How God Works
Intro – Review
- The role of the Holy Spirit is to raise up the cross of Christ to individuals, groups, and nations. The term "cross" is a short form for the redemptive sacrifice of Christ and its benefits for sinful mankind.
- To whom and how does the Holy Spirit direct his efforts in raising up the cross of Christ?
- First group - the ancient world before Christ.
- The Holy Spirit sustained, guided and empowered the Jewish nation as a light to the Gentile world.
- In other words, they pointed others to the true and living God and the salvation that was to come.
- Psalm 66:1-3; 8; 16
- Second group - the disciples and apostles of Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit made them witness the death and resurrection of Jesus as well as His ascension into heaven, not to mention His teachings and miracles.
- This eyewitness enabled them to make a dynamic witness to others about the cross and its significance (Acts 2:32; 36).
- Third group - the Jewish nation.
- The Holy Spirit empowered the Apostles to remember accurately all the teachings of Jesus (John 14:26) and perform miracles which confirmed their witness.
- First group - the ancient world before Christ.
Before moving on I want to explain more fully the manner and purpose for enabling people to do miracles.
How God Works
A. Signals (Miracles)
When God reveals anything new (person, message) He confirms his word or choice with miracles, signs, and wonders. The miracles are always for contemporary messages. No one ever did miracles to confirm an old message or revelation. This is one of the reasons why we don't believe in miracles or miracle workers today - there is no new revelation, no new message today.
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
- Jude 3
Moses was God's servant during a time of transition from the age of the patriarchs and oral traditions to the new message of the law, the nation, the sacrificial system and the priesthood. This was the prophet who brought these new things, new revelations to the people.
Signal - his authority to speak was confirmed by miracles.
1Then Moses said, "What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, 'The Lord has not appeared to you.'"2The Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff."3Then He said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.4But the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail"—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—5"that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."
6The Lord furthermore said to him, "Now put your hand into your bosom." So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.7Then He said, "Put your hand into your bosom again." So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.8"If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign.9But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground."
- Exodus 4:1-9
- These miracles were the signal that Moses had authority to speak new things/messages from God.
- It was the Holy Spirit that empowered Moses to do these things.
- In the Old Testament this empowering was described in a variety of ways:
All of these others to varying degrees brought forth God's messages to the people and were confirmed by miracles, signs and prophecy - these were the signals.
From the period of the law in temple worship to the fulfillment of prophecy:
Signal: Jesus announces that He has come to fulfill, He brought something new.
33You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth.34But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.35He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.36But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
- John 5:33-36
Jesus worked by the power of the Holy Spirit
But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
- Matthew 12:28
Question: Why would Jesus, the Son of God, require the power of the Holy Spirit to work miracles?
Answer: Because He divested himself of His OMNI abilities (all power, all seeing, all knowing, etc.) when becoming man – He kept His righteousness and holiness.
5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- Philippians 2:5-8
The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at His baptism.
After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him.
- Matthew 3:16
This was similar to the Old Testament concept of the Spirit coming upon someone, but more dynamic because it was visual (the dove above Jesus and the voice and word of the Father in the cloud).
We need to keep in mind that Jesus was a Jew and He spoke primarily to Jews. Also, the symbols and concepts were Jewish. So, when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus the Jews knew what this meant in a Jewish context. A prophet was now empowered by God – a new message was coming! A SIGNAL WAS GIVEN.
3. The Apostles
From the period of the fulfillment of the Law, prophets, and sacrificial system by Jesus' cross, to the good news of salvation and entry into the kingdom of God for everyone announced by the gospel message.
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
- Luke 1:77
The apostles had a new message – not that the kingdom is near and all must prepare for it (John the Baptist), but rather the kingdom is here and all must enter in now!
Signal for this New Message – miracles were done in order to confirm this new message.
- The Holy Spirit empowered them to do these things.
- Like Jesus, their empowering was dynamic in that it was seen and heard.
- Tongues of Fire
- Rushing Wind
Baptism with the Holy Spirit
We talked about this phenomenon last time and I'd like to add more detail to this term.
A. This expression is first used by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16).
In every instance John uses it in referring to Jesus who would administer this baptism and John's general audience would be the recipients.
The key question is, "What did John the Baptist's audience understand by the term, 'Baptize you with the Holy Spirit?'" In other words what did they think would happen to them if they received this baptism? I can tell you that they did not equate this term with the ability to speak in tongues, perform healings and do other types of supernatural acts.
John the Baptist used this expression to describe a concept familiar to the Jews of that era. The baptism (immersion) or outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a theological (actually an eschatological = end times) concept dating back to the Babylonian captivity where the Jews were carried off into exile for 70 years.
