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Scripture For Today

1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,
2 until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
3 To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
4 And gathering 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;
5 for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 
6 And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;
8 but you shall 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 1:1-8 NASB

Insight For Today - Important Things To Know About The Holy Spirit (Revised)

Jesus through the Holy Spirit Gives Orders to the Church

Notice in Verse 2, Luke (the author of the Book of Acts) writes that Jesus gives orders to His Church by the Holy Spirit. Though Jesus was present in His resurrected body (spiritual flesh), His instructions to them came via the Holy Spirit. In another place in the Scriptures, it says Jesus has the full measure of the Holy Spirit for He has perfected holiness as the first born of the great host of the spiritual family of God. The term "first born" does not mean Jesus did not exist before His virgin birth rather it is a term used to define His hypostatic nature, that is, the union of Spirit and human flesh (physical body) and the first born of woman to be raised to eternal everlasting life. Jesus is the resurrection and all who believe in Him shall likewise be raised in resurrection life to eternal life. There is a resurrection unto death, which those who deny Him will experience at the end of thousand-year reign.

The point is that the true Church is a spiritual entity that is indwell and filled by the Holy Spirit (the filling is not automatic) and receives its orders by revelation of the Holy Spirit. This is in contrast to the worldly carnal church with all its man-made programs, rituals, hierarchies, various doctrines and edifices. In many churches today including the mega churches, the Holy Spirit isn't known even though they use His name and attempt to counterfeit His gifts. It is not a coincidence that the second verse of the Book of Acts (a better name for the book would have been The Acts of the Holy Spirit) begins by defining the spiritual relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Church. In the modern world, all of the denominations including the Catholic Church have a hierarchy over the local Church which gives orders and instructions for the manner in which the local Churches operate. For the Catholic Church it is the Vatican. The Southern Baptist have their HQ in Nashville, Tennessee, even though they maintain all the churches are autonomous. Having served in the SBC for many years, I know that not to be the case. The SBC exerts great influence on what is taught in the SBC churches. The pastors are even given weekly sermon outlines and suggestions of what to preach (As an SBC pastor, I used to throw those in the trash nor did I make it mandatory that the Sunday School teachers follow the SBC teaching guides). Other denominations have their HQ's and General Councils that dictate Church polity and worship styles. The so-called non-denominational churches also have a hierarchy including the Charismatics, which is usually run by a strong pastor figure that controls all of the churches finances.

The Lord has given the Churches gifted men (the domata- Ephesians 4:11) and the body the gifts of the Holy Spirit (the charis - I Corinthians 12) in order to function as the spiritual body of Christ on earth. Watchman Nee has a series of teachings on Church life in which he correctly says there is no higher authority than the local Church. The closest Church to the New Testament pattern that I have been involved with in my 40 year Christian ministry was when I was pastor of the Southshore Bible Church near the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. We were not very big in numbers, but we had only one doctrine - the Bible. We did not have a so-called Church constitution or committees and we did not vote on anything. We had a body of men along with the pastor who led the Church in all matters. However, no decision of any importance including financial was made without the bringing it before the body.  We sought direction by prayer and if we could not agree, the matter was tabled until another time. The Lord taught us revelation giving and the Word of God was held-up in the highest esteem.

Looking back, I do not think any of us knew what we really had. We were solely dependent upon the Holy Spirit for Church life and administration, which again was centered in the Word of God. We also had a unique way in which we observed the Lord's supper - the entire Sunday night service was devoted to honoring that sacred ordinance.

The Waiting Time Is Over

In Verse 4, Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit who came upon them 50 days from the Feast of Unleavened Bread (actually Abib 16 or the beginning of the third day after Passover), which is the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has come and has been in the world in spiritual vessels (the people of God) for almost 2000 years. The waiting time is over. Today, when a genuine believer receives the Lord by faith in His finished work upon the cross and subsequent resurrection (believing in the blood sacrifice and the bodily resurrection are essential for salvation), the Holy Spirit enters the reborn spirit of the new believer and he or she becomes spiritually alive possessing eternal life (Now this does not mean believers experience all the benefits of eternal life at that moment for they have yet to receive their glorified bodies). Believers do not have to wait and plead for the Holy Spirit or even ask for Him as some wrongly teach based on Luke 11:13.  It is Jesus that we need and the Holy Spirit's present earthly ministry is to convict sinners of inherent sin and bring them to repentance and faith in Jesus. Ephesians 2:8 says that even the faith to believe in God is a gift from Him and not of ourselves.  The Holy Spirit gives us the faith to believe in Jesus for salvation, which means He presents the gospel truth to our minds and will whereby we have the ability to make the right choice to accept Jesus as the Lord of our lives. It is a fine line, but we also have the ability to reject the gospel, which as Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, is the power of God unto salvation.

Although it is another subject, speaking in tongues is not a requirement for salvation. If that were the case, then a great host of people would not be saved.  Tongues is not even the primary evidence for the indwelling Spirit - the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence. I have known some very wicked mean tongue speakers. In one Church I pastored, one of the yokemen (deacons in training) would come to the worship services and speak in tongues, then go home and beat his wife and daughters. He later left them for his homosexual partner. Although he babbled in tongues, he had no spiritual fruit (genuine love).

