Memory Text: Acts 4:31. "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."
The role of the Holy Spirit, in addition to the larger discussion of the "Godhead" has become an important topic in the church, and in the larger Christian world. This lesson is dealing with the necessity of the Christian witness being led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and I believe firmly that one cannot experience the work of the Holy Spirit unless one understands how it works to accomplish God's goals and outcomes.
The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead. His role is to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgement, to lead a person into all truth, to show us things to come, and to bring to us the love, the character of God in our minds. It is involved in the experience of receiving, with meekness, the engrafted word, that is able to bring to us the experience of Christ in our lives. The Holy Spirit is not merely an "essence", for such a belief borders on pantheism, for which we have been warned. Many point to statements that the Holy Spirit is the "spirit of Christ" to try to depersonalize the reality of the personhood of the Third Person. In the Websters Dictionary that was in use at the time of such statements, the word "spirit" can refer to "life", and the point being made is that through the work of the Spirit and the engrafting of God's Word, we receive the life of Christ, His love, His character, and love is the power brought to us through the sanctifying work. As Paul said, It is Not I, but Christ, Who lives in me. Christ in me the Hope of Glory. There are Three Members of the Godhead, not two. The concerns of the Jehovah's Witnesses of a Three Headed God, etc. are not valid. The Lord our God is one Lord, and the word "one" in Deuteronomy 6:4 is not referring to the unit of one, but to being united, all in harmony, and the Three Persons of the Godhead are united in character, purpose, and work. The work is to restore in man the glory of God. We need to view the personhood and the work of the Holy Spirit rightly to avoid spiritualism, pantheism, and a false experience which craves power, rather than love, for our "spirit-empowered witnessing" is totally involved in the experience of the love of God.
"We need to realize that the Holy Spirit ... is as much a person as God is a person....
The Holy Spirit has a personality, else He could not bear witness to our spirits and with our spirits that we are the children of God. He must also be a divine person, else He could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God." Evangelism, 616, 617.
The methods of some to use quotes from pioneers in the early history of the church is not valid, for the reality, and argument, is that the position of the church was refined and clarified in the later history of the church, as it truly was. It was not an apostasy, or a movement towards Rome, but a deeper correct understanding, and a movement away from beliefs from former groups such as the Christian Connection, to more harmony with the totality of the Biblical record.
When Jesus commanded the early believers to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel," (Mark 16:15, NKJV) it must have seemed like an impossible mission. How could they ever accomplish such a huge challenge? Their numbers were so small. Their resources were limited. They were a largely uneducated band of ordinary believers. But they had an extraordinary God Who would empower them for their extraordinary mission.
But Jesus declared, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NKJV). The empowering of the Holy Spirit would enable the believers to share the message of the Cross with life-changing, world-changing power. The Holy Spirit made their witness effective. In a few short decades, the gospel impacted the entire world. Acts declares that these early believers "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6, NKJV). The apostle Paul adds that the gospel was "preached to every creature under heaven" (Colossians 1:23, NKJV). In this week's lesson, we will especially focus on the role of the Holy Spirit in empowering our witness for Christ.
Jesus was clear in John 15:5 that without Him, we can do nothing. We must learn to trust the teaching, the leading, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, to do that which we cannot do, and thus to expect miracles. I would like to share one recent story, that for me shows the work of the Spirit, for the Spirit works through the Word, as faith comes by hearing the Word of God. I felt very impressed in church one Sabbath to "help the widow." A widow that week called me to say she wanted to obtain a new trailer to live in and was having difficulty with the cost. She actually owed me money, from a previous situation, and I realized God wanted me to lay aside that debt, in order to help her, and I did so. Then I called a manager of a trailer company, and stated that I had felt, as a pastor, very led to help her as a widow, as the Bible calls for. I will never forget the man's words. He was a Baptist, and he said, "My father was a pastor, and I was taught, from my youth, to help the widow. Have her call me, and I will help her too." He waived $15,000 in expenses, and thus we were both used to help the widow, and I am sure that the reason involves how the Holy Spirit works.
Act 5:32 And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him.
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, the "parakletos", to empower and guide us in our witnessing efforts. He truly does. I once wanted to return to Indonesia to conduct another meeting there. Please note 'I' wanted to. Everything I tried to do failed, and I could not even get the Mission Office to answer my emails. I felt then impressed to "go to India." I really did not want to go to India, and so for a short time still tried to make the Indonesia trip happen. Finally, I surrendered and told God I would go to India. The very next day I received a check for the entire amount of the trip that I needed.
He brings conviction, brings the words to us to speak, prepares hearts, and convicts hearts of the need for the Gospel.
"When you are enlightened by the Holy Spirit, you will see all that wickedness at Minneapolis as it is, as God looks upon it….You had all the evidence that you needed that the Lord was working through brethren Jones and Waggoner; but you did not receive the light; …you did not feel ready to confess that you had done wrong, that these men had a message from God, and you had made light of both message and messengers." Letter B-2a, 1892. The counsel given to us warns us that we need to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit for discernment.
"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them….The light that is to lighten the whole earth with His glory was resisted, and by the action of our brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." 1 SM pp. 234, 235.
