By Winfield Bevins
Many churches are empty, dry and void of spiritual life because they have lost touch with the dynamic presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit played an important role in the life and ministry of the early church. It is impossible to understand the explosive growth of the New Testament church without understanding the important role of the Holy Spirit in the church.
For much of church history the third Person of the Trinity has been virtually overlooked. However, today many people are hungry to experience the Holy Spirit in their life. God has given us the marvelous gift of His Holy Spirit.
The Spirit plays an important role in personal salvation, church formation, and the general spread of the gospel. Without Him, it is impossible for individuals or the church to experience revival. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has a distinct contribution to make in the contemporary church.
Purpose Of This Article
The purpose of this study is to offer an introduction to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. As we seek to learn more about the Holy Spirit we must ask ourselves several important questions. Is the Holy Spirit divine? Is the Spirit a person? What does the Holy Spirit want to do in my life? Are the gifts of the Spirit still in operation today? This study will help us answer these questions.
Every Christian can benefit from studying the Holy Spirit. Learning more about the Holy Spirit will enable you to experience Him in a deeper way in your life.
MEET THE HOLY SPIRIT
"A firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence towards us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit." - John Calvin
Who is the Holy Spirit? Christians have asked this question throughout the ages. There have been many different opinions as to the personal nature of the Holy Spirit. Some have wondered if the Spirit was created as a being, while others believed that the Spirit was an energy force. We can learn a lot from the Bible's descriptive title the Holy Spirit.
- The, is an article that stresses the particularity and uniqueness of the Spirit. There are many spirits but there is one Holy Spirit.
- Holy, stresses the sacredness and purity of the Spirit. Holy also stresses the majesty and glory of God.
- Spirit, implies immateriality, no flesh, or material substance.
1. The Divine Nature Of The Holy Spirit
Most religions and cults deny the deity and existence of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, even many Christians believe that the Spirit is not fully divine. The writers of the Bible clearly emphasized the deity of the Holy Spirit. The Bible also shows that there is a unique relationship between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This interrelationship is often called the Trinity, which refers to three distinct divine Personalities, each wholly God, yet one essence.
The doctrine of the Trinity has been defended by the Christian church for nearly two thousand years. One of the earliest doctrinal statements of the Christian faith called the Nicene Creed (325) beautifully describes the divinity of the Holy Spirit, "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets." It cannot be overestimated that the Holy Spirit is divine. There are several divine attributes ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
Divine Attributes Ascribed to the Spirit
a. Omnipresent - The Holy Spirit is everywhere at all times (Psalm 139: 7-10).
b. Omnipotent - The Holy Spirit is all-powerful (Luke 1: 35).
c. Omniscient - The Holy Spirit has all knowledge (1Corinthians 2: 10-11).
d. Eternal - The Holy Spirit has no beginning and no end (Hebrews 9: 14).
e. Holy - The Holy Spirit is wholly pure, perfect, and sacred.
2. The Personal Nature of the Holy Spirit
Many Christians also find it hard to understand the personal aspect of the Holy Spirit. Too often we think of Him in a symbolic and impersonal manner. What we will find, however, is that the Holy Spirit is also a person. Jesus has many times referred to the personal nature of the Holy Spirit. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the "Paraclete," which means one called alongside. It is one who is an advocate, comforter, or counselor. The word Paraclete implies distinct personality. The Bible ascribes Him personal characteristics such as a will (Acts 13: 1, 1 Corinthians 12: 11), mind (1Corinthians 2: 10-11, Romans 8: 27), and emotions (Ephesians 4: 30).
Personal Treatment of the Holy Spirit
a. The Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5: 3).
b. The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4: 30).
c. The Holy Spirit can be quenched (1Thessalonians 5: 19).
d. The Holy Spirit can be resisted (Acts 7: 51).
e. The Holy Spirit can be blasphemed (Matthew 12: 31-32, Mark 3: 28-29, Luke 12:10).
