real NT church.
It is a body of people who have been baptized in the Spirit and speak in other tongues. These are they who are led by the Spirit in the choice of their leaders and depend on the Spirit to guide their theology and to make their decisions as to doctrine and inclusion. They rely on the Spirit to determine where they missionize and to whom they preach. They believe they are harvesting the white fields already cultivated by the Spirit. They reject the intrusion of religion and lean upon the Spirit to determine their actions. They are blessed by miracles and signs and prophetic utterances, and they operate in all the gifts of the Spirit. Their fellowship is sweet, pure and holy for the Spirit works in every one of them.

The Jews in Corinth were antagonistic and "abusive," but Paul followed the Spirit and continued through the increasing persecution. Where the Lord sends, He always shows up.
Acts 18:9-11
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." 11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
Later, Paul moved to Ephesus and discovered disciples of John. Look at the move of the Spirit in this case.
Acts 19:1-7
Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
3 So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"
          "John's baptism," they replied.
4 Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
What was Paul's definitive question? It was, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" Then observe the content of what he told them and what the result was as he laid hands on them. Oh Yes! Holy Spirit fire came upon them and THEY SPOKE IN TONGUES AND PROPHESIED.

Maybe it is time to ask, "Whose baptism did you receive?" Was it Joel's or Jesus'?

The result of their obedience to the Spirit and the work of the Holy Ghost in them yielded fertile soil for what happened next.
Acts 19:11-12
11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them
One of the problems of the modern church is it wants the miracles and not the strict obedience to the Spirit.

Such obedience determines the outcome, even when the result is one's death.
Acts 20:22-24 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.
"Compelled by the Spirit" is the operative in this verse, even in the face of warnings and prohibitions by reliable, Spirit induced, prophets. He did not yield to the sin of the prophet in the Old Testament (I Kings 13). He held to Revelation 12: "the blood of the Lamb, the word of his testimony and he loved not his life to the death."

In these days of deception and betrayal, the Word and the guidance of the Spirit is all we have and all we need. The early church proved this and we must follow in their steps.

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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