"Some felt annoyed at this outpouring and their own natural dispositions were manifested. They said, 'This is only excitement, it is not the Holy Spirit, not showers of the Latter Rain from Heaven.' …On many occasions the Holy Spirit did work; but those who resisted the Spirit of God in Minneapolis were waiting for a chance to travel over the same ground again….They declared in their heart and soul and words that this manifestation of the Holy Spirit was fanaticism and a delusion." Special Testimonies, Series A , No 6, p. 20.
If we allow the Spirit to work, God will bless us with miracles. I felt a call to go to Kenya to do meetings, and my mother tried to talk me out of it, saying I would get Ebola. We lived way up in the jungle, and for six weeks had no electricity, no running water, and no toilet, except an outside outhouse I conducted two meetings in Western Kenya, and right before the last meeting and the resultant baptism, I was asked to go way up into the jungle and meet an old women there. She was very hunched over from severe osteoporosis. I remember her home well, a thatch roofed one room building with a table and a mat on the floor to sleep on. She seemed to appreciate the visit, and I saw her again the next day, when she came forward in the altar call with about 200 other people. The elders who had assisted in the meetings were very excited and I asked them why, regarding her, as there were obviously many others who had also made decisions. We baptized about 2300 people and 700 in a subsequent meeting. Why her? They explained they had been studying with her for 20 years, and I rejoiced, and complimented them on their hard and persistent work. They rebuked me, saying they deserved none of the credit, for it was a miracle of God, and then expressed that it was not the reason why they were so excited. So, I asked again, why her? She had been a regional witch doctor for 70 years, and in coming forward, and getting baptized, she witnessed to 30,000 people who were out there that day, which for me will always be an incredible memory. But you must "go" to experience God's blessings.
I once did a study of the word "go" in the Great Commission in 8 Middle East languages operative in the region. Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Akkadian, Cuneiform, Latin, and others. I discovered a breadth of meaning for the word that we all need to grasp fully. It means GO.
The church will only be successful to the extent we are seeking for the indwelling, leading, and moving of the Holy Spirit. Luke 11 says we should ask for the Holy Spirit. The Greek language is in the present continuous tense, implying we need to continually be asking for the Holy Spirit, we need to be converted daily, and we need to remember that "He who wins souls is wise."
The Biblical text reveals that ordinary people, empowered with the Holy Spirit, are able to be used and to accomplish mighty things for God. The church rapidly grew, and part of the reason is that they continually planted new churches and the members themselves were involved in witnessing, meeting human need, and reflecting the love of God.
Throughout the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit was powerfully present. He ministered to and through the believers as they witnessed for their Lord in a variety of ways. He strengthened them to face the trials and challenges of witnessing in a hostile culture. He led them to honest-hearted truth seekers. He prepared the hearts of people in whole cities before the believers ever came to those cities. He opened doors of opportunity that they never dreamed of and empowered their words and actions.
He brought the church together in unity at a time when it could easily have split over the issue of circumcision, and He opened up the entire continent of Europe to the preaching of the gospel through the apostle Paul. The Holy Spirit was active in the New Testament church and is active in the life of the church today. He longs to empower us, strengthen us, teach us, guide us, unify us, and send us out on the most important mission in the world, which is leading men and women to Jesus and His truth. The point we must remember is that He is still active and working today, just as He was in the time of the apostles and the early church.
"The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and re-creates the soul in the image of God." Ellen G. White, Education, p. 126.
The reason the Bible has such power to transform lives is because the same Holy Spirit Who inspired the Bible in the first place inspires and changes us as we read it. As we share God's Word with others, the Holy Spirit works to change their lives through the Word He inspired. God has promised to bless His Word, not our words. The power is in the Word of God, not human speculation.
A careful study of the book of Acts reveals God, through His Spirit, working miracles in human lives. Acts is a case study on the gospel's triumphing over cultural biases, transforming lifelong, deeply ingrained habits, and teaching all humanity Christ's grace and truth. The Holy Spirit meets people where they are, but He does not leave them there. In His presence, they are changed. Their lives are transformed.
I see victories in my life, and a deep concern for overcoming in the areas I need growth in. God is in the business of changing lives. When there are voices claiming we cannot overcome sin, that is a satanic delusion, echoing the lies of the spies who said they could not defeat the giants in the land. God is so great; He can do anything for us if we truly believe.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of the apostle Paul reached even the upper echelon of society. Crispus (Acts 18:8) was a ruler of the Jewish synagogue. He was a religious leader steeped in Jewish Old Testament thought, and the Holy Spirit broke through and changed his life. These case histories reveal that as we witness for Christ and share His Word with others, the Holy Spirit will do remarkable things in the lives of all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, education, and beliefs. We cannot and must not make assumptions about who can or cannot be reached. Our job is to witness to anyone, and everyone brought into our lives. The Lord will do the rest.
It is vital for us to remember that we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit, in agreement with God. Amos 3:3. Holiness is agreement with God.
Share your faith, empowered by the Word of God. Seventh Day Adventists have everything to share, and most of all, the matchless charms of Jesus, and Christ Our Righteousness.
~Pastor Tom Cusack