3. The Names and Titles of the Holy Spirit
The Bible uses many different names, titles and symbols to paint a portrait of the Holy Spirit, each representing what He does and who He is. For example, the Bible uses symbols such as Fire, Wind, Water, Wine and a Dove. The Biblical names and titles of the Holy Spirit can be divided into three categories: Who the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit does.
1. Who The Holy Spirit Is
a. Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1: 11).
b. Spirit of God (Genesis 1: 2, Job 33: 4, Romans 8: 11).
c. Spirit of Glory (1 Peter 4: 14).
d. Spirit of the Lord (Isaiah 61: 1).
e. Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10: 20).
f. Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4: 6).
2. What The Holy Spirit Is
a. Spirit of Holiness (Romans 1: 4).
b. Spirit of Knowledge (Isaiah 11: 2).
c. Spirit of Life (Romans 8: 2, Revelation 11: 11).
d. Spirit of Might (Isaiah 11: 2).
e. Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9: 14).
f. Spirit of Truth (John 14: 17, John 15: 26).
3. What the Holy Spirit Does
a. Spirit of Grace (Zechariah 12: 10).
b. Spirit of Judgment (Isaiah 4: 4).
c. Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8: 15).
d. Spirit of Prophecy (Romans 8: 15).
e. Spirit of Counsel (Isaiah 11: 2, John 14: 15-18).
f. Spirit of Revelation (Ephesians 1: 17).
THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
"I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith." - Martin Luther
God works in various ways to bring people into salvation in Jesus Christ. It all begins when God calls us by His Holy Spirit. This is commonly referred to as the effectual call. The effectual call is when the Holy Spirit calls a person by awakening their heart, mind, and soul to their personal need of salvation.
The Spirit works as a guide to this point to lead us to a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Westminster Confession describes it in the following way, "This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all forseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embace the grace offered and conveyed in it." It is only then that a person can truly accept and respond to the grace of God through faith.
Justification is a judicial act, where God remits a person's sins and declares them to be in a position of righteousness before God. It is what God does for us. It is by the merits of Christ that we receive justification, which is the forgiveness of sins. Justification by faith is a foundational Christian teaching, especially in the Protestant tradition.
The Spirit is the agent that effects justification in the life of the believer. The Spirit applies Christ's work of reconciliation to us in order to transform our hostility toward God into fellowship with Him. As the Father sent His Son to die for us, the Spirit applies the fruit of His death to our lives in justification.
The word regeneration literally means 'rebirth.' Regeneration is a spiritual transformation where the Holy Spirit takes us from death unto life. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold all things are become new."
A glorious change takes place in the believers' hearts when they receive Christ into their life by faith. This great change entails an exchange of the things of the world for the things of God. It is a total transformation, in which the new believer is literally made a new creature. The Spirit of God is the agent of regeneration that works to bring about this change in a person's heart. The heart and soul of a person is the place where the Holy Spirit brings about a real change in the believer.
Sanctification is a process of being restored to the image of God, which begins at the new birth and gradually takes place over the lifetime of a believer. It is a real change in the heart, mind and soul of the believer. Santification is a process of Christian growth where the Holy Spirit gradually transforms the hearts and minds of Christians.
John Owen believed that sanctification was a work of the Holy Spirit. He said, "Sanctification is an immediate work of the Spirit of God on the souls of believers." The goal of the Holy Spirit in sanctification is to make us like Christ. We are enabled to mortify the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit (Romans 8: 11). Sanctification is what God works in us by His Spirit.
The General Work of the Spirit
In addition to the Holy Spirit's work in salvation there are numerous ways that the Holy Spirit works in our lives. He enables believers to live the Christian life. He intercedes for us (Romans 8: 26-27). He illumines and guides all believers into all truth (John 16: 13-14). The Holy Spirit enables Christians to fight sin (Romans 8: 5-6). The Spirit sanctifies us (1 Peter 1: 2). He gives us Christian assurance to know that we are children of God (Romans 8: 15-16).
