There is no question that most discussions on the Holy Spirit tend to center themselves on the role the Spirit plays in the life of the individual. We’ll talk about how the Spirit is active in our lives convicting each of us of sin and leading us to the cross of Calvary…
We’ll discuss the Holy Spirit’s essential involvement in a person’s regeneration and salvation — the fact we’re born again through the indwelling of the Spirit… It’s also normal to set time aside to dig into the importance of a continual empowering we receive when the Holy Spirit comes upon us so that we might fulfill the Great Commission Jesus gave to us all!
Aside from these important topics, it’s likely you’ve heard a sermon on the Holy Spirit’s role in the process of sanctification whereby your life naturally begins yielding “spiritual fruit” and a greater Christlikeness as you deny the flesh by humbly “walking in the Spirit!”
And while all of these conversations about the Spirit demand our consideration, rarely do we ever take the time to unpack the Holy Spirit and His role in the local church.
Historically, as you examine the formation of the first church recorded for us in the book of Acts and chart the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, you can’t help but notice the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is one of the central characters of the story. In almost every page in Acts the Spirit is up to something!
Not only did Jesus promise the Spirit before His ascension and instruct His early disciples to wait for His arrival, but Jesus was also clear as to the important role the Spirit would play.
In Acts 1 we read how Jesus “commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now... You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” There is no question our ability to fulfill this Great Commission necessitates the involvement of the Holy Spirit.
To this point 10 days after Jesus said these things to His disciples, in Act 2:1-4 Luke records that “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
What follows this amazing moment was an incredible sermon given by Peter explaining what was taking place, 3000 souls end up being saved, and the church of Jesus Christ was born through this specific movement of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit birthed the Church!
And note, as it pertains to the local church, this would not be the last time we see the Holy Spirit’s direct involvement. In Acts 4, following a report Peter and John gave the church of their appearance before the Jewish Sanhedrin, we read, “And when they (the church) had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (a second filling), and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
As the church continued to grow and began experiencing more Satanic attacks we again see the Holy Spirit’s direct intervention actively preserving the integrity of the work from the ill-intents of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Because they end up lying to the Holy Spirit and playing the hypocrite, Acts 5 records their timely deaths.
In a more positive twist, in the very next chapter we again witness the Holy Spirit’s direct involvement recorded when He played a pivotal role in the recruitment of seven Godly men (Deacons) to help the Apostles with the practical needs of their growing ministry.
Once the Gospel had been carried by one of these Deacons — Philip — into Samaria following a fresh wave of persecution and a new church born, Acts 8 records how Peter and John came to see what God was doing only to recognize a component was missing from their spiritual lives. So they “prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them… Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
As you turn the pages of Acts not only will you see the Holy Spirit playing an important role in the life of Saul and his conversion to Paul in Acts 9, but in Acts 10 the Spirit was instrumental in the Gospel being extended through Peter to the house of Cornelius. In Acts 10:44-45 Luke records, “While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”
At the end of Acts 11 you’ll witness another undeniable moving of the Spirit. In Acts 11:27-30 we’re told, “In those days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
In fact Paul’s entire missionary movements were initiated, fueled, led by the Holy Spirit… In Acts 13:1-4 Luke records, “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers… And as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
I could go on and on — but as you read the book of Acts there is no question the Holy Spirit not only birthed the church, but it was then through His specific intervention and interactions the church itself received its marching orders. While the Scriptures are clear Jesus is the head of the church, the Holy Spirit is what gives the church life and vitality.
As you examine the specific role of the Spirit within the early church there are three functions that become evident… As the lifeblood of the local church the Holy Spirit fosters unity, enables worship, and provides gifts aimed at edifying the believers.
Pertaining to unification we understand Spirit runs deeper than even blood! You see it’s in the Spirit that we all have a commonality that transcends any of our natural differences. Unequivocally, the Holy Spirit is the fundamental basis for all Christian unity. In fact, disunity is more often than not evidence we’ve departed from a dependency on the Spirit.