John's audience understood this term to mean:
- A special time
- A period of salvation
- The great activity of God in, for, and around his chosen people.
As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!'
- Haggai 2:5
Here the prophet is referring to the Mosaic era of the past as a time when the spirit was among the people and the nation was saved.
1"But now listen, O Jacob, My servant,
And Israel, whom I have chosen:
2Thus says the Lord who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
'Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
3'For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants;
- Isaiah 44:1-3
The Lord is reassuring the people through the prophets that the family of Jacob (the Jews) will experience God's Providential care.
- The expression spoken by Isaiah was not understood by the people to mean that they would be enabled to speak in tongues, heal people, or cast out evil spirits.
- This is the meaning that our charismatic and Pentecostal friends have given it in the last 100 years or so but the Jews to whom it was spoken both in the Old and New Testament never interpreted this expression in this way.
B. Jesus uses the expression only once.
4Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me;5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."6So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"7He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
- Acts 1:4-8
The problem is in verses 4-5 when the Lord tells the apostles that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Note that they didn't understand that to mean that they would have miraculous powers.
Jesus is describing the entire experience of the New Age dawning at Pentecost signaled (remember that those bringing a new revelation or methods were given powers to carry out their ministries) so this new age, new message (salvation through Christ is available now) is signaled or witnessed by the signs and miracles performed by the apostles (beginning with speaking in tongues). The apostles, however, understood the expression as it had always been used up to and including the time of John the Baptist:
- That the end was near.
- That God would be working among his people.
- That all of this would be visible to the world as God would once again restore and exalt the Jewish nation.
Therefore, in verse six (So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?") This is why they respond to Jesus in the way they do. They thought Jesus had come back to be the leader, like Moses, in restoring Israel to glory "…will you at this time restore Israel?".
Here, in verses 7-8 Jesus uses another Old Testament term, "the Spirit will come upon you…" to clarify for them and us what is about to happen.
As Jews, the apostles clearly understood this to mean what it had always meant in the past, "the empowering of individuals to enable them to serve God and/or proclaim a message – a new message."
In verse eight this is confirmed because Jesus tells them that they will receive power in order to be witnesses of the resurrection (this is the new message/revelation) and this power will confirm that their witness is true – Jesus is Lord and Christ.
This, then, is how the Holy Spirit raised the cross of Christ before the Jewish nation - through the empowered witness of the apostles.
A. Therefore, every time God sent a new message, he would empower the messenger to confirm his witness. This is why we don't accept those who claim to have miraculous power today – they don't have a true revelation or new message from God. God doesn't use miracles to confirm old messages.
B. Let's look at several expressions concerning the Holy Spirit in context to understand what they mean, how they are different from each other, and what they don't mean:
1. Baptism of the Holy Spirit
This expression does not appear in the Bible. The idea of it is inferred:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
- I Corinthians 12:13
The inference is a baptism administered by the Holy Spirit.
Water baptism is the Holy Spirit's baptism. He commands it in his word, the Bible.
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
- Ephesians 4:5
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:38
The apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, commanded that all repentant believers receive water baptism – to this day.
2. Baptism with the Holy Spirit
An expression used by John the Baptist in his preaching to the Jews who understood it to mean, "a period of salvation, for a time when God would work dynamically among his people." These same concepts were expressed in the Old Testament with different phrases like, "I will pour forth My Spirit."
"Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
- Joel 2:29
'And it shall be in the last days,' God says, 'That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams;'
- Acts 2:17
An expression used by Jesus to describe the entire experience of the New Age dawning at Pentecost - signaled by the miraculous signs done through the apostles.
"For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
- Acts 1:5
Note that John the Baptist did no miracles, but the apostles did. The difference was that John was not revealing or proclaiming a new message (the Jews were to be ready for the Messiah all through their history and John confirmed this – no signal (miracles) was needed. The apostles, on the other hand, had a revelation in a new message, Jesus, God made man, died and resurrected - repent and be baptized to enter into his Kingdom, the church.
3. The Spirit Will Come Upon You
An Old Testament expression meaning the empowering of an individual for a special task (lead in war, prophesy, conceiving Jesus miraculously).
The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
- Luke 1:35
An expression used by Jesus to describe the empowering that the apostles would receive in order to confirm their witness (Jesus has risen from the dead) and their message (Jesus is the Messiah, believe and express that faith in repentance and baptism and you will be saved). The spirit coming upon them was the same as the Old Testament but in a greater dimension and with more visible signs.