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
"The Christian life, the fruit of the Spirit, is a constant reckoning of the flesh as dead and a constant relying on the present Spirit of Christ to produce love, joy, and peace within." - John Piper.
In Galatians, Paul gives a list of nine virtues called the fruit of the Spirit. There are nine ethical qualities which the Holy Spirit imparts to believers. They are the hallmark of a sanctified and Spirit-filled life. Paul employs fruit of the Spirit to show the difference between a person who is under the flesh and a person who is walking by the Spirit.
J. I. Packer reminds us that, "Holiness is the fruit of the Spirit, displayed as the Christian walks by the Spirit" (Galatians 5: 16-25). Therefore, the fruit of the Spirit is in stark contrast to the 'works of the flesh.' As a farmer prepares for a harvest of fruit, the Spirit cultivates the fruit of the Spirit in the life of believers. As you read through the following list of Spiritual fruits ask the Holy Spirit to develop fruit in your life.
The first and most important fruit of the Spirit is Love. Love is the virtue of brotherly and sacrificial love. It is a love that seeks the good of others. Paul's order of placement, as well as his other use of the word tells us that it is the greatest of the fruits (1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 5: 2, Colossians 3: 14). Other New Testament writers such as John and Peter emphasize love as one of the greatest features of the kingdom of God.
Love is a spiritual anchor of truth in relationship with God and neighbour. This love is a distinctly Christian love, which finds its source from God alone. Because of this kind of love, God sent His only Son to die for us. The Holy Spirit is hard at work to reproduce this kind of love in each one of us. We are to show this kind of selfless love to one another and to the world.
The second fruit of the Spirit is joy. The word joy appears 60 times in the New Testament. Joy corresponds to happiness, but it is independent of outward circumstances and is to be found within evey believer's life. Joy is a deep gladness that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
As Christians, everything that we do should be done with joy in our hearts. The Bible tells us that we are to serve the Lord with joy and gladness. God desires for His children to know the joy of the Lord. The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with joy today as you serve Him.
Peace is the third fruit of the Spirit. Peace refers to a tranquility of mind, body, and soul. It is a spiritual well being that only God can give a person. Nations might be able to produce a world of peace, but God is the only one who can offer total peace. Jesus said, "The peace I give is not as the peace that the world may give." God's peace will never pass away. In fact Paul calls it the peace which surpasses all understanding. This doesn't mean that you will never have another problem, but that God will give you peace in the midst of the storm. Let the peace of God fill your heart and soul through the power of the Spirit.
4. Long Suffering
Long suffering is the fourth fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word is often translated "patience" but the King James renders a more accurate translation of the word 'long-suffering.' The verb means to place or arrange under for a long time. Christians should be able to hold strong in the midst of trials and difficulty.
We need to be steadfast and endure. This means the quality of putting up with others, waiting through the difficult times, even when we are severely tired, confused or weak. It is like being a spiritual rubber band. When we are being stretched we will not break if we have long suffering. The Holy Spirit will supernaturally give you patience to hold on under difficult situations and circumstances.
The fifth fruit of the Spirit is sympathetic kindness. It is God's virtuous gift to be able to respond to the special needs of others who are hurting or in need. It is a quality of God's kindness that is found in the New Testament only in Paul's correspondence.
Those who have experienced the kindness of God's salvation in Christ are to cloth themselves with the same kindness. In a world full of anger, selfishness and contention, the Lord wants us to cultivate the fruit of kindness in our lives. Let the Lord use you to show kindness to others.
The sicth fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Goodness is the generosity that overflows from kindness. Although goodness and kindness are similar, goodness is a more active term, which is often directed toward others in a benevolent way. It is the action of helping others in need. We are to take action and become agents of God's goodness in the world. When we see a need we must meet it. When we see a hurt we must heal it. The virtue of goodness reminds us that we become the hands and feet of Jesus. The Holy Spirit desires to use us as vehicles through which the goodness of God may flow.