To this point the Apostle Paul would write to the church in Ephesus… Ephesians 4:1-6, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
In writing to another local church located in Philippi, Paul will again reiterate this same basic but essential principle… Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
While it is the Holy Spirit that brings a church together and knits us as one body, the Spirit is also essential to our individual and corporate worship of God. Not only will Paul say in Philippians 3:3 that we “worship God in the Spirit,” but in John 4:24 Jesus said that because “God is Spirit those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Understand, the act of worshipping God whether it be through song or service is designed to transcend the physical and engage God the Father in the spiritual realm. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12:3 — a passage we’ll get to in a moment — Paul goes so far as to say that “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
Never forget it is the Holy Spirit that enables you and I the all important connection with God and Who’s involvement brings each of us into God’s Holy presence. Without the Spirit’s involvement the worship of God simply cannot take place!
To this point, the “gift of tongues” given to a person by the Holy Spirit is designed to enable a worshipper a more intimate and personal expression. In a more expanded explanation on this particular gift given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 we come to understand tongues is a moment when the Spirit helps a person articulate themselves without the limitation of human language. Tongues is a love language between the worshipper and God.
Finally, the unity we enjoy in the Spirit as well as our corporate worship is deepened through the edification of the Spirit within the local church manifesting corporately through the gifts He bestows individuals. In 3 different places — Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12 — Paul will describes these specific Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
For our purposes this morning I want us to focus on Paul’s exhortations to the local church located in the ancient city of Corinth. Following a lengthy rebuke of the carnality that existed in this church, Paul transitions to spiritual things. He writes… 1 Corinthians 12:1-2, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
Back in 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 Paul began his letter with this admonishment… “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It would appear this Corinthian church possessed a full expression of the Spirit of God. Paul says, “You come short in no gift!” This church was not dead in its expression or worship. The Holy Spirit was active! And yet, because of their history with pagan worship and the mysticism often associated with it, Paul wants to discuss how the gifts should manifest.
Verse 3 marks this important transition… “Therefore!” Before Paul get’s into the particulars he first wants to establish a broad principle regarding spiritual gifts. Paul continues, “I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
Paul’s point here is to establish a baseline by which all the Gifts of the Spirit and how these gifts manifest in the church should be judged. The easy question we should all ask concerning the manifestation of the gifts is… Are they bringing glory to Jesus?
In discussing the coming of the Spirit in John 15:26 Jesus said to His disciples, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” Again to this point, in John 16:13-14 Jesus will say, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
So with our understanding that the gifts and the way they manifest should be judged based on whether Jesus is glorified, Paul writes, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
What Paul is articulating in these verses is critical to your understanding of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. He describes them as “diversities of gifts, differences of ministries, and diversities of activities.” While in the English translation is appears Paul is referencing three separate things, in the Greek structure of this verse we actually have “gifts” presented in a broad sense with “ministries” and “activities” being two separate manifestation of these gifts.
Towards the end of this chapter Paul will define some of these “ministries” or literally offices or positions within the church as being “apostles, prophets, teachers, needs, administration.”
In Ephesians 4:11 Paul provides an even more extensive listing… “Jesus Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”
While the first spiritual gifting of the Holy Spirit are these formal ministry roles within the church — and don’t miss the purpose of them is “for the edifying of the body,” I want to spend our time discussing the second set of Spiritual Gifts — these “diversity of activities.” The reason for this is I believe these things need a greater place in our church community.
In the Greek this word we have presented as “activities” is “energēma” from which we derive the English word energy. The word describes an active, miraculous, supernatural, working of Holy Spirit power operating within the larger church community. These activities are not limited to those who fill offices, but apply to everyone apart of the body!
Before Paul starts describing these various “activities” yielded through the gifting of the Holy Spirit or the offices or “ministries” towards the end of the chapter, he takes a moment to explain something important… 1 Corinthians 12:7, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…” Not only are we aware the Gifts of the Spirit manifest in distinctly different ways, the gifts themselves serve three vital functions.
First, Paul describes the gifts as “the manifestation of the Spirit.” His point is that the gifts and their activity are the clear, evident, and visible person of the Holy Spirit. In a way the gifts are the way the Holy Spirit makes His presence known in a church.
Secondly, Paul says this “is given to each one…” Notice, by the very nature of it being a gift, these things are bestowed by the Holy Spirit not earned or conjured up by the individual. In verse 11 we read, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” The distribution of the gifts occurs via the will of the Spirit.
Finally, why is this the case? Paul says, “For the profit of all…” Again, as these things intertwine with our unity, a healthy church is the byproduct of these specific and distinct Gifts of the Holy Spirit manifesting through individuals for the benefit of everyone.
In Romans 12:4 Paul will write to the local church located in Rome, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…” As a member of Calvary316 you’ve been given gifts by the Spirit that need to be used to bless the whole!