Spirit Baptism

This topic would take a book to cover all the details, so I will give the highlights. Some churches stress water baptism as essential for salvation (Church of Christ) while others stress Spirit baptism; the Baptists believe water baptism is necessary as a  Church ordinance, which it is, but not essential for salvation. Then there is the controversy over whether baptism is by immersion or by sprinkling. The Greek meaning of the word baptize is to immerse. It is difficult to portray the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord by sprinkling.  Only by immersion is the image of the Lord's death on the cross, burial in the tomb and bodily resurrection seen in type.  Jesus told the disciples that while John baptized in water as evidence of repentance from sin, He would baptize them in the Holy Spirit. Notice who is the baptizer; it is Jesus. We come into relationship with Jesus by Spirit baptism, not by water baptism. Water baptism is essential for perfect obedience to the Lord for He commands us to be baptized as His followers. Anyone professing believer who refuses to be baptized is probably not saved in the first place. Obedience to the Word of God and specifically the commands of Scripture is the acid test of genuine salvation.  If we are not obedient to obey all the Word of God, but are loose and undisciplined, then we had better check-up on our salvation for something is wrong with our profession.

Water baptism does not save anyone. We are saved by the shed blood of Jesus for it is the blood that gives God the legal right to forgive us and cleanse us from all righteousness. As Hebrews 9:22 says, Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Then what is Spirit Baptism?  The moment the Lord finds faith in our hearts to believe on Him and by personal choice we are willing to be reborn, the Holy Spirit takes-up residence in our reborn spirit that was born in trespasses and sins. This is both the indwelling and the baptism for it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that baptizes or joins us with the Spirit of Christ.  Spirit baptism is the same as spiritual union with Jesus and the Father. By Spirit Baptism, we all have union with God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 that by one Spirit, we were ALL baptized into one body (the Church) whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free and we were ALL made to drink of one Spirit.  There is no mention of tongues here as a requirement for salvation. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is something He does in the spirit of every believer and we do not know exactly when it occurs. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:8 that Spirit baptism was like the wind; we cannot tell from where or how it comes, but we feel its effects. I was saved on a Sunday morning in my house after repenting of my sin and receiving forgiveness by faith in Jesus.  At that precise moment I was baptized by the Spirit into Jesus, but did not sense His effect until the days following my conversion. I cannot say I knew the exact moment when the Holy Spirit took-up residence in my spirit but by faith I knew I was born-again.

Now here is the primary thing and one of utmost importance to the Christian life.  Since we began this new life in the Spirit by being baptized into spiritual union with the Lord, then why do we think we can live the Christian life apart from the Holy Spirit?  We cannot! All spiritual life is derived from the Holy Spirit. We are commanded in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Greek says to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Why? Because we leak and go back to walking after the flesh if we are not daily allowing the Holy Spirit supreme authority in our lives. However, He will never drive us against our will. Remember Satan drives and the Holy Spirit leads. He corrects us with the Word and if not heeded will send discipline into our lives in diverse forms. Usually discipline follows the acts of disobedience, that is, if we indulge in fleshly sins, we may experience sickness in that area.  If we are dishonest in finances, our finances will be negatively affected.

Power To Be Witnesses

Acts 1:8 is often quoted by evangelicals for many things, but the primary meaning is that the power to be a witness for Jesus is the Holy Spirit. We have to be something before we can do anything. What is the main reason the Holy Spirit gives us His power? To bear witness of the Gospel and to live the Christian life. Lost people can only see Jesus in us based on what the Holy Spirit is doing in and with us. As a pastor, the most difficult thing I encountered in leading the sheep was to get them to evangelize our neighborhood and in their daily lives. I tried all the methods and none worked. Finally one day when I was attempting to teach or train my new Church in evangelism, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me to stop using man's tactics to evangelize the lost. He said just teach them Acts 1:8, which I did - the power of the Holy Spirit. In order for believers to effectively evangelize the lost, they must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, which means denying self or the flesh life. To deny the Holy Spirit power over the flesh is to have only a form of godliness, but no substance (See 2 Tim. 3:5).

To number one problem in the Church today is a lack of Spirit power among believers. Oh, there is a lot of "stuff" passing as worship but it is nothing more than fleshly hype.  The in-thing is to hire some young person to lead the Church in so-called praise and worship. Then after he or she has worked the congregation into an emotional frenzy, another youthful pastor steps into the pulpit or on stage and continues more emotional preaching that is void of any real meat of the Word. There are exceptions, but they are becoming rare. The Church seeks youth rather than mature battle trained men of God filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. The Church is much like the world, it thinks youth is the answer to leadership when it should be spiritually mature proven leaders. 

The power to live the Christian life is the Holy Spirit Himself. It is not even His gifts. It is His personal presence in us and our yieldedness to His leadership. Why did the Holy Spirit slay Ananias and Sapphira in the first few days of the Church Age? For one reason; to show the Church that He was their life source and no other. Maybe the reason there are not more Ananias and Sapphira episodes in the Church today is that the Church has become more of a shell than the real substance. By that I mean we do not take His presence in our lives and worship services seriously, so He has withdrawn His power.

Well, these are a few important things to know about the Holy Spirit.