This is one of the most common words in the New Testament. It is used in a variety of ways to mean faith, but considering the ethical context of Galatians the word is accurately translated faithfulness. It refers to being a person that others can rely upon. You cannot have faith in God without being faithful. The two are one in the same. The Spirit of the Lord wants to make us responsible persons in every area of our lives. Can God trust you to be faithful?
The eighth fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. It literally means to be mild or tame. The word is often used to refer to an animal, such as a bridled horse. In the personal sense it refers more to controlled strength than it does weakness. It is closely associated to humility. It is the virtue that is needed when confronted by opposition. Peter tells us that gentleness is necessary to have a genuine witness (1 Peter 3: 15-16). Without gentleness we cannot be a true Christian witness.
9. Self Control
The final ethical virtue of the Spirit is self control or temperance. It is victory over the desires of the flesh. It is the virtue of a person who masters their passions and desires. It is opposite to the desires of the flesh. It means victory over the flesh. Self-control is closely associated to purity of mind, heart, and conduct. It is the ability to crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit. It is relying on the power of the Spirit to overcome the desires of the flesh. We need more self-control in our daily lives.
"The question of gifts is entirely within the sovereignty of the Spirit and that because of that we should always be open, in mind and in heart, to anything that the Spirit of God may chose to do in His sovereignty." - Martin Lloyd Jones
Since the beginning of time the Holy Spirit has given gifts to men and women in order to accomplish the plans and purposes of God. So what are spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts are literally called charisma which means "grace gifts" in the Bible. Grace is a gift supernaturally given by the Spirit. Wayne Grudem definesd a spiritual gift as, "any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church."
It is important to say that spiritual gifts are not a natural ability, hobbies or interests, or even a profession. Just because someone has a gift at playing basketball or golf doesn't mean that it was supernaturally given by the Lord. However, we can and should use our talents and abilities for the glory of God and the sake of the Gospel.
The Bible teaches us that gifts of the Spirit are available to all believers (1 Corinthians 12: 7-11). Christians may have one or more of the gifts (2 Timothy 4: 1-5). The main purpose of the gifts is to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4: 7-13) and to glorify God (1 Peter 4: 10-11). Spiritual gifts are also given by the Holy Spirit to individual believers to empower and enable them to serve others (1 Corinthians 12: 4-21, Ephesians 4: 7-13, Romans 12: 6-8).
Different Views of the Gifts
What about the gifts today? There are several different views concerning the gifts of the Spirit and how they continue to operate. It is important to note that godly men and women can and do disagree over this issue. Cessationists believe that the sign gifts (tongues, prophecy, and healing) ceased with the time of the Apostles, while Charismatics believe all the gifts of the Spirit are in continual operation and that believers can claim possession of spiritual gifts.
There is a growing number of evangelicals who are neither cessationist nor Charismatic. These evangelicals would consider themselves "open but cautious" as it relates to spiritual gifts. Martin Lloyd Jones sums up this view by saying, "We disagree with those who say that these things were confined to the apostolic period; we disagree equally with those who say that all these things should always be manifest in the church. We say that it is a matter for the sovereignty of the Spirit." Whether you are cessationist, Charismatic, or somewhere in between, a fresh contemplation on the gifts of the Spirit will prepare your heart for the Spirit's work in your life.
Principles for Using the Gifts
The purpose of this section is not to argue for or against the continuation of certain gifts. We may disagree on which gifts are for today, but we should all agree that the Spirit still gives gifts to God's people for service. Regardless of your personal views, I would like to offer the following principles for seeking to understand the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit in your own life and church.