If fact, after listing some of these “activities” in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul will use the way a body functions to illustrate the way a church should operate: one body, many members, working together. Paul’s ultimate point will be that in the same way a human body cannot function without a diversity of gifts at work through each member neither can a church!
I know it’s a bit lengthy, but let me read a section beginning in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’
No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.” Then in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul will explain that the focus of the gifts are to be the way we can express our love for God as well as love for one another.
So what are these “activities” the Gifts of the Holy Spirit should be yielding in a church for that church to be healthy? Look back beginning with 1 Corinthians 12:8, “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit…” This “word of wisdom” can be thought of as the channelling of the wisdom of God. Defining wisdom as the appropriate application of knowledge a “word of wisdom” is the manifestation of supernatural counsel or advice.
“To another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit…” Different from wisdom, this “word of knowledge” given by the Holy Spirit affords a person insight and understanding into something they couldn’t possibly have known. I see this happen a lot through preaching the Word of God. Someone will come up and ask, “How did you know what was going on?”
1 Corinthians 12:9, “To another faith by the same Spirit…” While in Ephesians 2:8 we know “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” this Spiritual gift of “faith” appears to be something else entirely. Think of it as an act of remarkable faith to believe God will act in a supernatural way. Peter walking on water.
“To another gifts of healings by the same Spirit…” Within the language itself this can have a dual meaning… The “gift of healings” can apply just as much to the individual who receives a healing as it can to the one doing the healing itself. We see this all over Acts!
1 Corinthians 12:10, “To another the working of miracles…” The word translated as “miracles” is dynamis or power. Paul is describing a specific manifestation of a supernatural power through an individual — a moment God interjects by using someone in a crazy way.
“To another prophecy…” From a complete Biblical understanding we understand prophecy is simply the telling forth of God’s Word. Sometimes prophecy can be predictive, but not always. Think of this as divinely inspired speech. Most of the time I’ve seen this gift manifest corporately when someone shares a specific passage of Scripture.
In regards to the way this gift is to operate Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:29-32, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. If anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged… The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”
“To another discerning of spirits…” This word “discerning” can be translated as judging. Paul is describing a Spirit-inspired ability not only to judge between what is true and false, but to have an even deeper insight into the intents of an individual — their motivations.
“To another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” As I’ve already noted “tongues” is a gift the Spirit that grants the soul struggling with the expression of his heart an outlet for praise. Because “tongues” is by definition for one’s personal benefit, it is only edifying to the church if it comes with an “interpretation.”
While the person speaking in tongues doesn’t know what they are saying, the interpretation allows everyone else present to be edified by the expression of their heart before the Lord.
Again, explaining how these things should operate in a church community, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God… I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue... Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind... For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
Paul wraps up this section by saying, “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues… But let all things be done decently and in order.”
In Romans 12 Paul will add few more of these activity gifts. He’ll mention the gift of “ministry” — a person with a servants heart, the gift of “exhortation” — a person who loves to encourage and console, the gift of “giving” — a person with a special generosity, as well as the gift of “mercy” — this is a person who enjoys aiding a person who’s afflicted or struggling.
Aside from these things Paul will also give a few additional instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26 that “whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
In closing, the reason I find this discussion to be so important for our church is that beginning next Sunday we’re going to set aside one service a quarter for these activity Gifts of the Spirit to manifest in our church service. Yes, every Sunday the Holy Spirit it clearly working. He speaks to us through the teaching of God’s Word and infuses our worship.
Beyond this, these activity gifts are already evident in the way they manifest organically. Without instruction or a defined structure, the Spirit uses each of you to edify the body in a unique and distinct way. And yet, we believe these blessings can be enhanced by setting time aside to wait on the moving of the Holy Spirit and allow the gifts to work corporately.
The Holy Spirit started Calvary316 and there is no questioning the important role He plays in each of our lives separately. However, His role corporately is just as critical. I speak for the Elders when I say we want to have a greater sensitivity when it comes to allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest His presence in our midst. Again we realize it’s through the manifestation of these gifts in you that the Holy Spirit makes His presence known in our church.
The unity we enjoy can only continue from a greater dependency on the Spirit. Our worship together can only deepen from His presence being continually experienced. But both our unity and worship necessitate the edification of the Spirit manifesting corporately through the gifts He’s bestowed to each of us. As Paul wrote, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them!”
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