What if the people of God actually believed the central doctrines that bind them together? Continuing from my previous posts, I want to ask this question, beginning with the core values of the church that I work for, but ultimately dreaming about the church as a whole. I want to see a people, united by God, come to full belief in the things of God, so as a personal exercise of hope and reflection, I want to draw out these lines of thought. The question I will go from today is: what if the church was Holy Spirit empowered?
What/who is the Holy Spirit?
To say the church is Holy Spirit empowered doesn’t mean much if we do not understand what, or more rightly who, the Holy Spirit is. The Holy Spirit is not just some mystical force drifting in the universe. In an age where more and more people are dealigning themselves from organized religion to claim a more vague spirituality, when people will talk about “the will of the universe” or positive “energies” to avoid making any absolute claims of belief, it is important for Christians to understand that this is not equivalent to the Spirit of God spoken of in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is a person. As a person, this Spirit has specific will and directive action. When Jesus speaks of the Spirit in John 14, he refers to Him as the Advocate or Helper “whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things” (John 14:26 ESV). In addition to being a personal entity, scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is God. As God, the Spirit is in line with God’s character and will, and is the means by which God indwells believers for salvation and sanctification. 1 Corinthians 2:11-12 says, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (ESV). If this is who the Holy Spirit is, then to be empowered by this Spirit means that one is empowered by God himself. What does this look like?
How does the Holy Spirit impact the life of the believer?
Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, we should also walk by the Spirit” (NASB). This verse says two very important things about the life of a Christian that essentially sum up the work of the Holy Spirit for and in the believer.
Live by the Spirit
- In this verse, Paul sets being alive by the Spirit as the foundation for walking by the Spirit. It is the necessary first step before a person can even hope to do things in line with the will of the Spirit. Ephesians 2:1-3 shows us that in our natural state of sin, we were spiritually dead. 1 Corinthians 12:3 tells us that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (NIV). If this is true, then no one can come to a saving faith in Christ except by a work of the Holy Spirit, in the same way that no dead person can suddenly raise themselves to life, but only God can bring the resurrection from the dead. Additionally, Ephesians 1 shows us that we are not only called to life by the Holy Spirit, but it is also the Spirit that seals us for hope of future life. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV). We are alive by the working of the Holy Spirit, and if we live by that Spirit, then we must walk by that Spirit.
Walk by the Spirit
- Time and again in scripture, whether a person is a believer or a non-believer is shown by whether or not they walk by the Spirit (Galatians 2:5, 1 John 2:6, Ephesians 5:8, James 2:14). It is treated like a test to determine whether or not a person truly has faith. If they really do believe that the Gospel is true, then it will dictate they way in which they live their life. Scripture outlines the ways in which the Holy Spirit empowers believers to do this:
- The Spirit gives the Word of God. The scriptures are the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), meaning that they do not come from man’s mind or authority, but from the mind and authority of God. 2 Peter 1:21 says “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (ESV). Without the Holy Spirit, we would not have the Word of God to guide and direct us. Additionally, Jesus tells his disciples that the Spirit “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 ESV). The Holy Spirit is the means by which God fulfills His promise to His people to “put [His] law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33 ESV). The Spirit enables us to know and love the Word of God, and through this to walk by it.
- The Spirit produces fruit. Not only does the Holy Spirit provide the truth by which Christians see how to live, but it enables and empowers them to walk in this faith and righteousness. Galatians 5:22-23 outlines the fruits of the Spirit, but what I find interesting about this passage is not so much the checklist of fruits that people so often point to as the moral standard, but the context of the passage itself. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (NIV). Then later in verse 24, Paul says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24 NIV). This is to say that those who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit producing these fruits in them because the flesh has been crucified, and because the final battle against the sinful nature has already been won by Christ. Romans 8:11 says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (ESV). This means that the Spirit is working for your sanctification if you are in Christ.
- The Spirit gives and redeems gifts. The Holy Spirit gives the believers gifts to be used for the service of God’s kingdom. 1 Corinthians 12:4 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (NIV). This passage speaks about how the Spirit equips each person with different gifts, and that all are for the good of the body of Christ (the Church) and the advancement of His kingdom. Verse 7 says “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV). This is saying that every believer has a gift that is given for the furthering of God’s glory, and verse 11 goes on to say that the Spirit distributes these gifts intentionally, to empower the believers for the work God has given them. For those who are in Christ, this means that our gifts and abilities are not our own. These qualities and skills that make us who we are were designed by God for the advancement of His kingdom. Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (NIV). We use the gifts we have for the glory of God because it is God who give us our gifts.
What if we believed we were empowered by the Holy Spirit?
If we believe all of this, then what does that mean for us as followers of Christ. It means that we can live confident in the grace we have been given through Christ, and trust that we have been sealed eternally for the hope of heaven. It means that we can seek after a life of good works not because it will save us, but because we have been saved and we want to see the continued sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives. It means that we can know that we have specific gifts that are useful for ministry and we can joyfully serve the body of Christ. Above all, if we are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), then we can go forward with the knowledge that the Spirit of the living God live within us. The same Spirit that filled the ark of the covenant, that led the Israelites through the desert in a pillar of cloud and fire, that hovered over the waters at the creation of the world, lives within us and moves through us. If that does not give us confidence to live boldly for Christ I don’t know what will.
Please join me in praying that God’s people, myself included, would see that they are empowered by the Spirit of God. Ask that God would fill his people with a boldness and passion to live for Him and His kingdom. Finally, ask that God would build you up in faith, continuing His work of sanctification in you for the advancement of His glory!