1. The Sovereign Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the One who gives the gifts as He wills. The gifts are not the result of human effort, but they are completely the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and may give any gifts He wants at any time He wills (1 Corinthians 12: 11). John Owen reminds us, "He works sovereignly. The Holy Spirit distributes to everyone as He wills. He gives one gift to one person and another to another person. So the saints are kept in constant dependence on him and his sovereignty." Affirming God's sovereignty over the gifts keep us humble and dependent upon Him.
2. Gifts Do Not Prove Spirituality
Church history is littered with men who had spiritual gifting but lacked moral and theological integrity. It is important to note that spiritual gifts do not prove an authentic spiritual experience or maturity (1 Corinthians 12: 7, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4: 7-8). The Corinthian Church had manifestations of the Spirit, but they lacked spiritual maturity and holiness.
3. Exercising Gifts in the Church
Paul dedicated 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 to address the correct exercise of the Spiritual gifts in the local church. The gifts are to be exercised under the leadership of the church and according to biblical principles (Romans 12: 3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 14). The gifts of the Spirit should be orderly and not disruptive. Likewise, the gifts of the Spirit should edify the body of Christ and not cause division.
4. It's All About Jesus
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1: 11). John says the Spirit of truth will glorify Jesus (John 16: 13). The Holy Spirit never draws attention to Himself, but always seeks to glorify Jesus. Likewise, the gifts of the Spirit will always glorify Jesus, our Lord, Savior, and King. If we are not careful, Spiritual gifts can become about us and not about Him. It is all about Jesus.
5. Discerning Gifts
In addition, we should not "believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4: 1). Many Christians have an uncritical acceptance of unbiblical practices in the name of the Holy Spirit. Just because we believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit does not mean that we should accept everything. It is important for us to test the Spiritual gifts by the Word and to know that God is sovereign in the bestowing of Spiritual gifts.
Are we open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our life or our church? We need to be both open and discerning. Many people are either open and not discerning or discerning and not open. Perhaps the reason the Holy Spirit doesn't do more in our churches is because we don't expect or even want Him to. I want to conclude this section with a call for us to invite the Spirit to have His way in our lives, our homes, and our churches. Martin Lloyd Jones said, "We should always be open, in mind and in heart, to anything that the Spirit of God may choose to do in His sovereignty."
Puritan theologian, John Owes, offers us a balanced word about the Holy Spirit's gifts from the 1600's:
"It is the loss of those spiritual gifts which hath introduced among many an utter neglect of these duties, so as that they are scarce heard of among the generality of them that are called Christians. But, blessed be God, we have large and full experience of the continuance of this dispensation of the Spirit, in the eminent abilities of a multitude of private Christians. Some, I confess, they [gifts] have been abused: some have presumed on them beyond the line and measure which they have received; some have been puffed up with them; some have used them disorderly in churches and to their hurt; some have boasted of what they have not received;- all which miscarriages also befell the primitive churches. And I had rather have the order, rule, spirit, and practice of those churches that were planted by the apostles, with all their troubles and disadvantages, than the carnal peace of others in their open degeneracy from all those things."
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND REVIVAL
"When the Holy Spirit is poured out in a day of power the result is bound to affect whole communities and even nations. Conviction of sin, an anxiety to posses the Word of God, and dependence upon those truths which glorify God in man's salvation, are inevitable consequences." - Ian Murray.
As we scan the pages of church history, we see that the Holy Spirit has always been present in the church through revival. In fact, the Spirit has been in continuous operation since the time of the Old and New Testaments. Many great Christian leaders experienced revivals in their lives and ministries. Although some people believe that the work of the Holy Spirit ceased with the time of the Apostles, church history tells a different story. In this section we will take a look at some of the great Christian leaders and revival movements to see how the Holy Spirit has moved in the church through revival.
What is Revival?
What is revival? There are many definitions of revival. Some people think it is where an evangelist preaches a protracted set of meetings in a church that only last several days or even weeks. Others may think that revival is a style of worship or preaching. Revival is not something we do, but what God does in and through us. Stephen Olford says that revival is that "strange and sovereign work of God in which He vists His own people, restoring, reanimating and releasing them into the fulness of His blessing."
