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God's Gift at Pentecost

Empowering the Body of Christ

                                     

     It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I, Keith Hunt,
here present the articles that appeared in ACTS magazine
(November 2002 - Vol. 52 - Number 10) published by The General
Council of the Churches of God (7th Day), 1827 W. 3rd. Street,
Meridian, ID 83642-1653.
     All capital letter words are mine throughout these series of
studies, for emphasis.


From the Editor's Desk
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Empowering the Body

     The work of God's Spirit to empower the Body of Christ, the
Church, is one of the most overlooked experiences in the Church
of God today. It is tragic that many have robbed themselves of
blessings because they distrust, fear or in some cases, even
despise what is sometimes called the BAPTISM of the Holy Spirit.
(I will be explaining in another article the linguistics of
"baptism of the Spirit.") They have been satisfied with a
low level of spirituality and have not allowed God to release
them in prayer, praise, personal relationship, and edifying the
body of Christ, from the imprisonment of age-long
inhibitions. They have not expected to see God at work in
conversions, in changing lives, in healing and miracles and in
explicit guidance. They have forgotten that the manifestations of
God's Spirit at Pentecost had an uncomfortable, but concrete
nature.
     Some of the divisions in the Church of God have come from
the narrow fearful, unspiritual Christianity in whose
lukewarmness many of us have for so long been willing to stay,
terrified to launch out into a deep experience of God. In an age
when the Spirit of God is breaking down the man-made barriers and
is edifying the Body of Christ all over the world, it would be
ironic indeed if we missed what God has for us because we refused
to get beyond false linguistics and counterfeits.

     The articles in this issue of ACTS magazine will NOT deal
with the NATURE of God's Spirit, but will present the WORK of
God's Spirit to EMPOWER the members of the Body of Christ. 

     My intention is to CLEARLY show HOW Spiritual Gifts can
enable God's people to participate more effectively in the
implementation of Jesus' commission to take the Gospel to the
WHOLE world. "Go ye therefore and teach all nations....Teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"
(Matthew 28: 19,20).
     
     This work is to prepare God's people for works of SERVICE,
so that the Body of Christ may be BUILT UP until we ALL reach
unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and
maturITY, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of
Christ. (paraphrase of Ephesians 4: 12, 13). 
     
     One article will deal with the GIFT of the Spirit and how to
RECEIVE it. Another article will discuss the GIFTS of the Spirit.
Still another article will explain the FRUIT of the Spirit. There
will be a discussion of the things that the GIFTS of the Spirit
are NOT, so that we can avoid the counterfeits. The LINGUISTICS
used to describe the WORK of the Spirit of God will be explained
to help avoid misunderstandings.

     We are living in the last days and God wants us to take the
Gospel message to the WHOLE world. He has chosen YOU to be that
vessel. Unless the vessel is filled with the Spirit of God, the
good news of Christ will not go forth. I believe God has called
upon the Church of God 7th Day as PART of the remnant to prepare
the body to proclaim to proclaim this Gospel message to the
world. God has given the Church wonderful truths that must not be
hidden in these last days, but must be proclaimed from the
mountain tops (I may add here that I also believe this Website is
a part of proclaiming the Gospel to the whole world - Keith
Hunt).

     God is wanting and waiting to EMPOWER His Body. When the
GIFTS of the Spirit are utilized in the Church, we will see
church growth as we have never seen it since the Day of
Pentecost. May God's Church be triumphant!

GOD'S GIFT AT PENTECOST

     As we begin our study of God's gift at Pentecost, it is
important to understand the meaning of both the Hebrew and Greek
word used for the Spirit of God. 
     RUACH in the Hebrew and PNEUMA in Greek have THREE main
meanings of "wind" - "breath" - "spirit." 

     The Spirit of God is the life-giving breath without which
man remains spiritually dead. It is God's mysterious, powerful
wind, as Nicodemus was reminded by Jesus, that can not be
controlled by man. The notions of POWER and MYSTERY mark much of
the teachings of the Old and New Testaments relating to the
Spirit of God.