There is both personal and corporate revival. Personal revival happens when the Holy Spirit renews the hearts and minds of individuals. The Spirit renews and revives us when we pray and seek His face. Corporate revival is when the Holy Spirit brings renewal to a church or movement. Alvin Reid and Malcolm McDowell say, "The end results in a church revival are that Jesus is Lord, the Holy Spirit is unleashed, and the Father is glorified, the church is edified, and the lost are evangelized."
Patrick and the Irish
One of the great revival movements happen under the influence of Patrick in Ireland. His life is surrounded by mystery, superstition, and myth. He is best known as the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. He was a humble missionary who was personally responsible for baptizing over 100,000 people, driving paganism from the shores of Ireland, and starting a revival movement in Ireland that helped preserve Christianity during the Middle Ages. It is important for us to see the great influence that he made upon Christianity and the world.
Many of the myths that surround Patrick come from his spiritual clashes with the pagans who opposed him. According to a lend, King Loiguire set an ambush to kill Patrick, but when he came near, all the king could see was a deer. Patrick challenged the power of the druid's black magic because he believed that God's power was greater. He believed that signs and wonders verified God's superiority over the spells of the pagans. He was a bold preacher who was not afraid of magic, demons or the devil. The story that he drove the snakes out of Ireland is symbolic of the fact that he helped transform a pagan Ireland into a Christian country.
He established many churches throughout Ireland. Like the Apostle Paul, Patrick would disciple new converts to become pastors to the local churches. Patrick was instrumental in the conversion of thousands, ordaining hundreds of clergy, and establishing many churches and monasteries.
Because of Patrick's ministry, Christianity spread like wildfire through Ireland and into other parts of the British Isles. The churches and monasteries that he was responsible for establishing became some of the most influential missionary centres in all of Europe. Missionaries went out from Ireland to spread the gospel throughout the world. St. Columbia (597) established the famous monstery on the Isle of Iona. It was the Irish monasteries that helped preserve the Christian faith during the dark ages.
The Reformation was a Spirit inspired movement that swept across Europe. Ian Murray describes the Reformation as, "the greatest revival since Pentecost - a springtime of new life for the Church on such a scale that the instances recorded in the apostolic era of three thousand being converted on one day, and of 'a great multitude of the priests becoming 'obedient to the faith', no longer sounded incredible." The Reformation began in 1517, under the influence of Martin Luther.
The Reformation began as an attempt to reform the abuses and excesses of the Catholic Church. Many of the Reformers were troubled by what they saw as false doctrines within the Catholic Church, particularly involving the teaching and sale of indulgences. Another major contention was the corruption within the Church's hierarchy and leadership. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the All Saints' Church.
The 95 Thesis was criticised by the Church and the Pope. The most controversial points centered on the practice of selling indulgences and the Church's policy on purgatory. Other Reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli, soon followed. Beliefs and practices by Romans Catholics included purgatory, devotion to Mary, the intercession of and devotion to the saints, most of the sacraments, the mandatory celibacy requirement of its clergy, and the authority of the Pope.
Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others proclaimed the doctrine of "justification by grace through faith alone." Justification is where God declares a person righteous. The Reformers also emphasized the inspiration and illumination of Scripture. Their commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture was the foundation of the Reformation movement.
Not only were they theological giants, but they were responsible for planting thousands of churches across Europe. John Calvin trained and sent numerous missionaries into France who were responsible for planting over 2,150 Reformed churches! Reformed Protestants eventually grew to over two million people in France alone.
The English puritans were a 16th and 17th Century movement that sought to purify the Church of England in worship and doctrine. They were the outgrowth of the Reformation and heavily influenced the later development of Christianity in North America. The Puritans were Calvinistic and emphasized the necessity of spiritual conversion. The Puritans placed a special emphasis on the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in salvation which strongly influenced modern Evangelicalism.
Puritan theologians wrote extensive works on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the best of all was Puritan pastor and theologian John Owen (1616 - 1683) who wrote a work called The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and His Power. Owen said:
"The Holy Spirit, revealing Himself as the Comforter, ought to be especially honoured, and when he is not, he is especially sinned against... Let us then, value highly all the comforting works of the Holy Spirit, seeing they are evidences to us of his love and power."
Around 1726, the Great Awakening began in North America as the result of the preaching of theologian Jonathon Edwards and other prominent Christian leaders. Edwards preached the famous sermon entitled Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God, which sparked a revival in Boston. During this great revival, people experienced unusual work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Both young and old were moved to dedicate their lives completely to God under Edwards' preaching and ministry. Edwards later wrote an account of the revival saying, "The Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us."
In the mid 1700's George Whitfield began a successful ministry tour in America. Whitfield's common method was field preaching in the open air to the common people. Whitfield blazed throughout North America and the British Isles preaching to countless thousands of people. Whitfield recorded several accounts of people who were powerfully touched by the Spirit during these revivals.
In 1738 John Wesley experienced a "heart-warming" conversion. This event marked the beginning of Wesley's evangelistic ministry. John Wesley witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry. During his lifetime he travelled more than 250,000 miles, preached over 40,560 sermons, organised hundreds of Bible studies, and built several schools. He so impacted Methodism that at the time of his death nearly 43,265 members and 198 ministers had been attracted to the movement. He believed that God was restoring the work of the Spirit in the church through the Great Awakening.
There is a growing number of people in North America who are radically unchurched. Alvin Reid defines the radically unchurched as, "people who have no clear personal understanding of the message of the gospel, and who have had little or no contact with a Bible teaching, Christ honouring church."
There are 120-million unchurch people in the United States making it the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere and the fifth largest mission field on earth. Non-believers can be divided into two groups of people; nominally churched, which make up 30% of the U.S. population, and the radically unchurched, which make up about 40% of the U.S. population.
Regardless of the previous statistics, there is a fresh renewal of the Holy Spirit that is sweeping across the church. The Spirit's renewing power is taking place in churches, denominations, and networks across the country and around the world. The Spirit is annointing a generation of pastors, church planters, and missionaries who are taking the gospel to the radically unchurched.
This renewal of the Spirit is both theological and experiential. A robust theology of the Holy Spirit will give us a fresh hunger for His presence and power in our life. The Lord is calling the church back to a deeper and fuller understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND YOU
"The Christian's life in all its aspects - intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness, is supernatural; only the Spirit can sustain it." - J. I. Packer
As we have seen, the Spirit has been moving in the lives of individuals since the world began. Great men and women of the faith have done extraordinary things when they were anointed by the power of the Holy Ghost. This leads us to the question, is the Holy Spirit still active today? Does He still anoint people who seek Him? The answer is yes!
The Holy Spirit wants to bring you into a deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ. He wants to use you more than you'll ever know. You can experience His fulness in your everyday life. Surrender your heart and your life to Him today. As we conclude, this final section will examine several ways that you can receive the Spirit to your everyday life.
1. He Will Guide You
Jesus said, "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth" (John 16: 13). The Holy Spirit wants to give us wisdom, guidance and direction in everything that we do. The Spirit becomes our guide, leading us in the way that we should go. You should never make a major decision in your life without asking for Him to lead you. I am confident that it is God's deepest desire that we seek Him in every area of our lives. The Spirit will lead you into the place that you should be. Are you facing an important life changing decision? Do you need to make a major financial investment? Don't be afraid to ask the Lord to show you what the best decision is. He will speak if we ask for His help.