SPIRIT OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

     The Spirit of God in the Bible is no natural quality of man.
It is not found within some hidden recess within our bodies. The
Hebrews did not divide man into spirit, mind, and body, as many
Christian teachers do today. They thought of man as a single
entity, a living person. This quality of life was described by
the Hebrew word NEPHESH. Only in rare cases is the word NEPHESH
ever brought into contact with RUACH (spirit). 
     RUACH and NEPHESH can be thought of as each having their own
circle of meaning. Occasionally those circles intersect, but the
main content of each is clear. NEPHESH is NATURAL; it belongs to
man. RUACH is SUPERNATURAL: it belongs to God. Though RUACH may
be found in man, but since the fall of Adam, it is on loan, and
not a possession. In the Old Testament, RUACH was considered a
resident alien, not a native.
     Just as the Spirit cannot be equated with any property of
man, equally it cannot be regarded as the stuff of which the
world is made, as pantheists teach. Through pagan philosophical
influence, the Stoics maintained a view that the spirit was the
comprehensive life principle which integrates the universe. The
Old Testament insists that this powerful, mysterious Spirit
belongs to God, and to God alone. It is essentially the
PERSONAL God, Yahweh, in action. It is from this teaching in the
Old Testament that gives the background for the Christian
doctrine of the Spirit of God. The Old Testament presents the
emphasis on the Spirit of God as a powerful, invading force.
God's action is like the wind, strong, boisterous,
uncontrollable. He sends the wind. He controls it and
He causes it to cease. The Spirit of God is His powerful work
from OUTSIDE our experience. As we surrender to the invading
power of God's Spirit, there becomes a willingness for Him to
take us, break us and use us in a dramatic way.

     Throughout the Old Testament, there is a frequent link
between "the Spirit of the Lord" and "the Word of the Lord." The
breath of God and the message of God cannot be divorced. Time and
time again, the parallelism of the Hebrew DABAR (word) and RUACH
(spirit) go HAND IN HAND. "By the word of the Lord were the
heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth"
(Psalm 33:6). "The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, his word is
upon my tongue" (2 Samuel 23:2).

     Just as the will of God cannot be known without the
revelation of the Spirit, so the service of God cannot be carried
through without the equipment of that same Spirit. It is only
through God's REVELATION that we can KNOW Him. It is only through
His POWER that we can serve Him. The prophet cries out in Isaiah
61:1, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has
anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; He has
sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the
captives, and the opening of prison to those who are bound; to
proclaim the year of the Lord's favor...."

     On the whole, you had to be someone rather special in the
Old Testament days to have the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God
was not for EVERYONE in the old covenant. There were promises in
a very general sense to people as a whole, "My Spirit abides with
you, fear not" (Haggai 2:5), but NOT a promise to EVERY
individual. The gift of God's Spirit was to spacial people for
special tasks. It was not generally available, nor was it
necessarily PERMANENT. Moses longed for the time when God's
Spirit would be given to every individual. "Would that ALL the
Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit
upon them" (Numbers 11:29). 
     (See also Deut. 5:29 and 29:4 with Romans chap. 9 to 11 -
Keith Hunt).

     God led the prophets to foretell this for the last days,
"And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my
Spirit upon all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see
visions. Even upon the menservants and the maidservants in those
days I will pour out my Spirit" (Joel 2:28).

     God did exactly that on the Day of Pentecost, and the gifts
had never been withdrawn. Through the prophets, God introduced a
covenant relationship involving a complete pardon, a personal
knowledge of the Lord, and the will of God no longer external to
them on tablets of stone, but written INWARDLY on their HEARTS. 
     Ezekiel specifically attributes this change to the Spirit of
God, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be
clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will
cleanse you. A NEW HEART will I give you, and a NEW SPIRIT will I
put WITHIN  you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of
STONE, and give you a heart of FLESH. And I will put MY SPIRIT
WITHIN you, and cause you to WALK in my STATUTES" (Ezekiel
36:25).
     God's OWN Spirit WITHIN man would warm his heart to WANT to
go God's way, and also to EMPOWER him to STAY in His way. 
     This was the HOPE for the last days, and this was the hope
that had been fulfilled at Pentecost.

     A surprise to most Christians is that in the Old Testament
the Spirit does not appear as a divine being. He is rather seen
as God's personal presence and intervention. When the Spirit of
God is present with man, it means the gracious and PERSONAL
intervention of God Himself. The Spirit is the personal
expression of God Himself, and can be grieved. God's Spirit is
holy, and is not only divine POWER, but the MORAL CHARACTER of
God. The Spirit of God is God in ACTION for the benefit of His
people. The Spirit is no less than the PERSONAL, MORAL, ACTIVE
POWER of the Heavenly Father.

THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN THE GOSPELS

     A new era had dawned with the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
Jesus was endowed with the Spirit of God. He was BOTH the unique
BEARER of that Spirit, as well as the DISPENSER of that Spirit to
the disciples.
     The four evangelists made it abundantly plain that during
the period of Jesus' ministry on this earth, He alone was the man
uniquely possessed by the Spirit of God. Just as the Spirit was
active in breathing life into the first man (Genesis 2:7), so the
Spirit of God is associated with the birth of the last Adam,
Jesus. (And it is written that Jesus had the Spirit without
measure, He had it fully and completely from conception and
birth, so helping him to remain sinless, the only human person to
never sin, not once - Keith Hunt).