How do we know when He is speaking to us? There are several ways that we can hear the voice of God. The Spirit speaks through the Word of God. He uses the Bible to reveal His will. He also speaks through our circumstances. Be aware of what God is trying to tell you in your everyday life. Sometimes it is through the ordinary. Sometimes He speaks through a still small voice in prayer. If we will be quiet long enough to listen, He will speak. The Spirit might use somebody else to speak to you. It is not uncommon for the Lord to speak through somebody when you least expect it. Finally, God speaks through dreams, visions, and other gifts of the Spirit.
2. He Will Help Your Prayer Life
The Holy Spirit assists our prayer life. Many Christians find it difficult to pray for any extended period of time. We don't know exactly what to pray for or how to pray. We must megin to understand that He helps us when we pray. The Bible says that He helps us with our weakness and intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans 8: 26-27). No longer do we have the excuse that we don't know what to pray because He helps us to pray according to God's will. There is no one better to teach us how to pray than the Holy Spirit because He knows what to pray for.
The Holy Spirit actually frees us to pray. Where He is there is liberty because He is the great Liberator. The Spirit also provides the weapons that we need to combat spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6: 18). If we are going to win our spiritual battles we must have the Holy Spirit on our side. He is the weapon we need to defeat the enemy. Lastly, He builds us up when we pray (Jude 20). Praying in the Holy Ghost will lift your heart and soul to heaven and give you the strength that you need to go on.
3. He Will Help You Read The Bible
The Holy Spirit is the Author of Scripture; therefore the Word of God is inseparable from the Spirit of God. The Scriptures introduce the reader to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit applies the truths of the Word to the hearts of the reader. Scripture must be interpreted in the immediate context of personal prayer. Prayer is the medium that brings individuals into contact with the same Spirit who inspired the writers of the Bible. To hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying through the Word you must encounter God through prayer. Prayer is the means that we must use to understand the Word of God. Without the assistance of the Holy Spirit in prayer, our Bible study will be in vain. Let us ask the Spirit to speak to us through the Word.
4. Power To Be A Witness
Sharing our faith is the duty of every believer. This is commonly called evangelism. The word evangelism comes from the Greek word evangelion, which means gospel or good news. We are called to share the good news of Jesus' love and forgiveness with the world. It is not as important how we share our faith but if we share our faith. There are many different ways that Christians can share their faith with others.
Modern day evangelism has become weak and powerless. The problem is that many Christians simply rely on the latest evangelism strategy or gimmick instead of seeking the power of the Holy Spirit. The result is a man centered approach to evangelism and ministry. We need the Holy Spirit's power in our lives to be effective witnesses for Christ.
Sharing our faith with others begins with prayer. Pray that God will give you the right opportunity and words to say to others. You would be surprised how many opportunities there are to share your faith. The Holy Spirit will open the hearts and the doors to share our faith when the time is right. Many times people never share their faith because of fear, but the Bible says that, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind," (2Timothy 1: 7). The Holy Spirit will help you move past all of your fears and share your faith with boldness.
God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. We can receive power to be witnesses for Jesus Christ because of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises that we, "shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me," (Acts 1: 8). He has promised the power, all we have to do is ask for it. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones said, "It is always right to seek the fulness of the Spirit - we are exhorted to do so."
We are told in Luke 24: 49 that we should tarry until we are endued with power from on high. Maybe we need to wait on God a little bit. Sometimes we get in too much of a hurry to receive what He has for us. The Bible promises over and over that if we seek God He will be found. The same is true if we seek His Spirit.
Don't be ashamed to ask for the Holy Spirit to give you power to be a witness because it's a Bible promise. In Acts the church prayed, "grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word" and then it says that when they finished praying "they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness," (Acts 4: 29-31). Ask the Lord for boldness, open your heart, and let the Holy Spirit give you power to be a witness today.
About Winfield Bevins
Winfield Bevins is the Director of the Asbury Seminary's Church Planting Initiative, Kentucky USA.