     Jesus was a man empowered by God's Spirit with a mission.
The Spirit during Jesus' ministry was concentrated in Him and was
only available to the disciples WHEN they were engaged in the
mission.
     Jesus was the unique DISPENSER of the Spirit. All four of
the Gospels record the promise of John the Baptist that whereas
he baptized in water, the ONE who comes after him will baptize
with the Holy Spirit, "I baptize you with water, but he (Jesus)
will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8). John saw his
baptism as the preparation for the new era of the Holy Spirit.
John knew that his baptism was merely preparatory for the baptism
of the Holy Spirit that Jesus would begin. Jesus did not baptize
with the Holy Spirit UNTIL AFTER His death and resurrection. "By
this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were
later to receive, since Jesus had not yet been glorified" (John
7:39). 
     Jesus was equipped for His messianic mission by the Spirit
promised for the last days. This Spirit was not available to
others when Jesus was alive in the flesh. (Unless, as the writer
pointed out, Jesus gave it to them at certain times for a certain
mission, as when sending out the seventy to preach and heal and
work miracles - Keith Hunt).

     After His death and resurrection, the last days were
extended by the followers of Jesus inheriting His mission, His
authority and His Spirit (Spirit of God). "Nevertheless I tell
you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I
go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart,
I will send him to you" (John 16:7). "But the Comforter, which is
the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall
teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance,
whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). The Comforter,
which is the Holy Spirit, came exactly as Jesus said on the Day
of Pentecost.

THE SPIRIT OF GOD AT PENTECOST

     Over a period of forty days, Jesus taught His disciples and
gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the
gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For
John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be
baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:4,5). What was the gift
the Father promised? "And it shall come to pass afterwards, that
I will pour out my SPIRIT upon all flesh; and your sons and
daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your
young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon
the handmaids in those days will I pour out my SPIRIT" (Joel
2:28,29).
     The gift the Father promised is the baptism in the Holy
Spirit. The fulfillment of that promise is described as being
"filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4).

     "Baptism in the Spirit" and "filled with the Spirit" are at
times used INTERCHANGEABLY in Acts. Why did Jesus tell His
disciples to wait? The answer is found in Acts 1:8, "But you will
receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be
my WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to
the ENDS of the earth."

     This is the KEY verse in the book of Acts and the theme of
this issue of Acts magazine. 

     The PRIMARY purpose of the baptism of the Spirit is the
receiving of the POWER to WITNESS for Christ so that the lost
will be won over to Him and taught to obey all that God commands.
The end result is that Christ may be KNOWN, LOVED, PRAISED and
made Lord of God's chosen people. The baptism in the Holy Spirit
is God's PROVISION for RELEASING the POWER of the Holy Spirit
into the believer's life. The baptism in the Holy Spirit not only
imparts POWER to preach Jesus as Lord and Savior, but ALSO
increases the EFFECTIVENESS of that witness because of a
strengthening and DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP with the Father that
comes with being filled with the Spirit.

     The baptism in the HolY Spirit is the initiation point
whereby Spirit-filled believers receive the POWER to witness for
Christ and to bring conviction of sin, righteousness and
judgment on the lost. The effects of such conviction will become
evident both in those who sincerely proclaim the message and in
those who receive it. The baptism in the Holy Spirit can be given
ONLY to those whose hearts are turned towards God in REPENTANCE
from their wicked ways and in humbleness. It is MAINTAINED by the
CONTINUED, sincere COMMITMENT to God. The Spirit's FULLNESS is
not merely a ONE-TIME initial experience, but a LIFE of RENEWED
fillings for God-given needs and tasks.

     Those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit will have an
INTENSE DESIRE to please God in whatever way they can. The
fullness of the Spirit COMPLEMENTS the SAVING and SANCTIFYING
work of God's Spirit in their lives. Those who claim the
fullness of the Spirit, yet live a life CONTRARY to the Spirit of
holiness, are DECEIVED and untruthful. Those who display
spiritual gifts, miracles, spectacular signs or inspiring
oratory, yet lack TRUE FAITH, LOVE, and RIGHTEOUSNESS, are
operating NOT by the Spirit of God but by an UNHOLY spirit NOT
from God.

CONCLUSION

     God's gift at Pentecost was the pouring out of God's Spirit
upon all flesh to EMPOWER the body of Christ with GIFTS of the
Spirit to enable the Gospel to be spread to the WHOLE world.
Because of PASSIVENESS, FEAR and LACK of SOLID TEACHING, the
receptiveness of the GIFTS of the Spirit has been LACKING and
God's empowerment has been LIMITED.  God has chosen the believer
to be empowered to DO the WORK of the ministry. This work will
not be done by OUR talents, or the fruit we bear (though very
important), but by the POWER of God's SPIRIT through GIFTS of the
Spirit, "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the
Lord" (Zechariah 4:6).

                   ...........................

TO BE CONTINUED


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